Alcohol can affect the liver in numerous ways. Drinking too much can cause liver damage, liver disease, and even cancer.
Most people know that alcohol is processed by the liver. Few, however, understand how liver damage actually occurs. If you’re uncertain about how alcohol affects the liver, you’re not alone! Read on to learn more about the ways in which drinking impacts this vital organ.
Types of Alcohol-Induced Liver Damage
Liver problems can be acute or chronic. Acute problems may last for a number of weeks or months, whereas chronic conditions generally involve years of liver damage. Acute liver problems can often be treated, whereas chronic conditions, such as cirrhosis, are often permanent.
The interesting thing about liver disease is that researchers are not certain as to why alcohol consumption damages the liver. Generally, it is believed that alcohol-induced liver damage is a result of either oxidative stress or toxins damaging the liver.
Those who believe that damage is caused by oxidative stress argue that alcohol consumptions leads to certain damaging chemical reactions in the liver. These oxidative reactions may lead to inflammation and scarring, which can lead to liver diseases like cirrhosis.
Others argue that alcohol is damaging to the human intestinal tract. This damage then allows gut bacteria and other harmful substances to enter the liver, leading to scarring and liver disease.
Regardless of the precise mechanism behind alcoholic liver damage, it is clear that drinking too much can lead to liver disease.
Prevention of Alcoholic Liver Conditions
- Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to a number of liver conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease/steatohepatitis
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Cirrhosis/fibrosis of the liver
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
- and more…
It is therefore important to limit alcohol consumption to prevent the odds of developing liver disease. Research shows that higher levels of drinking are correlated with a higher risk of developing liver problems. Those who are most at risk for developing liver disease are men who drink 35 or more units of alcohol a week and women who drink 28 or more units of alcohol a week for a decade or longer. Note that a unit of alcohol is the equivalent of 10ml (8g) of pure alcohol; the units of alcohol you consume will depend on the alcohol content of the beverages you drink.
Alcoholics are at a very high risk for developing liver disease. If you are dependent on alcohol, you should seek medical guidance as soon as possible. If you are suffering from the early stages of liver disease, it is possible to reverse the condition if you begin abstaining from alcohol.
Individuals who are female, overweight, and/or suffer from diabetes or other health conditions should be particularly careful regarding their alcohol consumption. These facts increase the risk of developing alcohol-related liver conditions.
The best way to prevent alcoholic liver disease is by drinking responsibly. If you limit your alcohol consumption to a drink or two every few days, you are unlikely to develop liver conditions as a result of your drinking. Be safe and take care of your liver. Doing so could save you from an untimely demise.