Diet for Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)
A healthy diet during pregnancy is not only critical for your baby’s health and development, but it may help women that experience Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy manage their symptoms. Bile is produced in your liver and then stored in your gallbladder to help break down fats. Cholestasis occurs when pregnancy hormones slow or stop the flow of bile, causing it to build up and this ultimately affects the liver.
The American Liver Foundation recommends a pregnant woman with ICP have a pregnancy diet plan that makes it easier for the liver to do its job and can help repair some liver damage with essential nutrients.
The Perinatal Research Group on ICP in Argentina for the Clinical Practice Guideline recommend a healthy diet as part of the treatment. Although currently there is no research into Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy and diet there is some evidence to suggest that it may help women that experience ICP to reduce symptoms. Please keep in mind there is no way to prevent or cure and once you are diagnosed there is no reversing ICP with healthy foods.
Pregnant women should not replace a healthy diet with any treatment and management plan that may have been implemented by the healthcare provider. Treatments such as the medicine Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA or Urso) and early delivery are still necessary to follow as directed by the healthcare provider.
Food is powerful for good health and during pregnancy even more important to have better nutrition during pregnancy. Women with Cholestasis of Pregnancy notice less itchy symptoms following a nutritious diet of real food that is whole, fresh and unprocessed. Learn more about self care for women with ICP.
Please consult with your Healthcare provider if you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes as they may have already given you dietary advice and they will need to review and approve this information. Pregnant women with a diet with gestational diabetes may have different needs from our recommendations.
*Please consult with your doctor before implementing any diet changes*
Whole Fruits & Vegetables Filled with Essential Nutrients for Pregnancy
Whole fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients your body needs including vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fresh fruit and vegetables are the best options.
- Preferably organic produce free of pesticides to reduce the amount of toxins.
- Limit the Dirty Dozen, Go with the Clean Fifteen as noted below as a guide.
- If packaged, read the label to be sure there is no added sugar.
- If canned, make sure it’s in its own juices (not a sugary substitute)
- Frozen, canned (in BPA-free cans), dehydrated, and dried are good options if fresh fruit is not available.
Whole Vegetables: carrot, beets as well as the leafy part of beets, cucumber, broccoli, radish, squash, mushroom, celery, asparagus, zucchini, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, pumpkin, mushroom, sweet potato, butternut squash, tomato, eggplant, potatoes, yams, avocado, olives, red and green peppers, garlic and onion.
The following “Dirty Dozen Plus” have the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions – or to grow them organically:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas (Imported)
- Hot Peppers
- Also: Green beans and kale are moving up on the most sprayed list as well.
The following “Clean 15” foods have the lowest pesticide load, and consequently are the safest conventionally grown crops to consume from the standpoint of pesticide contamination:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Lean meat from diverse sources, and preferably organic (hormone/antibiotic/steroid free). Skinless chicken and turkey and other meats from animals such as grass-fed organic meats, and cage free eggs (free range), and wild caught fish. Wild caught fish also provide essential omega-3 fatty acids
- Dried beans or legumes are best and tetra-pak or BPA-free canned beans preferred. Legumes that are protein rich include kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, snap beans, lima beans, lentils, pinto beans, fava beans, snow peas, navy beans, and pigeon peas.
- Healthy fat from nut sources, almond, walnut, pecan, and macadamia.
- Healthy fat from seed sources, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts.
- Healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil, and seed oils include olive, coconut oil, sesame seed oil, and grapeseed oil.
- Whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, farro, quinoa, bulgur, spelt, amaranth and barley.
- Breads such as whole-grains, multi-grain, stone ground, pita, sourdough and pasta made from whole-grains, rice crackers, and pita bread.
Foods to Avoid While Pregnant
- Large amounts of sugar, especially refined sugars, artificial sugars and artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup found in sodas & many other products.
- White flour and limit processed packaged foods or preservatives.
- Soy and others that may include such as chips, cracker etc.
- Avoid processed meats like deli meats, bacon, hot dogs and sausage.
- Dairy products to reduce or avoid include full fat milk, cream and full fat cheeses such as cheddar.
- Avoid high amounts of caffeine.
Natural Alternative Foods for Pregnancy
- Natural options such as honey, stevia, maple-syrup.
- Eat fresh raw fruits, sun-dried fruits & berries such as goji berries or mulberry berries, fruit sorbet, smoothies and honey.
- Choose dark chocolate with at least 85% cocoa, preferably organic that is low in sugar. Try a smoothie with fruits and vegetables such as mango, spinach or kale, banana and just add water or coconut water.
- Apple Cider Vinegar such as Braggs 1 Tablespoon in cup of apple juice or with lemon juice & water.
- Water-soluble prenatal vitamins (there are many on the market such as Vegan Prenatal) or Vitamin Code raw prenatal from Garden of Life.
- Milk Thistle and Dandelion as a complement or supplement.
Other Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
- Drink eight to twelve glasses of water daily as this helps to cleanse the liver. Add fresh squeezed lemon juice.
- Squeeze a half or whole lemon in a cup of warm water and drink it. Lemon is very good for the liver to detoxify it.
- Choose organic grass-fed pasture raised milk, butter and yogurt. Non-Dairy Milk substitutions with good source of calcium include almond milk, coconut milk or rice milk.
- Be sure to wash all produce before consuming.
- Use the Fooducate free app. to browse Fooducate’s extensive database to find the healthiest food options.
Important Health Claims
- Certified Organic or non-GMO: product is made without genetically modified ingredients.
- 100% Organic means the entire product is organic.
- Labeling as Natural means nothing.
- Organic means 90% of the product is organic.
- Includes Organic means 70% of the ingredients are organic.
American Liver Foundation
Dr. Mark Hyman, MD