Appetite loss

One of the early signs of liver problems can be appetite loss. You might not feel interested in food, or eating might make you feel nauseous.

It’s really important to eat properly if you have liver disease. That’s because your body finds it harder to absorb nutrients.

If you don’t eat enough, you won’t get the protein, vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. This can make you quite ill.

Why you get appetite loss

There are several things that affect your appetite when your liver doesn’t work properly.

  • Inflammation in the body
  • Swollen belly (ascites), which makes you feel full because the swelling is pressing on the stomach
  • Changes to the brain
  • An upset tummy
  • Food might taste different, or you might not like the food your doctor wants you to eat

All of these can make you feel less like eating.

Tips for managing appetite loss

If you’re not feeling hungry, it’s important to make every mouthful count. Your doctor or dietitian can suggest foods that are packed full of protein and calories to keep you healthy.

Here are some other ideas.

  • Eat small meals all through the day. Try to have something to eat at least every 2 hours, even if it’s only a few mouthfuls.
  • Snacks are often easier to manage than a full meal. Keep healthy snacks on hand at work or in the car. This might be a piece of fruit or a handful of unsalted nuts.
  • Concentrate on foods you like. If your taste has changed, try a few different things to see what tempts you.
  • Cold foods might be easier to eat than hot foods.
  • Relax before and after you eat.
  • Chew well and breathe – take your time.
  • If you can’t manage solid food, try making a smoothie or soup, or take a nutritional supplement (discuss with your doctor first)

When to see your doctor

Always see your doctor if you’re finding it hard to eat or you are losing weight.

Depending on the type and stage of your liver disease, you may need a special diet. Your doctor may send you off to see a specialist or an accredited dietitian to manage your appetite and weight loss.

References

British Liver Trust. Coping with eating difficulties

Cancer Council NSW. Poor appetite and weight loss

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