A Cirrhosis Survivor’s Guide: 9 Indispensable Diet Tips for Healing My Liver

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After struggling with alcoholism for many years, I was diagnosed with advanced-stage Cirrhosis at 30 years old and almost died (read my story). When I finally got out of my coma and left the hospital, I knew I had to drastically change my diet and lifestyle. I worked with my doctors, who suggested I create a modified version of a Renal Diet in order to restore the health of my liver. This new diet has been essential to my healing liver and my body!

My new liver restoring diet emphasizes limiting fluids, eating a low-protein diet, limiting salt, potassium, phosphorous, and other electrolytes, and getting enough calories if you are losing weight. Here are a few tips from my diet that I have found indispensable:

9 Indispensable Diet Tips:

  • Sodium: I kept my daily intake of sodium to 2 mg per day. One thing to look out for is when a label reads ‘low sodium’ it is almost always replaced by sugar, which should also be limited.
  • Processed Foods: I removed processed sugars and foods from my diet. This means ‘instant’ anything, and everything that comes in a box or can should stay there! Beware of ‘sugar free’ labels are often packed with super-synthetic sweeteners that are just as bad for you.
  • Organic: organic foods are always best and should always be chosen over non-organic WHENEVER possible!
  • Distilled Water: drinking distilled water, especially in the first few weeks of recovery from something like hospitalization, is essential! Tap water is your enemy as much as eating a non-organic apple without washing it.
  • Protein: I limited my daily protein intake to 50g. Vegetable proteins are the easiest for me digest so I opt for those whenever possible. Soy, tempeh, nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pecans are great sources of protein. Eggs, fish (though not shellfish) and poultry are next easiest for me to digest, followed by pork, then red meats (such as beef and lamb). I avoid try to red meats whenever possible and remove skins from my poultry.
  • Fruits & Veggies: I have also learned to love cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower) and leafy greens of all sorts (kale, chard, radicchio, bok choy). I look for high fiber and nutrient dense vegetables like beets, carrots, brussel sprouts and artichokes. All fruits for me are great, but skin-on apples (the pectin aids in digestion) and dark berries (anthocyanins) are my favorites.
  • Herbs & Spices: Most any herb and spice is welcome but the best for me are turmeric, cinnamon, basil, cayenne and coriander.
  • Whole grains: whole grains and brown rice are great sources of carbohydrates, so depending on what your recommended carb load is per your dietician, I go crazy here as well. For pastas, I look to whole wheat and quinoa-based selections and always check the ingredients to make sure those grains are the primary ingredient.
  • Dairy: Dairy products should be considered protein sources, but ask your dietitian or doctor if they are appropriate, as they aren’t always the easiest proteins for people to digest.

Most are surprised to see that overall my cirrhosis healing diet is not terribly limiting. In general, I am selective, choosing organic options whenever possible, and purchasing the purest forms of all my foods. I use quick, easy cooking methods to preserve nutrients, and always take time to enjoy what I eat!

Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Greek Vegetable Terrine

German-Style Golden Beet Salad

Chia “Yogurt” Custard

Easy Savory Italian Quinoa Bites

Sumac Seared Mahi with Raddish and Pepper Slaw

 

 

Note: PLEASE consult with  your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

 

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23 thoughts on “A Cirrhosis Survivor’s Guide: 9 Indispensable Diet Tips for Healing My Liver

  1. P. Lipscomb

    Thanks for these helpful time on eating for a healthy liver. I stopped eating meat about 4 months ago and still looking for healthy alternatives to remain healthy. I also discovered that people who do not eat meat tend to be deficient in vitamin B12, so I have noticed that the muscles in my legs a getting smaller. Do you have any suggestions to help retain muscle mass?

    Reply
  2. Anne Matthes

    Thank you for the information. I was diagnosed at 37 with cirrhosis. I’m still trying to figure out how I got it so quickly. I only drank for about 10 years, the last 5 of those heavily with many “attempts” to quit that never lasted more than a month or two. Did you need a transplant? If not, how long has the diet been working? Do you take any additional meds or supplements?

    Reply
  3. om hota

    Are sure you were taking 2 mg of sodium ? or it is salt ? because one good pinch of salt= 1 gram = 400 mg sodium

    Reply
  4. Megan Treppendahl

    Hi! I am in awww of your story! SO amazing! I am currently building an online platform for people to share their stories of healing from chronic or “incurable” diseases. I was wondering if I can share yours, as I believe it will help so so many. My website is http://www.whathealedme.com, check it out if you would like. I will certainly point people back to this site.

