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Liver cirrhosis nutritional therapyEditorial supervisor: Dr. Motoo Iwasa, Associate Professor, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Graduate School of Medicine, Mie University

The liver is a very important organ that performs a number of essential functions for the body.

Because of this, it is the heaviest organ, weighing from 1.2kg to 1.5kg in adults. If the liver becomes damaged by liver cirrhosis and its fuctionality impaired, it can cause various disorders, not only within the liver itself but throughout the body.
Amongst the liver's various functions, the metabolization and storage of nutrients is the most important. Nutrients that are consumed through food cannot be used in the body as they are, but need to be transformed into a usable form in the liver.

What is liver cirrhosis?
If viral hepatitis or alcoholic liver disease continue for an extended period of time, and impact the functioning of the liver, symptoms of jaundice, swelling, abdominal dropsy, and hepatic encephalopathy may develop.
Also, blood vessels may dilate due to fibrosis of the liver cells, causing increased portal pressure (pressure on the blood vessel that carries blood to the liver), which can in turn lead to gastroesophageal varices, splenoma, and thrombopenia. The phase before the development of symptoms is called “compensated cirrhosis,” while the phase with jaundice, abdominal dropsy, hepatic encephalopathy, and other conditions is called “decompensated” cirrhosis.

Liver functions

Food that has been ingested is broken into glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, and other substances in the stomach and small intestine before being transported through the blood stream to the liver.
The nutrients that enter the liver are resynthesized into a variety of substances that are necessary for the body, such as glycogen and albumin.

Liver diseases

Hepatitis occurs when the liver is infected by the hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus.
In addition to viruses, liver disease can also be caused by alcohol, excessive eating, immune disorders, and drugs.

Liver cirrhosis treatment (improving liver functions)

Because malnutrition (becoming extremely thin, decreased skeletal muscle mass) inhibits recovery from liver cirrhosis and impacts quality of life, to improve the function of the liver it is important to increase food intake, get appropriate exercise, and if necessary, eat a light meal before bedtime. As a form of medical treatment, branch-chained amino acids (BCAA) etc are administered.

Learn more about liver cirrhosis

Editorial supervisor: Nagisa Hara, Nutrition Unit Chief, Mie University

Consult your doctor, pharmacist, or nutritionist about your daily intake of protein and calories.

2017 DEC EN1712044