Can the liver Heal itself from Alcohol Abuse?

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Can the Liver heal itself from Alcohol Abuse?

Yes. This is possible, however, its not always the case, because sometimes alcohol abuse can cause long term effects to your liver and regeneration may not be possible.

In this case, a liver transplant is the only treatment for your damaged liver.

Since the liver is one of the only regenerative body organs, it is likely going to physically reinstate itself to its earlier condition after you stop drinking alcohol.

Even then, this doesn’t mean the liver cannot develop illnesses due to excessive alcohol consumption.

If you drink alcohol regularly, you are at a significantly increased risk for developing liver diseases such as fatty liver disease or alcoholic fatty liver disease and other related liver failure complications, including liver cancer.

For this reason, when you are seeking addiction treatment, the doctor will always need to know how much drinking you have been doing.

They will do advance checks of your whole body, including alcoholic cirrhosis, liver damage, alcoholic hepatitis, liver fibrosis, mental health issues, etc.

All of these will help in understanding whether you suffer from any of the more serious alcohol dependency disorders.

When detected in the early stages, you may be allowed to sit it out and wait for your liver to naturally regenerate, or if the liver damage is too advanced, you may need liver transplant through transplant surgery.

This is an important process that helps in preventing cirrhosis related deaths. from excessive alcohol use. Additionally, it also helps prevent the development of advanced fatty liver disease in good time.

Can the Liver Repair Itself If You Stop Drinking?

Sometimes. This is a possibility. Some alcohol-related liver disease ARLD, can reverse itself once you quit drinking, but this has to be early enough when the disease has not progressed into conditions such as alcoholic fatty liver disease, and other liver diseases that are more advanced.

When the damage is more severe, the healing may take many months or it may need a transplant.

Fatty Liver disease is just the first stage in the liver disease process that may develop into more severe conditions.

As mentioned above, the only regenerative body organ is your liver. As part of liver function, it's constantly regenerating into a healthier liver.

Perhaps you are aware that there are some species of lizards that can regrow their tails. Your liver functions the same way. It can rebuild itself. If some part of your liver has been damaged and removed, it can grow back to its full size. However, since the liver is a vital organ, it is still important that we don't continue abusing alcohol and cause serious health problems while we're at it.

Actually how much alcohol you consume is what determines whether you will develop alcohol liver disease, or other liver diseases like alcohol hepatitis and liver fibrosis. You should seek to either stop drinking alcohol altogether, or try moderate drinking of up to one drink a day.

How Does the Liver Repair Itself?

One of the reasons for this unique feature comes from what this organ does in your body. Since the liver's main job is to filter, it meets several chemicals and toxins. As the word suggests, dealing with "toxins" isn't exactly a walk in the park for your liver, especially not when the liver has to work extra hard for processing alcohol.

In fact, some of these toxins can cause serious harm once they meet with cells. Thus, the simple nature of the liver work - handling these hazardous toxins - means that it must regenerate independently, all the time.

What Do Your Liver Cells Do?

The primary function of the liver cells in your body is to filter blood from the digestive tract before going to other parts of the body. The liver is the biggest organ in the digestive system, weighing about 3lbs and its main job is to detox chemicals and toxins which pass through the body.

Unfortunately, this also metabolizes alcohol and drugs which can lead to alcohol related liver disease.

This happens because the liver also produces bile, an enzyme that helps your body in proper digestion.

In addition to that, the liver secretes a protein that is essential to blood clotting. If your liver is not in excellent physical condition, your body cannot work as it should be. So, Liver health is vital to your well-being and overall health.

What Happens if Your Liver Cannot work?

When the liver does not function properly, it means that its not eliminating toxins from your body, neither is it helping with proper digestion, many nasty health issues will come out. This is what we call liver damage.

For most people who suffer from heavy alcohol use, or heavy weight issues, or addition to prescription drugs, their livers work too hard, which can affect its functioning.

However, by the time they start identifying the common symptoms of alcoholic fatty liver disease, or alcoholic hepatitis, they liver has probably suffered from severe liver damage.

