Alcohol and Your Liver
How regular or heavy drinking can affect the liver
Your liver is one of the body’s vital organs and it performs many important functions. For most people it tolerates regular light to moderate drinking. If you abuse your liver, however, with years of continuous, heavy drinking, the damage to your liver can be serious and even permanent.
The role of your liver
Your liver has four important roles:
- The first is to convert the food you eat into substances to sustain your body’s growth and function;
- Secondly it makes and exports substances for use by your body;
- Thirdly it breaks down drugs for your body’s use; and
- Fourthly it converts toxic substances into forms that your body can expel.
Alcohol’s affect on the liver
If you are regularly drinking to excess you may develop a fatty liver. This may adversely affect your liver function. If you reduce your drinking, or stop altogether, however, your liver can recover.
If you continue to regularly drink heavy or excessive amounts of alcohol your liver may become inflamed causing Alcoholic Hepatitis. This can result in liver failure and death. Alcoholic Hepatitis is reversible if you stop drinking alcohol. However, continued drinking may then permanently scar and damage your liver, resulting in Liver Cirrhosis. This can be treated but is not reversible, and it increases your risk of Liver Cancer. If you stop drinking alcohol at this stage you may avoid liver failure and/or Liver Cancer.
Light to moderate alcohol consumption of one (1) to two (2) standard alcoholic drinks per day is not usually associated with liver damage. However, the amount of alcohol it takes to damage the liver varies greatly between individuals and women are more susceptible to liver damage than men.
The key message is that the more you drink the greater your risk of liver damage. If you suffer from a liver disease such as Hepatitis B or C and the genetic disorder Haemochromatosis, consuming alcohol increases your risk of developing Liver Cirrhosis. Individuals with Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis may in the longer term develop Liver Cancer.