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Primary Biliary Cirrhosis Diet

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Usually diagnosed before symptoms occur, primary biliary cirrhosis, or PBC, is a chronic medical condition that causes inflammation and damage to the bile ducts in the liver. This causes scarring and may ultimately lead to cirrhosis. The diet for people with PBC is aimed at promoting health and meeting nutrient needs. A healthy balanced diet that supplies enough calories and protein is recommended, but diet modifications may be necessary if complications, such as ascites, occur.

Diet Basics

A healthy balanced diet for PBC includes a variety of foods from all the food groups. The British Liver Trust suggests that you fill your diet with fruits and vegetables, with a goal of five servings a day. Carbohydrates, such as whole-wheat pasta and bread, potatoes, brown rice and whole-grain cereals, are also recommended, as they are an important source of calories and energy. For protein, include lean sources of meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and beans. Include low-fat or nonfat dairy foods for bone health and to keep a lid on fat.

Watch Your Sodium

Ascites, which is a complication related to PBC, causes abdominal fluids to build up in your abdominal cavity. If you have fluids in your abdomen, you may need to limit sodium in your diet. You should talk to your doctor about your sodium needs, but sodium is generally restricted to 2,000 milligrams a day. You can reduce sodium intake by not adding salt to your food and limiting your consumption of processed foods such as deli meat, frozen meals, canned foods and boxed mixes. Also, read labels and look for foods that contain 140 milligrams of sodium or less. Fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and whole grains, are naturally low in sodium and make good choices on a low-sodium diet plan.

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Meals for PBC

A healthy meal plan should include three meals containing about the same amount of food and one snack. A healthy breakfast that is balanced and low in sodium might include a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and sliced almonds, a cup of nonfat milk and a banana. For lunch, you might enjoy grilled chicken on a whole-wheat roll, along with mixed greens topped with balsamic vinegar and oil, and a fresh orange. A healthy dinner for someone with PBC might include broiled tuna steak with a baked potato and steamed carrots. Nonfat yogurt with low-sodium whole-grain crackers makes a healthy snack option.

Special Diet Considerations

Malnutrition is a concern for people with PBC due to changes in appetite, altered metabolism and inadequate absorption of vitamins and minerals. When food intake is poor and nutritional needs are high, a diet that is high in calories and adequate in protein is recommended. High-calorie nutrition shakes may be necessary to help meet needs if appetite is poor. During this stage of the disease, consult with your doctor or a dietitian for suggestions on how to improve nutritional intake.

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