We all know that alcohol is bad for our livers but we rarely take the opportunity to explore why. Overall, alcohol is bad for your body, but your liver gets hit first. Here’s what happens when alcohol sucker punches your liver.
Why alcohol harms the liver
Alcohol is made primarily from ethanol, which your liver works hard on converting into acetic acid. The acetic acid gets converted again to a less toxic form called acetate. Acetate gets removed through urinating. Alcohol leaves the body in three ways: The kidneys remove five percent through urination. The lungs expel five percent and liver breaks downs the remaining. As you can see, the liver does the brunt of the work (90 percent) to break down and remove the alcohol.
While the liver is converting ethanol into acetate, it neglects some of its other major functions such as providing the body with glucose – blood sugar. Glucose is required for all major organs and systems in the body. For one, the brain requires glucose to function and stay focused. A lack of glucose can lead to symptoms of a hangover – feeling lethargic, headaches, nausea etc.
Over time, converting all that ethanol takes a toll on the liver. Fat can be deposited due to alcohol absorption, which can lead to fatty-liver disease. Inflammation can also occur as a response to the damage leading to alcoholic hepatitis.
Generally, the liver is a resilient, strong organ – it can still function if 70 percent of it is removed. But constant damage from alcohol over time can lead to cirrhosis, which is essentially a disease equivalent of kryptonite. The worse part is symptoms of cirrhosis only appear once the condition has progressed, meaning it is advanced and much harder to treat.
6 tips to keep your liver healthy
If the explanation on how alcohol affects your liver opened your eyes then here is the good news, you can now work towards practicing healthy lifestyle habits to boost your liver health. Here are some tips that can help your liver out and prevent serious liver disease from taking over.
- Eat healthy – consume plenty of fruits and vegetables and stay hydrated
- Limit your intake of toxins – don’t smoke, and try to avoid pollution when possible
- Limit or stop drinking – an occasional glass is fine, but no binge-drinking
- Exercise – it reduces cholesterol, which your liver is responsible for controlling
- Be mindful of medications – taking too many prescription or over-the-counter drugs can wreak havoc on your liver
- Get checked – getting an annual physical will document any changes to your liver and overall health.
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