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Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Cirrhosis

How does cirrhosis affect eating, diet, and nutrition?

Cirrhosis can lead to malnutrition, meaning that your body is not getting the right amount of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Research suggests that 50% to 90% of people with cirrhosis have malnutrition.6

People with cirrhosis are at risk for malnutrition for several reasons. The symptoms of cirrhosis, such as nausea and vomiting, may cause people with cirrhosis to eat and drink less. Cirrhosis also affects how the liver works. When the liver isn’t working well, the body may have problems digesting foods and drinks or absorbing nutrients.

What should I eat or drink if I have cirrhosis?

What you eat and drink is important. Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian to help create healthy meal plans that fit your nutrition needs.

Meal plans will vary depending on how severe cirrhosis is and other factors. Health care professionals can recommend a meal plan that will provide the amount of calories and nutrients, especially protein, that your body needs. Health care professionals may recommend that people who do not get enough nutrients, or who have low levels of some vitamins and minerals, take certain dietary supplements. If you have cirrhosis, talk with your doctor before taking dietary supplements, including herbal supplements.

Cirrhosis changes the way the body stores nutrients and uses them for energy. People with cirrhosis should avoid fasting, or going without food, for too long. Health care professionals may recommend7

  • having smaller, more frequent meals
  • eating every 3 or 4 hours while awake
  • having a snack before going to sleep at night or having an early breakfast after waking up

Ask your doctor about the cost of a registered dietitian’s services. If you have health insurance, check your insurance company’s website or call customer service to find out if they will pay for some or all of these services.

What should I avoid eating and drinking if I have cirrhosis?

Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish, fish, and meat, and unpasteurized milk and milk products. Bacteria or viruses from these foods may cause severe infections in people with cirrhosis.

Your doctor may recommend limiting sodium in foods and drinks.

You should completely stop drinking alcohol because it can cause more liver damage.


Last Reviewed June 2023
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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.