Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA
Primary liver cancer from liver cell mutations is rare in the United States, according to the A.P. Johan Institute for Cancer Research. It is categorized based on the liver cells impacted, with the most prominent form starting in the hepatocytes, your main liver cells. The liver is also susceptible to cancer metastasized from other organs, but the cancer is generally named for the originating organ. Healthy diet plays a role in protecting the diseased liver from further damage, as well as keeping you nourished during cancer treatment.
Your liver acts as a nutrient filter to process waste products from food during digestion. Liver cancer can inhibit your liver from properly detoxifying foods, especially fatty forms of protein. To prevent waste buildup, choose lean forms of protein and limit your daily intake to give your liver time to metabolize the nutrient properly. Lean proteins include poultry, fish, beans, nuts and seeds. Dairy also supplies protein in your diet but opt for low or non-fat versions. Bake, broil, roast or grill meat proteins instead of frying. Avoid fatty red meats and processed meats like bacon or hot dogs.
Grains like bread, pasta, rice or cereal are carbohydrates important for providing your body with glucose, an important source of energy for your cells. Depending on your stage of liver cancer and treatment process, you may need to alternate your consumption of whole grains versus white grains. Whole grains like wheat bread, bran cereal or brown rice are rich in fiber for digestion regulation and vitamins and minerals to protect your organs.
Fruits and Vegetables
Include several daily servings of fruits and vegetables as the foundation of your liver cancer diet. Fighting cancer cells depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh produce is power-packed with a variety of nutrients to replenish your system. Before, during and after cancer treatment consume an array of green vegetables like broccoli, spinach or Brussels sprouts, as well as plenty of carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. Choose colorful fruits like cantaloupe, citrus, apples or berries as snacks in between meals or side dishes.
Foods to Avoid
Alcohol use is linked to several cancers including liver cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Alcohol causes inflammation of your liver. The type of alcoholic beverage doesn't matter; all alcohol is perceived as a toxin to your liver. Too much sodium or table salt in your diet can promote swelling and fluid buildup. Consult your physician for dietary sodium limitations as part of your liver cancer diet. Avoid consumption of improperly stored foods including grains and nuts, which may contain a poisonous fungus called aflatoxin that harms the liver.
- American Cancer Society; Liver Cancer Overview; April 18, 2011
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Eating Well During and After Cancer Treatment; Diana Glauner, RD, CDN et al.; 2001
- Virginia Tech; The Diet and Cancer Connection; Kathleen M. Stadler; May 1, 2009
- MedlinePlus; Diet Liver Disease; April 23, 2009
- American Cancer Society: Types of Cancer Linked to Alcohol Use; Feb. 5, 2010
- American Liver Foundation: Liver Cancer