Cirrhosis is the liver disease that requires special diet in all stages of the disease. It is essential for people with liver cirrhosis to avoid alcohol and fat in their diet since it destroys the liver, and increase intake of proteins.
Liver cirrhosis is a progressive disease in which normal liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue. Scar tissue in the liver prevents normal blood flow through the organ. In most cases, liver cirrhosis is associated with excessive use of alcohol or infection with hepatitis virus. In cirrhosis, apart from blocked flow of blood, liver functions are impaired. That refers to liver’s ability to control infections, filter blood, secrete bile, produce proteins, and process food. Malnutrition can result from liver cirrhosis because the body cannot absorb essential nutrients. Liver has a vital function to break down food to produce the energy required for proper functioning of the body.
People who suffer from liver cirrhosis must eat low fat diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits and whole grains. Also, liver cirrhosis diet must be low in sodium and simple sugar and high in protein.
Too much sodium (salt) damages the liver therefore people with liver cirrhosis must restrict the use of sodium in their diet. That is often hard in the beginning because salt gives the taste to foods but over time this gets easier. Instead of salt you may add lemon juice or black pepper to add taste to meal. Limiting salt also means that fast food should be avoided as well as processed food. Examples of processed and prepared foods are canned soups, crackers, tomato sauce and soy sauce. Red meat should also be restricted because it is high in sodium. And always check the amount of sodium on food labels.
As it was mentioned earlier, liver cirrhosis diet must be high in protein. However, people with liver cirrhosis shouldn’t eat too much protein but provide adequate intake. Protein helps to repair the body tissue therefore the liver tissue as well. It is usually recommended to take proteins from vegetables such as beans and lentils and dairy products such as eggs, milk and yogurt instead from animals. Excess intake of animal proteins can lead to hepatic encephalopathy, a condition characterized by confusion and altered consciousness. This condition is often seen in patients with cirrhosis therefore amount of proteins in diet must be carefully measured.
The liver has a role of digesting fat and this function is impaired in liver cirrhosis. People affected by liver cirrhosis should be careful with fat intake and keep the total amount of fat in diet to 25%. Omega-3 fatty acids should be mainly included in diet. Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, walnuts, flaxseed and fish oil.