The Nutrition in Cirrhosis Guide
Proper nutrition and diet are essential for living a healthy life. For many, the interaction between nutrition and liver health is unclear mainly because the liver’s role in the body is not common knowledge. Since the stakes of following a healthy diet are higher for those living with liver disease complications like cirrhosis, we are proud to introduce The Nutrition in Cirrhosis Guide for patients with cirrhosis.
Scarring of the liver, otherwise known as cirrhosis, occurs when damage is done to your liver. When damage is done to the liver, it attempts to repair itself, creating scar tissue. The more scar tissue that is created, the more difficult it is for the liver to properly function.
Thanks to a fruitful partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Alberta Innovates and Alberta Health Services; The Nutrition and Cirrhosis Guide was crafted by a team of Canadian doctors and dieticians to help patients and their caregivers by providing simple and practical nutrition information. Feedback from patients was also incorporated throughout the creation process.
“Very few patients have access to a registered dietician, and physicians do not routinely provide dietary counselling as a part of most clinic visits,” says Dr. Puneeta Tandon, founder of the Cirrhosis Care Clinic at the University of Alberta Hospital and the lead author of The Nutrition in Cirrhosis Guide.
The creation of The Nutrition in Cirrhosis Guide was inspired by patients living with cirrhosis and their families and friends who were searching for an effective resource filled with practical tips, background information and healthy recipes.
“Our patients are always interested in knowing what they can do to improve their health, what they can eat and what they shouldn’t eat,” says Dr. Tandon. “We created this Guide to give all patients with cirrhosis a set of practical nutrition tools they can use to take more control over their own health”.
When a liver has cirrhosis, it struggles to convert nutrients into energy and fails to store as much readily available energy as a healthy liver would. This means that patients with cirrhosis need to follow crucial guidelines like eating every four hours, consuming more protein and consuming more calories than recommended for the average person to compensate for their condition.
“Without a proper eating guide, an energy-starved liver will begin breaking down healthy muscles and tissues to feed its energy needs,” says Dr. Tandon. “Skipping meals or snacks may lead to loss of body mass and muscle—conditions that lead to physical weakness and overall poor health.”
The Nutrition in Cirrhosis Guide is intended to be used by patients and their caregivers in the comfort of their own home. Physicians can incorporate the tool in clinic visits and mark patient progress.
Some key topics included in this comprehensive guide include what foods to eat and what to avoid, how to calculate your daily calorie intake and how to manage your diet if you are at the hospital.
“We see the Guide as a tool within a patient’s or physician’s toolbox for cirrhosis care,” says Dr. Tandon. “Relevant sections of the Guide can be reviewed before or during clinic appointments with the patient’s physician”
The Canadian Liver Foundation is proud to be a partner in the development and distribution of this important guide for those living with cirrhosis and their caregivers.
The Nutrition in Cirrhosis Guide, while certainly touching on important liver health topics, should be followed only by patients with cirrhosis, as some recommendations like protein and calorie intake are higher than those recommended for patients with other liver diseases (for example, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). The foods prepared from recipes within the Guide are suitable for patients and non-patients making family meals easier to plan.
We greatly value any feedback that patients, caregivers or healthcare professionals have about this guide. Please send your feedback to Lucy You at firstname.lastname@example.org.