This therefore means that the cells in the liver cannot function the way they are supposed to. If enough scar tissue develops, it can be very difficult for the liver to go back to the state it was in before the alcohol abuse began.

This means that Not only will they be at risk for liver diseases but the alcohol abuse will also leave them exposed to getting sick frequently as their liver won't be functioning how it's supposed to.

Many serious alcohol users get advice on how risky alcohol is to their liver at some point during their alcohol abuse.

Nevertheless, alcoholics do not care and instead go on drinking. Sad to say, the liver will sustain the beating and becomes harmed. After a couple of years of processing a vast amount of alcohol substance, it often no longer works properly.

After your addiction treatment at an alcohol rehab clinic, you need to be very carefully especially ensuring that you consume a healthy diet at all times, and taking care of your mental health because a healthy weight will help with maintaining a healthy liver.

Is Liver Disease a concern after sobriety?

After treatment for severealcohol abuse at an alcohol rehab clinic, one of the things a recovering alcoholic is usually concerned with is whether or not they developed an alcoholic liver disease such as alcoholic cirrhosis, or alcoholic hepatitis, and they should therefore visit a doctor once they sober up.

It's no secret that alcohol affects the proper functioning of the liver, which includes cleansing your body from toxins and chemicals. When addicted to alcohol abuse, then the liver will be working overtime to process wine, liquor as well as beer.

Abstaining from alcohol, keeping hydrated, and eating foods and healthy oils that are good for the liver will allow you to reverse the effects of alcoholism. But, as mentioned above, it can repair itself after decades of consuming alcohol.

Alcohol-Related Liver Disease or ARLD Overview

People usually take alcohol for leisure, but are unaware of the kind of harm it has on their bodies, especially when consumed in excess.

If more than 14 units of alcohol are taken weekly over a couple of years, it can lead to irreversible harm to your liver, even when consumed once or twice a week. (1)

Three Stages of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease ARLD

Alcohol can cause damage to the liver in three phases or stages such as:

Initial Stage

In the initial stage, alcohol-dependent will develop fatty liver- this refers to the build-up of fat in cells within the liver that happens because alcohol gets metabolized and the fat production. It happens readily to obese people, sedentary as well as following an unhealthy diet.

Alcoholic Hepatitis Stage

The second stage is called alcoholic hepatitis. This usually takes place if you keep on drinking. This is because of the swelling of the cells, and at this point, you will have abnormal blood test results.

Alcoholic hepatitis will only develop after decades of drinking or suffering from alcohol use disorder when very young.

Alcoholic cirrhosis

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the third stage of ARLD. It occurs after so many years of detrimental drinking. In an early stage after hepatitis, the cells within the liver begin to die, which results in fibrosis or excess tissues and scarring of the liver cells.

At that point, your liver will start to become stiff with decreased elasticity, creates nodules, and the shape becomes distorted, and the size will shrink as well.

What is the Best Advice to Keep Away from ARLD?

Too much and prolonged alcohol use is what results in the damage of your liver. Mild drinking with two or more alcohol-free - a few days a week mush minimizes the damage as well as to be within a safe limit; you must not consume over 14 units of alcohol weekly it doesn't matter if you are a female or female and keep away binge drinking because it can harm your liver.

On the other hand, even in a small amount, alcohol use may be harmful if an individual is obese, experiencing conditions like diabetes, and has an unhealthy lifestyle.

For those with these features, even drinking alcohol less than 14 units might damage the liver; hence to avoid ARLD, you must avoid too much drinking of alcohol and instead follow a healthy living.

What Liver Damages Due to Too Much Alcohol is Reversible?

Problematic alcohol consumption typically causes three kinds of liver damage, including fatty liver, which is reversible. Your liver can recover from this disease on its own if you stop drinking. However, if you continue drinking despite having fatty liver, it can lead to hepatitis.

This is considered a fatal disease that usually needs medical treatment and self-help treatments like a healthy balanced diet that nourishes the liver. Letting the liver get back from damage due to too much alcohol consumption is one of the many perks of quitting this substance.

