Cirrhosis: Sodium and Ascites

Topic Overview

If you have cirrhosis, you may need to reduce your sodium intake by eating less salt. You'll feel better and will lower your risk of complications.

Fluid buildup in the belly (ascites) and legs (edema) is one of the most common complications of cirrhosis. Sodium adds to this problem by causing your body to retain water. It increases fluid buildup in your belly as well as your legs and lungs. Aside from being uncomfortable, this fluid buildup can lead to trouble breathing, infection, and other problems.

Limiting sodium in your diet helps prevent your body from retaining extra fluid. It will make you feel better and may prevent or delay complications such as ascites and breathing difficulties.

Eating less sodium doesn't have to be hard, but you do have to think about it. Salt is in many foods, so limiting your salt intake means more than just not using the salt shaker. Packaged (processed) foods and restaurant foods are usually quite high in salt.

You may want to visit with a dietitian to help you get started or to find more ways to cut down on salt and eat a healthy diet.

Click here to view an Actionset.Healthy Eating: Eating Less Sodium
Click here to view an Actionset.Low-Salt Diets: Eating Out

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised April 11, 2012

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