The liver is the largest solid organ in the body and serves a critical role in our overall health. Liver disease patients face a number of intestinal problems that are treated with medications; however, certain diets have proved to benefit those who are suffering.
How liver works
The liver has some critical functions, including the manufacturing of proteins and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. It also helps eliminate waste products and environmental toxins. Our body is able to digest and absorb nutrients and vitamins because the liver forms and secretes something called bile acids.
If you have liver problems you might experience the following symptoms:
• Jaundice or yellowing of eyes and skin
• Bleeding from the GI tract
• Retention of fluid in the stomach
The remarkable part about liver damage is that it can be reversed. The liver is able to replace damaged tissue with new cells, but this can require lifestyle changes. Research shows diets can go a long way in helping get your liver back on track.
If the liver is damaged it has a very difficult time processing protein. It can cause ammonia to build up in the blood, which is toxic. Since a damaged liver is not able to make glycogen anymore, diets with carbohydrates are important. The carbohydrates provide the body with much needed energy. Liver patients also have to limit sodium and fluid intake. They can cause fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity.
Diets should still include meat, yet be limited to lean fish and poultry. Again, the biggest source of calories for liver patients should be carbohydrates. Since people with liver disease can have underlying medical conditions that make them less active, they have to be conscious of too many calories leading to excessive weight gain. A lot of patients are encouraged to count calories every day.
There are liver patients who swing the pendulum too far the other way by choosing diets that don’t provide them with enough calories. People can become malnourished. For instance cirrhosis patients require a certain number of calories per day to help rebuild the liver.
Staff at the University of Maryland Medical Center studied liver disease and came up with basic recommendations for diets. The researchers suggest that liver patients avoid simple carbs that lack vitamins and minerals, and have a lot of calories in them. Examples include white bread, white rice, table sugar and carbonated drinks. Complex carbohydrates like legumes and whole wheat bread are better for you and often have fewer calories. Some vegetables and fruits are high in carbohydrates and still contain the valuable vitamins that people will want to have in their diets. Potatoes, corn, carrots, grapes, pears, and mangos are some examples.
There are many functional foods that can be incorporated into diets to prevent liver problems. These functional foods fall into two categories: those that promote detoxification and those that are high in antioxidants to protect the liver while it is going through detox. Below is a list of some functional foods for liver care.
Many functional foods are low in calories and high in vitamins. It is always a good idea to discuss functional foods and any special diets with your doctor to make sure they don’t interact negatively with other treatments you might be having.
There are some liver diseases that require specific diets; programs that need to be managed and monitored by a medical expert. In fact, if you suspect liver problems, you should consult with a physician before making any major dietary changes.