Substance Use

A Guide to Liver Recovery From Alcohol

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Alcohol Addiction, Liver Damage, and Liver Recovery

Liver transplants are the second most common form of transplant in the United States, and alcohol consumption is one the the leading causes of liver damage. Even moderate drinking can lead to lasting effects on the brain, heart, and liver — including the development of fatty liver disease. However, it’s possible that some of the liver damaging effects of alcohol can be reversed if you stop drinking. Here’s what you need to know.

Are you or someone you love suffering from alcohol addiction? Zinnia Health can help. Call our helpline at (855) 430-9439 to learn more about our flexible and personalized treatment programs.  

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How Does Alcohol Harm The Liver?

The liver plays a critical role in the body. Every time you drink or consume something, the liver removes the harmful substances it puts into the bloodstream. The liver also helps produce essential enzymes, proteins, and hormones that ward off infections and illness throughout the body. In other words, the liver acts as a filter for the body, detoxifying your bloodstream.

In general, a healthy liver is extremely effective at processing the alcohol you consume. However, it can only process so much at one time, typically about one ounce of alcohol in an hour, but this varies depending on several factors. If you drink often and in large amounts, your liver will become damaged, which will impact how efficiently it’s able to process alcohol. This creates a compounding problem. 

Your body weight, size, gender, and history of alcohol use impact what is considered a “safe amount” of alcohol to consume. For instance, women tend to absorb more alcohol than males, making them more prone to liver damage. For anyone, regularly consuming more than two or three alcoholic beverages in a day can lead to liver damage. Binge drinking (which means consuming four or more drinks in a row) is also considered harmful as it puts excess strain on the liver.

What Liver Conditions Can Alcohol Cause?

Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) is a term used to refer to a number of conditions that can result from drinking alcohol. Liver damage caused by alcohol consumption rarely has any side effects in the early stages. Generally, you won’t notice any symptoms of your reduced liver function until your liver has been severely damaged. At this point, the damage may not be reversible.

ARLD occurs in three stages

  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease: This condition is caused by a buildup of fatty acids in the liver. Drinking a large amount of alcohol, even just over a period of a few days, can cause AFLD. Fortunately, if you stop drinking for at least 2 weeks, your liver will be able to return to normal. This is considered the first stage of ARLD.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis: Unrelated to infectious hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis can be caused by binge drinking over a short period but is more often associated with moderate alcohol consumption over a longer period of time (weeks or more). Mild alcoholic hepatitis can be reversible if you stop drinking, but more severe forms can be deadly.
  • Cirrhosis: This is considered the most severe type of ARLD and it is generally not reversible. Cirrhosis is characterized by significant scar tissue on the liver and it’s common in heavy drinkers. Again, there still may be no symptoms at this point, but people suffering from alcohol-induced cirrhosis who continue to drink are at an increased risk of premature death and liver failure.

Zinnia Health knows that finding confidential, customized care is essential for overcoming addiction and staying sober. If you have questions about the treatment process, our team would be happy to help. Call us today at (855) 430-9439 for more information. 

Symptoms of Liver Damage

One of the scariest things about alcohol-induced liver damage is that you may not know that you’re suffering from it until it becomes extremely severe. Once that happens, you may begin to notice symptoms like:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Stomach swelling
  • Ankle swelling
  • Confusion
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood in stool
  • Nausea

You may associate some of the symptoms of liver damage with a hangover or alcohol withdrawal, which makes them even harder to detect. This is why you should see a doctor regularly for checkups if you drink alcohol and another reason to watch your alcohol intake. Heavy drinking puts additional stress on your liver, leading to additional damage.

Can Sobriety Repair Liver Function?

One of the ways you can protect your long-term health is to commit to periods of sobriety where you stop drinking for a few months at a time. However, the best way to prevent further damage and support your overall health is to stop drinking altogether. This is especially important if you have reached a point where the liver damage is not reversible, as is the case with severe alcohol-induced hepatitis or cirrhosis.

In addition to reducing or stopping your drinking, you can also protect your health by:

  • Managing your blood pressure
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet
  • Getting regular checkups

If you’re a heavy drinker or you find it difficult to reduce your alcohol intake, it’s possible that you’re suffering from alcohol dependency. If that’s the case, it’s important that you understand the symptoms of alcohol misuse. It’s also critical that you don’t try to quit “cold turkey,” as that could cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Instead, if you or a loved one is dealing with alcohol abuse, reach out to a treatment facility that can answer your questions on the recovery process.

Recovering from Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is not something you can face alone. While the short-term side effects of quitting drinking may feel like a severe hangover, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can last for multiple days or weeks and they can be life-threatening. Instead of trying to quit on your own, partner with a team of professionals who can guide you through the process safely and help you get on the path to long-term sobriety.

If you or someone you love is facing addiction, our caring staff at Zinnia Health can help. Our supportive inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are flexible, personalized, and research-based. When you’re ready to take the next step, reach out to our 24/7 alcohol addiction hotline at (855) 430-9439

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