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

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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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