Cirrhosis and Diet

Cirrhosis and Diet

What is Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis involves the systematic breakdown of the liver whereby healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue, as well as regenerative nodules (lumps). The effective functioning of the liver is thus slowly eroded.

Usual causes of cirrhosis include alcoholism, heart disease and Hepatitis C; nonetheless there are various potential ailments that can lead to cirrhosis.

Diet for Cirrhosis and Salt

A key challenge for cirrhosis sufferers is to keep swellings in the gut (ascites) as well as the legs (oedema), at bay.

The answer to this is to maintain a low salt intake, as salt gathers and retains fluid in the body. Notice when you have had that huge bucket of salty popcorn at the cinema, don’t you feel bloated? That’s the effect of salt. This is one of the most obvious ways in which diet can affect the body in a negative way.

Ways in which you Can Reduce Salt Intake in Your Diet

In order to lower the salt intake in your diet:

  • Ditch that salt shaker and eliminate excess salt from your diet
  • Do not add extra salt to anything. There is ample salt in everything anyway
  • Check out the nutritional information on products prior to purchasing anything
  • Try to choose home cooked foods wherever possible, opting for vegetables and other low-salt ingredients
  • Do not eat pre-prepared, processed, takeaway and restaurant food whenever possible, as they invariably have high levels of salt


A particularly awful side effect of decreased liver function is how its affects the body’s ability to absorb fat. Decreased liver function blocks the ability of the body to absorb fat, leading to a chain reaction of unhealthy processes.

MCT, medium chain triglycerides, is a type of fat which does not require bile to be processed, an ongoing problem for sufferers of cirrhosis. This renders it a great candidate for substituting more usual fat sources, particularly when taken with vitamins. MCT is not especially expensive and can be bought over the counter and online.

Steps for managing your fat intake:

Reduce your fat intake to approximately 25% of total daily calories. Should you choose an MCT-heavy diet, it is vital to take linoleic acid supplements as MCT is lacking in this vital fatty acid.


You are probably aware that certain vitamins are fat soluble, with others being water soluble. Water soluble vitamins are not affected by cirrhosis, whilst fat soluble vitamins are.

Specific vitamins and minerals are harmful should you overdose on them, in the same way it is harmful should you slip into deficit mode. Hence, it is very difficult getting a balance when you have cirrhosis.

Medical professionals are able to order regular blood tests and monitor your supplementation regime, based on facts. This, coupled with a strict dietary regimen and medication as appropriate, is a much more efficient way of dealing with the condition than medication alone.

Usual Supplements Necessary for Cirrhosis Sufferers

  • Vitamins: A, D, E and K
  • Minerals: Magnesium, Zinc and Calcium

Pain Killers and Milk Thistle

There are two things that need to be mentioned in reference to your diet as they directly affect liver health.

  • Pain killers can place slight strain on the liver. A healthy liver can shake this off; however, for a stressed liver it is like a 90 year old getting a cold. So it is just as highly advisable to avoid pain killers as it is advisable to avoid alcohol.
  • More positively, the herb milk thistle has liver supportive qualities. It is available in a capsule form and the scientific community is on the whole in agreement that is has a positive effect on liver health. Nonetheless, it is advisable to check with your G.P. in reference to adding milk thistle to your diet for Cirrhosis, due to the fact that this herb can interfere with the interaction of some medications.

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