Is Too Much Protein Good or Bad for Your Liver

Is Too Much Protein Good or Bad for Your Liver

good liver diet protein
Yeah! Liver loving protein is good!

We want to feel like we have choices when it comes to living with a liver disease. The protein question is confusing. We know that protein is essential for most of our body’s processes. I had to make peace with protein. It has taken a lot of sleuth work, talking to my doctor, and trial and error to find out the facts. I tell all in my book about the Liver Loving Diet. With 200 pages of stories and insight and over 200 recipes, it’s a winner for anyone trying to heal their liver. Click Here to Learn More

Is Too Much Protein Good or Bad for Your Liver ? Let’s look at the answer to this important question.

Function of Protein – Our body is mostly made up of water. Protein is next. Every cell contains protein. It performs myriads of functions. The list is long and includes top line survival tasks like producing energy, and maintaining cells. It also healthy  hair and nails! It helps to build muscles, organs, and your immune system.  So you can see that getting good protein in your diet should be a major priority every single day.

There are some signs that you are not getting enough protein.  Craving carbohydrates? You may be low on protein. Brittle hair and nails, fatigue, flabby muscles can all point to a protein deficiency. 

Too much protein is fairly easy to recognize also. Brain fog, extra weight and high cholesterol may mean you are getting too much protein. 

Processing Protein – What happens when you eat protein? The minute we eat or drink foods containing protein our digestive juices kick in and begin breaking them down into those amino acids. There are 22 of them and they form a chain that looks like a necklace. Each of those amino acid beads string together to form the proteins that your body can use. Out of the 22 amino acids, 9 of them MUST be supplied by your diet. They are essential to your health which is why they are called the essential amino acids.Find out more about how vital protein is.  

good bad protein cirrhosis
The amino acid necklace

Break it down – Here is where it gets tricky for someone with liver disease.  Protein can be hard for the liver to break down. If there is extra protein that your body cannot digest easily, it creates nitrogen. That begins a chain reaction culminating in ammonia. The short version is that it create toxins. When your body gets a whiff of those toxins in your bloodstream, it can result in brain fog, lethargy, and Hepatic Encephalopathy. You can see why finding the right balance is crucial!

Pick Your Protein – Animal or plant based – Which is best?

Find healthy protein on my amazon store

Animal Protein – Some people believe that animal sources of protein are the best. That is because most animal based proteins can contain all 9 of the essential fatty acids. So a steak or cheeseburger will definitely supply what your body needs quickly.  

Plant Protein – On the other hand, if you eat a vegetarian diet, you have to eat a wide variety of plant based proteins to get all the essentials. A peanut butter sandwich can also be considered a complete protein. Peanut butter alone is not, but when you add the bread, it is considered a complete protein meal. Beans are also good, but they need to be served with rice or another grain, such as quinoa to supply the 9 essential fatty acids needed to make a complete protein meal.

You Can Have It All – I personally go for a combination of both. I mix it up with both animal and plant protein food sources. The key is diversity. If I try and restrict myself to straight up plant protein, I get bored. By adding a little meat, I am able to enjoy the added flavor and variety. Remember, you do not have to eat a complete protein with every meal or snack. The main sources of protein in my diet are protein shakes, beef, fish, chicken, beans, eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts, grains, and seeds.

protein good bad liver cirrhosis
Your choices are many! These are just a few.

Just switch it up! I drink a protein shake for breakfast that has a lot of amino acids. Then for lunch I go for a sandwich, protein bar, or salad with meat. Dinner is also a combination of both meat and plant protein such as a shrimp stir fry, bean burrito or tacos, or soup with lots of chicken and vegetables.

Protein is needed by the liver in order for it to heal. A good protein helps us to stay alive. In order to reverse fibrosis, protein is crucial. 

good protein vegetables cirrhosis hepatitis is too much protein good or bad for your liver
Look at all these high protein vegetables.


We have learned about the science of how protein functions in our body at a cellular level.

