Diet Tips for People With Liver Disease

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Eating healthy

Liver disease affects your body's ability to properly absorb nutrients. That means you could lack what you need for good health. It also means you might need to change to a more nutritious diet—one that also makes digestion easier.

For most people, a healthy diet for liver disease is one with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. But the right liver disease diet for you depends on the type of liver disease you have. Talk with your doctor about your specific nutrition needs. This will help you decide which foods to eat and which ones to avoid.

Diet for Liver Disease

Protein is an important part of a diet for liver disease. But, be sure to follow your doctor's guidelines for the exact amount you need to get every day. You don't want too much or too little. Good sources are lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken and turkey, fish, eggs, beans, milk, and yogurt.

Carbohydrates are important, too. The healthiest ones are whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are good sources of fiber, which helps your liver work better. Whole grains, like whole wheat, are also good sources of vitamins, especially B vitamins and zinc. These are nutrients you might be missing. Choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure you get a wide range of nutrients.

Drink water regularly throughout the day. Your liver needs water to function well.

Foods to Avoid With Liver Disease

Liver disease foods to avoid can be as important as food for liver disease you should eat.

Salt (sodium) can cause your body to hold onto water. This is a problem for people with liver disease who experience swelling. You may need to cap sodium at 2,000 milligrams a day. This will depend on the type of liver disease you have and your doctor's recommendation. To follow a low-sodium diet, eat fewer processed and packaged foods like canned soups and deli meats. Read labels to see how much salt is in a serving. Look for low-sodium and no-sodium choices. Add herbs and spices instead of salt when cooking and at the table.

Avoid foods that are high in fat, especially saturated fats. Also stay away from foods high in sugar. These are harder for your liver to break down. High-fat foods include fatty cuts of meat, dishes made with a lot of cheese and cream, fried foods, and rich desserts.

Don't eat any raw seafood. It can be a source of dangerous bacteria. Your liver helps defend your body against bacteria and other sources of infection. But, when you have liver disease, your liver is less able to protect you from infection.

Avoid alcohol. This is especially important if your liver has serious scarring, or cirrhosis. Ask your doctor if any amount is safe for you. Normally, your liver processes alcohol and helps remove it from your bloodstream. But, when you have liver disease, your liver cannot do this job as well as it should. Too much alcohol can damage—and further damage—liver cells.

Eating Well With Liver Disease

Liver disease can affect your appetite. You might not eat enough to get the nutrition you need. You could lose weight and muscle mass. To make it easier to eat and get the nutrients you need, follow these tips:

  • Ask your doctor if nutritional supplements or supplement drinks with nutrients and calories would help.

  • Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones.

  • If nausea is keeping you from eating, ask about options for relief.

  • Include healthy snacks, like nuts, fruits and vegetables. Work with a dietitian. This specialist can help you make the best food choices and suggest meals that will be tasty as well as nutritious.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 17
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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