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The liver is a vital organ of the body responsible for eliminating toxins and waste substances from the body. It also produces bile to help with food digestion and participate in other crucial body functions. As the body’s largest internal organ, the liver possesses excellent self-healing properties, which means that it can repair its damaged parts despite securing years of exposure to toxic agents like alcohol.
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Alcohol is one of the primary substances that target and badly damage the liver. When an individual consumes a drink, most of its alcoholic content goes straight to the liver, while a small amount excretes out of the body through urine, sweat, and breath. As the liver processes the alcohol, the beverage can cause severe damage to the organ’s cells and major enzymes. While occasional drinking is not enough to trigger this damage, regular alcohol use can lead to major liver complications. Fortunately, abstaining from alcohol can allow the organ to heal. Educating yourself about the signs your liver is healing from alcohol is critical to monitor this progress.
When to Quit Drinking: Signs Alcohol is Harming Your Liver
Alcohol consumption is a tricky phenomenon, and while many people can easily develop an addiction to it, only a handful of them know how to get out of it. These difficulties are because everyone has a different experience with alcohol, and its impact on daily life is similarly variable. Alcohol may not always be bad for the liver, especially for people who consume it occasionally for fun. However, the emergence of the following symptoms may indicate that the beverage has started harming your liver and requires monitoring:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Yellowed eyes or skin (jaundice)
- Numbness in hands, feet, or both
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Excessively sleepy fatigue or weakness
If a person ignores these warning signs and continues to engage in heavy drinking, the underlying liver disease may progress to a higher level, leading to the following additional signs:
- Stomach pain
- Severe itching
- Breathing problems, such as wheezing and coughing up blood
- Weight loss
- Darker urine
- Seizures or coma
- Pale-colored stool
- A swollen, tender abdomen
As soon as you start noticing these symptoms, seek immediate medical help. Choosing to ignore these warning signs and engaging in alcohol use can cause rapid progression of the underlying liver disease, sometimes to the extent that reversal may become impossible.
Top 10 Signs Your Liver is Healing From Alcohol
If you notice that your liver is securing damage secondary to excessive alcohol consumption, reducing the daily intake or quitting altogether might be the best way to contain it before it becomes irreversible. Limiting alcohol intake can lead to many noticeable positive changes in your liver and overall health. Following are the top ten signs your liver is healing from alcohol-related damage:
Elevated energy levels
Diminished liver health and function can downregulate the body’s metabolic process, which, in turn, may make you feel sluggish and tired. As the organ heals, you feel more energetic and upbeat.
Better body weight regulation
The negative effects of alcohol on the liver can interfere with body weight regulation. This is why many people with damaged liver experience weight loss as their bodies continue to develop nutritional imbalances. A healthy liver, on the other hand, helps maintain good body weight.
The liver also plays a crucial role in digestion by producing bile, a liquid that converts fat into energy the body can utilize to drive different activities. When the liver heals in the absence of alcohol, food and nutrients digestion becomes easier. This leads to a noticeable improvement in everyday appetite.
Normal eye and skin color
Alcohol-triggered liver damage can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes due to a condition that causes jaundice. Jaundice occurs as the liver is unable to properly process red blood cells and their breakdown. When alcohol gets out of the picture, liver health improves, and the organ can regulate the red blood cells breakdown more efficiently. Hence, the yellow tinge may slowly diminish with time.
Balanced glucose levels
Prolonged alcohol intake can disrupt blood sugar levels in different ways. Moderate consumption spikes these sugars, whereas a heavy session can bring them down. Quitting the beverage once and for all can avoid these dips and spikes and help the blood sugar return to normal.
Improved blood clotting
Alcohol can mess with the body’s ability to produce platelets, a type of blood cell that forms clots and stop bleeding. When the number of platelets reduces, an individual is more likely to bruise, and their wounds may take an extended time to heal. Additionally, this condition can also put a person at a higher risk of acquiring internal injuries. Quitting alcohol can re-optimize the production of platelets to minimize this risk.
Improved liver function
The liver’s job is to expel all toxic substances, including alcohol, from the body. As excessive alcohol messes with this organ’s functions, it leads to a toxin buildup in the body. On the other hand, quitting alcohol can reduce this buildup, leading to full liver restoration and improved health.
Long-term alcohol use can trigger painful inflammation secondary to conditions like alcoholic hepatitis. A reduction in this pain is one of the major signs your liver is healing from alcohol.
Improved mental alertness
As your liver heals from long-term alcohol exposure, its effects on brain health and overall cognition slowly begin to lighten. As a result, users may feel more alert and focused with minimal brain fog.
One of the liver’s jobs is to detect and kill all viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens in the body. Excessive alcohol intake can interfere with this system, making a person more susceptible to falling sick. However, when you quit alcohol and allow your body to heal, liver health restores and re-strengthens the immune system. As a result, you may fall sick less often than before.