If you have taken alcohol for many years, you will have had many warnings from the doctor about liver cirrhosis. This is one of the commonly diagnosed diseases due to alcoholism which is considered the most fatal. For decades of drinking alcohol, fibrosis can spread drastically. And since liver cells in this scarring do not do any jobs other than a barrier, in general, becomes less capable of doing its work in filtering toxins and chemicals.

Thus, chemicals do not get processed and accumulate in your body; bile is not generated as fast as possible, a protein that assists the blood clot is not produced as readily, and other serious issues can occur. Cirrhosis shows up due to another disorder related to your liver. 

This condition is irreversible; however, the development of this condition can be hindered by some treatment.

What Are the Recognizable Signs of Cirrhosis?

Some recognizable signs of cirrhosis are as follows:

  • Blood capillaries are visible on your skin on the upper portion of the stomach.
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Loss of bodyweight
  • Pain or tenderness 
  • Blotching or red palms
  • Weakness

When cirrhosis development to more severe levels, it can bring many symptoms as well.

These symptoms may include:

  • Personality change
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Bleeding gums
  • Difficulties processing of drugs as well as alcohol
  • Lost mass in your upper arms and the entire body in general
  • Confusion
  • Mental health issues.
  • Fluid build-up on feet, ankles as well as legs, also called edema
  • Hair loss
  • Dizziness
  • Higher susceptibility to bruising
  • Jaundice
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Whites of the eyes
  • Loss of libido or sex drive
  • Memory problems
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • Nosebleeds
  • Breathlessness
  • Stools become tarry and black, or very pale
  • Dark urine
  • Vomiting blood
  • Difficulties with mobility and walking

How Fast Can Liver Heal Itself?

As mentioned above, the liver is the only body organ that can regenerate itself. After hepatectomy, which is a procedure to eliminate some portions of your liver, it can support your body regenerating. As a result, your liver can regenerate fast.

Once a Tylenol overdose demolishes 50 to 60 per cent of cells during a 3 to 4 day, your liver can repair and fix itself in just a matter of one month, if there is no occurrence of other complication, this is according to results conducted by University of Iowa Health Care System.

Once alcohol harms your liver, it tries to cure itself. Some cases can get back from sporadic alcohol use. On the other hand, chronic alcohol consumption will hinder the process of healing.

This disturbance or interruption causes swelling as well as the occurrence of scar tissue. Your liver cannot eliminate scar tissues and reproduce healthy liver cells.

That is why a liver transplant is advised for those who are undergoing severe cirrhosis. This is considered the best treatment available.

The National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism reported that the survival rates for those suffering from liver complications related to alcohol consumption that undergoes transplants are like those suffering from non-alcoholic liver disorder.

In addition, the rate of alcohol relapse amongst patients with liver disease related to alcohol is low. You can keep yourself safe and sound from liver issues by drinking moderately and responsibly, eating a good diet, working out as well as keeping away from harmful substances.

Things You Can Do to Aid Liver Recovery:

There are things you can do in addition to stopping alcohol to help get your liver back to the shape that it was in before it had to deal with copious amounts of alcohol misuse.

Here are some of the common ways to aid the recovery from liver damage:

  • Stay hydrated

Drinking water helps with your liver damage.

  • Make sure you're eating a well balanced diet according to your body weight

A well balanced diet or a healthy diet tends to be the answer to most issues, so, with liver damage, after alcohol use disorder treatment, this will strongly be recommended by the doctors.

  • Take care of your physical health by exercising regularly

This is another very strong point, regardless of the condition. Exercising regularly is great.

  • Don't ignore any physical symptoms of withdrawal

Address mental health issues at the core instead of picking up drinks or thinking you can adjust with moderate drinking.

  • Seek help immediately if you need it

For those with a history of alcoholism, binge drinking, and drinking more alcohol than is needed, stopping or quitting alcohol is considered the most helpful thing they can do to keep away from future liver problems.

If you want to more about the danger of alcohol on your liver or get advice on treating a damaged liver due to alcohol, feel free to visit our clinics.

We are always happy to help with alcohol addiction and mental health issues.

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Last Updated: November 8, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.