How Does Alcohol Affect Your Liver? - Mandala Healing Center
Our health and well-being depend on our body’s ability to function. Alcohol can have profound short and long-term effects on the body’s organs and systems, including the liver. In fact, alcohol dependence is the leading cause of liver-related deaths in the United States.
Liver health is essential to overall well-being. Drinking too much can cause alcohol-related liver damage, leading to life-threatening complications.
When someone lives with an alcohol use disorder, they may be unable to stop drinking, even while suffering significant harm. Many people with an alcohol use disorder may suffer liver damage but will be unable to stop, even as the disease progresses.
People with an alcohol use disorder cannot control their drinking and need professional help to stop and remain sober. If you or someone you love needs help to quit drinking or to stay sober, reach out to the Mandala Healing Center team now. Our supportive substance use disorder treatment programs can help you regain control and work toward a healthier future.
Why is Liver Health Important?
The liver plays several critical roles in our body’s overall health. First, it produces bile, which aids in digestion. The liver also filters toxins from the blood and can help remove waste from the body.
The liver is a critical aspect of the gastrointestinal system. It plays a crucial role in digestion and nutrient absorption. The liver stores sugar that the body can use for energy later, helping to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
This essential organ also plays a significant role in our immunity by helping the body fight and resist infections. The liver also produces essential proteins that the body uses for various purposes, including blood clotting.
Considering the essential processes the liver is responsible for, it is clear that liver health is vital to our general health. When people sustain liver damage, there are often wide-ranging symptoms and effects.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Liver?
Livers are resilient. When they suffer damage or disease, they can regenerate cells and heal themselves in time. But regular drinking can slowly chip away at the liver’s ability to grow new cells. When a liver loses its ability to replace dead cells, the damage may be permanent.
Many substances can lead to liver damage, but alcohol is one of the most significant and common sources. Alcohol use is legal, common, and widely accepted throughout the United States, giving people many opportunities to drink in social settings and at home. However, heavy alcohol use can profoundly affect a person’s mental and physical health.
Liver disease Is one of the most significant health complications from excessive drinking. This progressive, devastating condition can make it nearly impossible to remove toxins and waste from the body, resulting in debilitating or life-threatening problems.
The Stages of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease
Alcohol-related liver disease occurs in stages. It is essential to seek treatment for alcohol-related liver disease as soon as possible for the best outcomes.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is the first stage of alcohol-related liver disease. This condition causes fat to accumulate in the liver due to heavy drinking. Fatty liver disease may develop quickly– in as little as a few days of heavy drinking.
Fatty liver disease does not typically cause noticeable symptoms. However, some people may experience mild discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen.
If a person with fatty liver disease stops drinking, the liver can regenerate itself in about two weeks. However, if someone with fatty liver disease drinks heavily, this condition will likely progress to the next stage.
Alcoholic hepatitis occurs when people with fatty liver disease continue to consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Alcoholic hepatitis is not the same as infectious hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis leads to inflammation in the liver, causing it to become swollen. When this occurs, liver cells can die, resulting in scar tissue on the liver.
Alcoholic hepatitis can vary in severity. Mild cases of alcoholic hepatitis may go on for years and cause more damage if the person keeps drinking heavily. Severe cases of alcoholic hepatitis can develop very quickly– and can be fatal. Severe alcoholic hepatitis is more common after periods of binge drinking. The only way to prevent further damage and avoid death is to stop drinking alcohol.
Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis
Alcohol liver cirrhosis develops in about 10 to 15% of people who engage in long-term heavy or binge drinking. Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is most common in people who drink heavily for over a decade. It is caused by heavy scar tissue that builds up over time, eventually replacing most liver cells. This prevents the liver from regenerating.
Alcoholic liver cirrhosis is permanent. This condition can progress and cause severe liver damage before a person notices symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms of alcoholic liver cirrhosis include:
- Spider veins
- Enlarged spleen
- Muscle wasting
- Changes in behavior
- Pressure in the liver
- Impaired concentration
- Bruising and bleeding easily
- Bleeding veins in the esophagus
- Redness on the palms of the hands
- Fluid buildup in the legs and abdomen
Some risk factors can make a person more likely to develop alcohol-related liver disease. The most common factor for this condition is, of course, heavy alcohol use. However, gender, age, genetics, weight, and other factors can raise a person’s risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease.
Get Help Now
If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol addiction, you are not alone. Reach out to the knowledgeable specialists at the Mandala Healing Center now.
Getting the help you need to stop drinking can help you avoid alcohol-related liver disease and live a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. Don’t wait another day for the treatment you deserve. Call today to take the first step of your recovery journey.
- National Library of Medicine: Physiology, Liver, Retrieved October 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535438/
- National Institute of Health: Alcoholic Liver Disease, Retrieved October 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546632/
- National Institute of Health: Alcoholic Liver Disease Pathogenesis and Current Management, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513682/