One of the most severe side effects of alcoholism is liver damage. The link between liver damage and heavy alcohol use has been known for more than 200 years. The liver suffers the most damage because it is responsible for alcohol metabolism.
If you have made the courageous decision to get sober, you may be wondering how long it will take your liver to recover. The good news: the liver is a regenerative organ. It can repair itself over time. The sooner you stop drinking, the quicker you can start this process.
Let’s learn more about how alcohol affects the liver, the damage that can be done and the steps you can take to heal this regenerative organ.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Liver?
The liver has many roles, and one of them is removing toxins from the body. The liver also stores vitamins and iron, breaks down hemoglobin, destroys old blood cells and converts stored sugar into functional sugar. When the liver is healthy, it works hard to carry out its jobs. Unfortunately, when you introduce alcohol into the body, the liver has to work harder.
Alcohol dehydrates the body, forcing the liver to pull water from other sources to function properly. Also, the liver produces a toxin called acetaldehyde, which is created when alcohol is broken down in the liver. This toxin can damage liver cells and cause scarring. Continued stress on the organ can also lead to fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver.
Tips for Healing the Liver
As soon as you stop drinking, your liver can begin recovering. How long this process takes is different for everyone. It could take a few months or a few years. Fortunately, your liver is always in a state of regeneration. Here are the best things you can do – aside from not drinking – to continue the healing process.
Eat a healthy diet (plant-based is preferable)
Drink a lot of water
Lose weight if you are overweight
Avoid processed foods, sugars and saturated fats
Pay attention to your medications
Limit contact with other toxins (i.e., spray paints, insecticides)
Some liver damage is permanent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t restore yourself back to good health. Work with your doctor, who will measure your liver enzymes and ensure that you are moving in the right direction.
Are you ready to get clean and sober? Call The River Source to start an integrative treatment program that addresses an alcohol addiction as well as any co-occurring conditions.