Tips to Optimize Your Liver’s Healing Process
If your liver has sustained damage due to alcohol use, there are certain steps you can take to optimize its recovery process. These tips are mentioned below in detail:
Stop drinking alcohol or limit its use
Removing the offending trigger is the best way to stop any further liver damage and optimize its recovery. For drinkers, this offending agent is alcohol, and it will continue to destroy the liver cells unless you do something to minimize or completely stop its use. Even if you are unable to completely quit cold turkey, reducing its use can also be a big step towards healing the liver. In certain cases, such as alcoholic hepatitis, quitting immediately is the only option to save the organ.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
To fully restore liver structure and function, it is imperative to choose a healthier lifestyle. Hence, focus on eating a liver-friendly diet with fruits, fiber, lean protein, ginger, green tea, and coffee. Reduce your daily intake of unhealthy fat, salt, sugars, and processed foods and focus on maintaining a healthy weight by staying physically active and eating appropriate portions.
Protect yourself from infections
Certain viral infections, such as hepatitis, can significantly damage liver health and mess with its self-healing properties. Make sure to reduce your risk of acquiring these infections by getting vaccinated, avoiding using unsterilized sharp objects, not sharing personal items, and practicing safe sex.
Be careful about your medications
Certain medicines, such as statins, NSAIDs, phenytoin, and Tylenol, can put unnecessary strain on the liver, especially if you are using them too much. Moreover, certain herbal supplements advertised as liver-friendly, such as ephedra and kava, may also damage the organ. Hence, pay attention to the medications you use and avoid taking unnecessary pills to protect the liver.
Go for regular medical checkups
Make appointments with your doctor regularly so that they can assess and monitor your liver health. These regular checks can also help doctors catch any liver issues early and manage them before they become serious.
How much alcohol can lead to liver damage?
As per research, the extent of damage to the liver due to alcohol can vary depending on personal factors, such as gender, genetics, size, weight, and other underlying health conditions. Compared to men, women absorb more alcoholic content from each drink which puts them at a higher risk of acquiring liver disease. In general, consuming two to three drinks per day can trigger widespread in the liver. Moreover, binge drinking up to five drinks in one go can also harm the organ’s health. Scientists speculate that consumption of 40 grams of alcohol every day can elevate a person’s risk of acquiring liver cirrhosis. Alcoholic hepatitis is more common in those who have been drinking excessively for a few years. Cirrhosis, on the other hand, occurs in people with more than ten years of drinking.
Is the liver capable of healing itself?
The liver is a miraculous organ with a natural ability to heal itself. Liver cells can work on repairing the damage acquired due to trauma or injury and replace any damaged tissue with new cells instead of forming a scar. Research speculates that the liver can replace up to half of the damaged cells within days without any symptoms or complications. However, remember that this self-healing power of the liver may reduce if it keeps getting exposed to damaging agents, such as alcohol.
How long does it take for the liver to fully heal?
The liver may start healing itself within days once you stop consuming alcohol. However, the speed at which this healing process takes place can vary depending on how much alcohol you have been drinking and for how long. Other lifestyle choices can also determine the speed of the healing process. In general, those who occasionally consume large amounts of alcohol can avoid permanent damage if they avoid alcohol for two to four weeks. A 30-day timeframe with no alcohol is generally enough for liver cells to restore their health. However, heavy users may require up to 12 months of abstinence for the liver to restore its normal functioning. In some cases, the liver may not be able to fully heal, such as when it has acquired cirrhosis.
Will liver detox drinks help the liver heal?
Liver detox drinks are becoming quite popular these days, claiming to restore liver health within days completely, naturally, and effectively. However, scientists do not have enough evidence to support these claims. Remember that the liver can detox itself and does not require any help from a detox drink. In some cases, these drinks may end up harming the organ instead of helping it heal.
Can the liver go back to normal after drinking?
With a unique ability to regenerate its damaged cells, the liver can go back to its normal health and size even if alcohol has destroyed more than 50% of its structure. However, do not consider it an invincible organ as its regenerative properties have a limit and cannot mend the damage, especially if the damage progresses to an advanced stage.
What happens to a 5 weeks no alcohol liver?
A person who practices complete abstinence for 5 weeks gives their liver a chance to return to its normal function. This restoration may come at a cost for heavy drinkers, with several withdrawal symptoms making the process difficult. These symptoms may include irritability, mood swings, anxiety, appetite changes, and difficulty sleeping.
What does a 20 days no alcohol liver look like?
The liver enzymes generally take 30 days to return to their normal levels following alcohol abstinence. However, some people may notice these improvements even before this time. So by the end of 40 days following complete sobriety, your liver should be working at an optimal level with baseline liver function tests.