We also talked about how we process it by breaking it down into amino acids.

Most important, we covered how finding the right combination of protein sources can help your liver to heal and even reverse the damage of scarring from fibrosis.

Is Too Much Protein Good or Bad for Your Liver? 

Buy my ebook to learn more about planning your meals around healthy protein!

Is protein good or bad for your liver

We’re always learning more about healing and making the right choices for our liver. I am your Best Friend in the battle against Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis. And I love you dearly, Karen:)

Pics via, runningcompetitor, veganrecipeins,

About Karen Hoyt

Karen Hoyt offers a no nonsense approach to living with Cirrhosis. A Hepatitis C treatment survivor, she created a liver loving diet and lifestyle that allows her to create awareness and advocate for her Best Friends at

36 thoughts on “Is Too Much Protein Good or Bad for Your Liver

  1. Excellent! Well done Karen! I have struggled mightily with the diet dilemma for four years as there seems to be so much conflicting advice out there. The best news for me in your article? I can have a little cheese! Woo-hoo, I have been avoiding all dairy except for eggs. This is much appreciated and so valuable, thank you!

    1. Will,

      You crack me up. It’s the little things in life isn’t it? Cheese does make it’s own sodium so that’s my big caution. Swiss is fine, but I love a sharp cheddar! Haha! I do drink almond or rice milk. I love a big glass of milk, but the symptoms of brain fog come on quick for me.

      I really appreciate you. Catching up tonight and love love love seeing your feedback. It’s so important to me and to other readers as well. You’ve been my friend for a while now. Your opinion means a lot. Anytime I can connect with a friend in an area of common concern, it reminds me of why I blog.

      Your best friend,
      xo Karen:)

      1. Hey there Karen, still loving your web site. I have been away for a bit (back surgery 8 weeks ago)
        I am back and reading. Thanks for the information about milk causing you brain fog. Can you share any other things that might cause brain fog?

        I love milk more than just about anything but if it is adding to my brain fog, it will have to go.

        You are the best! Thanks so starting up this site and helping everyone.

        Dee1956 🙂 er…Dorene

        1. Dee,

          How awesome to hear from you! Gosh sister friend, I hope you’re ok! Back surgery with end stage cirrhosis. You’re amazing. I hope you are doing well. Is your back healing nicely? How was the anesthetic? How long were you under? Gosh I have a million questions. lol. It is just really good to hear from you.

          I try not to do any animal protein. I love milk and drank mostly skim. It is one less thing to worry about for me. But if you are not having problems,a little bit probably won’t hurt. What does your doctor advise? I also have stomach varices, so stomach acid can be a problem. Basically, it is just easier to drink rice milk with cereal and in recipes.

          I love you girl. Please stay in touch. I’m happy to hear that you are doing well. I’m reading about brain fog/hepatic ecephalopathy. I recently sat in on a forum. Look for another blog with more detail soon. I love you girl!
          xoxo Karen:)

  2. Hi Karen

    I think the tough question for all of us is, finding the right diet for optimum health. Our requirements seem to be different as pertaining to our own bodies. What is perfect for one might not be the answer for someone else.

    It seems like I have been looking for that magic combination for me for over 40 years. I get explanations that account for the way I feel and then embark on another possible alternative. Sometimes they are perfect, or at least they start out that way and soon there is another issue I need to address. I have been to doctors on occasion and have never really been satisfied with what they suggest. They give me medicine that doesn’t work or only partly works. So I go for finding natural alternatives. It keeps me out of urgent care, but still nothing is the perfect fix.

    Someday I shall have to find an alternative doctor that can tell me everything they can figure out. My brother goes to a reflexologist , but I haven’t done that yet. Although she doesn’t have all the answers for him either.

    When a person is never really “sick” in the sense of the word it is hard to explain that you know there ought to be better health out there for you, but it keeps eluding me.

    I shall look in to more on the liver. I guess a healthy liver is the key to a healthy body. Thanks for sharing this info.

