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How To Shrink Liver In 3 Days

How To Shrink Liver In 3 Days

When multiple diets and workout regimes have failed, and you continue to see the numbers on the scale tick up, bariatric surgery can feel like your last resort. Yet, despite the challenges you may have in preparing for surgery and learning to live differently afterward, bariatric surgery remains one of the best tools for losing a significant amount of weight. And, weight loss surgery has improved the overall health and quality of life of numerous people that pursue extreme weight loss.

You likely know that you will need to change your eating habits before and after surgery, but did you know that it is crucial to shrink your liver before your operation? Let's explore how to shrink liver in 3 days and why it is important.

What is a Liver Shrinking Diet?

Before your bariatric surgery procedure, you will need to follow a liver-shrinking diet to reduce complications in surgery and start tackling your excess weight. A liver-shrinking diet is a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) highly restrictive of calories, carbohydrates, and fat.

Following this restrictive diet forces your body to use up glycogen and fat stores to shrink your liver. Glycogen (a type of sugar) is a form of energy stored in your liver and muscles. Storage of glycogen also increases the water content in your body. Therefore, people can lose quite a bit of weight in the pre-operative period due to water loss.

Shrink Liver in 3 Days: Why This is Essential Before Bariatric Surgery

Depending on the type of bariatric surgery you have, your surgeon may need to use a liver retractor to move the liver out of their way as they work on your digestive tract. If your surgeon cannot access your stomach because your liver is too large, they may need to switch from a laparoscopic approach to open abdominal surgery. An enlarge liver makes performing surgery more difficult and increases your risk of complications.

The liver is the second largest organ in your body and can enlarge with cellular fat deposits.

The liver is the second-largest organ in our body that is on the right upper part of the abdomen. It has two lobes, the right and the left. The left lobe lies partially over the stomach, which the surgeon needs access to during some bariatric surgeries, including gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and duodenal switch.

Just like other areas of your body, the liver can get fatty. Indeed, the term fatty liver means just that: it is where fat deposits accumulate in the liver and cause it to enlarge and get in the way of other organs. A fatty liver also decreases your liver's ability to perform essential functions and can become inflamed and fibrous due to scarring. You can get a fatty liver either through drinking too much alcohol or possibly from other causes, including poor diet, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high triglycerides.

Certain health conditions can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, including obesity and type 2 diabetes (which often go hand-in-hand).

To decrease the liver's size and reduce your risk for other short and long-term health consequences, most bariatric surgeons require that you follow a liver-shrinking diet before they operate. Thus, you will need to adhere to a pre-operative diet before weight loss surgery.

What Can I Eat to Shrink Liver in 3 Days?

Each bariatric surgery practice will likely have variations in what foods are allowed on the liver shrinking diet. There are also different approaches to how long a person needs to follow a pre-operative diet before surgery. While each practice will have a unique approach, you can be sure that most practices will emphasize adequate protein intake.

Protein is essential for healing wounds, tissue growth, and muscle and organ repair. It can also help you fight infections and boost your overall recovery time. You can get your protein intake through:

Your liver shrinking diet will focus on protein intake through lean meats, vegetables, and meal-replacement shakes.

Fruits and vegetables are essential sources of vitamins and minerals. Bariatric surgery patients have a high risk for nutritional deficiencies because these surgeries cause you to absorb fewer nutrients for weight loss. However, you can also miss out on absorbing vital vitamins and minerals essential for your health. During a liver shrinking diet, most practices recommend two servings of vegetables daily and limit fruit servings to once per day as the fruit is often high in sugars.

Staying hydrated is critical, as becoming dehydrated can make you very ill and will postpone your surgery. Drinking plain water is the best way to hydrate your body. Aim for at least 64 fluid ounces of water daily. If you want to add flavor to your drink, you can squeeze or infuse your beverages with fresh fruit or cucumbers.

You will also want to start your personalized supplement regimen to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

What Can't I Eat?

