Expert tips for controlling liver disorders through diet

October 9, 2015

The liver is a powerful organ that can overcome many disorders. Read on to learn more about common liver disorders and some expert ways to maintain a healthy liver through diet.

Expert tips for controlling liver disorders through diet

The liver: an amazing regenerating organ

The liver, located in the upper right abdomen and protected by the ribs, performs thousands of vital chemical and metabolic functions — among them, the storage of fat-soluble vitamins, iron and other minerals, and glycogen for future needs.

  • It manufactures cholesterol, amino acids and other essential compounds, removes waste substances from the blood, detoxifies alcohol and environmental chemicals, and metabolizes most medications.
  • Amazingly, our bodies can still function when only one-quarter of the liver is healthy enough to operate.
  • Unlike most other organs, even after severe damage, the liver can regenerate itself by growing new cells.
  • When severely diseased or subjected to excessive abuse, however, the liver will fail — often with fatal results.

Common types of liver disease

Liver diseases are common, but experts say that many cases could be prevented by careful attention to diet.

  • The most common disorders are hepatitis (usually caused by a virus spread by sewage contamination or direct contact with infected body fluids), cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • The risk of liver cancer is higher in those who have cirrhosis or who have had certain types of viral hepatitis; but more often, the liver is the site of secondary (metastatic) cancers spread from other organs.
  • Symptoms are often not felt until the disease is advanced. The most recognized symptom of liver disease is jaundice — the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes — caused by a buildup of bile pigments (bilirubin) in the skin.
  • People with liver disease are often deficient in the water-soluble vitamins, such as folate, niacin and thiamine, as well as the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
  • Vitamin deficiencies are most common among alcoholics, who often substitute alcohol for food. Even when food intake is maintained, alcohol places undue demands on the liver, which must preempt detoxifying it over its other metabolic functions.
  • Liver disease is also linked with problems in metabolizing carbohydrates.

Expert nutritional advice

  • Eat small, frequent meals: The diet of a person recovering from a liver disorder should place the least burden on the organ; they should not eat fatty foods that are hard to digest. They often have a poor appetite and find it easier to eat frequent, nutritious snacks rather than meals.
  • Eat foods rich in fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids seem to facilitate the processing of fats in the liver; a diet rich in these nutrients lowers the rate at which the liver manufactures triglycerides, which is beneficial for people with circulatory and heart problems. These fatty acids are in salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts, soybeans, whole grains, flaxseed and canola oils.
  • Eat protein: It is important to include sufficient protein in the diet. Studies have shown that people with liver disease need at least 0.363 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kilogram) of body weight per day, but the recommended amount is 0.545 to 0.682 grams per pound (1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram). Some evidence supports the use of vegetable protein foods such as those in soy, peas and legumes, especially for people who develop mental confusion, a condition called hepatic encephalopathy. A good supply of carbohydrates is needed to meet the body's energy needs.
  • Consume vitamin D: Liver disease may cause a thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) if stores of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, are depleted; such cases may require calcium and vitamin D supplements. For the most part, however, vitamins and minerals should be provided within the diet; supplements can upset the nutritional balance and, in the case of excessive iron, can cause severe liver damage.
  • Avoid alcohol: Until recovery is complete, avoid all alchohol. In some cases, it must be eliminated for life.

Diet is directly linked with the health of your liver. Consult your doctor and consider these small nutritional changes for healthy results.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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