Liver Insufficiency in Children
Fitterfly - Team Nutrition
- Posted On August 13, 2019
Liver is an important organ of the body with a central function in nutrient absorption and metabolism. If your child has been diagnosed with liver disease, he/she needs appropriate management of diet and nutrition.
Why does my child need diet management?
Children with liver disease require more energy and proteins but have poor appetite so they usually eat less. Additionally, damaged liver cannot process many nutrients adequately. This increased requirement, decreased intake, and poor absorption of nutrients can all lead to – malnutrition, poor growth, and increased risk of infections.
How do I know if my child is consuming adequate diet?
Standard weight and height measurements may be inaccurate indicators of nutrition in children with liver disease. Research shows that body weight alone may underestimate the incidence of malnutrition in children with liver disease by up to 50%. Accurate nutritional assessment can only be done by a combination of doctor, nutritionist, and lab tests.
Does my child need a special diet? What changes should I make?
- Generally, your child can eat similar food as rest of the family with slight additions.
- Children with liver disease have higher calorie requirements so energy intake should be increased to 140–200% as compared to children of same age. You should give regular snacks and foods which are high in energy and protein such as nuts and seeds, dry fruits [walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachio], good quality proteins from eggs and white meat like chicken, root vegetables - potatoes, sweet potatoes.
- Make fruit smoothies with full fat milk or yogurt; add nuts and seeds to it. Bananas are some excellent options to make calorie dense smoothies.
- Adding dry fruits like cashew paste, Peanuts to veggies, creams in soups make small portions calorie dense.
- Your doctor can also prescribe high calorie, nutrient dense powders to be added in milkshakes or juice drinks.
- Apart from supplements given by doctor, it is recommended to give food rich in fat soluble Vitamins - A, D, E and K - as your child’s liver may not be able to absorb these vitamins well. Examples include green leafy vegetables, carrot, sweet potato, kiwi, apple, whole egg, and nuts.
- Protein restriction is rarely needed and children with chronic liver disease require 2–3 g/kg/day of protein. Adequate proteins in daily diet is extremely important for growth and development of the child.
- It is necessary to moderately increase overall total fat intake in the diet. This can be done in the form of walnut or fish oils, as well as dietary products such as egg yolks, butter, ghee or coconut oil.
- Make sure to give diet rich in minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, selenium and iron. Seeds and nuts, green leafy vegetables, rajgira, lentils and sprouts, eggs and fish are all rich sources of these minerals in diet.
Malnutrition is common in children with liver disease, and requires aggressive and appropriate timely management to help in normal growth and to correct nutritional deficiencies.