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Diet & Liver Disease

Staying nutritionally well

Eating a good, balanced diet to maintain strength and a healthy weight is essential for people with liver problems. Good nutrition can help to support your liver to function and plays a crucial role in your health (1,2).

If you have a liver condition, there are some special considerations you may need to make in your diet to stay nutritionally well and to help to manage your condition. Some of these are specific to certain liver diseases, others relate to how advanced your liver disease is. In this publication we cover how your liver is affected by the food you eat; elements of a well-balanced diet suitable for most people; disease specific dietary considerations and special or therapeutic nutritional diets for those with more advanced liver disease (3,4).

If you are experiencing symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, low energy levels, fluid retention in the legs or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), you will need to follow a more specialised diet. These, and other problems associated with advanced liver disease, require specialist dietary advice from a registered dietitian.

It is important that you talk to your doctor as well as reading this information. Your consultant will be able to refer you to a registered dietitian. If you have already been given dietary advice you should not make changes without first talking to your consultant or dietitian.

The British Liver Trust has a range of publications covering specific areas of liver disease which you may also find helpful.

Your liver and the food you eat

You need food to power your body, giving it energy and the material it needs to grow and repair itself. When you eat food, it is broken down in your stomach and intestine (gut) and three main nutrients are extracted:

  • carbohydrates
  • fat
  • protein

These nutrients are then absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to your liver. Here they are either stored, or changed in such a way that your body can use them at once.

At the same time your liver is also working to detoxify substances which may harm your body such as alcohol; chemicals used in pest control, which may be present on unwashed fruit and vegetables; medicines; other drugs and some of the waste products produced in the body. If you have a liver problem, then your liver may not be able to do these jobs as efficiently as it should.

For full information please see the additional information in this section or download the publication below:

A Well Balanced Diet

Keeping to a Healthy Weight

Dietary Advice for Specific Liver Conditions

Cirrhosis and Advanced Liver Disease

Coping with Eating Difficulties

Looking After Yourself

Complementary and Alternative Medicines

Your Dietary Needs

Coffee and Liver Health


Please visit the support section of our website for information on Support groups in your area or visit our Useful Links section for other organisations who may be able to offer information and support.

Further help

You can ask your GP or hospital consultant to refer you to an NHS registered dietitian for a specialist diet consultation which will usually take place at your nearest hospital dietetic department.

For evidence based food fact sheets and information on various food topics visit the British Dietetic Association:

British Dietetic Association




 DownloadDiet and liver disease DLD/04/18.pdf





Reviewed by: Dr Marsha Morgan, Reader in Medicine & Honorary Consultant Physician, Centre for Hepatology,Royal Free, London; Dr Richard Aspinall, Consultant Hepatologist, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust;  Julie Leaper, Hepatology Specialist / ICU Dietitian,St James's University Hospital, Leeds; Susie Hamlin, Hepatology Specialist / ICU Dietitian, St James's University Hospital, Leeds; Simran Arora, Clinical Specialist Hepatology / Liver Transplant Dietitian, Royal Free Hospital Hampstead NHS Trust, London.


To view the references for this information and publication please click here