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Liver shrinkage diet for patients having laparoscopic surgery

Patient information A-Z

What is the liver shrinkage diet?

This is a diet low in fat, sugar and carbohydrates. The diet helps reduce the size of the liver by reducing glycogen stores (glycogen is a form of sugar stored in the liver and muscles for energy).

Why has my surgeon recommended a liver shrinkage diet?

People undergoing some laparoscopic procedures may need to be on this special diet if they have a fatty liver. It is essential you follow this diet as a fatty liver can obscure the view for the surgeon whilst operating and if he/she is not able to see properly, your procedure might be stopped or you could end up with an open procedure which will take longer to recover from. In addition the liver could bleed heavily forcing the surgeon to do open surgery.

How long do I need to follow this diet?

You only need to be on this diet for two weeks prior to your surgery or as recommended by your surgeon.

What are the side effects of this diet?

You might experience side effects for the first few days. These are related to your body getting used to fewer calories.

  • Fatigue: During the first week you may feel tired and weak. We recommend you try to eat smaller meals regularly throughout the day.
  • Ketosis: unpleasant side effects may occur as your body is burning fat instead of carbohydrates. This results in the body producing ketones which can cause bad breath, tiredness, headaches, mild dizziness and nausea. We advise you brush your teeth more frequently and use mouthwash. Try sugar free chewing gum or mints as this might help.
  • Constipation: This may occur as a result of reduced fibre intake. Ensure you drink enough fluid (two to three litres). If the problem continues take one to two sachets of fybogel per day.

Other considerations

Please inform your surgeon / dietitian /specialist nurse if you have any of the following conditions: diabetes, renal failure, gout, epilepsy, low blood pressure, migraines or if you have suffered a stroke in the last six months. We also advise you to avoid alcohol. If you are diabetic and taking insulin please consult your diabetes specialist nurse or GP prior to embarking on this diet as your medications will need to be altered.


A small bowl of cereal or one slice of toast with a scraping of margarine.

A slice of bread or two crisp breads, salad (without dressing), tomatoes and a small portion of meat, fish, cheese or two eggs.

A small potato or two tablespoons of pasta or rice with vegetables and a small portion of meat, fish, cheese, eggs, quorn or tofu.

One third of a pint of semi-skimmed milk for drinks and cereals. Water, tea, coffee, low calorie squash, low calorie fizzy drinks allowed in any amount. Drink enough; two – three litres per day.

No more than one glass of fruit juice per day.

One low fat low sugar yoghurt per day. Two portions of fruit such as apple, pear, banana or orange.

Additional information

It is important you stick to this diet for the recommended time. Do not be tempted to have a special or large meal before surgery as this will undo all your hard work. Please note this diet is only to be followed for the time that your surgeon has advised you and is not intended for use by anyone else.

If you have any problems or would like more information please contact the upper GI nurse practitioner/specialist nurses on 01223 596383 or if out of hours contact your GP.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151