Cirrhosis is a progressive liver disease that’s usually brought on by alcoholism. Still, malaria, syphilis, viral hepatitis, drugs, blocked bile ducts or even malnutrition also can cause the disease. Cirrhosis causes the liver cells to die and be replaced by scar tissue. This scar tissue does not enable the liver to function properly. The liver is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, protein and fat. It also detoxifies (or filters out) alcohol, drugs and other toxins. The liver stores vitamins B12, A, D, K and iron. It produces cholesterol and bile, which help in digesting fats, in addition to substances that are essential for blood clotting.
For someone in the early stages of cirrhosis, the first step is to eliminate alcohol or other toxins that may be contributing to the disease. Carbohydrates become a major part of the diet and protein relies mainly on vegetable protein like soy products and beans in addition to dairy protein like milk, yogurt, and eggs. If there is swelling sodium is reduced significantly as is fluid.
Symptoms may include: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, swelling and jaundice
• Protein foods should be evenly distributed over the day not to overwhelm the liver’s functions
• Mostly dairy/vegetable protein should be consumed
• Calorie requirements are increased due to fast metabolism
• Consume lower protein and higher carbohydrates
• Have 25% – 40% of total calories from fat
• Stay away from saturated fat, refined sugar and alcohol
• Increase soluble fibers such as oats, beans, apples and barley for natural cleansing
• Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts as well as sulfur-containing foods like garlic, onions and eggs also aid in liver function
• With severe swelling, reduce fluid/sodium (your physician may prescribe 1,000 – 1,500 cc or 4-6 cups of fluid per day and 1,000 mg sodium)
• Vitamin supplementation with B-complex, K, calcium, zinc, and magnesium are given due to the liver’s poor absorption of these vitamins. Copper and manganese should NOT be recommended since they cannot be excreted. Often a multivitamin will be recommended in addition.
• Ask your doctor about using Milk Thistle. This plant-based, over-the-counter herb has been shown to protect the liver against further damage and enhances its detoxifying abilities. Be sure that it contains at least 80% of the anti-oxidant compound, silymarin.