Healing Your Liver After Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol consumption can damage your liver, but going sober can allow your liver time to heal. The signs of healing include increased energy; healthier looking eyes and skin; stable blood glucose levels; and improved bloodwork.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver, which can result in inflammation and liver damage known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). AFLD is the first stage of a set of conditions known as alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD).
The good news is, if you stop drinking soon enough, your liver can heal itself. Here’s what you need to know about the process of healing your liver from the effects of alcohol and the signs that your liver is recovering.
If you or someone you love is drinking too much, Zinnia Health can help. We offer treatment for alcohol abuse to help individuals overcome addiction and get on the path to living a long, fulfilling life. Call our helpline at (855) 430-9439 and get answers to your questions or to find hotlines for alcohol abuse near you.
What Does Excessive Alcohol Use Do to Liver Health?
The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol in the body, and excessive alcohol consumption can overwhelm the liver’s capacity to process it.
When the liver is unable to metabolize all of the alcohol you have consumed, some of the excess alcohol is converted to fatty acids, which can accumulate in the cells of your liver and cause those cells to become enlarged.
The accumulation of fat in the liver leads to inflammation, which contributes to liver damage and scarring. In the early stages, this damage is known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). If left untreated, AFLD can progress to more serious forms of liver disease, such as alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Both hepatitis and cirrhosis are serious conditions that can occur when inflammation in the liver becomes severe. They can lead to liver failure, jaundice, and other symptoms. Cirrhosis is completely irreversible.
Suffering from AFLD can increase your risk of developing other health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The good news is, making lifestyle changes — like going sober for many months — can give your liver time to heal.
How Can I Support Liver Health?
The liver has a remarkable capacity to regenerate and repair itself in response to injury, including injury from alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD).
The first and most important step in healing from AFLD is to stop drinking alcohol. Continued alcohol consumption can lead to further liver damage and prevent your liver from healing.
In addition to stopping drinking, you should take steps to manage your other risk factors. For instance, maintaining a healthy weight and managing diabetes can also support the healing process.
Since inflammation in the liver is a key contributor to liver damage in AFLD, reducing inflammation through medications, such as corticosteroids or pentoxifylline, can help your liver heal. Dietary changes can also help, such as eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
When making dietary changes, also consider the nutrients your liver requires to support the healing process. Consuming a balanced diet with adequate amounts of vitamins D, E, C, and B can aid in liver regeneration.
Are you worried about alcohol addiction? Zinnia Health can help. Our team of addiction specialists can answer your questions on substance abuse and alcohol use. If you’re ready to take the next step, call our helpline at (855) 430-9439 for more information.
Signs That Your Liver is Healing
If you’ve stopped drinking, you may be anxiously awaiting signs that your living is healing itself. Here are some signs that the self-healing recovery process is taking place.
1. Your Eyes and Skin Look Healthy
When your liver function is impaired from alcohol consumption, toxins build up throughout the body. In high concentrations, these toxins can turn the whites of your eyes, your fingernails, and even your skin yellow. This yellowing is a condition known as jaundice.
As your liver heals itself and these toxins begin to be flushed out of your body, you’ll notice that your eyes, nails, and skin begin to have a healthy appearance again.
2. You Have More Energy
Your liver has a major role to play in how you process foods and fuel your body. When it’s not functioning at its best, it can impact your metabolism.
During the healing process, you’ll likely find that any sluggish and fatigued feelings are being replaced with higher energy levels.
3. Your Blood Glucose Levels Are Stable
The liver is responsible for producing glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis allows the liver to produce glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, such as amino acids and fatty acids, and release it into the bloodstream to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
However, in cases of severe liver damage, the liver may be unable to produce glucose through gluconeogenesis, leading to low blood glucose levels, which is a condition known as hypoglycemia.
The liver also serves as a storage site for glucose in the form of glycogen. When blood glucose levels are high, the liver takes up excess glucose and converts it into glycogen for storage.
AFLD can reduce your liver’s glycogen storage capacity since damaged liver cells are unable to effectively store glucose.
With these things in mind, your liver’s ability to manage glucose levels will be evident in blood glucose readings. Testing your levels throughout the healing process can help you understand the recovery that’s taking place.
4. You Are More Mentally Alert
When toxins build up in your body due to reduced liver function, it can affect your whole self, including your mental alertness. If you’ve been feeling like you have “brain fog” or trouble concentrating, a healthy liver will likely help you feel mentally alert again.
As your liver problems go away, you may find that you are more cognitive, quicker to respond to stimulus, and you may even have a better short-term memory.
5. Your Bloodwork Shows Improved Liver Function
Several enzymes are used as markers to detect liver damage on bloodwork, including ALT, AST, and ALP. These enzymes are normally found in liver cells, and their presence in the bloodstream indicates that liver cells have been damaged or destroyed.
Alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) are the two most common enzymes used to detect liver damage and they’re easy to evaluate during check-ups.
If you’re recovering from liver damage caused by alcohol intake, asking your doctor for bloodwork at the start of your addiction treatment process and throughout recovery can help you quantity the process as new cells are being generated and signs of liver damage reduce.
How Long Does It Take for Your Liver to Heal from Alcohol Use?
The time it takes for the liver to heal from AFLD and the process involved can vary widely depending on the severity of the damage your liver has incurred.
In mild cases, with a moderate amount of fat accumulation and inflammation, your liver may be able to fully heal within a few months as long as you abstain from alcohol consumption.
In more severe cases where there is significant scarring or fibrosis, the healing process may take much longer. In certain cases, some damage may be irreversible.
It is important to note that continuing to drink alcohol or not addressing your other risk factors can prevent your liver from healing and it can also lead to further liver damage.
If you’ve been a heavy drinker, it’s important to seek medical advice and get professional help to guide you through the treatment process.
Do You Need Extra Support?
If you’ve already quit drinking, you’ve taken a major step toward healing your liver tissue and leading a healthier life. However, if you need extra support or if you need help taking the first step into sobriety, Zinnia Health can help.
At our facilities, we offer: