Lifestyle changes cannot cure cirrhosis. But, they can help stop it from getting worse. They can also help manage problems from it.
General Tips for Managing Cirrhosis
- Do not drink alcohol.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Do not eat raw seafood, raw fish, and shellfish.
- A person will need to eat the right amount of protein. This may mean eating more or less.
- Take vitamin or mineral supplements if the doctor says it may help.
- A low-salt diet may be needed to ease fluid retention.
- Have all medicines approved by a doctor.
- Get vaccines for flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis.
- Raise the legs to ease any swelling.
Alcohol use disorder is the main cause of cirrhosis. Not drinking it can help stop liver damage.
A balanced diet can help rebuild liver tissue. It can also ease problems in people with severe disease. Raw seafood and dishes with it may need to be avoided to lower the risk of infection. Raw fish can be contaminated with hepatitis A, as well as other viruses, bacteria, and parasites. This can put stress on the liver. Raw oysters can be very dangerous.
A person in the early stages of disease may need to eat more calories and protein. Getting enough amino acids from proteins and other nutrients are needed to rebuild liver tissue.
Vitamins and supplements may also be needed. They can help correct deficiencies from cirrhosis or from the diet. But, some vitamins and minerals can cause problems. Large amounts of vitamins A and D should not be taken. Foods supplemented with iron should also not be eaten.
Supplements and nutritional drinks may also help support tissue growth and repair. They should only be taken if the care team says they will help.
Some people may need to follow a low salt diet. It can help ease fluid-related swelling in the belly and legs.
A person with advanced disease may need to eat less protein. This can lower liver byproducts, such as ammonia. A very damaged liver cannot process ammonia. This causes high levels in the blood. This can lead to deadly mental changes called encephalopathy.
All medicines should be approved by a doctor. This includes over the counter medicines and dietary and herbal supplements.
The liver breaks down medicines. A liver that is damaged has a harder problem doing this. High levels of medicines can stay in the blood. This can cause problems with medicines that are needed to treat cirrhosis. Even drugs like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause harm.
Getting vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis can help lower the risk of infection. People with cirrhosis are at higher risk of severe disease from these infections.
Gravity helps to pull fluid down into the feet and legs. Raising the legs can help ease swelling and pain in swollen legs and feet.
Cirrhosis. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/cirrhosis. Accessed January 6, 2021.
Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/cirrhosis. Accessed January 6, 2021.
Cirrhosis of the liver. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cirrhosis-of-the-liver-31. Accessed January 6, 2021.
Ge PS, Runyon BA. Treatment of Patients with Cirrhosis. N Engl J Med. 2016 Aug 25;375(8):767-777.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 1/8/2021