Whether you have liver disease from drinking too much alcohol, from a virus or from other factors, a healthy diet could help minimize your symptoms, guard against complications and strengthen your overall wellness through treatment and recovery. Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend a special diet aimed at keeping your liver from working too hard and enhancing its function. You may also require doctor-prescribed dietary supplements if your condition has caused nutritional deficits or nerve problems.
Dietary shifts that support liver health include limiting protein, which helps limit the buildup of toxic waste, and increasing your carbohydrate intake for energy and to compensate for eating less protein. Although carbohydrates should be your dietary mainstay, moderate fat intake is also important for wellness. Limit salt to less than 1,500 milligrams per day because excess sodium can worsen fluid buildup and swelling in your liver. Aim for 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, suggests the National Institutes of Health, which is equal to 80 grams per day if you weigh 154 pounds; this does not include protein derived from starchy foods or vegetables.
Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide valuable amounts of carbohydrates, water and antioxidants, all of which are important within a liver-healthy diet. You should "pack your diet with antioxidants," says the National Liver Foundation. Antioxidants help protect your liver, promote recovery if it's damaged and even inhibit cancer cells. Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, which tend to provide the most antioxidants. Rich examples include sweet potatoes, mangoes, carrots, berries, spinach, kale, tomatoes, apricots, watermelon and oranges. Avoid canned vegetables, which tend to be high in sodium. Starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and winter squash, provide more carbohydrates than nonstarchy veggies, such as broccoli and lettuce, making it easier to stay energized while limiting protein. You could have two slices of bread, a veggie salad and a potato with a small portion of lean protein, such as 4 ounces of meat, instead of a 12-ounce steak with one starchy food.
Hearty Whole Grains
Whole grains supply plentiful carbohydrates and other nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Sprouted buckwheat may provide protection from fatty liver disease, according to an animal study summarized in the "Asian Journal of Pharmacy and Life Science" in 2011. In the study, mice that consumed a diet supplemented with buckwheat for 14 days showed significantly lower levels of thiobarbituraric acid reactive substance -- a sign of oxidative distress -- in their livers than mice fed the control diet. Other nutritious whole-grain foods include oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100 percent whole-grain breads.
Cold-Water Fish and Flaxseeds
With the early stages of any liver disease, your liver can become inflamed. If left untreated, this inflammation can cause scar tissue that can overtake liver tissue -- a process called fibrosis -- keeping your liver from functioning well and preventing normal blood flow into the organ. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, and flaxseeds are prime sources of omega-3 fats -- essential fats that lower inflammation. While you need omega-3s, fish oil supplements may not be a good choice when you have liver disease because they can increase bleeding. Eating modest portions, such as 2 to 4 ounces, of fish within carbohydrate-rich meals allows you to reap the healthy fats and adequate protein, minus the inflammatory effects of red, fried and processed meats. Avoid canned and smoked fish, which are high in sodium. At home, season fish with lemon or lime juice and herbs and spices such as oregano, pepper and chives instead of salt. To get your omega-3s and other nutrients, such as fiber and antioxidants, from flaxseeds, add ground seed to other healthy foods, such as whole-grain cereal, bran muffins and smoothies.
- MedlinePlus: Liver Diseases
- MedlinePlus: Diet -- Liver Disease
- National Liver Foundation: Diet and Your Liver
- Asian Journal of Pharmacy and Life Science: Fagopyrum Esculentum Moench (Common Buckwheat) Edible Plant of Himalayas: A Review
- MedlinePlus: Fish Oil
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- American Liver Foundation: The Progression of Liver Disease