High Protein Diet And Jaundice


About jaundice

Jaundice is the term used to describe the yellow color condition of the skin, whites of the eyes, and the yellow mucous membranes due to hoards of yellow-orange bile pigments called bilirubin in the blood and their displacement in the body tissues.1, 2

Normally, bilirubin is transported from the bloodstream into your liver. Then, it proceeds through tubes called bile ducts which carry a substance called bile into your small intestine. Eventually, bilirubin is passed as excretion out of your body through urine or stool.3

Types of jaundice are categorized by where they happen within the liver’s process of taking in and filtering out bilirubin. They are: pre-hepatic jaundice which occurs before the blood gets to the liver; hepatic jaundice which happens when your liver tissue becomes less effective at filtering out bilirubin from your blood; post-hepatic jaundice which occurs after bilirubin is filtered out in the liver and occurs because of a blockage.3

Causes of Jaundice

The causes of jaundice can occur in any of the three phases of bilirubin production:

  • Before bilirubin is produced, unconjugated jaundice might occur due to elevated levels of bilirubin caused by reabsorption of a large collection of clotted blood under the skin, and blood cells are eradicated from the bloodstream before their normal lifespan is over
  • During the production of bilirubin, jaundice can be caused by viruses, alcohol, autoimmune disorders, rare genetic metabolic defects, or medicines
  • After bilirubin is produced, jaundice may be caused by obstruction (blockage) of the bile ducts from gallstones, gallbladder cancer, swelling of the gallbladder, pancreatic tumo3


Jaundice causes your skin and the whites of your eyes to look yellowish. Symptoms that occur with jaundice include:

  • itching
  • dark urine
  • pale stools
  • loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • mental changes such as tiredness or confusion
  • Abdominal pain

How is jaundice diagnosed?

Jaundice is diagnosed by doctors by checking for signs of liver disease such as:

  • Bruising of the skin
  • Spider angiomas (abnormal collection of blood vessels near the surface of the skin)
  • Palmar erythema (red coloration of the palms and fingertips)

A positive urinalysis (urine testing) for bilirubin indicates that the patient has conjugated jaundice. The urinalysis findings should be confirmed by serum testing which includes a complete blood count (CBC) and bilirubin levels.

Your doctor will also conduct an exam to determine the size and tenderness of your liver using ultrasonography, computer tomographic (CT) scanning, abdominal sonography, and liver biopsy (taking a sample of the liver) to further confirm diagnosis. Recently, hepatobiliary scintigraphy had little to contribute to the differential diagnosis of jaundice.

Can jaundice be prevented?

Since there are many causes of jaundice, it's hard to provide specific prevention measures. Some general tips include:

  • Avoid getting hepatitis infection
  • Stay within recommended alcohol limits
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage your cholesterol level

What is the risk you'll develop jaundice?

During the production of bilirubin, middle-aged women and men, in general, are more likely to be affected. People who have hepatitis and drink excessive alcohol are also at increased risk. 

Who is at risk

Jaundice can affect anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or where they live. However, jaundice is common in newborn babies because babies have a high number of red blood cells in their blood, which are broken down and replaced frequently. A newborn baby's liver is not fully developed, so it's less effective at processing the bilirubin and removing it from the blood. This means the level of bilirubin in babies is much higher than in adults.8

Foods to avoid

1. Alcohol

The first thing to reduce when you have been diagnosed with jaundice is alcohol. Alcohol might cause more damage to the liver during jaundice as it is sensitive during that period. However, it is best to restrain from it completely even after recovery, if alcohol was the reason for jaundice.

2. Fat

Your jaundice diet can have moderate amounts of fatty foods or as recommended by doctors. However, fatty foods are not a very good option to add to a jaundice diet, as they might lead to fat accumulation in the liver. Moreover, saturated fats are more difficult to digest by the liver during jaundice than unsaturated fat.7

3. Sugar

For improvement in liver status, there must be lower intake of sugar. Any kind of sugar, either processed or refined, can lead to the accumulation of liver fat. However, choosing a fruit or low-sugar yogurt instead of sugary food will also assist in reducing extra strain on the liver.

4. Sodium

A diet rich in sodium can damage your liver and also lead to water retention. Also, ensure less intake of canned foods and replace them with natural herbs like onion powder, oregano, or garlic powder for flavor.

About high protein diet

High protein diets are diets that contain 20% or more of the total daily calories that come from proteins. It is one where 30% or more of the total daily calories come from protein. By comparison, in the average American diet, about 12–16% of calories come from protein. 

High protein diets are essential in jaundice patients because proteins assist in the body’s recovery, asthey aid in the repair and  regeneration of damaged cells. Increasing your protein intake when you have jaundice improves the production of enzymes which in turn aid in boosting the production of hormones in the body.7

Foods with high protein

  • Meat and poultry: beef, chicken, lamb, turkey
  • Seafood: shrimp, crab, salmon, tuna
  • Eggs: whole eggs or egg whites
  • Dairy: cottage cheese, greek yogurt
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas, and soy
  • Non-starchy vegetables: spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms

Things to remember

Jaundice has many causes, including hepatitis, tumors, and gallstones. Jaundice is more common in newborn babies than in adults and is usually harmless. In adults, jaundice usually doesn't need to be treated.4

The Zone diet claims protein diet will improve physical and mental performance, prevent chronic cardiovascular diseases, improve immune system functioning, decrease signs of ageing, and increase longevity. Proteins in a jaundice patient will assist in the body's recovery because they aid in the repair and  regeneration of damaged cells.7


Jaundice simply means that there’s enormous amounts of bilirubin, which is formed from the breakdown of red blood cells, in your blood, but the underlying cause can vary widely.

Doctors diagnose jaundice based on whether your body has trouble breaking down blood cells, filtering blood in the liver, or draining waste from the blood.

Visit a doctor immediately when you notice the yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes. If other concerning or severe symptoms are experienced, you may need emergency medical attention. Some causes of jaundice can be life-threatening.


  1. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Jaundice in Adults. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/liver-and-gallbladder-disorders/manifestations-of-liver-disease/jaundice-in-adults) Accessed 01/12/2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about Jaundice and Kernicterus. (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/jaundice/facts.html) Accessed 01/12/2022
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Adult Jaundice. (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15367-adult-jaundice#:~:text=Jaundice%20is%20a%20condition%20in,t%20need%20to%20be%20treated) Accessed 01/12/2022.
  4. Health Direct. Jaundice in adults. (https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/jaundice) Accessed 01/12/2022.
  5. Healthline. Types of Jaundice. (https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/diet-for-jaundice) Accessed 01/12/2022.
  6. Stillman AE. Jaundice. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 87. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK413/
  7. Healthline. Diet Jaundice. (https://www.healthline.com/health/jaundice-types#types) Accessed 01/12/2022.
  8. National Health Service. Newborn Jaundice: Causes. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/jaundice-newborn/causes/) Accessed 01/12/2022.
  9. "High-Protein Diet." The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets: A Guide to Health and Nutrition. . Retrieved November 29, 2022, from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/high-protein-diet
  10. Diet Doctor. High protein diet: What it is and how to do it. (https://www.dietdoctor.com/high-protein) Accessed 01/12/2022.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ajayi Anjolaoluwa

Bachelor of Science - BS, Medical Physiology, Bowen University, Nigeria

Anjolaoluwa is a physiology graduate and currently works as a medical evaluator. She is passionate and dedicated to educate the society and empower them with knowledge to take control of their health through research and medical writing. And also educating the public about current advancements in medicine.

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