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Looking After Yourself

Can I drink alcohol?

If you have alcohol-related liver disease, it is important that you stop drinking and remain abstinent life-long.

Alcohol can accelerate the rate of liver damage in those with hepatitis C and can limit the effectiveness of anti-viral treatment32. It can also accelerate the rate of liver damage in those with NASH33, therefore, it is recommended to avoid alcohol in these circumstances.

Alcoholic drinks are often high in calories and if you are overweight, cutting these out will help to reduce your calorie intake.

Many people with liver disease avoid alcohol as they find they do not tolerate it well. If you do choose to drink, it is important to stick within the recommended guidelines.

The Department of Health recommends adult men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol in a week. These units should be spread over the week:

  • men and women should not regulalry drink more than 14 units per week
  • everyone should have at least two consecutive alcohol free days every week.

If you are unsure whether you should drink, talk to your doctor. For more information on how alcohol affects your liver and calculating units, please refer to our Alcohol and liver disease publication.

What is a ‘fad’ diet and should I try one?

Fad diets are usually weight loss diets that promise you can lose weight quickly. These diets often focus on short term solutions and can be bad for your health. Fad diets usually involve one or more of the following:

  • ‘Crash’ dieting, this can involve reducing your calorie intake considerably and can lead to other health conditions, such as gallstones. You may lose some weight in the short term but side effects often include: feeling very unwell, an inability to function properly, dizziness and eating disorders.
  • Some diets may involve you cutting certain foods or food groups out completely such as wheat, meat, fish, dairy products or carbohydrates this can lead to your body being deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients.

If you need to lose weight, it is better to lose weight steadily, maintain weight loss and to be healthy. Refer to ‘A well-balanced diet’ section for further information.

I have read about diets which ‘detox’ your liver – should I try one?

There are many different suggested diets that recommend certain foods to help your liver ‘detox’ or with ‘liver cleansing’. However, there is no evidence that toxins build up in the liver and some of these diets can be dangerous for people with liver disease. A healthy balanced diet (see 'A well-balanced diet' section) is the best way to look after your liver.

Will drinking green tea or coffee help my liver?

Some studies have suggested that coffee has a beneficial effect on the liver and may help to reduce the risk of liver cancer in those with cirrhosis. For those with liver damage who enjoy coffee, there is no need to stop drinking it34,35. The way in which coffee may affect the liver is still being investigated.

Green tea has also been suggested to have a protective effect on the liver, due to its anti-oxidant properties36,37. Again, further research is required to confirm this.

As with everything, it is important to moderate your consumption and vary your fluids.

Should I take dietary supplements?

Dietary supplements are not an alternative to eating a well-balanced diet. Your body needs a wide range of vitamins and minerals to be able to function correctly, and the best way to get these is to eat a variety of foods5. You should always consult your doctor or dietitian before considering a supplement.