To lower bilirubin levels, you should drink lots of water, avoid alcohol, eat fruits and vegetables, and increase your fiber intake.
High bilirubin levels often indicate poor liver health, and in addition to getting checked out by a doctor, you can make these natural lifestyle changes to help lower bilirubin and improve liver function.
This article was medically reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
Bilirubin is a viscous, brownish-yellow substance that is a natural byproduct of liver processes like breaking down old red blood cells.
Normally, it is excreted from the body without cause for alarm, but at times it can build up in high levels, indicating an underlying health condition like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis, or alcoholic cirrhosis.
Here are four ways to lower bilirubin levels naturally and improve your liver health:
High bilirubin is usually a sign of liver problems
Bilirubin levels can act as a metric of liver health. For example, people who have serious cirrhosis, or liver scarring, often have elevated bilirubin levels because their liver is unable to filter toxins as efficiently. Liver conditions that can cause cirrhosis include:
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
However, some conditions like Gilbert’s syndrome — an inherited condition that is harmless — can cause elevated bilirubin levels.
Bilirubin is measured in milligrams of bilirubin per deciliter of blood or urine (mg/dL). In adults, normal bilirubin levels are less than one milligram per deciliter. High bilirubin levels are greater than 2.5 milligrams of bilirubin per deciliter.
High bilirubin levels result in jaundice — a condition that causes a distinct yellow cast to the skin, the whites of eyes, and the underside of the tongue.
When you have liver disease, bilirubin “backs up in the liver, which then goes into the bloodstream and goes around your body. And that’s why you look yellow,” says Paul Kwo, MD, a professor of medicine and Director of Hepatology at the Stanford University Medical Center.
According to Kwo, people with elevated bilirubin levels from severe liver disease or damage may also experience:
If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately, as an underlying liver condition will require more than just at-home remedies. However, following these four tips can help you boost overall liver health in addition to medical guidance.
1. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated helps lower bilirubin levels by facilitating the removal of waste from the body. Men should aim to drink about 125 ounces of water a day and women 91 ounces.
Since water stimulates your metabolism and acts as an appetite suppressant, it’s also an effective way to keep you in a healthy weight range. Obesity is a major cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which afflicts up to a quarter of the world’s population, according to Kwo.
2. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables
Because fruits and vegetables are low in fat and sugar, they promote overall liver and organ health.
Kwo is a big fan of the Mediterranean diet for those looking to improve their liver health. The diet emphasizes leafy green vegetables. “So spinach, broccoli, cabbage, arugula, these are all good for the liver,” says Kwo. Other liver-healthy foods include:
But you shouldn’t be downing pounds of them at every meal. “The real key here is moderation,” says Kwo.
3. Increase your intake of fiber
According to the American Liver Foundation, a high-fiber diet promotes liver health. Women should shoot to consume 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day and men 30 to 38.
Good sources of fiber include:
4. Avoid alcohol
If you’re looking to improve your liver health, it’s important to reduce alcohol consumption. That’s because “if you’re drinking in excess, your liver will be damaged,” says Kwo.
Kwo says the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federal body made up of 20 health experts, recently recommended that both men and women limit themselves to one drink per day. However, to promote maximum liver health, you should avoid drinking entirely.
High levels of bilirubin can be a warning sign of serious liver dysfunction. If you have elevated bilirubin levels, you should take steps to lower them and promote liver health by making several changes to your diet. These changes include drinking more water, cutting back on your alcohol consumption, and eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.