The Best Diet For 6 Types of Liver Diseases

  • 10 Mins Read
  • Health Conditions
  • Written by: Jillian Lai Mei Siew
  • Reviewed by: Dr Lynda Odoh
The Best Diet for Types of Liver Diseases
  • The liver is a very vital organ of the human body. A healthy diet helps to protect our liver from disease.
  • Hepatitis, jaundice, non-alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic fatty liver, hemochromatosis, cirrhosis, and liver failure are some of the diseases associated with liver health.
  • Foods rich in fibers, protein, good fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, etc are the right choices for liver disease patients.
  • Any kind of liver disease requires giving up alcohol and red meat, either temporarily or permanently.
  • While fruits and vegetables are generally great for the liver, plant foods with Vitamin C and high iron content are to be avoided by hemochromatosis patients.

One of the most important organs in your body — the most unique, too, thanks to its phenomenal power of self-regeneration — the liver is constantly working to keep you free of toxins and performing hundreds of other tasks. What impacts liver health the most is what you eat and drink, and this becomes even more crucial should you ever develop liver disease.

It’s important to know the best diet for liver disease so that the ailment cannot progress beyond the initial stage. By strictly following a fatty liver disease diet, an alcoholic liver disease diet, or a generally effective diet for liver disease recovery, you can prevent further complications that, unless taken seriously, could lead to liver failure.

Stop liver disease in its tracks

Fatty liver disease (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) is a ‘silent’ disease since its symptoms aren’t immediately obvious. However, any feeling of general sluggishness and loss of appetite, a bloated feeling in the stomach, and any swelling in the legs could indicate liver trouble.

Since fatty liver disease is most commonly caused by an unhealthy diet or excessive alcohol consumption, a dietary course correction is your first line of defense. Central to this is the immediate elimination of processed sugars from the diet, alongside taking up some physical activities to lose fat.

Also, at the first sign of liver trouble, start scaling down your alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether, since any amount of alcohol puts stress on the liver.

Of course, it’s best not to let a liver disease develop in the first place. But, if and when it does develop, draw up a diet for liver disease and stick to that plan like your life depends on it — because it does.

General diet tips for liver disease patients

  • People with liver disease should eat small portions and eat often.
  • Eat something healthy every 2 to 3 hours.
  • If you are underweight or malnourished, you should increase the amount of protein in your diet.
  • If you are overweight, try to lose weight by avoiding fat and carbohydrates in your meal.
  •  Avoid having your entire day’s protein ration from one meal; try to get protein from all the small portions of food you’re having.

Types of liver disease and foods for liver disease

The liver’s important functions include control of metabolism, regulation of blood sugar, detoxification, and secretion of bile juices.

These functions can be disrupted by the following types of liver diseases:

  • Diseases caused by the consumption of high-fat foods, narcotics, and excessive alcohol intake, like fatty liver disease.
  • Diseases caused by viruses, such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
  • Advanced level of liver tissue injury, leading to liver cirrhosis.
  • Hemochromatosis, is a disease that causes an overload of iron in the body.
  • Jaundice, is caused by excessive bilirubin production in the liver.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) affects people with little or no alcohol consumption. This is caused by obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and high levels of fat in the blood.

NAFLD can be treated with medicines, a healthy diet, and healthy weight maintenance. Your doctor would recommend losing weight right away if you’re overweight or obese.

A well-balanced diet is low in fat, sugar, and salt and high in fiber, vegetables, and fruits. Lean protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals should also be included in your diet.

What to eat and drink

Unsaturated fats: Alongside limiting the overall fat intake, replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA), especially Omega-3 fatty acids.

Whole grains and pulses: Get your fiber from whole grains and get your protein from pulses. These are also foods with a low glycemic index (GI), meaning they release energy slowly and steadily.

Fruits and vegetables: Get your natural sugars from fruits, instead of eating sugary processed foods. Vegetables are a great source of fiber and other nutrients.

Nuts and seeds: Have a handful of mixed nuts and seeds every day to get a big dose of PUFA and MUFA. Almonds, walnuts, roasted peanuts, roasted sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are good choices.

Coffee: Moderate coffee consumption may help to prevent liver cancer. Coffee can also reduce the risk of other liver diseases, including fibrosis.

