Liver Disease Diet

What is a liver disease diet?

Liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, may change the way your body uses nutrients from food. Some people with liver disease may not get enough nutrients and lose weight. A liver disease diet provides the right amount of calories, nutrients, and liquids you need to manage symptoms of liver disease. Your dietitian will work with you to create a meal plan based on the type of liver disease you have.

What nutrients should I include?

It is important to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups each day to stay at a healthy weight. You may not feel hungry, or you may feel full right away after you eat. Eat 4 to 6 small meals throughout the day to make sure you eat enough calories. Ask your dietitian how many calories and how much of the following nutrients you should have each day:

  • Protein: It is important to eat the right amount of protein when you have liver disease. The following foods are good sources of protein. The amount of protein (in grams) follows each food listed below.

    • 3 ounces of meat, pork, turkey, chicken, or fish (21 grams)

    • 1 cup of milk or yogurt (8 grams)

    • 1 large egg (7 grams)

    • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (7 grams)

    • ½ cup of tofu (7 grams)

    • ¼ cup of cottage cheese (7 grams)

    • 1 ounce of cheese (7 grams)

    • ½ cup of cooked pinto, kidney, or navy beans (3 grams)

  • Fat: Some people with liver disease have problems digesting and absorbing fat. The fat that is not digested is eliminated in bowel movements. If you have this health problem, you may need to eat less fat. Ask your caregiver or dietitian for more information about a low-fat diet.

  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are found in bread, pasta, rice, cereal, grains (rice, oats), and starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas). Liver disease may cause blood sugar levels to be too high or too low in some people. You may need to control the amount of carbohydrate you eat to help control your blood sugar levels.

What foods should I limit or avoid?

Ask your dietitian if you need to limit or avoid some foods. This will depend on the type of liver disease and other health problems you have.

  • Sodium: You may need to decrease the amount of sodium in your diet if your body is retaining fluids. When you retain fluids, you will have swelling in your body. Ask your caregiver for more information about a low-sodium diet. Some foods that contain high amounts of sodium are:

    • Table salt

    • Bacon, sausage, and deli meats

    • Canned vegetables and vegetable juice

    • Frozen dinners and packaged snack foods, such as potato chips and pretzels

    • Soy, barbecue, and teriyaki sauces

    • Soups

  • Liquids: You may also have to drink fewer liquids if you have swelling. Liquids include water, milk, juice, soda, and other beverages. Some foods contain liquid, such as soup. Foods that are liquid at room temperature, such as gelatin or popsicles, must also be counted as a liquid. Ask your dietitian how much liquid you may drink each day.

  • Alcohol: Avoid alcohol because it may make your liver disease worse. Talk to your caregiver if you have questions about alcohol in your diet.

What other diet guidelines should I follow?

Your caregiver may ask you to take a vitamin and mineral supplement. Take only the supplement that your caregiver recommends. Liver disease may cause health problems that you can manage through certain diet changes. Talk to your dietitian about any other changes you need to make in your diet.

What are the risks of not following a liver disease diet?

If you do not follow a liver disease diet, your symptoms of liver disease may get worse. You may develop other health problems.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You gain or lose a lot of weight within a short amount of time.

  • You have questions or concerns about the liver disease diet.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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