    Mary Stephenson recently posted…What is Team Work?My Profile

    1. Mary,

      You are like so many people who want to eat healthy, but the rules of what is good or bad is hard to decipher. I had a lot of friends on the protein diet by some doctor. I just never felt good without a balance of different kinds of proteins and carbs.

      It sounds like you continue to look for the right balance also. It may take time, but it sounds like you’re on the right track. I will say that if we followed every new piece of medical research, we would go a little crazy!

      Having said that, I ate to feel good for the last several years before I was diagnosed. So when my liver failed, all I had to do was tweak it a bit. I’m with you, we all want to have optimal health and it starts with a diet that we can afford and helps us feel good.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I really appreciate you.

  3. My opinion is “Excess of anything is bad”. I am type 1 diabetic(insulin dependent) hence I take everything in lesser amount, especially the carbs. Proteins I mainly used to take more energy as I cannot intake carbohydrate more but still I take protein in lower amount. Thanks for the post
    Atish Ranjan recently posted…Chrome Extensions which I use EverydayMy Profile

    1. Atish,
      Thanks for stopping by to comment! I am happy to hear that you are using a good diet and nutrition to help manage your diabetes. Getting good amounts of protein is a juggling act that we all have to work on continuously. All my best to you in your continued journey to health!
      Please forgive my late response. My hand has troubled me.
      I hope you have a wonderful week!

  4. This is an interesting discussion given the pros and cons. This statement near the top should be clarified “Take your body weight and divide it by 2. THAT is how many grams you should consume daily.” Taken literally, that’s an impossible amount of protein.
    Much love and light

    1. Don,

      I guess that part needs to be revised. Thanks for pointing that out. This is just a general rule of thumb and there are lots of factors that weigh in. For instance your body weight, activity level, etc. I think my doctor told me that to give me a guideline. We talk a lot about malnutrition, which is really common with liver disease. People are afraid of protein due to hepatitic encephalopathy.

      I want to be aware, and help others to learn that protein is vital for healing. I know that has been a big part of changing my thinking.

      Look for a little more research and an edit to this post. Maybe you have an idea? I really appreciate your input. As best friends, we are all in this together and our combined knowledge and experience is so very important!!

      xoxo Karen:)

      1. Hi Karen,
        Perhaps it was I who was unclear. If I weighed 175 lbs (80 kg) and halved that, it would equal 40 Kg or 40,000 Grams, which would be the impossible amount. For clarity’s sake, perhaps your doctor maybe meant 40 Grams of protein per day, if we divide 80 by 2? Or maybe we would interpret that as dividing weight in POUNDS by 2, to come up in this example as approximately 87 Grams? I tend to over-think things 🙂 and found the sentence to be a bit ambiguous to my way of thinking.

        Indeed, the daily amount of protein is controversial, in general, given the USDA new pyramid, and especially so for those who have cirrhosis, portal vein hypertension, decompensation, and low albumin levels. Yet, it is not proven that increased protein in food will increase albumin levels. I also would like to know what does. There are reports that whey protein (which is high in branched-chain amino acids or BCAA) might be effective. Also Taurine is reputed to increase serum albumin. BCAA are also (reportedly) beneficial for encephalopathy, but as we know, proteins, in general, may increase the severity of encephalopathy. In short, I don’t know.
        This is a link from the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Nov. 2013) studying BCAA and Taurine (among other sources) in regard to muscle cramps (Taurine is said to increase serum albumin levels). It’s rather technical. The mechanism is believed to be oncotic pressure (cell fluid exchange) mitigated by serum albumin. More research is needed. xoxo

        1. Hello Don,

          I’m glad you posted this info. Dr. Donald Jenson from University of Chicago actually sent me that article and I read it while researching for the blog. You’re right, some of it is too techinical. I have to read and reread to get some general how to knowledge that I am confident in.

