Your liver is a highly complex and resilient organ capable of regenerating itself. However, every time your liver filters alcohol, some of its cells die. Alcohol-related liver damage can happen with prolonged alcohol abuse, reducing this organ’s capacity for self-repair. If you are a heavy drinker, you should know how you are putting your health at risk with your dangerous habit.
What Does Your Liver Do?
All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver for processing. The liver is also responsible for breaking down and metabolizing toxins.
While the liver performs hundreds of functions, some of the most essential ones include:
• Converting excess glucose into glycogen for storage
• Helping digest foods you eat
• Regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels
• Fighting infection and disease
Stages of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease
There are three stages of liver damage from alcohol, which can sometimes overlap.
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Drinking a large amount of alcohol, even for only a few days, can lead to a buildup of fats in the liver, or fatty liver disease. In this first stage, there are rarely any noticeable symptoms, and it is reversible if you stop drinking for a couple of weeks.
Alcoholic hepatitis, which is unrelated to the infectious, viral forms of the disease, is a more severe condition that can result from a longer period of alcohol abuse. Receiving this diagnosis may be the first time someone is aware of how drinking has caused organ damage.
Though you can reverse the liver damage associated with mild alcoholic hepatitis if you permanently stop drinking, severe alcoholic hepatitis can be life-threatening.
Cirrhosis is a form of liver damage that involves extensive scarring to the organ. Even at this advanced stage, there may not be any evident symptoms. Alcoholic cirrhosis accounts for about a third of the liver transplants in the United States, and rates of this illness are on the rise nationwide.
Though cirrhosis isn’t generally reversible, immediately quitting drinking can prevent additional damage and significantly increase your life expectancy. People with cirrhosis who do not stop drinking alcohol can die from their condition.
How to Stop Drinking
Since denial is a leading characteristic of addiction, your first impulse might be to assume you will somehow manage to avoid all the adverse effects of having a drinking problem – including liver damage. However, this unrealistic mindset perpetuates the harmful patterns of substance use.
The best way to reduce your risk of alcohol-related liver disease is to stop drinking, ideally permanently, to give your liver the best chances of recovering. However, if you are physically and emotionally dependent on alcohol to get through the day, quitting without help can be tremendously challenging. Though the desire to heal organ damage may be a strong motivator, you can still experience a relapse if you don’t effectively address the root cause of your addiction and equip yourself with tools for managing cravings and triggers.
At Cumberland Heights, you can transform your life by getting sober and staying that way for good. As the first addiction treatment center in Tennessee to receive ASAM accreditation, we have helped hundreds of individuals and families recover from substance use disorders. To learn more about how we can help you, connect with us today.