PBC: Can Lifestyle Changes Help?

Medication is the main way to treat primary biliary cholangitis, a long-lasting liver disease. Your doctor will work with you to find the best drug treatment plan. But you can also make simple changes in your daily life that will help ease your symptoms.

Eat a Healthy Diet

What you put in your mouth matters when you have primary biliary cholangitis. Your body can’t absorb vitamins and minerals the way it’s supposed to, so you may not be getting the nutrients you need. The disease can change your metabolism, too, so you may be eating less because you just don’t feel hungry.

Your doctor can suggest a healthy meal plan. It's smart to eat a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you still can’t get enough nutrients and calories, your doctor may prescribe a liquid supplement. These nutritional drinks give you the vitamins you need.

Other diet tips to consider:

  • Watch your salt. Choose low-salt and no-salt foods when possible. Too much salt can cause swelling.
  • Go low-fat. Watch the fat in your diet, especially if you aren't at your ideal weight or have fatty liver.
  • Drink up. Water, that is. If swelling is a problem, ask your doctor if you should drink less.
  • Cut back on booze. If you drink alcohol, you should stop or at least cut back. It's your liver's job to process what you drink. Drinking can make your already damaged liver work even harder.
  • Skip raw shellfish. It can be home to bacteria that could cause a serious infection. Primary biliary cholangitis affects your immune system, so you’re more likely to get this kind of infection.


These Easy Steps Can Also Help You Feel Better


  • Get some kind of exercise every day. Walking and swimming are good ways to strengthen your bones and fight osteoporosis, which often comes with PBC. Plus even a light workout can boost your mood and make you feel less tired.
  • Take care of your skin. It may get itchy or look darker. Good skin care will help.
  • Ease your stress. It can make many symptoms worse, including fatigue.
  • Go to the dentist. The dry mouth that comes with PBC can raise your odds of problems like tooth decay. Your dentist can catch issues early on.
  • Stop smoking. If you smoke, quit. Studies show that it can trigger the disease or make it worse.


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on December 12, 2019



American College of Gastroenterology: "Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC)."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Primary Biliary Cirrhosis."

Baylor Scott & White Health: "Cirrhosis."

Mayo Clinic: "Primary Biliary Cirrhosis: Lifestyle and home remedies."

American Liver Foundation: "Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC, previously Primary Biliary Cirrhosis)."

Medscape: "Cirrhosis: Nutrition and Exercise."

American Psychological Association: "Listening to the warning signs of stress."

National Health Service: "Primary biliary cirrhosis -- Treatment."

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