          I think that is the point, isn’t it? We know that new information is emerging all the time. For example, they used to say that cirrhosis would not reverse. Now it is pretty commonly accepted knowledge that areas of the liver regenerate in a healthy way. That whole thing could be updated and changed. There is a ratio that some use, and I can post it. It’s mathmatical.. lol. NOT my forte.

          I put the 1/2 body weight which is a good general rule that we use at our house. I weigh about 115 and aim for 50 grams. I do yoga and either walk or cycle as much as my energy level allows. I don’t want to overload! But I have seen so many people get malnourished with cirrhosis.
          The whole 10 to 35% of your daily calorie intake is a rough one to figure out too. My hard drive is fried and I am using a tiny little chicklet keyboad to do this. I will update it this weekend. I hope they are able to save my word docs. The blog on malnutrition with cirrhosis was in its final stage of edit. 🙁

          It makes me feel good to post your response though. A lot of people read this blog and they can see your input for more ideas. I love the collaboration Dear Wonderful Friend.

          xoxo Karen:)

          1. You are right Karen, probably too complex. My point was that if you weigh 115 POUNDS, then half of that is 57.5 POUNDS, which of course is absurd. Hang in there. I do believe that the liver can regenerate over time after the virus has been eliminated given TLC .
            Warm regards

          2. Don,

            I think that the early stages, maybe 1 and 2 regnerate with healthier tissue. Less fibrous bands are there, you know? Mine was end stage and I feel that it was too far gone. I was limping a necrotic liver along with diet. IT WORKED. I honestly should have been in much worse shape, but kept going with good nutrition.

            I guess my point here is that healthy protein is GOOD for your liver and can help you to heal. Even now with the liver cancer, I still eat my 60 GRAMS (LOL) every day and more if I am working out. Thanks for all your support and friendship. Love ya, Karen:)

  5. Hello there! This is excellent information, thanks so much.
    I looked up information on Web MD and you were very close so I think your rule of thumb was an excellent guideline.
    It said for women an average requirement was 46g, of course if someone was lifting weights or trying to repair their body, it would vary. My son lifts weight and he tries to get in more. Great idea about the peanut butter if you wake in the middle of the night.
    Like you I noticed that the my bicep muscles are not what they were. While I walk it isn’t really helping my arms much so I have started to exercise and lift small weights to try to encourage growth.
    I am also a diabetic so I have to watch everything I eat. It is a pain 🙂 I slacked off on that after tx so am getting back on the horse.

    Thank you again for this very helpful post

    1. Hello Dee!

      I love to hear that you too are getting some exercise and trying to stay strong. It’s a decision I make every day. Some days I have more determination than others! Knowing that you are working out gives me encouragement.

      Cool thang that Web MD is right on with what my research and doctors have said. I’ve been cycling lately and also spinning. That makes it even more important! I don’t want to get too little protein. Our muscles will get what it needs even if it has to take it from our heart, which is a muscle too.

      I’ve tried some other butters also. Just started a jar of sunflower seed butter. It’s pretty tasty. I have a friend who uses a soy butter that is dried and you add water. That is a great choice for those who have allergies to peanuts! I haven’t tried it yet. Today I got hungry at work and wanted to snack. I just dipped a spoon in the peanut butter and ate a big spoonful. It got me through the next 2 hours of testing.

      Which reminds me.. I have to get plenty of rest, especially at this time of year. I hope you are doing well sweet one.
      Much love,
      xoxo Karen:)

  6. Wow.just randomly found this searching why my hepc usually good diet had been insanely craving carbs.
    So many questions answered. I was broke and living on rice and beans. Felt fine. Finances turned, now shoving carbs every which way. Many things aren’t available where i live. But back to beans, tuna,i don’t eat meat. But peanut

    1. I still live on beans and rice or quinoa now! Of course I will NOT do without a protein shake in the mornings. I mix 2 brands and it costs about $25 a month. It is worth it for the energy level. The carbs are great to help with keeping your energy and weight up too.

