One of the primary adverse health effects of excessive drinking is damage to the liver, a bodily organ responsible for breaking down alcohol in a person’s system. Whether or not the liver can repair itself depends on the severity of the damage. The liver is tasked with processing potentially damaging chemicals that enter the body and is very good at filtering toxins.
With some of the milder liver diseases, the liver will likely be able to heal itself entirely. Yet there are some more severe liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, where the likelihood of the liver fully repairing itself is not as good.
However, there is always hope, and with the proper treatment, most livers stand a reasonable chance of healing.
What the Liver Does
The liver plays a crucial part in everyday bodily functions. Its vital role is to filter toxins from the blood before it gets transferred to other vital organs.
The liver also processes chemicals and breaks down drugs and alcohol to be effectively metabolized. It creates bile, a liquid that helps the body to digest fats. It regulates blood sugar and cholesterol and protects the body from infection.
Additionally, it is the main organ in which protein is produced from amino acids. Proteins are vital to the body because they are used to grow and sustain tissue.
Although the liver is a very resilient organ, there is a limit to its abuse. When it is weakened or harmed beyond repair, this creates massive problems for the body. In extreme instances, liver failure can result in death, and this should not be taken lightly.
Alcohol Abuse Effects on the Liver
When a person consumes an alcoholic drink, the alcohol rapidly passes into the bloodstream. Your body then tries to break it down—this usually takes about an hour. The rest of the alcohol that the body fails to break down reaches the heart and brain, which produces the sensation of being intoxicated.
Researchers believe that alcohol damages the liver through an effect known as oxidative stress. This is when the liver tries to break down alcohol through a chemical reaction that damages liver cells and causing scarring.
Over many years or decades of excessive alcohol consumption, the liver can succumb to several diseases—these range from mild-severe diseases, such as fibrosis, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
At the least severe end of the spectrum is liver fibrosis or the scarring of liver cells. It is produced by chemical reactions that occur when liver cells try to break down alcohol in the liver. These damaged cells can no longer function correctly. Instead of filtering toxins, all they do is maintain the structure of the liver. When fewer cells are in active use, this slows down the flow of blood in the liver.
Fibrosis may be asymptomatic or cause few noticeable effects. But in large quantities, it can result in cirrhosis, a much more severe and potentially lethal disease.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease caused by alcohol abuse can result in an abnormal amount of fat accumulating. When the liver is storing more than 5-6% of its weight in fat, this would be diagnosable as fatty liver disease.
Like liver fibrosis, fatty liver disease can be relatively symptom-free in its mild forms. It can also most likely be reversible over time by abstaining from alcohol and by adopting a healthy diet and exercise regime.
In more severe instances, when a large amount of fat builds up in the liver, this can cause serious health complications it can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Alcoholic hepatitis is a more severe and challenging disease to reverse. This condition most often occurs in those who have abused alcohol for a prolonged period. It occasionally occurs in some moderate drinkers, as well.
These symptoms may include fatigue, fever, stomach tenderness, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight, jaundice, and confusion. At this point, persons must stop drinking and see a health provider if they suspect that they may have alcoholic hepatitis. This is not a health condition that should be taken lightly.
Liver cirrhosis is the most severe of all alcohol-related liver diseases. Alcoholic cirrhosis is typically permanent. It is often linked to other liver conditions such as fibrosis.
When a person experiences liver cirrhosis, this is an indicatort hat their liver is nearly incapable of doing its job and cannot break down toxins as effectively, which accumulate and damage the body. Given the many functions that the liver is intended to perform, this can be catastrophic for a person’s health. That is why it is crucial that cirrhosis is diagnosed as soon as possible and treated effectively.
Symptoms of cirrhosis can include the following:
- Loss of muscle definition
- Lack of appetite/weight loss
- Fluid build-up in legs/stomach
- Brain fog and confusion
- Impaired memory
- Vomiting blood
- Red palms
- Darker urine
- Poor mobility
- Difficulty breathing
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Personality changes
- Hair loss
- Higher likelihood of infection
When the liver begins to shut down, it causes a vast range of uncomfortable and severe symptoms. Cirrhosis may be permanent, but it can be slowed down. It is crucial that those suffering from this disease or alcoholism stop drinking and seek medical help and addiction treatment.
Healing the Liver from Disease
The following are steps individuals can take to help their liver heal itself. Remember, the liver regenerates naturally, and all you need to do is work to facilitate that process.
1. Stop drinking alcohol.
2. Improve Diet – The liver spends a significant amount of time processing chemicals from fatty, sugary, and salty foods. By reducing consumption of junk food and switching to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, individuals can take some of the pressure off their liver.
Salty foods, especially, are to be avoided since they can increase the risk of edema in the legs and feet, a symptom of liver cirrhosis.
3. Exercise regularly – By exercising, people can alleviate some of the stress on the liver and burn fat. Maintaining a healthy weight is good for the mind, liver, and the body in general.
The Length of Time Needed to Heal the Liver
There is no exact time scale for how long the liver takes to heal itself, which depends on many factors. The extent of liver damage is one, so is the effectiveness of treatment and the age and weight of the person with the liver disease.
In some cases of minor fatty liver disease, the liver may heal itself within a few weeks. However, in cases of hepatitis, it may take months or years to heal or may not capable of healing at all. The important thing is to seek medical intervention right away and work to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the meantime.
Just Believe Recovery Center is a licensed addiction substance abuse treatment facility qualified to treat all manner of addiction and mental health conditions. We offer intensive outpatient and residential programs that include several clinically proven methodologies to benefit the addiction process.