The physical effects alcohol takes on the body gets worse the longer and more an individual drinks. The more time goes by before addressing the addiction and dependency, the more difficult it becomes for the human body to overcome the long term damage done. One of the human organs most significantly effected by heavy, long-term alcohol use is the liver. Let’s take a look at the liver, what alcohol does to it, and what can be done to treat liver damage.
What The Liver Does And How It Functions
The liver is a relatively large organ that rests near the right side of the body, somewhat behind the rib cage. It is actually the 2nd largest organ after the skin.
The liver’s job is to metabolize and substances that we consume and filter toxins out from the blood. Once we ingest a liquid or food, it is broken down by the stomach and intestines and absorbed into our bloodstream. Our blood them gets filtered by the liver where toxins are directed to be expelled as urine or stool and nutrients are stored or release back into the bloodstream.
How The Liver Adapts To Long-term Alcohol Use
When someone drinks multiple alcoholic beverages on a daily basis, there is a lot of alcohol entering the body that the liver must filter out. This requires a great deal of energy that the liver would not otherwise have to exert. In order to keep up with the demand day after day, the cells that make up the liver begin to create more of the structure that produces energy, mitochondria. When looking closely at liver cells from someone who drank heavily for years, you see significantly more mitochondria than in the liver of a person who drank infrequently. Even though the liver adapts as best it can and may filter more alcohol per hour, it is still working that much harder. Additionally, as your body is processing alcohol quicker a tolerance begins to build and the user begins to drink more. This creates a cycle where your liver is working harder and harder to process alcohol and the individual is drinking more and more to get drunk. The individual gets closer and closer to liver failure.
There are 3 common conditions of the liver that result from alcoholism:
A fatty liver is a condition that often develops on its own but may happen quicker and younger when heavy alcohol use is present. This condition is defined by a buildup of fat deposits in the liver cells. A fatty liver on its own may not cause any noticeable health effects, but it is an early sign of liver disease.
When a fatty liver continues to be stressed out, it can eventually become inflamed. Inflammation of the liver caused by heavy alcohol use is referred to as alcoholic hepatitis and is a serious condition. If this condition develops and the individual does not stop drinking immediately, there is a significant risk of permanent liver damage, liver failure, and death. Common signs of alcoholic hepatitis include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of appetite, mild fever, and fatigue.
Not everyone who drinks alcohol develops Alcohol Hepatitis and some people are more susceptible than others. Women are more likely to develop liver inflammation caused by alcohol consumption as they do not produce the enzymes that break down alcohol at as high of a rate as men. In fact, there are a number of different genetic factors that can affect your body’s tolerance for alcohol.
The last and most severe form of liver disease caused by heavy alcohol use that can be observed prior to liver failure is Liver Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is marked by a build-up of scar tissue that makes the liver stiff and significantly reduces its ability to function. When one’s liver is diseased in this way, the individual is a severe, imminent risk of liver failure. Signs of liver Cirrhosis include loss of appetite and muscle tone, weight loss, noticeably easy bruising, swelling in the legs and abdomen, vomiting blood, and episodes of delirium.
Treating Liver Disease Caused by Alcoholism
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol addiction and has already been diagnosed with a fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, or liver cirrhosis, time is of the essence. The liver is an amazing organ that has an amazing ability to regenerate and heal itself, but it cannot do this when it is stressed and working hard to process large amount of toxins. Also, a badly scarred liver may not be able to regenerate. There is little that a doctor can do to help someone with liver disease is they refuse to stop drinking.
Once a liver is very badly damaged, the individual may need to be placed on dialysis, a medical procedure where a machine is used to filter out toxins from the blood. However, dialysis can take many hours and may need to be done multiple times per week. This type of time commitment can take a serious toll on an individual’s quality of life. It may become difficult to hold a part-time job, as many hours per week needs to be dedicated to treatment. A major life change, dialysis can also cause emotional distress.
Get Help Now From a Trusted Alcohol Rehab Center
“Stop drinking and your liver will heal”… It’s easier said than done. An individual that is already exhibiting signs of liver disease may have been struggling with alcoholism for years. They experience cravings when they stop drinking and might present severe symptoms as withdrawal progresses. An alcohol treatment center with an alcohol detox program can provide a safe, supportive environment where symptoms can be managed and help is available 24/7. Get yourself or your loved one the help they need to save their liver and life. Call Holistix Treatment Centers today!