Yellowing of the eyes, skin, or gums isn’t common, but it can occur. This situation is known as jaundice and is a clear sign that there is a problem with liver function. A diet for high bilirubin is helpful in these situations, always accompanying the appropriate treatment and directed by a specialist.
To optimize liver function, it’s advisable to adopt healthy eating patterns based on fresh products, soft cooking, and easy digestion. In addition, it is important to be abundant in vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and water. The following article details everything that is suitable and what is best to avoid.
What is Hyperbilirubinemia?
Bilirubin is a yellow or orange substance that appears as a result of the degradation of red blood cells. But also, as a consequence of enzymatic metabolism and myoglobin. Its characteristic color is given by a pigment.
It circulates through the blood to the liver, which is responsible for excreting it from the body. Through the biliary tract it is expelled into the intestine and thus evacuated with the feces. Normal values should be between 0.1 and 1.2 milligrams per deciliter of blood. When this range is exceeded, hyperbilirubinemia occurs and with it jaundice.
Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes and is one of the signs of bilirubin accumulation in the blood.
It is not common, but can occur in adults with liver diseases such as Gilbert’s syndrome, cirrhosis or hepatitis. Even in some babies at birth, it’s noticeable, as the liver may take a few days to be able to process this molecule.
Another common cause of jaundice is diseases that obstruct the bile ducts. A stone or tumor can hinder the passage of bile into the intestine, generating an increase in the concentration of bilirubin in the blood.
In turn, the increased elimination of erythrocytes by the spleen can also explain high bilirubin.
Importance of diet in regulating bilirubin
The liver has a prominent role in digestion. Everything that is ingested is filtered by this organ, which is responsible for converting nutrients into energy. It produces bile, which is necessary for the digestion of fats and, in addition, organic waste, alcohol, toxins, and medicines are filtered through it.
Therefore, any food or drink that is taken involves liver work. However, the different nutrients and chemicals present make this task easier or more complicated. Thus, we can speak of products allied to the liver and others that are not so much.
An excess of fats, salt and sugar, as well as very abundant meals are difficult to digest, thus requiring a greater work of this organ.
Therefore, it is not recommended and it is necessary to replace it with all foods that help in this function. This improves jaundice and prevents its reappearance.
Foods that reduce bilirubin levels
A diet for high bilirubin has to be balanced and adapted to the specific needs and situation of each person. It is important that all dishes contain protein, healthy carbohydrates, and low amounts of fat.
But there are some foods with a more positive effect on the liver that can reduce symptoms and improve the situation.
1. Red fruits and vegetables
Antioxidants are an important component in maintaining the oxidative balance in the liver. When this balance is disturbed, liver health is impaired, and so is its optimal functioning. This is why it is necessary to eat foods that provide these compounds.
The most abundant are found in fruits and vegetables. It’s worth mentioning the red ones, as they contain lycopene, and this is one of the antioxidants that seem to have the most important activity in this sense.
In fact, a publication made in Food and Function found that lycopene is beneficial in people with liver damage, cancer, infertility and metabolic syndrome. This useful antioxidant can be obtained from the following foods:
- Black grapes
2. Fiber in the diet for high bilirubin
As pointed out from the American Liver Foundation, it is interesting to increase the presence of fiber, as it allows the liver to work at an optimal level. The most recommended sources are vegetables, whole grains and fruits in general.
On the other hand, a study published in the magazine Nutrition found that the consumption of dietary fiber has multiple effects on the liver. It can decrease both hepatic and systemic inflammation, as well as prevent liver fibrosis.
3. Lean meat, white fish, and legumes
These are the most suitable sources of protein, as they are also the lowest in fat. Amino acids are necessary in the diet for high bilirubin as they help in liver regeneration.
Chicken, rabbit and white fish varieties, as well as leaner cuts of meat are indicated in this situation. In addition, legumes in small portions also provide a lot of fiber in their composition.
4. Integral carbohydrates
The carbohydrates represent a good source of energy and the foods that provide them are healthy for the liver.
For this, it’s preferable to choose integral grains (rice, millet, rye, wheat, etc.) and their derivatives (bread, pasta). In addition to energy, they also contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help improve liver function and reduce bilirubin.
5. Water as a beverage of preference
It is important to ingest enough liquid to maintain good hydration and enhance liver function. The ideal is to consume between 1.5 and 2 liters of water per day, which translates into about 8 glasses.
In this way, bile production will increase, which will favor the elimination of bilirubin.
Another drink that is positive is coffee. Scientific evidence has shown that it can prevent the development of a liver problem and improve it when it has already appeared.
Considered until recently as a bad habit, nowadays, the data on coffee consumption seems to go in the opposite direction. However, it is necessary to be prudent with its use and quantities, especially in those people who are sensitive to its effects or who do not drink it regularly.
Foods to avoid in a hepatic diet
In addition to enhancing all the positive foods in the diet for high bilirubin, there are a series of dietary tips about everything that is more harmful.
According to different experts agree, these are the ones to be avoided as far as possible:
- Saturated fats and processed meat: such as cream, cured cheeses, whole milk, sausages and non-lean meats. Fast food, cooking such as fried foods, trans fats and palm oil should also be avoided.
- Avoid alcohol as it causes additional damage to the liver, which is in charge of filtering it.
- Fish and seafood: raw or undercooked.
- Soft drinks, cakes, cookies, and other foods with a lot of added sugar: these can increase fat deposits in the liver.
What else to take into account in the diet for high bilirubin
People who, for whatever reason, present this health problem, should follow a balanced and healthy diet adapted to their condition.
It is important to have 4 or 5 small volume meals a day, with all the nutrients present and with light and easily digestible cooking.
Ideally, the daily diet should consist of 3 main dishes and 1 or 2 snacks. In addition, it should be ensured that no more than 5 hours elapse between each meal. Breakfast should be eaten less than one hour after waking up to avoid an increase in bilirubin.
Apart from watching the diet and the foods that compose it, there are other habits or behaviors that can increase bilirubin levels in the blood. As pointed out by the British Liver Trust Foundation, jaundice becomes more evident in the following situations:
- Fasting periods and low-calorie diets.
- Times of stress.
- During infectious diseases.
- With vigorous sports practice.
On the other hand, activities to promote liver health such as avoiding saturated fats and alcoholic beverages are also recommended.
In addition, regular exercise has been shown to improve liver function and decrease fat in the organ, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Proper diet helps improve high bilirubin
A diet that provides fiber, protein, vitamins and carbohydrates is necessary to lower blood bilirubin levels and care for liver function. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean meats are the most suitable foods in this situation.
However, you should keep in mind that if jaundice is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, lack of energy or fluid retention, it may be necessary to follow another diet for high bilirubin.
It may also be necessary to adopt more specific guidelines that need to be personalized, so it is essential to consult with the specialist as soon as possible.