Liver diseases and alcohol are connected. The liver is one of the most complex and the largest internal organ of the human body. It performs about 500 different roles, like converting food into energy, helping the body get rid of waste, and fighting infections.
And yet, you would not get to know that your liver is damaged, until things get serious. Liver damage remains unnoticed for a long time because of the regenerating and repairing capabilities of the liver. The liver can function normally even with about 80 percent damage. Often by the time liver diseases are diagnosed, the damage is irreversible. Dr. JS Bhogal, Sr. Consultant, Gastroenterology, Fortis Noida talks about liver diseases related to alcohol consumption.
Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of liver diseases. Most of the alcohol is metabolized in the liver. During the process, harmful substances are produced that can damage the liver. However, the liver can recover from mild damages thanks to its repairing capabilities. But if a person continues to drink too much alcohol, it can even lead to death.
There are three stages of alcohol-related liver diseases (ARLD) – alcoholic fatty liver, acute alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. In the first stage (fatty liver), the fat starts accumulating around the liver. This can be cured by avoiding alcohol. During the second stage (acute hepatitis) the liver starts swelling. In this stage, too much damage can even lead to liver failure. Once in third and the most severe stage of ARLD, cirrhosis the damage cannot be reversed. It can also lead to liver failure.
What counts as drinking too much?
It is important to understand that to what level it is comparatively less risky to consume alcohol. For that people must know how much alcohol they are consuming through their alcoholic beverage. Beers generally contain 2 to 7 percent of alcohol, wines 10 percent to 15 percent, and hard liquors contain 40 – 45 percent of alcohol content. Therefore hard liquors are considered to be most harmful.
When it comes to alcohol and liver diseases, the damage caused to both men and women is different. Women are more vulnerable to liver diseases. Women are at risk if they consume half the quantity of what men are prescribed as safe.
In the case of men, the risk increases if they consume more than 1½ ounce of alcohol per day. 1½ ounce of alcohol means drinking approximately 3 cans of beer / 3 glasses of wine / 3 shots of hard liquor. If a man drinks more than 3 ounces of alcohol a day for 10 years, he is likely to develop cirrhosis.
As discussed before, alcohol is more harmful to women than men. The risk increases in women as their digestive system can process less alcohol, which increases the amount of alcohol that reaches the liver. For women, if they consume more than ¾ ounce of alcohol per day, they are at risk of developing alcohol-related liver diseases.