  • What not to eat and drink

White rice, and white bread: These are starchy foods, and in their highly processed form, quite low in nutrition.

Potato: Also a starchy food, potato is avoidable for those looking to lose weight. Boiled potato is generally much better than fried potato.

Fructose: Sweetened soft drinks, sports drinks, sweetened tea, and juices all contain fructose.

Fried foods: All kinds of fried foods are high in fat, and the frying process brings down their nutritional value.

Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Excessive alcohol consumption causes significant liver damage, which is referred to as Alcohol-Related Liver Disease (ARLD). There are different levels of severity, as well as a variety of symptoms. The liver can develop new cells to replace damaged ones, but heavy drinking for years hinders this capacity for regeneration.

Alcohol can damage the liver even over a relatively short period. Drinking a large amount of alcohol regularly for a month can lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is a reversible condition in its initial stage; once you stop drinking for a few weeks, your liver should come back to normal. This has to be accompanied by an alcoholic liver disease diet to speed up liver recovery.

More serious versions of ARLD are alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. NHS, United Kingdom, says: “The liver damage associated with mild alcoholic hepatitis is usually reversible if you stop drinking permanently. Severe alcoholic hepatitis, however, is a serious and life-threatening illness.”

About cirrhosis, NHS says: “Cirrhosis is a stage of ARLD where the liver has become significantly scarred. Even at this stage, there may not be any obvious symptoms. It’s generally not reversible, but stopping drinking alcohol immediately can prevent further damage and significantly increase your life expectancy.”

As with alcoholic fatty liver disease, beating alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis also requires a well-planned alcoholic liver disease diet. Malnutrition is very common in alcoholic liver disease patients, even as they gain weight from the alcohol. It’s very important to eat a balanced diet to get all the nutrients and burn fat at the same time.

  • What to eat and drink

Plant foods: A diet high in PUFA and MUFA and designed around plant foods will help the body become leaner and healthier, helping the liver recover.

Water: Stay well hydrated, drinking 2 liters of plain water daily (or any other volume the doctor recommends) to help the already stressed liver keep producing bile for detoxing the body.

  • What not to eat and drink

Alcohol: Just for emphasis, you shouldn’t touch a drop of alcohol when you’ve already developed ARLD in any degree of severity. Depending on the damage done to the liver, you’ll have to abstain from alcohol for a couple of months or the rest of your life.

Processed and fried foods: In ARLD, your liver is already suffering from the fats and toxins present in alcohol, so you must not overburden it with the saturated fats and trans fats in processed foods and fried foods.

Jaundice

Everything you eat and drink is processed by your liver. It aids in the absorption of nutrients from food and the conversion of those nutrients into energy. The liver also removes toxins and old, damaged blood cells. When this process is interrupted, the waste product bilirubin might accumulate, and this may cause jaundice.

Switching to a more nutritious diet will not only help you recover from this bout of jaundice but will also cut the risk of a recurrence of jaundice.

  • What to eat and drink

Water: To flush out all the toxins, drink 7-8 glasses of water a day.

Herbal tea: It increases your antioxidant level.

Honey: Honey has digestive enzymes that help the liver to function better.

Vegetables and fruits: They contain powerful antioxidants, digestive enzymes, and fibers. The best picks are:

  • Avocados and olives
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Melons
  • Carrots, beets
  • coffee
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach

Whole grains: Whole-grain foods have liver-friendly nutrients, good fats, antioxidants, and fibers.

 Lean proteins: Tofu, legumes, and fish put less pressure on the liver than red meat.

  • What not to eat and drink

Alcohol: This is not to be touched at all when suffering from any liver disease.

 Fried foods, and processed sugar: These have little or no benefits for the body and plenty of harm to the liver.

 Saturated fats: Some natural saturated fats from dairy and eggs are good for the body in limited amounts, but when you get jaundice, don’t have these foods without the doctor’s permission. Saturated fats from processed foods must be avoided.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation. Liver function is hindered when it’s inflamed or damaged.

Hepatitis can be caused by heavy alcohol consumption, narcotics, pollutants, certain medical conditions, and even chronic stress, but the most common cause is a viral infection.

Alongside other treatments, the right diet for liver disease recovery will help the liver overcome hepatitis.

  • What to eat and drink

Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. These fiber-rich foods help in digestion and liver functions. Leafy vegetables may provide particular benefits for managing hepatitis.

