What to eat before weight loss surgery: The liver-shrinking diet | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

What to eat before weight loss surgery: The liver-shrinking diet

Set yourself up for success with a presurgery eating plan

What is a liver-shrinking diet and why do you need it? Your doctor might tell you to follow this type of diet if you are preparing for bariatric (weight loss) surgery such as a gastric bypass or sleeve procedure.

Many candidates for weight loss surgery also have enlarged livers. This often is due to diets high in sugars and starches. If the liver is too big, the surgeon cannot safely navigate around it to reach the stomach during surgery. This can lead to complications and slow healing after weight loss surgery. This particular diet is also very effective at decreasing the amount of fat in your abdomen, both in and around your organs. It is well known that “central obesity” or increased fat in the abdomen is the most dangerous type of fat in the body and leads to many chronic diseases, increased inflammation, and increased mortality.

The liver has many important jobs in the body, several of which are important to digestion and weight loss. These include the production of bile, which helps break down fats in the small intestine during digestion. The liver also makes cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body. This organ also is responsible for cleaning the blood of drugs and other substances.

Weight loss surgery diet

“You will work with a dietician before and after your weight loss surgery,” said Meredith C.  Sweeney, M.D., bariatric and laparoscopic surgeon with Norton Surgical Specialists who treats patients of Norton Weight Management Services. “We have you do a liver-shrinking diet for a minimum of two weeks before the procedure.”

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It is a low-carbohydrate diet that reduces glycogen (energy stored in the liver), water and fat in the liver.

The diet consists of proteins such as beef, pork, eggs, seafood or chicken, and non-starchy carbohydrates including foods like broccoli, cauliflower, leafy green vegetables. Fruit is limited, as it can be high in carbs and sugar. Alcohol, carbonated beverages, and sugar are also off-limits. Portion sizes are not limited on this diet, and each meal should be well balanced with protein and vegetables.

Tips for patients on the liver-shrinking diet

“We want to set you up for success,” Dr. Sweeney said.  This type of diet is what patients will be consuming after surgery in order to ensure lifelong success anyway, so starting it before surgery only helps develop habits that can continue after surgery.

So here are a few things to keep in mind:

Make sure you eat well: That means no sugar, lots of protein, non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats. and foods. You may need a supplementary vitamin, too.

Hydrate: Drink at least 64 ounces (about 8 cups) a day of sugar-free, calorie-free, noncarbonated liquid per day. Water, plain teas or sugar-free drinks are good choices.

Rely on your team: You will have a dietician who will help you with your diet plan, answer your questions and help you after the surgery. Don’t be afraid to reach out!


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