Young father was told he has cirrhosis and needs to be on a 2-gram sodium diet.


As an RN (registered nurse) in a school health setting, I serve the family with children birth to 3 years of age. It is a home visitor program.

One family is our concern. One young father (35 years of age) has been told he has cirrhosis and needs to be on a 2-gram sodium diet. I have been unable to find this on the Internet. Can you offer suggestions?

He has ascites and pitting edema of the lower extremities. He states this was caused by very heavy drinking for approximately 5 years ago, which lasted about 5 years. Thank you for any help you can offer.

First, do you have a consulting dietitian you can confer with, in your program?

This will only provide survival skills until he can make an appointment to see a dietitian for a nutrition assessment and education. In a 2-gram sodium nutrition therapy, stress fresh and unprocessed foods.

Here are some general guidelines. Omit salt in cooking or baking and don’t use the salt shaker at the table. All canned foods other than canned fruit or fruit juice are not allowed. Obvious salty foods like ham, bacon, lunchmeat, hot dogs, cheese, sauerkraut, canned soups, potato chips, pickles, nuts, pie are also not allowed. He is limited to 2 cups of milk per day and 3 slices of regular bread with regular butter or margarine. He doesn’t have to buy salt-free foods. Any dry cereal is allowed. An egg per day is OK as a good source of protein – forget about cholesterol for now. A salt substitute shouldn’t be used unless his body (kidneys) can handle potassium.

He should also be on a low-fat nutrition therapy to prevent additional fatty deposits in his liver and drink enough water to help eliminate waste products in his system.

Hope this dad has stopped drinking. I would recommend monitoring ascites (fluid retention in the abdomen actually caused by albumin leaking out of his blood), pitting edema (water retention in legs usually below knees to the ankle with shiny skin and gentle touch to skin causes a “pit” when the skin is pressed with a finger) and jaundice (yellow color to skin or whites of eyes).