Many of us are aware that abusing alcohol can cause significant damage to your liver. On average, the liver can process one alcoholic drink an hour. When people drink heavily or suffer from alcohol abuse, a huge strain is placed on the liver, in return processing alcoholic beverages slower. Liver damage from alcohol can be reversible and, in some cases, irreversible and life-threatening. Alcohol and the liver go hand and hand, and it is important to know how the amount of alcohol you drink can affect you. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse, the sooner the drinking stops, the better the body will be in the long run. Once the liver reaches fibrotic changes it can never fully repair. At Healthy Life Recovery, our drug and alcohol rehab offers treatment programs to help overcome alcohol addiction. Our alcohol rehab can provide you the tools you need to achieve recovery and reverse liver damage in its early stages.

Alcohol and the Liver

Your liver is the most complex organ in the body, right behind the brain of course. This major organ is responsible for clearing the body of toxins and other harmful substances. Functions of the liver include:

  • Filter toxins in the blood
  • Regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • Assist in fighting infection and disease
  • Produces bile which aids in food digestion

When people who partake in heavy drinking, their liver prioritizes metabolizing alcohol over other substances. The extensive strain on the liver requires it to work extra hard to cleanse the body. Every time you consume alcohol, some liver cells die and eventually, the liver regenerates itself by creating new cells.

Extended alcohol abuse over time can reduce the liver’s ability to regenerate. Liver damage from alcohol also includes three primary alcoholic liver diseases: fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

liver damage from alcohol

What is Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Fat begins to form and compile from alcohol when the liver can’t handle the amount consumed. Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) is often the first stage of liver damage caused by alcohol abuse. At this stage, most people do not experience symptoms unless their liver becomes inflamed. Quitting or reducing alcohol consumption usually reverses this condition.

Women are at higher risk than men for developing AFLD. This is because enzymes are needed to break down alcohol consumption. Having fewer enzymes allows more alcohol to reach the liver, in return creating fat to accumulate.

What is Alcohol Hepatitis?

Fatty liver disease can evolve into the next stage of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD). People with alcohol hepatitis can experience liver swelling, causing symptoms of jaundice, vomiting, and fever.

What is Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Inflammation caused by fat accumulation can cause irreversible scarring of the liver called cirrhosis. This is the last and most severe stage of alcohol-related liver disease. The buildup of scar tissue affects the liver’s ability to function properly. While fat tissue and inflammation are reversible, the scarring is not. Cirrhosis can have severe symptoms and lead to liver failure.

An increase in weight can increase the chances of developing alcoholic cirrhosis. This is a common risk because heavy/binge drinking typically leads to weight gain. Underlying medical conditions, especially hepatitis, can also cause an increased risk of developing cirrhosis.

liver damage from alcohol

Alcoholic Liver Disease Symptoms

After years of heavy drinking, alcoholic liver disease may appear. Developing this disease is most common between ages 40-50. Some people may have no symptoms, while others show very little or all.

Early symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Belly pain
  • Small blood vessels on the skin

As liver function worsens, symptoms may include:

  • Fluid buildup of the legs (edema) and in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Yellow color in the skin, mucous membranes, or eyes (jaundice)
  • Redness on the palms of the hands

How to Heal Liver Damage From Alcohol

There are multiple ways to help reverse liver damage from alcohol which include:

  • Stop drinking: If you are diagnosed with ARLD, the most important thing to do is quit drinking. 
  • Make healthy lifestyle changes: Try to maintain a healthy weight and do not smoke. Obesity is a leading cause of liver disease next to alcoholism. Cigarettes contain toxins and chemicals that will make liver damage worse.
  • Watch what you eat: A healthy diet can lead to a healthy liver. When you do not eat processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats, the liver does not have to work hard to filter what comes through it.
  • Exercise: Being active can help the liver improve the immune system and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and liver cancer. 
  • Pay attention to medications you take: Medications, even over-the-counter, can be damaging to the liver when taken in excess.
  • Avoid unnecessary toxins: Do not take any substances or illicit drugs. Take extra precautions around aerosol sprays, spray paints, and any other form of sprayed chemicals.
liver damage from alcohol

How Long Does it Take for the Liver to Heal?

Over time, the liver can heal itself from damages caused by alcoholic fatty liver disease and hepatitis. Unfortunately, when it comes to the scars of cirrhosis, these damages are irreversible. Liver damage from alcohol can cause severe damage to the body, and in some cases a liver transplant is needed.

The amount of time it takes the liver to recover depends on numerous factors, but mainly alcohol consumption. A heavy drinker’s near-normal state could take months or even years.

Treatment For Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

At Healthy Life Recovery, we know a battle with alcohol addiction is not easy, especially trying to quit on your own. Our alcohol rehab in San Diego can help ease withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol abuse and provide medicated-assisted treatment if needed.

If you would like to learn more about liver damage from alcohol, and what can be done to help, contact Healthy Life Today. We can help you or a loved one overcome alcohol addiction so that you can live a happy, healthy life once again.

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