The Liver-Shrinking Diet: Benefits, Menu Samples, Warnings

Liver-Shrinking Diet: Benefits, Menu Samples, Warnings, Diet Plan

What is a Liver-Shrinking Diet?

Patients must undergo a special diet for a few weeks before undergoing bariatric surgery. They call it the Pre-Operative Diet, the liver-shrinking diet, or the liver reduction diet, and it is probably not like any other diet plan you have ever been on.

Normally, the Bariatric Weight Loss Center will provide the details including a variety of diet menus and plan. Nonetheless, the diet plan will vary by the patient. However, the goal is the same: to lose weight and shrink the liver size before the surgery by significantly reducing caloric and carbohydrate intake.

Why Would I Want to Follow the Liver-Shrinking Diet?

Patients who suffer from obesity normally have unhealthy eating habits that are high in fat, salt, and sugar, which is why they also tend to have enlarged livers. Most people would guess that alcoholism is the leading cause of fatty liver disease, but obesity is the number 1 cause. The primary reason that patients must follow a liver reduction diet before surgery is to ensure the surgery is safe and successful. During surgery, the patient is lying down causing the liver’s location to be directly on top of the stomach. The surgeon is going to need access to the stomach, and an enlarged liver can get in the way and make it very hard for the surgeon. Move the liver safely aside to prevent complications. Design the pre-surgery diet to shrink the liver, aiding the surgeon and ensuring patient safety.

How Long Do I Have to Follow the Liver-Shrinking Diet?

The duration of the liver-reduction diet will be determined by the bariatric surgeon performing your procedure. Many surgeons base the duration of the diet on the patient’s starting BMI.

Liver Reduction Diet Timeline Chart

Patient’s Starting BMI Diet Duration
35-39.9 1 Week
40-49.9 2 Weeks
50-59.9 3 Weeks

How Much Weight Can I Lose on a Liver-Shrinking Diet?

Patient results will vary but most patients lose between 5 to 15 pounds on the pre-bariatric surgery liver shrinking diet.

What Happens if I Cheat on My Liver-Shrinking Diet?

If you cheat on your liver-shrinking diet and your liver does not reduce an adequate amount, you may be risking your safety or the surgeon may reschedule the surgery. The surgeon will know right away at the start of surgery if you have followed your diet or not.

If they feel the liver is going to hinder the procedure or the patient’s safety, they will not perform the surgery. It would be a shame to get that far, be put under anesthesia just to wake up and find out you have to reschedule and do this all over again at a later time.

How Does the Liver-Shrinking Diet Work?

The carbohydrates we eat provide energy in the form of Glycogen, which our body stores in the liver and muscles. When we consume more carbs, the body stores more glycogen, but it doesn’t store it alone. Glycogen and water are stored together and every gram of glycogen grabs 3 grams of water to store with it. This leads to the enlargement of the liver. The more carbs consumed, the bigger the liver can be.

The liver-shrinking diet is created to be high in protein and low in fat and carbs, so your body does not produce more glycogen and forces your body to pull it out of storage. The glycogen and water reduction causes the liver to shrink. For patients with higher BMIs, the liver will normally take longer to shrink.

How Can I Tell if My Liver is Shrinking?

Short of a CT scan, you would not be able to tell if your liver has decreased in size. If you are following the liver-shrinking diet that your surgeon provided to you and you are losing weight, this is an indication that the liver-reduction diet is working.

What Can I Eat during the Diet?

The patients have to follow to liver-shrinking diet before bariatric surgery. It is a low-fat, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet that is normally restricted to between 800-1,200 calories. Nevertheless, your bariatric surgeon will provide you with a specific format to follow and a list of approved foods.

There are usually two different plans offered to patients, the first consisting mainly of protein shakes with one solid meal each day. This plan is harder but yields more weight loss. This plan may work for you if you are super busy and do not wish to cook or prepare food.

The other plan is more diverse but requires preparation. Some patients prefer to alter days between plans. If you are diabetic there will be added instructions, and it is important that you carefully follow them. Here is a sample of what your liver-shrinking diet might look like:

The Liver-Shrinking Diet Benefits, Menu Samples, Warnings_infpgraphics

In between meals drink water and other beverages that are on the approved list to equal at least 64 oz a day.

Liver-Shrinking Diet Protein Shake Criteria

Your bariatric clinic will often provide you with a list of “ready-made” protein shakes or powders that meet their criteria but the universal standards are as follows:

  • No more than 200 calories.

  • Contains between 20-25 grams of protein.

  • 15 grams or less of carbohydrates.

  • 5 grams or less of sugar.

  • < 10% of the daily recommended amount of total fat.

  • You can mix powdered supplements with unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened soy milk, 1% milk, or water.

  • Do not add in extras, fruit, or avocado.


Can You Drink Coffee on the Liver-Shrinking Diet?

Yes, you can have black coffee, usually decaffeinated. If you like a little coffee with your creamer, you may want to just skip the coffee during the diet. Regardless of the exact diet plan provided by your bariatric surgeon. It is important for your safety and the success of your surgery that you strictly follow the liver-shrinking diet plan. In reality, this is the first step toward your new “normal” as you embark on your weight loss journey.

Above all, you are starting a new lifestyle, and you must commit 100% to embracing all the dietary changes it entails. Having said that, it’s not an easy journey but it will be worth it because you, your health, and your quality of life are worth it. Also, watch the Patient Testimonial, who has transformed her life through Gastric Sleeve Surgery following the liver reduction diet. Additionally, if you would like more information about bariatric weight loss procedure options or would like to learn more about the healthy liver diet plan, call us today.

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