Diet Plans for People With Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when the liver becomes scarred and can't work properly. Over time, blood and bile flow becomes blocked. The liver helps get rid of, and neutralizes, toxins. It also produces proteins that affect blood clotting, as well as fat-soluble vitamins. Alcohol abuse and hepatitis C are the most common causes of cirrhosis in the United States. Liver damage progresses slowly but is permanent.

A cheese platter. (Image: vittavat-a/iStock/Getty Images)

Limit Sodium

If you have fluid retention due to cirrhosis, you may need to limit your sodium intake. Sodium causes fluid retention, causing increased swelling in the legs and abdomen. Processed foods such as canned soups and vegetables, crackers and processed meats such as bacon are very high in sodium. Look for low-sodium or no salt added versions of these foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain very little natural sodium. Spices and seasonings add flavor without adding sodium

Limit Protein

High-quality protein is important if your fluids are building up. Protein also is needed to repair your muscles. However, too much protein raises ammonia levels and can cause hepatic encephalopathy. This is a brain disorder caused by the buildup of toxins, which can lead to coma. Your health care provider can determine how much protein is right for you. He may recommend only vegetable protein, such as soy, or include lean animal protein in your diet plan. You should avoid raw shellfish, as it may carry a bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus which is dangerous to people with cirrhosis.

Limit Fats

A high-fat diet can worsen liver disease and cause fatty liver in people without liver disease. A fatty liver tends to scar at a faster rate. No more than 30 percent of your calories should come from fat. However, you need some fat to help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Focus on heart-healthy unsaturated fats such as those found in nuts, avocados and olive oil.

Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices recommends avoiding alcohol, whether or not your cirrhosis was caused by alcohol. Alcohol increases the damage to your liver. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you get plenty of nutrients. Malnutrition can occur with cirrhosis. You should also drink plenty of water. It difficult to fight off infections with cirrhosis, so be sure you wash your hands frequently. It's also a good idea to get vaccinated for flu, pneumonia and hepatitis A and B. Many drugs are filtered through the liver, so consult your health care provider before taking any medications. You should avoid taking aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen.


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