The Role of Nutritional Therapy in Alcoholic Liver Disease

By Christopher M. Griffith, M.D., and Steven Schenker, M.D.

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) evolves through various stages, and malnutrition correlates with the severity of ALD.

Poor nutrition is caused both by the substitution of calories from alcohol for calories from food and by the malabsorption and maldigestion of various nutrients attributed to ALD.

The only established therapy for ALD consists of abstinence from alcohol. Sufficient nutritional repletion coupled with appropriate supportive treatment modalities may be effective in reducing complications associated with ALD-particularly infection. Nutrition makes a significant positive contribution in the treatment of ALD, especially in selected malnourished patients.

Goals of Nutritional Supplementation in Chronic Liver Disease

  • Prevent or correct protein-calorie malnutrition
  • Prevent or correct hepatic encephalopathy
  • Aid hepatic healing and regeneration insofar as possible
  • Improve quality of life
  • Prolong life and improve prognosis after liver transplantation
  • Control the costs and discomforts of therapy insofar as possible
  • Avoid potential unwanted side effects of therapy, including encephalopathy, azotemia, electrolyte or water imbalance, aspiration, venous thrombosis or thrombophlebitis, and sepsis. (SOURCE: Nompleggi and Bonkovsky 1994, with permission)

Research; Alcohol Research & Health, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2006

The Liver-Cleansing Diet