How Does Alcohol Affect the Liver?


It’s Friday night and time to meet up with friends and unwind. For some, this often ends up in way too much drinking and a hangover the next day.

While this may be fun to do at that moment, you may want to consider how does alcohol affect the liver each time you drink. After all, sacrificing long term health for short term pleasure may not always be a wise thing to do.

Alcohol consumption is prevalent in the U.S. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 88% of people who are 18 years old or above have enjoyed alcohol.

More importantly, as of 2014, the NIAAA reveals that around 25% of people 18 years or older engage in binge drinking recently.

At this rate, it bears noting the importance of understanding what excessive drinking can do to our bodies.


How Does Alcohol Affect the Liver

alcoholic-drinks-spirits-winesYou’ve probably heard it before.

Alcohol isn’t good for your liver.

Overall, excess consumption of alcohol isn’t good for health. But one of the main organs that it affects most is our liver.

The reason for this is that our liver is our body’s main filtration unit.

It’s the organ that’s in charge of detoxifying the body from all the unhealthy food and drinks we put into our mouths.

But the liver isn’t limited to getting rid of toxins. It plays a big part in metabolism as well as regulation of many of our bodily functions. This is why it is considered one of the essential organs of the body.

In short, we can’t live without it.

Here’s how alcohol affects the liver.


Alcohol Introduces Toxins to the Liver

Alcohol has negative effects on the liver. Alcohol can cause irreversible damage to the liver.

When you drink alcohol, the alcohol travels down through your body until it reaches your liver. When the alcohol reaches your liver, toxic enzymes called acetaldehyde are formed.

Acetaldehyde damages liver cells leaving permanent scarring. These toxic enzymes also cause harm to your brain and to the lining of your stomach.


Fatty Liver Disease (Hepatic Steatosis)

drinking-beerFatty liver disease (FLD) also known as hepatic steatosis. This is one of the side effects of too much drinking.

Normally, your liver metabolizes glucose, turning it into fat. And then it stores the fat in various places throughout your body.

Alcohol consumption causes the liver to metabolize fat in a different way. The fat ends up being stored in the liver cells.

If you drink alcohol in excessive amounts, your liver can not properly metabolize the fat.

Since the fat is being stored in the liver cells instead of other areas in the body, fat builds up in your liver hence the name, fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease however, isn’t limited to consuming excess alcohol. The disease can also caused by obesity. In which case, it’s referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

If you are overweight and drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you double your risk of developing fatty liver disease. One important factor is that hepatic steatosis is reversible if you stop drinking. However, if you do not stop drinking heavily, know that fatty liver disease is one of the leading causes of liver cancer today.


Hepatitis then Cirrhosis

cocktailsIf you drink excessively for years, your liver will become inflamed. This is known as alcoholic hepatitis.

When you have alcoholic hepatitis your liver will become swollen, tender to the touch, and it can even be extremely painful.

If you are diagnosed with fatty liver disease and continue excessive alcoholic drinking, your chances of developing alcoholic hepatitis are highly plausible.

When you have alcoholic hepatitis and still continue drinking heavily all the time, then alcoholic hepatitis will develop into cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis is the disease of the liver where its functioning cells have degenerated. At this point, the liver has thick fibrous tissue and is inflamed.

You are considered to have cirrhosis of the liver when scar tissue replaces the already damaged liver cells. The original damage to the cells was caused by the inflammation from alcoholic hepatitis.

The scar tissue stops all fluids including blood from normally flowing through the liver. Ultimately, this causes the liver to stop functioning properly. The liver will become hard, lump, and full of scar tissue.

Having cirrhosis of the liver is far from pleasant. Liver disease is a very painful process that can go on for years and years. If you continue your bad drinking habits, the results are inevitable. Cirrhosis of the liver will rapidly develop into cancer of the liver and then death.

Ultimately, cirrhosis is something everyone should avoid because it’s a disease that gradually progresses over time. As more healthy cells are replaced by scar tissue, the liver will not function well enough to support normal life. At this point, it’s called liver failure.


Liver Disease has No Symptoms

Liver disease develops in stages when you are an alcoholic. However, it becomes more dangerous because it does not present any visible symptoms until the disease has progressed to a certain point.

The disease begins with fatty liver disease advances into hepatitis which develops into cirrhosis. Then onto full blown cancer of the liver or liver failure. The only option left is death or in some cases a liver transplant. Neither of which allows you to enjoy the same life you have today.

The sad truth is liver disease can go on for years and years without even being aware that you have developed liver problems. Being that you are unaware for years, most people continue excessively drinking making the situation much worse.


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