Whole grains: Whole grains provide good carbs, fiber, and protein.

Protein: Have nuts, legumes, and a limited amount of low-fat dairy for your protein supply.

  • What not to eat and drink

Alcohol: Don’t drink any alcohol when you have hepatitis.

Sodium: Avoid processed foods with a long shelf-life, as these are heavy in sodium. Also, minimize the use of salt in cooking.

Fizzy drinks and candies: Cut down on beverages and foods with added sugar.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is the last stage of liver fibrosis (or liver scarring). Every time the liver is injured, it tries to repair itself. In this process, scar tissue forms, and an increase in this scar tissue makes it difficult for the liver to function properly. If you’re diagnosed with cirrhosis, make sure you change your diet and get enough calories and proteins from the right sources.

Cirrhosis patients should ideally eat small amounts of food frequently, to keep the body supplied with energy. This way, the body won’t have to break down the protein in your muscles for energy.

Due to cirrhosis, your liver is no longer able to store glycogen, to is released for energy when necessary. That’s why you have to keep getting enough calories throughout the day without long gaps. These calories should come from the kind of foods that won’t cause weight gain.

  • What to eat and drink

Dairy and eggs: Crackers with butter and cheese, breakfast cereal with a full glass of milk, and eggs are some good protein sources for cirrhosis patients.

Plant protein: Beans and pulses such as lentils, kidney beans, or baked beans are great to plant protein sources.

Fatty fish: If you can, have 2-3 helpings of fatty fish, e.g. salmon, sardines, and tuna, per week for their Omega-3 fatty acids.

Fruits: These will give you energy, fiber, and nutrients, and also meet any sugar cravings.

Olive oil: Use it either for cooking or as a salad dressing. Olive oil is known to reverse oxidative stress in the liver.

Good snacks: Have an energy snack like hot chocolate and banana instead of random fried munchies.

  • What not to eat and drink

Alcohol: If you’ve progressed to cirrhosis, you simply can’t have alcohol ever in your life. Cirrhosis can’t be cured; it can only be kept in check.

Red meat and raw fish: These are harder for the liver to process, and therefore are to be avoided by cirrhosis patients.

Packed, processed snacks and meals: They’re full of saturated fats and trans fats, and also sodium.

Palm oil, coconut oil: Avoid these oils as your cooking medium.

Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis is a condition that causes excessive iron absorption in the body, leading to an iron overload.

Though iron from food is essential for the body, in such excessive amounts, it can affect the heart and the liver. Patients with hemochromatosis can continue their life under the doctor’s care and with a strict diet, alongside regular lab tests for iron levels.

Calcium, oxalate, phytate, polyphenols, and tannins are some compounds that are included in the diet to reduce iron absorption from food.

  • What to eat and drink

Plant foods, eggs, dairy: All the benefits of fruits and vegetables, nuts, low-fat dairy, and a limited quantity of eggs that apply to other liver disease patients also apply to hemochromatosis patients.

Coffee and green tea: These beverages, when taken in moderate amounts, are good for liver health and curb the progression of liver damage.

  • What not to eat and drink

Beef and lamb: Red meat is never a good thing for liver health, but is particularly bad for hemochromatosis patients, as red meat is high in iron.

Spinach: This vegetable is famous for being a good source of iron and other nutrients. For hemochromatosis patients, it’s best avoided unless approved by the doctor.

Citrus fruits and Vitamin C: Though fruits, in general, are good for hemochromatosis patients, they should avoid citrus fruits, which are rich in Vitamin C, and should also avoid this vitamin in any other form, because it promotes iron absorption in the body.

Alcohol: Though hemochromatosis is not an alcohol-related liver disease, patients should still give up or minimize (as per the doctor’s permission) alcohol drinking, since their liver is already compromised.

Conclusion

A healthy diet helps to protect our liver from disease, and if combined with other good lifestyle choices, it can prevent fatty liver, hepatitis, jaundice, and cirrhosis. Food choices cannot prevent hereditary hemochromatosis but can keep the condition under control. Anyone who unfortunately develops these diseases can still choose the right liver disease diet to maintain a degree of good health and quality of life.

Keep reading our nutrition blogs for credible information, and ways to maintain good liver health through diet and healthy food.