If you are wondering how to shrink your liver in 3 days, the key is avoiding foods that keep the fat in your liver cells. Regrettably, much of the food that we are used to consuming is what maintains fat in our bodies. We know that avoiding high sugar, high-calorie foods are one of the hardest parts of the weight loss journey, but if you can succeed with avoiding these foods, you will set yourself up for success after surgery and beyond. To succeed, you will need to eliminate:

  • Starchy carbohydrates including bread, pasta, cereal, potatoes, and rice
  • Fried and highly processed foods
  • Food with sugar including pastries and desserts
  • Carbonated drinks such as sodas and other sugary beverages like juice
  • Alcohol
Each person who has bariatric surgery will need a personalized vitamin regimen to meet their individual nutritional needs.

How To Shrink Liver in 3 Days: A Sample Diet

To decrease your liver's size in 3 days, your liver shrinking diet will need to consist of a calorie count between 1000-1200 calories. This number is much lower than what you were likely eating before.

Day 1

Breakfast - One high protein meal replacement shake

Lunch - 3 oz of chicken breast with green peas

Afternoon Snack - 1 low-fat cheese such as one light string cheese

Dinner - 3-4 oz of grilled fish with grilled, cooked asparagus, and ½ cup cooked quinoa

Day 2

Breakfast - Avocado toast: 1 poached egg on one slice of whole-grain bread with ¼ of an avocado spread

Lunch - One high-protein meal replacement shake and a small piece of fresh fruit

Afternoon Snack - Light yogurt that is less than 90 calories

Dinner - Roast beef with cooked carrots

Day 3

Breakfast - One high protein meal replacement shake

Mid-morning snack - Handful of non-starchy vegetables

Lunch - One high protein meal replacement shake and one piece of fresh fruit

Afternoon Snack - 2 oz deli meat or ½ pack of tuna

Dinner - 3-4 ounces roasted turkey and steamed vegetables

If you are feeling hungry after dinner, you may have an optional snack of ½ an apple or pear, or a handful of carrots.

A handful of raw vegetables can make a natural, healthy snack if you are trying to curb hunger.

How to Shrink Liver in 3 Days: Additional Tips For Success

Your liver shrinking diet will not be easy. The first few days of your pre-operative diet, in general, will be particularly challenging because you will likely be hungry, which will make you irritable. You will also be embarking on an entirely new lifestyle that focuses on smaller portions and healthier foods. Rest assured, while the first few days are uncomfortable, it will get better. Here are some tips on how to succeed with your liver shrinking diet:

  • Educate yourself as soon as possible on the foods and beverages on the liver shrinking diet. Even before you formally begin the diet, it can be helpful to integrate these foods into your diet so you can become accustomed to eating these foods.
  • Clean out your cupboards, pantry, and refrigerator of all foods except those on your diet. If you live with others, designate a space that is just for your food.
  • Make sure you have the right cooking tools such as a blender for making protein shakes.
  • Experiment with different protein powders that are recommended by your nutritionist.
  • Try to eat and drink everything that is allowed on your menu to have variety in your diet and not feel limited in your choices.
  • Keep a food diary to track what you have eaten (many practices will require that you do this form of journaling.)
  • Find an enjoyable activity that you can do in place of eating when you feel hungry. As opposed to opening the refrigerator at a non-designated mealtime, do something fun to distract yourself.
  • Your choice to undergo bariatric surgery is courageous and a sign of your dedication to your health and wellbeing. Yet, it can sometimes change your relationships. Surround yourself with people who will help motivate you and cheer you on in the early phases of your weight loss journey.

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Julia Rae Walker, RN, BSN, BA


Julia is an experienced critical care nurse with a background in pediatric and adult patient populations. Her passion is helping patients maximize their quality of life.

Gintas Antanavicius, MD, FACS, FASMBS

Medical Reviewer

Dr. G is a co-founder of BariBuilder. A US-based expert surgeon with over 10 years of bariatric experience, he regularly publishes research in medical journals like SOARD, Obesity Surgery, etc.