      Malnutrition is a terrible thing and sadly, many with the virus do not get what they need to live and heal. It sounds like you are one who is keen on taking good care of yourself. Stick with it! I am glad you posted. I had a private message yesterday and this poor man was wasting away eating useless food. YOU my dear are on the right track!
      xo Karen:)
      ps I thought I had posted a comment. Long summer without computer and then cancer diagnosis. I’m sorry to be late.

  7. Wow just randomly found this while searching why my hepc body is insanely craving carbs. Back to beans and rice
    Ate that and peanut butter when i was broke. But now ok and shoveling carbs like crazy
    Bad carbs. This article explained so much
    So glad i found it

    1. Hi Mary!

      Our poor liver works so hard to stay healthy and process food. Fighting Hepatitis C causes so much strain on it. More and more I found that my food is what is keeping me alive and going. That seems like such a simple truth, but as you and I know, it is not easy. I hope that you are feeling better. Beans is a mainstay for me also. Oatmeal is a biggie for me too. It can be said that health food is expensive, but you and I know that where there is a will, there is a way.

      I’m proud of you for being proactive in eating well. It encourages me to know we are doing this together. Keep in touch, ok?
      xoxo Karen:)

  8. I may like to know the list of protein food i may like to eat & if protein foods are good for hepatitis patient. Drugs to be taking,prevention of what to do or not.

  9. hi Karen I really appreciate your blog so much!i’m a brand-new reader and I’m learning so much ….I’m treatment naïve and I just started solvaldi/olysio two weeks ago.I just had a fiber scan done last month and they found out that I was F3/F4.i’ve had Hep C for about 40 years now.never had any symptoms and I never did anything about it.started to have symptoms about a year ago ,so I went to the doctor and here I am.I feel like after I clear the virus its going to be more work that needs to be done ,and I don’t have a clue,and my diet is probably the key thing that I need to work on.i,m so glad I found your site and if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them .but right now All I know that is that I have fibrosis ,but that’s all I doctor has a hard time explaining it to me at least in layman’s terms.she says let’s get rid of the virus first and then we’ll go from there.well thanks again for listening ,all the best your friend Tom

    1. Tom,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It is crazy to think that we can have the virus so long and not even have any symptoms. I’m sorry to hear about the damage done.

      It sounds to me like you are doing a lot of things right. I agree with your doctor. Do whatever it takes to get rid of the virus. You need to try and eat healthy, but mostly, just stay strong enough to finish treatment. While you’re treating, keep reading and learning all that you can. When I first started researching, I didn’t like what I read, but I am glad that I had the basic knowledge so that when trouble hit, I was prepared. You will be too!

      I am happy that you are treating and that you have a good doctor. Hang in there and let me know if you need anything!
      Much love from your best friend,

  10. Hi miss karen, i love reading your blog. And it help a lot on finding right food for my mom who sufferring from liver cirhosis. we live in the philippines. We are asking for your kind hearted to help more on doing the right menu or food for person who suffering in liver disease. My mom does not have hepatitis just liver cirhosis and high sgpt and low albumin. Hoping your big help to us. God bless

    1. Hello!

      I am happy to see you helping your mother with her diet. She can improve much in her life with good food that is not a burden to the liver. is one way. I am writing more about this.

      You are fortunate to live in Phillippines. I eat a lot of rice protein with vegetables. It is very GOOD for the liver diet. Keep the sodium low to help. That means no soy sauce. Soy beans can be good! Eat many times a day. Eat small meals. It is easy for the liver to take small amount and then rest. I hope that this helps and that you will come back for more information as I am adding!! xo Karen:)

  11. Hi Karen,
    Havent been here for a while. Grandson in terrible car accident, lucky to be alive and walking, had 8 hr back surgery.
    I had upper GI done and they found small varicies. Ecccck this scared me so what am I looking at now with this cirrohiss stage 4, what next? I just love your blog site. Im learning so much about the must of eating healthy for my liver and over all health. These post are very comfortable and packed with so much info. They help me planning out a diet, and give me so much hope. I love that you are sharing so much, you give me hope. Thank You

    1. Hay girl! It’s always good to see your posts. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandson! That is going to be a long recovery I’ll bet. I know we care about our kiddos, but you have to take care of yourself. I’m happy to see you are keeping your focus on diet and nutrition. That is what keeps us strong!!

