Cirrhosis is a
potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when inflammation and
scarring damage the liver. The following lifestyle changes may reduce symptoms
caused by complications of the disease and may slow new
Giving up alcohol
In the United States, drinking
excessive amounts of alcohol is the most common cause of cirrhosis. If you are
diagnosed with cirrhosis, it is extremely important that you stop drinking
alcohol completely, even if alcohol was not the cause of your cirrhosis. If you
do not stop, liver damage may quickly become worse. For information about how
to quit drinking if you need help, see the topic
Alcohol Abuse and Dependence.
Changing your diet
Changes in your diet may be
needed, such as restricting the amount of salt or protein you
If your body is retaining fluid, the most important
dietary change you need to make is to reduce your sodium intake by reducing the
amount of salt in your diet. People with liver damage tend to retain sodium.
This can contribute to fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites), the most
common complication of cirrhosis. For more information, see:
- Cirrhosis: Eating a Low-Salt Diet.
If you are at risk for altered mental function (encephalopathy) because of advanced liver disease,
your doctor may want you to temporarily limit the amount of protein you eat.
You will still need protein in your diet to be well nourished, but you may need
to get most of your protein from vegetable sources (rather than animal sources).
And you may need to avoid eating large amounts of protein at one time.
Avoiding harmful medicines
Some medicines should
be used carefully or not taken by people who have cirrhosis. For example,
acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) can speed up liver damage if you have
cirrhosis and you are still drinking alcohol.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
ibuprofen and aspirin, increase the risk of
variceal bleeding if you have enlarged veins (varices)
in the digestive tract. NSAIDs can also raise your risk for ascites. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what medicines
are safe for you.
Certain prescription medicines used to treat
other conditions may be harmful if you have cirrhosis. Make sure your doctor
knows all the medicines (including all nonprescription medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements) that you are taking.
Improving your general health
Taking other steps
to improve your overall health may help you cope with the symptoms of
- Stop smoking. Quitting tobacco use will
improve your overall health, which may help make you a better candidate for a
liver transplant if you need one.
- Your doctor may encourage you to
take a multivitamin. Do not take one containing extra iron unless your doctor
tells you to, and do not take iron supplements.
- Brush and floss
your teeth daily to avoid dental problems that could lead to infection (abscess). Be gentle when you floss so you don't make
your gums bleed.
- Make sure you have been vaccinated against:
Using complementary and alternative medicines wisely