Good nutrition in people with cirrhosis of the liver is very important. Cirrhosis patients are at risk of malnutrition due to changes in their metabolism and digestive issues that occur as the liver becomes more damaged.2

Why is nutrition important in cirrhosis?

Malnutrition leads to worse outcomes

People with liver cirrhosis who aren’t adequately nourished are more likely to be hospitalized and to experience complications. For example, salt intake can impact ascites.1 Malnutrition can even increase your risk of dying.2

Malnutrition can lead to muscle loss

One of the liver’s most critical tasks is helping you get the nutrients you need from the food you eat.2 To stop blood sugar levels from becoming too low, the body breaks down a substance called glycogen to provide you with more sugar. One of the biggest stores of glycogen in the body is the liver.3

In liver cirrhosis, liver cells have a decreased ability to produce, store, and break down glycogen, and as a result, your body looks for energy elsewhere, particularly at times of prolonged fasting, such as when you are asleep at night. Your body may get this energy from your fat stores, but also from your muscle tissue. This can result in muscle breakdown and fatigue.4

What to eat when you have liver cirrhosis2

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Use fresh ingredients as far as possible and try to avoid processed or canned food
  • Avoid red meat, and opt for lean white meat, fish and tofu
  • Avoid using oil in your cooking by grilling or steaming/boiling vegetables
  • Wholegrains, brown rice, oats, nuts and seeds are great
  • Dairy products, such as cream cheese, hard cheeses and low-fat yoghurt can be consumed, as well as non-dairy milk alternatives, but avoid full fat dairy products
  • Avoid refined foods, like white flour, white bread and white pasta

Cirrhosis-friendly cooking tips

You don’t always need salt, or salty things like stock cubes and condiments to flavour your food.5

Instead, try things like:5

  • Garlic and ginger
  • Spices
  • Fresh herbs and freshly ground pepper
  • Fruit jellies or homemade gravies
  • Citrus, e.g. lemon juice

Snacks for people with liver cirrhosis

Because your glycogen stores are depleted, it can be a very good thing to have a late-night snack before you go to bed to keep you going overnight and avoid further muscle wasting.1 Avoid overly sweet things like cakes, pastries and cookies2. Instead, try things like toast, crackers, fruit or milky drinks.5

Home-cooking is best

Restaurant food or pre-packaged meals can be tricky because it’s not always easy to know what’s in them, and they are often high in sugar and salt. With homemade meals, you can control what goes in your food.2

Vitamin supplements

There is evidence to suggest that vitamin D levels may be low in cirrhosis patients, and taking vitamin D supplements may help.6 However, be careful of multivitamin supplements, as they can often contain vitamin A and iron, which can cause the liver more problems. Speak to your healthcare professional before starting any vitamin supplements.2

Zubereitung von Lebensmitteln auf Küchenbrett


  1. McClain C J. Nutrition in Patients With Cirrhosis. Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2016; 12(8): 507–510.
  2. Daniel, C. Verywell health. What to Eat When You Have Cirrhosis. Available at: (last accessed: September 2020)
  3. Berg JM, et al. Glycogen Metabolism. Biochemistry (5th Edition). 2002. Chapter 21. Available at: (last accessed November 2020)
  4. Bojko M. Causes of Sarcopenia in Liver Cirrhosis. Clinical Liver Disease. 14:5 (167-170). November 2019
  5. Cirrhosis and Advanced Liver Disease. British Liver Trust. Available at: (last accessed November 2020)
  6. Kubesch A et al, PLoS One. 2018; 13(11):e0207162

May 2021. GL-HEP-XIF-2000183

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