Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Biliary Atresia

How does biliary atresia affect nutrition?

Even after treatment with the Kasai procedure, children with biliary atresia may have reduced bile flow to the small intestine and liver damage, leading to

These problems may cause children with biliary atresia to become malnourished, and they may not grow normally.

What should infants and children with biliary atresia eat?

To make sure infants and children with biliary atresia get enough nutrients and calories, doctors may recommend

  • a special eating plan
  • a special formula for formula-fed infants
  • supplements, which may be added to breast milk, formula, or food
Mother holding a toddler who is holding a bottle and eating food from a bowl
Doctors may recommend a special eating plan for children with biliary atresia.

Supplements for biliary atresia include vitamins—especially fat-soluble vitamins—and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. MCT oil adds calories to foods and is easier to digest without bile than other fats. Doctors may recommend other types of supplements as well.

If a child isn’t getting enough nutrients from food and supplements taken by mouth, a doctor may recommend using a feeding tube, called a nasogastric feeding tube, to provide high-calorie liquid directly to the stomach. In some cases, children with biliary atresia need to receive nutrition through an intravenous (IV) line. This type of feeding is called total parenteral nutrition (TPN).

Your child’s doctor or a dietitian can recommend a specific eating plan and supplements for your child.

What should infants and children eat after a liver transplant?

After a liver transplant, most infants and children can eat a healthy, balanced diet that is normal for their age. Learn more about living with a liver transplant.

Last Reviewed September 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Benjamin L. Shneider, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital