7 Facts About How Alcohol Affects Your Liver

  1. Your liver is responsible for processing about 90% of the alcohol you consume. So, you can bank on your liver’s productivity during those drinking sessions!
  2. The processing of alcohol by your liver involves complex biochemical reactions. Alcohol is first converted to acetaldehyde and then to acetate. Acetate then enters your bloodstream and takes part in other metabolic processes.
  3. Your liver can successfully metabolize mild levels of alcohol. It can process an alcoholic beverage in one hour. But this comes at a cost — everytime your liver filters alcohol, some cells die. Fortunately, your liver has the ability to regenerate itself.
  4. When you drink more than your liver can handle, that’s when this productive friend starts to crumble. When your liver metabolizes alcohol, one of the by-products promotes the formation of triglycerides, a type of fat. This fat collects in the liver cells and can lead to fatty liver disease.
  5. If you consume abnormally high levels of alcohol, fatty liver disease is one of the earliest warning signs. It develops in about 90% of those who have more than 4–5 drinks a day. Even binge-drinking for several days in a row can fuel the deposition of fat in your liver cells. The good news is that fatty liver disease can be reversed if you stop drinking alcohol for a few weeks.
  6. But if you don’t heed the warning signs, you can develop alcoholic hepatitis. This is a more serious liver condition in which your liver cells become swollen and start to die, and your liver becomes inflamed. Mild alcoholic hepatitis can be reversed if you stop drinking for good. But severe alcoholic hepatitis can be life-threatening.
  7. When your excess alcohol consumption continues for a long time, your productive friend, the liver, reaches its breaking point. Normal liver tissue gets replaced by scar tissue. This compromises the network of blood vessels that supply the liver. This end-stage liver disease is called cirrhosis, which can ultimately lead to liver failure and even liver cancer.
Adapted from Alcoholic Liver Disease: Pathogenesis and Current Management

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