Treatment Basics

Diet and Nutrition

One thing you can do to stay as healthy as possible while on treatment is to eat a nutritious diet. A wholesome, well-balanced diet can help maintain a level of liver health or minimize further liver damage. It can also help your immune system fight off illness.

Some specific things to keep in mind include the following:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol. It damages liver cells and even a small amount can be harmful. The best thing to do is avoid alcohol completely.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider about specific diet recommendations based on your condition and response to treatment. A certified dietician or nutritionist can provide meal planning guidance based on your specific needs.
  • In the past, strict diet modification was a mainstay of liver disease management and people with HE were often told to eat a low protein diet; however, this is no longer recommended as some degree of malnutrition is often observed in people with cirrhosis and HE.
  • The body needs sufficient protein for tissue maintenance and repair. Many experts now recommend getting your protein from vegetables and dairy products, rather than meat. In some cases, dietary supplements containing certain types of amino acids – the building blocks of protein – may be suggested as well.
  • Eat small frequent meals to avoid long periods of fasting.
  • General diet recommendations for nutrition based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – not taking into account any specific dietary restrictions – include the following:
    • Maintain a healthy caloric intake.
    • Generally, between 1800 and 2400 calories for women and between 2000 and 3200 for men
    • Eat whole grain breads and cereals.
    • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day; eating things of varying colors can provide a range of nutrients.
    • Limit your intake of salty, sugary and fatty foods.
    • Drink enough fluids (generally 6-8 glasses day). In addition to water, you can include juice, tea, milk, soup, and frozen fruit bars. However please discuss with your healthcare provider if are dealing with ascites and edema.