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Cirrhosis and a Hepatitis C Diet

Cirrhosis occurs when damaged liver cells are replaced with scar tissue. Too much scarring prevents blood from flowing normally through the liver. This causes even more damage and loss of liver function. Cirrhosis can hinder the body's use of nutrients and can lead to malnutrition.
Many patients with cirrhosis tend to hold onto (retain) water. This is often first shown by swelling in the ankles, particularly after walking. The swelling may move up the legs to the abdomen. Water buildup in the abdomen is called "ascites."
Too much sodium (salt) in the diet can make the situation worse, because sodium encourages the body to retain water. Your doctor will tell you if you need to limit sodium in your diet. This usually means restricting sodium intake to about 2,000 mg a day or less.
If you need to restrict sodium, here are some tips that can help:
  • Avoid salty foods, salt in cooking, and salt at the table. Anything that tastes salty (such as tomato sauce, salsa, soy sauce, canned soups) probably has too much salt. Try spicing things up with lemon juice or herbs instead of salt. Fresh foods are usually a better bet than processed foods.
  • Read food labels when shopping. Check the amount of sodium in the foods you are buying.
  • Avoid fast-food restaurants. Most fast foods are very high in sodium.
  • Go easy on meats, especially red meats, which are high in sodium. When possible, consider vegetarian (meat-free) alternatives.
The more fluid you retain, the greater your need to avoid salt. Your doctor may prescribe diuretics ("water pills") to help you urinate more. But all the water pills in the world won't help if you eat salty foods such as anchovy pizzas.

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