A balanced diet may support your liver health and reduce jaundice. It involves drinking enough water, eating vegetables and lean protein, and avoiding alcohol and some foods, including those high in sugar.
Your liver removes toxins and clears old or damaged blood cells out of the body.
Disrupting this process can cause a waste product, known as bilirubin, to build up and leak out of the liver into the bloodstream. This can result in jaundice. Many different types and causes of jaundice exist.
What you eat and drink also has a direct influence on your liver.
Read on to learn how you can be strategic with the foods and drinks you choose to possibly lower your chance for future episodes of jaundice and keep your liver healthy.
The symptoms of high bilirubin can vary from person to person and depend on the root cause.
Jaundice is a common sign of high bilirubin levels. People with jaundice may have a yellow discoloration of their body tissue, including in the eyes and skin.
Other symptoms of high bilirubin may include:
- dark urine
- changes in stool color
- stomach pain
- joint aches
Contact a doctor immediately if you start to notice any of these symptoms.
Having high bilirubin levels could mean your liver isn’t working properly. Bilirubin can be potentially toxic when concentrated at high levels, so speak with a doctor about what high test results mean for you and your treatment plan.
While many studies link high levels of bilirubin to an increased possibility of death in some groups with high bilirubin levels, researchers are still exploring this relationship. That’s because some studies have found that high bilirubin levels may play a
The link between elevated bilirubin levels and how long you can live depends on many factors, including the underlying cause of the high levels in the first place.
Certain causes of jaundice have a better outlook with treatment than others. These may include:
Other causes, such as liver cirrhosis or cancer in the bile duct can have a poorer prognosis.
- Stay hydrated. Water, coffee, or tea can support hydration and liver function.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Look for high fiber foods, such as oatmeal, broccoli, chickpeas, berries, and almonds.
- Eat a variety of proteins and choose leaner cuts of animal protein.
Along with medical intervention to clear up jaundice, a well-balanced diet of all five food groups may help support liver health. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate provides a good model.
That said, certain foods, beverages, and nutrients may help support overall liver health. This includes:
Staying hydrated with water could help your liver work properly and prevent dehydration. Not drinking enough fluids can make it harder for your liver to carry out the tasks it needs to be healthy.
Your daily water needs are highly individualized, so make sure you’re drinking enough based on the recommendation that’s right for you.
Coffee or tea
A 2022 study found that people who drink more than 3 cups of coffee daily have improved markers of liver health. When researchers studied this phenomenon further, they found the results were not because of the caffeine in the coffee.
They also found that coffee helped protect the liver independent of the study participants’ diet.
Fruits and vegetables
Canned options can also work if they’re drained and rinsed before eating.
- level of physical activity
But in general, according to the Dietary Guidelines, adult males need between 2 1/2 and 4 cups of vegetables per day and 2 and 2 1/2 cups of fruit per day. Adult females should consume 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables.
Researchers are still exploring the effects of certain types of fruits and vegetables on bilirubin.
This all-important nutrient is found in a variety of foods, including:
- whole grains
Food sources that are high in fiber can include:
- brown rice
- wheat bread, pasta, or tortillas
Try to eat one or more servings of high fiber foods at each meal. It’s recommended that all adults attempt to eat at least
When choosing proteins, avoid fattier cuts. You can also select a variety of plant-based (nuts, seeds and soy products) and animal-based protein options. For animal proteins, go with leaner choices like skinless chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or beef flank steak.
Fish and eggs also make good selections. Most choices of dairy should be low fat.
A doctor or registered dietitian may work with you to incorporate a multivitamin into your eating pattern. A multivitamin may help you meet daily vitamin and mineral needs to promote good liver health.
Other dietary or herbal supplements available online or at retailers claim to “detoxify” or “rescue” your liver. But, the research does not hold up to these claims.
Always talk with a doctor before trying supplements for liver health. Supplements may interact with other medications you may be taking. Certain supplements may not be safe for people with liver disease.
- Alcohol can cause additional damage to your liver, so it’s best to avoid it completely.
- Watch out for high fat foods.
- Lower your sugar and sodium intake.
It’s important to avoid or limit eating or drinking things that may cause additional damage to your liver. This can include:
Drinking alcohol while your liver attempts to heal itself could cause further damage. The American Liver Foundation recommends talking with a doctor about alcohol and what it means for your liver health. In some cases, it could be best to avoid it completely.
A doctor or registered dietitian might recommend eating high fat foods in moderation or cutting them out completely depending on the state of your liver, as these foods could add unwanted stress.
It may be possible that you will have to limit higher intakes of sugar as your liver heals. A doctor or dietitian can provide individual recommendations based on the cause of your jaundice and your health.
Try reaching for a combination of fresh fruit and protein the next time you get a sweet tooth. A handful of blueberries added to Greek yogurt could do the trick.
Sodium in foods can cause your body to keep fluids around longer than typical. It could make it harder for your liver to function effectively if you consume too much sodium. A doctor or dietitian might recommend choosing low sodium foods or following a low sodium eating plan during jaundice.
When it comes to canned foods, rinse and drain them before eating, if possible, to remove excess salt and additives. This includes:
- canned vegetables
- canned fruits
- canned beans
- other canned food products
You may also opt for lower sodium options of many canned foods.
If you have to reduce your salt intake, you could also try using herbs to add flavor to your dish instead of reaching for the salt shaker. These may include:
- garlic powder
- onion powder
Fresh lemon or lime juice can also add additional flavor.
Keeping a food diary can help you stick to an eating plan that could help your liver work better. Write down everything about each of your meals, including:
- what you eat
- how much you eat
- what time you eat
You should also take note of how you feel after you eat. If you feel less hungry, notice any rapid changes in appetite or find yourself struggling to eat enough, tell a doctor or registered dietitian immediately. Signs of loss of appetite can be a signal of a severe condition.
Some general rules of thumb include:
- Eat 4 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day, rather than 3 larger ones.
- Snack every few hours, including a bedtime snack.
- Sip fluids throughout the day.
- Experiment with different flavorings to keep foods exciting without adding too much salt.
- Replace alcohol beverages with nonalcoholic beer or other drinks.
Protect yourself against foodborne illnesses
Protecting yourself against foodborne illnesses can help prevent unnecessary stress on your liver. You can try avoiding the following foods that have a higher risk of carrying foodborne illnesses:
- Unpasteurized products: Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, fruit juice, and vegetable juice.
- Unwashed produce: Avoid eating unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Raw or undercooked proteins: Always cook proteins to the suggested internal serving temperature. Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish, game, seafood, and raw tofu.
- Raw sprouts: Do not consume raw vegetable sprouts, such as alfalfa or mung bean, including when used in other preparations like smoothies or juices.
A buildup of bilirubin in the blood results in jaundice. Its cause may help determine how long it will take to clear out of your system. A well-balanced diet that supports liver health may help alleviate symptoms in combination with traditional treatments for jaundice.
If you have questions about your diet for jaundice, talk with a doctor or dietitian. They can make personalized recommendations about what you should add and remove from your eating plan while ensuring you’re meeting your daily nutrition needs.