What You Need to Know About the Liver Shrinking Diet

August 20, 2020 | Bariatric Surgery

The liver shrinking diet can seem a little daunting at first — here’s everything you need to know, including some helpful tips.

Undergoing bariatric surgery is the first step in your lifelong journey to a happier and healthier you, but you can’t jump in right away. You must mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for weight loss surgery in a few different ways. These include researching the procedure, forming a support network, and following a special diet called the “liver shrinking diet.” 

But what is the diet? Why do you have to go on it? What can you eat? Here’s everything you need to know. 

What Is the Liver Shrinking Diet?

The liver shrinking diet is another name for the pre-operative diet that patients must follow before they can have bariatric surgery. Many people who struggle with obesity have enlarged livers because their diets are high in fat, sugar, and salt. If your liver is too large, your bariatric surgeon won’t be able to safely move it aside during surgery, which can lead to complications. It can also slow healing after the procedure.

As such, most bariatric surgery patients must reduce the size of their livers before they can safely have surgery. The liver shrinking diet is a low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb restrictive diet that reduces glycogen, water, and fatty deposits in the liver to make it smaller. This diet also forces your body to use up its fat reserves, which helps you lose weight before the surgery and ensures the procedure goes smoothly. Typically, you only have to remain on the diet for 7 to 14 days before your surgery.

The liver shrinking diet is unlike any diet you might have tried before. The exact requirements will vary depending on your nutritional needs, but the goal is to help you lose weight by reducing your calorie intake to between 800 and 1200 calories per day. Eating fruits and vegetables is normally encouraged as part of a healthy diet, but you have to limit your consumption on the liver shrinking diet because these foods are high in carbohydrates. Instead, your diet will primarily consist of lean proteins like low-fat Greek yogurt or tuna and non-starchy carbs like broccoli, apples, or rolled oats. Alcohol, sugary drinks, and full-fat dairy are strictly prohibited.

Portion sizes are small on the liver shrinking diet, and you have to make sure your meals are varied and balanced. Typically, you’re allowed three servings of carbohydrates, two servings of fruit, protein, and milk, and three to five servings of vegetables per day. Your nutritionist and bariatric surgeon will be able to provide more specific details about portion size.   

Tips for Sticking to the Liver Shrinking Diet

Again, the liver shrinking diet is not one-size-fits-all. How long you’ll be on it and what you’ll eat will depend on your unique situation and dietary needs. Your nutritionist and bariatric surgeon will work together to come up with a liver shrinking diet plan that’s right for you and keeps you strong until the day of the procedure. Here are some general tips for sticking to the liver shrinking diet: 

Choose the Right Protein Shake: Shakes are a great source of protein and will keep your energy up during your pre-op diet. Look for a protein shake that’s less than 200 calories, has less than five grams of sugar and 15 grams of carbohydrates, and has at least 20 to 25 grams of protein.  
Take a Multivitamin: Supplementing your pre-operative diet with a multivitamin will help prevent any nutritional deficiencies caused by a restrictive diet. 
Stay Hydrated: Drink at least 64 ounces of sugar-free, calorie-free beverages per day. Water is always the best choice, but you can have plain tea or Crystal Light if you want a little flavor.
Clean Your Plate: The liver shrinking diet is extremely restrictive by nature, so it’s important to eat ALL of your portions throughout the day. You don’t want to risk malnourishment or feeling faint, so be sure to eat up!
Prepare Ahead of Time: It’ll be easier to stick to the liver shrinking diet if you plan and prep your meals in advance. Also, test out your diet options to see which foods you like best and orient your meal plan around them.

For more information about pre-surgery diets and advice on how to stay healthy while preparing for bariatric surgery, contact the weight loss professionals at Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors today! We’re with you on your weight loss journey every step of the way.