Fatty Liver: Alcohol Damages Your Liver. Here is How!

Fatty Liver: Alcohol Damages Your Liver. Here is How!

About the Liver

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. Its name says it all, the Live-r meaning it gives life. The liver is responsible for producing many of the enzymes, hormones and proteins of the body. It is possibly the most important organ for life after the Heart and the lungs.

The Liver is also unique. It is the only organ which can regenerate itself. This is embodied in the Greek mythology of Prometheus. Prometheus was punished eternally and tied up to a mountain. And if that wasn’t cruel enough, his liver was eaten every day by an eagle but every night the liver would regenerate. Based, on this very unlikely tale, we know that Greeks had knowledge of the regenerative capacity of the liver.

Fatty liver

Like I explained in the details about the liver and its function, the liver also has a Detox function which is by producing proteins that act on the dangerous substances and convert them to harmless substances. Now, as the liver is in contact most often with the dangerous substances, it succumbs the most damage. In fact, the damage will start to appear as vacuoles in the liver cells. These vacuoles soon disappear after the damaging substance is withdrawn. One example is alcohol and stopping alcohol.

So what happens is that you consume alcohol which is carried into the intestine and taken up into the liver and starts some fatty liver and then when you stop it, the liver starts to recover.

Fatty liver takes a long time to develop and after a few years or even decades the symptoms start to surface-

  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory problems

Continued alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholic cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is when the liver is so damaged that it cannot grow back like Prometheus’s did. Instead, a fibrous tissue begins to take over the normal tissue and you get a liver that barely works. A non functional liver means that you get these problems:

  • Ascites or fluid in the abdomen
  • Bleeding because of loss of clotting proteins
  • Jaundice as the liver does not remove the bile
  • Leg swelling, weakness
  • and several other disorders

The Lab - Finding Out if You Have It

Most cases of Fatty liver go un-diagnosed as they have minimal symptoms till the advanced stages. It is usually picked up on a general check up. You may want to get checked up if you are regular and a heavy drinker. Anything more than 1 beer every day is over drinking. Here is how the Lab diagnosis Fatty liver:

Blood Tests –

The blood is tested in a Liver function test. The bilirubin levels are tested. Liver enzymes like ALP, AST, ALT and GGT are tested for. Raised levels indicate some diseases

Ultrasound –

An ultrasound is one of the best non-invasive ways to reach a diagnosis. This is especially important in people with fatty liver causing clotting problems.

Biopsy is the gold standard and confirms the diagnosis. The biopsied tissue is viewed under a microscope and a diagnosis is reached.

How Fatty Liver is Treated

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or even any normal drug that can reverse the damaged liver. If drinking too much is causing your problem, it may be time to become teetotaler. The excessive damage to your liver can be reversed after some time of stopping the alcohol drinking.

Also, modifying your diet to make it healthy will do wonders as well. Reducing high carb food will help you to lose weight. Also, you may benefit by reducing sports drinks that contain high sugars.

If these things are not helping you, you may want to see a Hematologist on our Website.

We hope that you have a healthy Liver!

Reviewed By:

Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)

Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad