5 Shocking Ways How Alcohol Affects Your Liver

5 Shocking Ways How Alcohol Affects Your Liver
February 11 11:01 2021 by admin Print This Article

The liver is the largest and one of the most important among the internal organs in the human body. There are over 500 known functions or roles played by the liver even as research may uncover new ones.

Needless to say, the liver must be functioning at its best for the good overall health of the person. Various environmental factors, existing ailments, and lifestyle can affect the liver. One such lifestyle factor is alcohol consumption. Frequent and excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver in different ways. In addition to alcohol abuse, a family history of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) and poor nutrition also increase the risk of liver damage.

Causes

Liver function is affected by alcohol due to the following reasons:

  • Oxidative stress: The liver breaks down alcohol into water and carbon-di-oxide through a process of oxidation. The chemical reaction involved puts a lot of strain on the liver and damages the liver cells. Further, the process creates certain substances that inhibit the oxidation of fat in the liver resulting in fat accumulating in the liver (fatty liver disease).
  • Toxins from gut bacteria: The stomach and intestines are a complex part of our body and home to over 500 different types of bacteria. They play a positive role and affect many aspects of our health. Alcohol disturbs this balance causing the gut bacteria to release toxins. These toxins make their way to the liver and cause damage over time.

5 Ailments of the Liver induced by Alcohol

  • Fatty liver (steatosis): When the body produces a lot of fat or when the fat from food consumed is not broken down completely, some of it starts accumulating in the liver. The condition is called fatty liver disease and is also found in people who consume alcohol frequently or excessively. It’s the first stage of alcohol-related liver disease. There are no prominent symptoms other than some discomfort and pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. The condition is detected when tests are conducted for other ailments.
  • Inflammation of the liver or Alcoholic hepatitis: The fatty liver gradually progresses towards mild or moderate inflammation of the liver. The condition is called alcoholic hepatitis. Symptoms include jaundice (which is characterised by yellowing of skin and eyes), nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, fever, and loss of appetite. If left untreated, or if the person continues consuming alcohol, it can result in complications. Some of them are: ascites where-in fluid starts accumulating in the abdomen, kidney and liver failure. Toxins start accumulating in the blood and this results in cognitive changes such as confusion or behavioral changes (hepatic encephalopathy).
  • Acute alcoholic hepatitis: As alcoholic hepatitis progresses, the above symptoms become more severe. Additional symptoms include bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, pain and tenderness in the Right Upper Quadrant, hepatomegaly or enlarged liver, malnutrition (due to poor appetite and the person getting most of his/her calories from alcohol), and spider angioma which is a vascular abnormality. The person may also show signs of alcohol withdrawal which include seizures, hallucinations, confusion, irregular heart-beat, high BP, sweating, nausea, vomiting, shaky or trembling hands, anxiety, insomnia, and headaches.
  • Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis): Alcohol damages liver cells as described in the paragraph above. The damage leads to inflammation, cell death (necrosis and eventually to fibrosis. The liver gets scarred as the result. They start replacing the normal healthy cells, as a result, several liver-cell functions get disrupted. This condition is called cirrhosis. Symptoms include muscle cramps, swollen tummy, loss of appetite, feeling unwell, vomiting blood, and itching.
  • Liver failure and death: As cirrhosis progresses, the scarring or fibrosis becomes severe and occupies the entire liver. The liver becomes hard and shrinks in size. This progresses towards total liver failure which often results in death.

Other Complications from ARLD

In addition to the conditions and symptoms listed above, alcohol-induced liver conditions can cause high BP in the blood vessels of the liver, or ‘portal hypertension’. Also, veins in the oesophagus and stomach can get enlarged (oesophageal varices) and start bleeding.

Treatment Options

Depending on the stage of the condition, family medical history, and symptoms are shown by the person, the doctors may choose one or more of the following:

  • Vitamin supplements: Both Vitamin-A and B- complex vitamins are low in alcoholics. So, the person may be put on a vitamin supplement program. This may be complemented by proper diet and nutrition, which can reduce some of the symptoms.
  • Abstinence and rehabilitation: The person may be referred to an alcoholic de-addiction center or program. Here, the person will abstain from alcohol, receive counseling, even as several aspects of his/her physical and mental health are monitored.
  • Liver transplant: If none of the above works, the only way to prevent liver failure and death is a liver transplant. However, there are challenges here too. Getting a matching liver may be difficult and one may have to go through a waiting list.

Outlook

It’s clear that good liver health is indispensable for the good overall health of a person. Alcohol is one of the culprits that can cause mild, moderate, or severe liver damage, necessitating a liver transplant. Like anything else in life, moderation in alcohol consumption is the only way to enjoy good physical and mental health.

If any of your dear ones have a drinking problem, educate them on the risks it poses to their liver. And if they are already showing any of the symptoms listed above, refer them to a reputed hospital. These hospitals have the best liver specialists in their rolls, along with access to counsellors and alcohol de-addiction centres. They will assess the extent of the problem and decide the best course of treatment for quick recovery and rehabilitation.

 

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Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur, Salem and Bengaluru, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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2 Comments

  1. Puneeth
    February 13, 22:55 #1 Puneeth

    Good read! I did not even know about many of these reasons!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Kavya
    May 10, 05:55 #2 Kavya

    Yes..good liver health is of great importance for one’s overall health. Thanks for this thoughtful article!

    Reply to this comment

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