Cirrhosis refers to the replacement of damaged liver cells by fibrous scar tissue which disrupts the liver's important functions. Cirrhosis occurs as a result of excessive alcohol intake (most common), common viral hepatitis, obstruction of the bile ducts, and exposure to certain drugs or toxic substances.
People with cirrhosis often experience loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and weight loss, giving them an emaciated appearance. Diet alone does not contribute to the development of this liver disease. People who are well nourished, for example, but drink large amounts of alcohol, are also susceptible to alcoholic disease.
Adults with cirrhosis require a balanced diet rich in protein to allow the liver cells to regenerate. However, too much protein will result in an increased amount of ammonia in the blood; too little protein can reduce healing of the liver. Doctors must carefully prescribe the correct amount of protein for a person with cirrhosis.
In addition to protein, a balanced diet with adequate calories, fats, and carbohydrates can actually help the damaged liver to regenerate new liver cells. In fact, in some liver diseases, nutrition becomes an essential form of treatment.
Grains and legumes are great protein sources for those who suffer from cirrhosis. Red meat should be avoided since the liver is not working to its optimal capacity and most likely will have trouble processing fats. Nuts, seeds, and soy products are also good sources of low-fat protein.
Oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain breads and pastas should be part of a healthy balanced diet, as they are all whole grain carbohydrates that provide a steady supply of energy, important for your body’s ability to heal.
Cereals, breads, potatoes and legumes are great sources for the B-complex vitamins, which bolster metabolism, maintain healthy skin and muscle tone, enhance immune and nervous system function, promote cell growth and division — including that of the red blood cells that help prevent anemia. Together, they also help combat the symptoms and causes of stress, which is important to keep in check when you’re nursing your body back to health.
Citrus fruits, red berries, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, red and green bell peppers, cabbage, and spinach, are all great sources of vitamin C, which helps promote a healthy immune system. It’s imperative to stay as healthy as possible during the healing process, so your body can focus on liver repair.
Coupled with plenty of rest and lots of fresh water to help flush the toxins from your system, a well-balanced nutrition plan and a healthy, proactive relationship with your healthcare provider should put you well on the road to recovery.