    Reply
  5. Cindy

    I also have cirrhosis, im 3 or 4 stage,not sure yet,cause of my brusis, im no 9 meds,just having a hard time 4 doing my lab work, also dont known what or how 2 cook the right way .Im not al that savy on computers, so I am sending you my number 3252120551 from TX.Thank You

    Reply
  6. Julia

    Hi Ian, thank you for your testimonial I was told I have all the classic signs and symptoms if non-alcoholic liver cirrhosis. I’m struggling with keeping my sodium so low. Did you have any favorite sauces that are that low. I try to make my own from tofu, apple cider vinegar and salt, but it does not taste very good without the salt. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  7. Marie Lane

    I was just diagnosed with first stage cirroscis of my liver. I read what you eat and I can’t eat most of what you had listed. I don’t know what to do!

    Reply
  8. Carol

    I just had a liver ultrasound and am suspected to have cirrhosis of the liver and I’m being sent to a specialist, I quit the month of October then somehow after that going back to drinking I understand the hospitality business I work in a lounge I’m 47 I don’t want to die! The same as you said to stop the shaking I have a drink before work. I need a list of foods, etc. to beat this please and anything that helps so quitting should I taper down or just stop period.?

    Reply
  9. Patty

    Thank you as I was just told my fatty liver is now cirrhosis of the liver so I need to change my life and
    I want to thank you for ideas .Patty

    Reply
  10. Ruby

    My dad,53 year old is suffering from liver cirrhosis. In this year April he went to coma and was treated in ICU. That time he had hepatic encephalopathy. We continued medicines from general physician for over 6 months. Then we thought of showing to gastro enterologist Last month reports showed that his is class B and MELD score was 8. After 20 days we went again for blood tests, now they are telling remaining healthy liver cells are also getting failed. He is on less sodium diet. They are giving lactulose and lacilactone medicines.His legs and abdomen are filled with fluid. Doctors didn’t give hope of his survival. They said anything can happen anytime.I want my dad to be with me. Can miracle happen? What doctors say always becomes true? Please share your thoughts on this.

    Reply
  11. Samina

    I hv a question about the 2g of sodium. How do you determine that you r hv 2g of sodium per day or I should put this way how do you divide and measure between all meals thought out the day.

    Reply
  12. Vickie Gatley

    Ian,
    So pleased hat you are doing well. God has blessed you!
    My journey began a couple of months ago with my legs swelling, then my abdomen getting so tight it hurts to move.
    Blood tests showed antibodies for HepC and B… though I have never been sick with either, but evidently exposed.
    Iv’e had 2 ultrasounds and 1 CT scan which showed scarring on my liver but they said they couldn’t tell how much…said that would be the Gastro doctort o determine.
    My appointment is this Tuesday. Hope he has some answers for me.
    Questions for you:
    Wouldn’t a biopsy tell you more about whats going on< why didn't you have one?
    Did you have abdominal swelling of fluids and how did you remedy that?
    Do you take any supplements and eat liver?
    Thank you for your kind response!
    God bless you for your encouraging words to those of us beginning this road.
    Vickie

    Reply
  13. Vickie Gatley

    Ian,
    Is there a reason you haven’t had a biopsy? Wouldn’t that let you know for sure how things are going?
    I have just in the last month had abdominal bloating as well as edema in legs. So uncomfortable.
    I’ve had 2 ultrasounds and 1 CT which showed liver cirrhosis, though they can’t seem to tell how much. Blood tests showed antibodies for hep C an B though I have never been sick with it…but evidently exposed!
    I see the Gastroenterologist this Tuesday for first time. Hope he can give me some answers and get this swelling in my body down. Did your abdomen fill with fluids, and how did you get it down if it did?
    Glad you are doing well and hope you continue to.

    God bless you efforts!

    Reply
    1. Ianjw

      Cirrhosis/end-stage liver disease is my official diagnosis on all my charts but I have thankfully not had the biopsy yet. My doctor estimates my liver function at around 15% judging by swelling and scarring seen in my quarterly ultrasounds.
      Now that I’m 33 I can certainly tell I’m not 20 anymore but I suspect that’s just normal aging. No doubt I’m going to age a bit quicker than I would had I not put myself through hell, but beyond a backache after work I’m holding up just fine.
      I will give the credit to God 100% for all I have. I’d even go so far as to say that the my spirit as it is today is worth what I’ve been through. I feel like I am working towards the best version of myself and a lot of the time, that isn’t necessarily the prettiest one.
      Thanks for the question and stay in touch amigo.

      Reply

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