Research has uncovered a link between alcoholic liver disease and vitamin A. Researchers conducted a number of experiments on different groups of mice. Some rodents received food with alcohol, and some food without alcohol. Researchers examined enzymes in the liver and other organs like the kidneys, heart, and lungs in mice and measured their levels of vitamin A.
Researchers found that the mice that were fed food containing alcohol alcohol handled vitamin A differently. Low vitamin A levels were seen in the liver, but they were higher in other tissues of the body. The findings then reveal that vitamin A is strongly associated with alcoholic liver disease. Researchers suggest this link is important to the development of alcoholic liver disease treatment.
Alcoholic liver disease facts
The name really describes it all – alcoholic liver disease is a condition that affects the liver due to alcohol consumption. It is caused by excessive, long-term drinking. Alcohol in high amounts causes the liver to become inflamed, which leads to scarring of the liver. This, in turn, can result in cirrhosis, the final stage of alcoholic liver disease. Although alcoholic liver disease does not necessarily occur in all chronic alcohol drinkers, the risk of development does increase the longer a person consumes alcohol and the more they consume.
Depending on the stage of the alcohol liver disease, symptoms can include:
- Pain and swelling in the abdomen region
- Decrease in appetite and weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth and increased thirst
- Redness on feet or hands
- Problems with thinking, memory, concentration
- Numbness of legs or feet
Tips to prevent and manage alcoholic liver disease
Even if you don’t consume alcohol to the point of getting drunk, if you partake in chronic alcohol consumption you are setting up your liver for disease. If you want to protect your liver and prevent alcoholic liver disease, here are some tips to follow:
- Drink in moderation – Healthy adults should only consume one drink a day, or two drinks if you’re a male under the age of 65. Even though these amounts are recommended, you should still avoid alcohol on a daily basis.
- Read medication labels – Find out if they suggest any interactions with alcohol. Alcoholic liver disease can greatly worsen if alcohol is consumed with medications.
- Get the hepatitis shot – Hepatitis C in particular can lead to cirrhosis. If you have the virus and drink, you put yourself at higher risk to develop cirrhosis. Ensure you have received your vaccines against hepatitis.
- When drinking socially, don’t try to “keep up” with the group – Everyone has a different level for alcohol, so know your limit and stay within it. Additionally, it is best to alternate an alcoholic beverage with water. Not only will this prevent becoming drunk, but it reduces the amount of alcohol your liver has to break down.
- One form of alcohol isn’t “safer” for your liver than another – You may think a small glass of wine is better than a bottle of beer, but all forms of alcohol take a toll on your liver and body.
Even if you don’t wish to give up alcohol entirely, drinking smart can still protect your liver from developing alcoholic liver disease.
Side effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the liver
Alcoholic liver disease isn’t the only side effect of chronic alcohol consumption. Even in the short term, excessive alcohol consumption can have some serious side effects on the body as a whole:
- Brain: Alcohol can affect the way the brain looks and how it works. Mood and behavior can be altered with excessive alcohol consumption.
- Heart: Alcohol can affect the heart by causing arrhythmias (irregular heart beat) and cardiomyopathy (stretching and dropping of the heart). It can also contribute to stroke and raise blood pressure.
- Liver: Alcohol effects on the liver include alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver disease, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- Pancreas: Alcohol effects on the pancreas prompt the production of toxins, which can result in pancreatitis.
- Cancer: Chronic alcohol consumption has been linked with mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast cancer.
- Immune system: Alcohol can weaken the immune system, making the body more prone to illness and disease. Chronic alcohol drinkers are more prone to pneumonia and tuberculosis. Additionally, a single occasion of drinking can impair the immune system for up to 24 hours.
Other adverse effects of vitamin A levels on the body
Vitamin A is commonly found in many fruits and vegetables. In women, vitamin A can be used to treat heavy menstrual cycles, premenstrual syndrome, vaginal infections, and yeast infections. In males, vitamin A is used to maintain a healthy sperm count. Vitamin A has also been used in the treatment of eye disorders, skin rashes like eczema, and in gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease.
When vitamin A is consumed in a healthy diet, it is safe and helps the body, but excessive amounts of vitamin A can lead to adverse effects, which include:
- Bleeding in the lungs
- Blurry vision
- Bone pain
- Breathing difficulty
- Changes in immune function
- Chronic inflammation of the liver
- Cracked fingernails
- Cracked lips
- Decreased thyroid function
- Fluid around the heart
- Feeling of fullness
- Hair loss
- High cholesterol
- Muscle pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Skin irritation
- Sore eyes
- Respiratory infection
High dosages of vitamin A in a short amount of time can lead to toxicity – although rare. Individuals with liver disease are at a higher risk for toxicity due to vitamin A.
If you’re concerned about your vitamin A levels, it’s best you speak with a doctor prior to taking supplements or herbs which may contain vitamin A in high amounts.
Related: Can you live without a pancreas?