Monday, May 29, 2023
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Eating for Your Liver… and Your Life!

I have been asked many times about my diet prior to my liver transplant. Having advanced liver disease does limit your food, however, even if you are not in failure — even if you do have liver disease at all, a liver friendly diet
improve your health. There are a few “tweaks” though, if you are suffering from the symptoms of ESLD (End Stage Liver Disease), such as ascites/edema or HE (hepatic encephalopathy).  I have been researching this for quite some time now, and have put most of this into play with my diet, and the diets of my family. For more in depth information, visit my… well my former livers blog at :).

First thing is first, always talk to your doc or nutritionist about any changes, I do not pretend to be a professional. Automatically if you are suffering from ascites/edema, your nutritionist will say NO canned, frozen, or packaged food, I find this a little misleading. I do get some canned fruits and vegetables, but I do NOT get the regular, I do NOT get the “less sodium”; I get the “NO SODIUM” green beans, corn, and tomato products, because let’s face it… I can’t ALWAYS use fresh. Though if you can do it… more power to you!

In the grocery store I stick with Dr. Oz’s advice, which is to pretty much stick with the outer aisles. (That is your fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, dairy, and your meat sections.) I try to repeat this to myself before I start my grocery shopping, also that the more the food you are purchasing looks like it did in it’s original form, the better it is for you, because the less it has been processed.

In the middle of the store is most of your processed and evil hidden salty foods. But there are some “not-so-bad” things in there and some necessities too, like all of your seasoning… and let me say if you don’t have a spice rack, you better go get one, because salt free is not flavor free (it just makes it a little trickier sometimes.)

Now, lets talk a little about protein. Another misleading statement is to avoid MEAT all together if you are suffering with ESLD and have had episodes of hepatic encephalopathy (ammonia build up in the brain that causes confusion to coma) Again, it is something that I did suffer from as well. Towards the end there, I was banned from driving and was caught doing things like trying to cook potatoes in the cupboard. Though I do agree that most of your protein should be through beans, nuts, soy, dairy, and your fruits and veggies. I have read many things that suggest chicken and especially fish do not have the same effect as red meat in building ammonia (as long as it is eaten in moderation) But come on… we all know that red meat is not good for you – your heart, or your liver.
So just remember…

  • A low sodium diet is around 1500mg of salt/sodium – compared to 2500mg for a regular diet.
  • Everything down to the vitamins you take most likely contain some sodium… and it ALL needs to be calculated in your daily amount.
  • Stick to the outer isles of the grocery store as much as possible.
  • Deli meat – get it sliced yourself in the fresh deli section (and get the heart healthy meats) Processed meats and bacon… hot dogs… all are just plain bad! Even better, grill yourself some meat and put that in your sammys.
  • Red meat, especially if you have HE, should be avoided.
  • Get yourself as many spices and herbs (Do not get garlic or onion SALT, make sure its powder, also don’t get most mixture spices and rubs like Mortons or Lawrys… they contain a lot of sodium.
  • If you are getting something pre-packaged, pay attention to the label (especially the serving size)
  • Check to see if the “Heart Healthy” label is an option on anything else you have to buy packaged, because that means it has less sodium. but remember above… serving sizes!!
  • Don’t be fooled by “less sodium” labels, it only means that they cut out at least 25% of the salt that is in the original product… for example, in a can of kids lower sodium soup, the salt is still almost 1000mg (if you eat the whole can – which even my 4 year old can do)  “Low Sodium” on a package or can means it contains 140mg or less of sodium per serving. Even “Sodium free” packaging can contain up to 5mg of salt per serving.
  • Some things like your soy sauces, BBQ sauces, and chicken stalk are never going to be low enough, there is still a place for them too in moderation. Don’t forget your Ms. Dash. I like there marinades (like the Spicy BBQ one).
  • The more the color and or texture looks like the original fruit, veggie, or grain the better. For example, wheat bread vs white bread, or dried fruit pieces vs kids brightly colored fruit snacks… The first of the two have not been bleached or colored… they have not been processed or at least not as much.
  • Try growing your own herb/veggie garden, not only is it great to have readily available, and more flavorful, but I have found that I can get my son to eat more foods if he helped grow and pick an ingredient in the meal.

Your first few shopping trips are probably going to be long ones… If you are like me, you will look almost angry when reading the labels and will look around for someone to share how ridiculous the amount of salt that is in some things… hehehe. And you probably have some food in your cupboards that you need to get rid of… well get rid of it! It’s the best way to start, and some of them can be replaced with low sodium variations (Though I did miss my pickles… I love me some pickles, but I digress).

Now, another biggie is, I love to hit the specialty stores… Mother’s, Trader Joe’s… etc. and I also try to get to my local farmers market on Thursdays (we Californians are blessed with great local and cheap produce, but there are a few states, including Arizona and Utah… that have something called bountiful baskets – I’d check into that) You can find some awesome stuff at farmers markets! I find great (and cheap) fruits, veggies, breads, and some great garlic seasoning. (I could be a sales person for this stuff, they have it at and if you like garlic, you will like these rubs… we use them on everything from a rub on chicken and fish to sprinkling it on homemade baked french fries. YUMMY!! and low low sodium!)

Since I have pretty much only talked about things you shouldn’t eat (Which if you haven’t noticed… sounds a bit like a regular healthy diet for anyone, not just us with liver disease) Let me go over some things that are necessities in your diet. Anti-oxidents (like beans and berries) are a must… for many things, from vision, anti-aging, and are even showing to be vital in Hepatitis C patients. There are also 10 ingredients that should be worked into your normal diet – they help to “detox” your liver. More information on these ingredients, and how to work them into your diet is here ingredients-to-love-your-liver.  They are:

  • Garlic and Onions
  • Cruciferous Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels, cabbage)
  • Whole Grains
  • Turmeric
  • Berries
  • Green Tea
  • Yogurt
  • Legumes (beans), nuts and seeds
  • Soy
  • Red Grapes

Also, here are some cookbooks and sites that I like, including this book here to your left. The healthy family meals has everything from breakfast, snack time, to side dishes and desserts. I haven’t tried a recipe that my family hasn’t liked in this book and most are made pretty quickly. Pretty much all the “Heart Healthy” style recipes are good for lowing sodium for your liver as well…

The American Heart Association has some great cookbooks… and a great website, Heart-Healthy Recipes. I also love some of the recipes on Eating Well… They are free and a good place to start. Just remember about the red meat – and nothing that calls for grapefruit or grapefruit juice if you are on certain drugs, like anti-rejection meds or blood thinners.

Wow… that was tons of information, and I haven’t even gone into vitamins and minerals or the damages of eating fast foods yet… that will have to be a part two, but I do have some information on that on Larry’s blog as well.

Just remember, eating healthy can be fun and very tasty, but most important, it can help maintain good health and can even reverse scarring on your liver, unclog arteries, and much, much more! You are definitely worth it.

If you have any recipes that you feel us FLAGC girls don’t want to miss… that contain some of these ingredients (and follow these rules) please post them here.  I’ll start it off with a yummy snack that is easy (especially if you are lacking in energy) Just get some Plain yogurt, drizzle honey over the top (Plain yogurt is not sweet). Tons of granola (my favorite is the Fruit and Nut Granola by Bear Naked), and top with some fresh berries (I love rassberries and blueberries) – I have gotten most of my family snacking on this… it really is good, and healthy. ENJOY!!


This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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