      Varices are no fun. I take it they didn’t band any. Be careful not to try and lift anything that might cause them to swell and burst. Are you going to be on Nadolol or another beta blocker?

      I love you so much and thanks so much for dropping by to let me know how things are doing. I’ve been researching a lot in diet and nutrition lately and have an update for the website that will make it easier to post recipes! Yay!!

      Take care and keep me posted!
      xo Karen:)

  12. Hi Karen, so happy to be able to say hello to you. Your blog is just the best. I love you and the advice. Can I find out what two proteins you are mixing? I have been bouncing around, trying different ones. My son said whey isolate was better, I am using one that is mixed…isolate with concentrate. I have also tried plant based proteins. There are so many it is confusing. I would like to get the best absorbable with most nutrition. Am I dreaming that one exists? 🙂 I also read on Consumer Labs that EAS is the best so it is all confusing to me. My son was discussing complete proteins vs incomplete which I knew nothing about, then I also read it here.
    Since I started the protein last year I have lost weight, which I wasn’t trying to do. I was trying to help my arm muscles which looked awful. The are much improved now.

  13. Hi Karen,
    If you have type 2 diabete and suffering for liver cirrhosis B8 stage, Do you have any medicine to take? and may i know your protien intake every morning? Because my mother suffering this kind of illness and suggesting her to have liver transplant. Do you also heard this suggestion to your doctors? And how you handle it?. May i ask also your sample menu every day to help my mother stay live the same as yours.. thanks in advance hoping for your respond.

    1. Hi and welcome to the best friends guide. How sweet of you to inquire for your mother. xo For diabetes there is insulin that the doctor may offer. Weight control and diet can be a big help also with this type of problem.
      It is good to take your mom’s body weight and divide by 2. That is the amount of protein grams each day. For example, for 150 lbs, a person should have 75 grams. This is approximate and your doctor may advice reduction if liver is diseased. Be sure and use plant protein as much as possible. Eating small portions throughout the day will help. Every few hours is good! Then the body can work with it easier.
      Let me know if this helps. xo Karen:)

  14. Hi Karen,
    I stumbled onto your site while searching info on protien/weight training with cirrohsis. I was diagnosed in Jan 2011. I work out religiously since my and I’m thriving as well. I just wanted to thank you for all the great/inspiring info that you provided. Stay strong!!

    1. Way to go Joe! I love hearing that others are not letting liver disease set you back. I’ve written on exercise as well and it is written with end stage in mind. I have varices and don’t use weights right now that are above 5 lbs. I am using bands for my legs and also a spinning bike. You can click on the checkered flag and the exercise blogs are on the bottom. Most people find they are too weak to exercise. I personally don’t ever want to decline to that stage if I can help it. So yes! Like you I wanna stay strong.
      Keep me informed on any new stuff you encounter on the journey to wellness!
      xo Karen

  15. Thanks Karen I need to read this. I have allot of days feeling more tired and I think the heat is making it worse, too. But all in all I am doing pretty good. It’s really hard dancing at my ballet classes and frustrating that I can’t do it as well as I use to, but the exercise is good for me. It get’s my mood up. Good for my soul, too.

  16. I enjoyed this article so much and brought new insights yoday, you’ve come a long way my friend and this is great for your new liver! !

    1. Cyndi,

      Thanks a bunch for dropping a line. It always means a lot to see that we’re in this together. Our connection makes us both stronger. You’ve been a great friend dear one.
      xo Karen:)

Comments are closed.