Know How Alcohol Damages Your Liver

For most people, downing a couple of beers is a great way of ending a long day at work. Alcohol has been consumed for centuries and accepted as a social norm.  Alcohol continues to be publicized despite the various negative effects it has on the body.

Corporations that manufacture alcohol spend billions of dollars each year advertising alcohol and promoting it to consumers.  So popular is alcohol that Winston Churchill once said “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” Today there is a huge increase in alcohol consumption among young people. Deaths of young people between the ages of 24 to 35 old have tripled between 2000-2017.

How alcohol affects the body

Alcohol has disastrous effects on our body especially the liver which is responsible for getting rid of waste products in our bodies. Every time your liver cleans out alcohol from the body, some of the liver cells die.  Before analyzing the effects of alcohol on the liver, here is a brief summary of alcohol.

Alcohol falls under the drug classication of stimulant and depressant. As oxymoronic as it sounds, alcohol as different effects on our body depending on volume. Small to moderate amounts of alcohol cause a person to feel euphoric by releasing the feel good chemical known as dopamine. At this stage a person becomes overly talkative and more energized.

As a person increases the volume of alcohol, the central nervous system slows down the systems responsible for the euphoria and alcohol becomes a depressant. Heavy drinking causes slowing of reaction times, impairs motor functions as well as cognitive abilities. Excessive drinking eventually causes a person to pass out. In extreme cases alcohol poisoning can lead to coma or even death.

Alcohol and the Liver

The liver is responsible for breaking down toxins from our bodies. The liver is very resilient organ that is able regenerating itself. However excessive amounts of alcohol cause liver damage, reducing its ability to regenerate itself.

The main chemical constitutes of alcoholic drinks is ethanol, which must broken down by the liver. Excessive amounts of alcohol damages the liver and cause damage that eventually leads to death. Acute intoxication makes the liver unable to break down the ethanol fast enough, that alcohol becomes poisonous to the body.

Excessive drinking is at the center of all liver related problems. According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. One alcoholic drink-equivalent is described as containing 14 g (0.6 floz) of pure alcohol. To put is simply it is equivalent to:

  • 12 fluid ounces/ 350 milliliters of regular beer (5% alcohol).
  • 5 fluid ounces/150 milliliters of wine (12% alcohol).
  • 5 fluid ounces/45 milliliters of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol).

Excessive drinking is described as having after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within a couple of hours of each other.  Over time excessive drinking damages the liver cells, causing various diseases to develop including the following;

Alcohol Liver Disease

Alcohol liver disease is probably one of the most common alcohol related disease.Alcohol liver disease progresses several stages of severity and a range of associated symptoms.

After we have had a drink, alcohol goes to the small intestines and begins to be absorbed. It is the passed to the liver and broken down to toxic byproduct known as acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is then burned off as the liver carries out its detoxification role. Too much alcohol in your system causes fat that should be used in the body to be accumulated in the liver. It also causes acetaldehyde to accumulate in the body which causes damage to the structure and function of the mitochondria in the liver.

The scary thing is that fatty liver disease cannot be cured; only managed through abstinence. Over 70% of people with alcohol liver disease have alcohol dependence issues.

Risk factors for alcohol liver disease include gender, genetics, obesity and history of other liver problems. In case you are struggling with weight loss you can try these great diet tips that will help you accomplish your weight loss goals

Liver Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when the healthy tissues of the liver are so badly damaged that they are replaced by scar tissue. It is commonly referred to as hardening of the liver, slowing the process of purifying the blood from toxins. Cirrhosis develops gradually over years of heavy drinking leading to scarring of the liver. The disease reduces the functionality of the liver adding pressure to blood vessels.  Although liver cirrhosis does not have initial symptoms, here are some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Fluid accumulation in your gut (ascites)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Swollen legs
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Breast enlargement in men

Cirrhosis has no cure as yet but with early detection the disease can be slowed down.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Heavy consumption of alcohol can cause the liver to have an inflammatory disease known as alcoholic hepatitis. It occurs when the toxic substances cleaned by the liver destroy the cells leading to inflammation.

Alcoholic inflammation unlike cirrhosis or alcohol liver disease can occur with moderate drinkers. Risk factors include genetics, weight and presence of other liver infections.  Symptoms are usually mild at the early stages but acute inflammation affects the brain and can lead to death.

Liver cancer

Alcohol is linked with different types of cancer including liver cancer. Regular, heavy usage of alcohol leads to scarring and inflammation of the liver which increase likelihood of cancer. The scarring from cirrhosis can lead to development of tumors inside the liver. Alcohol is also linked to hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC one the most common type of liver cancer. Liver cancer is like cirrhosis or liver inflammation still incurable.  Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the common treatment options for patients.