We all know, Saturday is for the boys! But, how much do you know about the damaging effect long-term drinking has on your liver?
While a few drinks here and there, technically, won’t kill you (touch wood); bad habits can build up, and before you know it, your weekend blinders with the boys turn into hell on earth for your liver.
Yep, we all joke about our liver hating us for a heavy night on the turps, but the damage being done may be more shocking than you think.
To really understand what’s happening to your liver, after a big night out with the boys, you first need to understand…
The Role of Your Liver
The liver is a relatively large piece of organ meat, located above and to the right of your stomach.
It’s responsible for a number of important tasks, including:
- Metabolising and clearing the blood of drugs
- Blood clot regulation
- Cholesterol production
- Bile production: taking away waste and breaking down fats
- Immune system support
- Protein production for blood plasma
- Conversion of glucose to glycogen
- Storing glycogen
- Storing Iron
- Converting ammonia to urea
- Clearing bilirubin, which in high levels can lead to jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- And more!
In a nut shell, the liver’s main role is to filter blood from the digestive tract before passing a more purified version of it through your body.
Think of your body as if it were an airport, where your liver would be the customs officials: making sure unwanted chemicals or toxins don’t enter the blood stream.
Once the liver has worked its magic, it then sends the left-over waste products to be excreted either by – you guessed it, your…
- Poo (bile waste); or
- Pee (blood waste).
The Effect Alcohol Has on Your Liverd
As we mentioned earlier, your liver’s main role is to filter blood and rid your system of things that could be toxic to you.
And you know what? It’s damn good at it, too.
Your liver is actually quite capable of handling a moderate amount of alcohol...
So, the problem isn’t so much to do with alcohol, itself, but rather what happens to alcohol after it’s metabolised in the liver. Where it’s converted into something called acetaldehyde, a main contributor to hangovers and a group 1 carcinogen, being very toxic to the liver.
What This Means For Your Health
The results of heavy or long-term drinking on your liver are more severe than the supersonic hangover you’re familiar with, as it puts you at risk of…
Fatty liver disease
Your body knows that acetaldehyde is toxic and will try to get rid of it by burning it off like it would fat.
However, this now results in excess fat left over in the liver, leading to fatty liver disease. A condition with symptoms that can stay with you for the rest of your life, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Unplanned weight loss
- Physical weakness
If you suffer from fatty liver disease, further drinking can lead to another, more serious, condition called…
Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by excess inflammation in the liver. While it’s usually seen in heavy consistent drinkers; some moderate drinkers have also been known to develop this condition as well.
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Abdominal pain/tenderness
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
This terrible condition involves healthy tissues of the liver being replaced by scar tissue.
Alcoholic cirrhosis is an advanced form of liver disease and is often the next step after alcoholic hepatitis.
- Ease of bleeding and bruising
- Weight loss
- Testicular atrophy
- Irritated skin
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
- Red palms
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop there! As mentioned earlier, acetaldehyde is a devastating carcinogen, meaning toxic levels of it in your liver may lead to cancer …
A pretty morbid icing to the cake, don’t you think?
Steps You Can Take to Improve the Health of Your Liver
From the information above, it’s easy to see why you need to maintain the health of your liver, as best as you can.
While we’re not suggesting you become a monk, swearing off fun all together, we do have some simple tips that could really help protect and promote the health of your liver now and in the future.
- Drink in moderation and responsibly.
- Exercise and maintain a healthy body fat percentage.
- Avoid liver damaging supplements containing ingredients like ephedra, kava, chaparral, cascara and comfrey.
- Use a good supplement for liver support.
- Eat a healthy natural diet, rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Avoid contact with harsh chemicals.
- Avoid smoking, as some cigarette additives may harm your liver.
- Eat fatty fish or take supplements with a good Omega-3 to 6 ratio to help reduce excess inflammation.