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Diet for Cirrhosis

based on NIH guidelines. Alcohol, salt, carb and protein content of 8,000 foods

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Food NameProteinCarbSodiumAlcohol
Milk, human1.06.9170.0
Milk3.34.7410.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, whole3.24.5400.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, whole, low-sodium3.14.530.0
Milk, calcium fortified, cow's, fluid, whole3.24.5400.0
Milk, calcium fortified, cow's, fluid, 1% fat3.45.0440.0
Milk, calcium fortified, cow's, fluid, skim or nonfat3.44.9520.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, other than whole ("lowfat")3.34.8420.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, 2% fat3.34.7410.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, acidophilus, 1% fat3.45.0440.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, acidophilus, 2% fat3.34.7410.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, 1% fat3.45.0440.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, skim or nonfat, 0.5% or less butterfat3.45.0420.0
Milk, cow's, fluid, filled with vegetable oil3.34.7570.0
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Usage Note

  • Protein, carbohydrate and alcohol values are in grams and calculated per 100g of food weight.
  • Sodium (salt) content is in milligrams.
  • Click on column header to sort foods by name or by column's content.

Cirrhosis

information from the National Institutes of Health

Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions due to chronic injury. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver. Scarring also impairs the liver's ability to

  • control infections
  • remove bacteria and toxins from the blood
  • process nutrients, hormones, and drugs
  • make proteins that regulate blood clotting
  • produce bile to help absorb fats—including cholesterol—and fat-soluble vitamins

A healthy liver is able to regenerate most of its own cells when they become damaged. With end-stage cirrhosis, the liver can no longer effectively replace damaged cells. A healthy liver is necessary for survival.

Diet for Cirrhosis

A person with liver disease must eat a special diet. This diet protects the liver from working too hard and helps it to function as well as possible.

  • Eating a nutritious diet. Because malnutrition is common in people with cirrhosis, a healthy diet is important in all stages of the disease.
  • Proteins normally help the body repair tissue. They also prevent fatty buildup and damage to the liver cells. In people with severely damaged livers, proteins are not properly processed. Waste products may build up and affect the brain. Restricting the amount of protein in the diet can reduce the chance that toxic waste products will build up.
  • The body stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. Increasing carbohydrates in the diet helps preserve glycogen stores. People with liver disease may need to increase their intake of carbohydrates in proportion to protein.
  • Salt in the diet may worsen fluid buildup and swelling in the liver, because salt causes the body to retain water. Most people with severe liver disease must restrict the amount of sodium in their diet. In particular, if ascites (fluid in abdomen) develops, a sodium-restricted diet is highly recommended.
  • Avoiding alcohol and other illicit substances. People with cirrhosis are encouraged not to consume any alcohol or illicit substances, as both will cause more liver damage.
  • A person with cirrhosis should not eat raw shellfish, which can contain a bacterium that causes serious infection.

Our Liver Disease Nutrition Online Food Databases

nutrition recommendations are based on National Institutes of Health guidelines

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

Many people with cirrhosis have no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. However, as the disease progresses, a person may experience the following symptoms:

  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • abdominal pain and bloating when fluid accumulates in the abdomen
  • itching
  • spiderlike blood vessels on the skin

Causes of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis has various causes. In the United States, heavy alcohol consumption and chronic hepatitis C have been the most common causes of cirrhosis. Obesity is becoming a common cause of cirrhosis, either as the sole cause or in combination with alcohol, hepatitis C, or both. Many people with cirrhosis have more than one cause of liver damage.

Cirrhosis is not caused by trauma to the liver or other acute, or short-term, causes of damage. Usually years of chronic injury are required to cause cirrhosis.

Alcohol-related liver disease. Most people who consume alcohol do not suffer damage to the liver. But heavy alcohol use over several years can cause chronic injury to the liver. The amount of alcohol it takes to damage the liver varies greatly from person to person. For women, consuming two to three drinks—including beer and wine—per day and for men, three to four drinks per day, can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis. In the past, alcohol-related cirrhosis led to more deaths than cirrhosis due to any other cause. Deaths caused by obesity-related cirrhosis are increasing.

Chronic hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus is a liver infection that is spread by contact with an infected person's blood. Chronic hepatitis C causes inflammation and damage to the liver over time that can lead to cirrhosis.

Chronic hepatitis B and D. The hepatitis B virus is a liver infection that is spread by contact with an infected person's blood, semen, or other body fluid. Hepatitis B, like hepatitis C, causes liver inflammation and injury that can lead to cirrhosis. The hepatitis B vaccine is given to all infants and many adults to prevent the virus. Hepatitis D is another virus that infects the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, but it occurs only in people who already have hepatitis B.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In NAFLD, fat builds up in the liver and eventually causes cirrhosis. This increasingly common liver disease is associated with obesity, diabetes, protein malnutrition, coronary artery disease, and corticosteroid medications.

Autoimmune hepatitis. This form of hepatitis is caused by the body's immune system attacking liver cells and causing inflammation, damage, and eventually cirrhosis. Researchers believe genetic factors may make some people more prone to autoimmune diseases. About 70 percent of those with autoimmune hepatitis are female.

Diseases that damage or destroy bile ducts. Several different diseases can damage or destroy the ducts that carry bile from the liver, causing bile to back up in the liver and leading to cirrhosis. In adults, the most common condition in this category is primary biliary cirrhosis, a disease in which the bile ducts become inflamed and damaged and, ultimately, disappear. Secondary biliary cirrhosis can happen if the ducts are mistakenly tied off or injured during gallbladder surgery. Primary sclerosing cholangitis is another condition that causes damage and scarring of bile ducts. In infants, damaged bile ducts are commonly caused by Alagille syndrome or biliary atresia, conditions in which the ducts are absent or injured.

Inherited diseases. Cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, hemochromatosis, Wilson disease, galactosemia, and glycogen storage diseases are inherited diseases that interfere with how the liver produces, processes, and stores enzymes, proteins, metals, and other substances the body needs to function properly. Cirrhosis can result from these conditions.

Drugs, toxins, and infections. Other causes of cirrhosis include drug reactions, prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals, parasitic infections, and repeated bouts of heart failure with liver congestion.