Liver Disease Diet: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The liver does many jobs that are vital to the rest of your body. When something is wrong with the liver, your body may not get the nutrition it needs.

It is important that you eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of food from the food groups: grain products, vegetables and fruit, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives. Follow your doctor's instructions for eating carbohydrate, protein, and fat in the right amounts for you. Your doctor also may limit salt or take salt out of your diet to help protect the liver. Always talk with your doctor or dietitian before you make changes in your diet.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Work with your doctor or dietitian to create a food plan that guides your daily food choices.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Do not skip meals or go for many hours without eating. If you eat several small meals during the day, you have a better chance of getting the extra calories your body needs for energy.
  • Your doctor may recommend a high-carbohydrate diet to get enough calories, since you may have to limit fat. You may need to spread carbohydrate throughout your meals and snacks to control the amount of sugar in your blood. Eat six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. Carbohydrate is found in:
    • Whole-grain and refined breads and cereals.
    • Some vegetables.
    • Cooked beans (such as kidney or black beans) and peas (such as lentils or split peas).
    • Fruits.
    • Low-fat or non-fat milk and milk products, which also supply protein.
    • Candy, table sugar, and sugary soda drinks (try to limit these).
  • Follow your doctor's or dietitian's instructions on how to get the right amount of protein in your diet. Examples of animal protein are:
    • Meat, fish, and poultry.
    • Eggs.
    • Milk and milk products.
  • Your doctor or dietitian may ask you to eat a certain amount of protein that comes from plants (rather than protein that comes from animals). You can get plant protein from foods such as:
    • Cooked dried beans and peas.
    • Peanut butter, nuts, and seeds.
    • Tofu.
  • Limit salt, if your doctor tells you to. This will help prevent fluid buildup in your belly and chest, which can cause serious problems. Salt is in many prepared foods, such as bacon, canned foods, snack foods, sauces, and soups. Look for reduced-salt products.
  • Your doctor may recommend vitamin and mineral supplements. However, do not take any other medicines or natural health products, without talking to your doctor first.
  • Do NOT take acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). These can cause more liver damage.
  • Do not drink any alcohol. It can harm your liver. Talk to your doctor if you need help to stop drinking.
  • If you have a loss of appetite or have nausea or vomiting, try to:
    • Stay away from foods and food smells that make you feel worse.
    • Avoid greasy or fatty foods.
    • Eat food that settles your stomach when it feels upset. Try crackers, dry toast, or ginger (ginger tea, hard ginger candy, or crystallized ginger).

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new belly pain or swelling.
  • You have many nosebleeds or are bleeding from the gums or rectum.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • You have a fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow, or they are more yellow than they were before.
  • You would like help to plan a diet that protects your liver.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 26, 2016