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Alcoholic Liver Disease- The reality of drinking
Alcohol is hepatoxic!
The Reality of Alcohol
Alcohol, some would consider (myself included) one, if not the most dangerous drugs available. Legally available. Everywhere you go alcohol is in your face. Each year millions of people young and old are affected and die from liver-related damage due to alcohol consumption. It's stated that liver disease ranks somewhere between the 9-12th leading cause of death in the USA, and Europe. People in their 20's and 30's are dying from alcohol-induced liver damage! Most people don't want to talk about this or address the reality of it. The media, liquor MFG's, and various governments tout that alcohol is safe when consumed in reasonable quantities. The truth is, no one knows that to be true, just like with many other toxic (legal or illegal) substance. You don't have to be a raging alcoholic for ALD to get you.
Alcoholism is a progressive, depressive, destructive disease. Alcohol transforms people you love into someone you don't even recognize. It shreds marriages, relationships, jobs, and health. As with any addiction, first you lose your spiritual health, then your mental health, then your physical health. If you know a problem drinker, talk to them, NOW. Don't wait. Suggest and encourage help and recovery, before it is to late.
The reality of Alcoholic Liver Disease is that it will destroy your mind and body and put you into a very early grave. ALD is a huge burden for the patient, it stresses community resources, burdens families and is a horrible disease to witness someone die from.
ALD is not the only physical problem from drinking. Alcohol takes a toll on every part of the body. It causes premature aging, heart disease(s), pancreatic illness, impotence, multi-organ failure, and mental illness.
A very sick liver.
Another victim of this horrible disease
- How I Lost My Alcoholic Sister For Good | The Fix
When you share so much with your sister, how can you rationalize that she's a dying alcoholic and you're not? One writer looks back, two and a half years after she was left behind.
The Liver and Alcoholic Liver Disease
Next to the brain and heart, the liver is one of the most important organs in your body. It performs 500-2000 bodily functions and is REQUIRED for survival. It is the 2nd largest organ in the body, next to the skin. The liver is also the biggest filter your body has to remove and process toxins from the blood. The reality is, alcohol consumption puts tremendous strain on the liver and will kill liver cells. If consumption is done long enough, or excessively (binge drinking) the liver cells begin to die. Without the liver, life ends. And not in a peaceful way.
You don't have to be a raging alcoholic to develop liver disease. Alcohol and addiction affect everyone differently, it all depends on how your body processes the poison. Women tend to be affected worse from Alcoholic Liver Disease than men. In the majority of cases, the liver will regenerate when the aggravation (alcohol) is removed. The liver is capable of amazing repair and regeneration if given the chance to heal. Even after 70% of its mass has been destroyed, the organ can still function, albeit not effectively. If the conditions that cause the destruction have been removed, the liver usually can bounce back. Other times the damage is so severe that the liver cannot regenerate, which will progress to Cirrhosis or liver cancer. The goal with any type of liver disease is to slow or stop its progression. If your liver disease is caused by drinking, you must stop consuming alcohol. Period. Once the liver is damaged beyond repair, a liver transplant is the only option left for survival. Getting a new liver is not an easy task and people that need a liver from alcohol abuse are often the last candidates. They also require time frames of abstinence and sobriety before being eligible. And sometimes, depending on the stage of the disease and the current state of health, people are not always considered.
How do you know if your Liver is damaged from alcohol?
Most of the time you won't know. The symptoms of liver damage are very vague and often mistaken for other ailments. Unless you have specific liver function tests done, the damage is usually not detected until it has very seriously damaged your body. Do you know why you get a hangover? It's because your liver is sluggish and can't get the poison of ethanol and Acetaldehyde out of your system. Alcohol is toxic!
The first warnings of a liver that is struggling to perform;
- Fatty liver (this is when too much fat is in the liver and blood cannot travel through it)
- Dull pain in the right shoulder or near the right rib cage
- General sickness and fatigue
- Vomiting (especially in the morning), dry-wretching
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes, itching
As damage increases to liver cells more serious complications start to occur which can lead to Cirrhosis or liver cancer.
- Easily bruising
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Fluid accumulation in the tummy, legs, and feet (Ascites and edema)
- Varices (varicose veins that cause internal bleeding)
- Spider angiomas
- Vomiting blood (SEEK EMERGENCY CARE)
- Muscle wasting, malnutrition, and anorexia
- Dark urine (looks like coffee or rusty water)
- Blood in the stools (SEEK EMERGENCY CARE)
- Pale stools that "float" in the toilet bowl
- Hair loss
- Finger clubbing
- Unexplained itchy skin
- Portal Hypertension
- Confusion, memory loss, mood changes (Liver HE)
- Loss of balance, falling, unsteady gait
- Sometimes pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, where the liver is located
- Sometimes pain in the left upper quadrant when the spleen is also damaged
- Kidney failure
How can you cleanse, protect and heal your liver?
A few things can be done to protect and help your liver recover as long as you do not have irreversible liver damage. If you have irreversible liver damage, consult your GP and Specialist care team before doing any of the following.
Heal and treat your liver well.
- Stop drinking alcohol (all kinds)
- Do not smoke, or quit smoking.
- Be mindful of every product you put on your skin. The more natural the better. Coconut oil can cover almost all skincare needs without hurting your liver. Everything you put on your skin is eventually processed by your liver.
- Avoid taking OTC pain relievers, especially Tylenol, or take only when absolutely needed. This goes for nearly every type of pain reliever and cold medication.
- Drink plenty of water with fresh lemon or lime juice, citrus fruits help detox the liver.
- Reduce the amount of fried fatty foods in your diet, and lose weight if you are overweight.
- Consider taking supplements and herbs shown to improve liver function; Turmeric, Milk Thistle, Alpha-lipoic Acid, dandelion root, a good B complex, Vitamin C, and Branch-Chain Amino Acids.
- Decrease protein acquired from meat. Plant proteins are not as hard on the liver.
- Increase the intake of the following foods; vegetables; spinach, leafy greens, kale, romaine, bitter melon, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, Brussels sprouts, avocado, apples, olive oil, coconut oil, flax-seed oil, beats, carrots, green tea, citrus fruit, grapefruit, whole grains, walnuts, and cabbage. All of these have been shown to help cleanse the liver.
- Niacin vitamin B3 has shown to help with recovery from addictions, but if you have current liver damage do not take it. B3 is a hepatoxic vitamin. Consult a GP before taking.
Private AA online
What to do if you suspect you have liver impairment
- Stop drinking alcohol, seek treatment if you cannot quit on your own. Join a support group such as AA, or seek medically monitored detox assistance. You must stop drinking! Period.
- Do not take OTC pain medications, especially Tylenol.
- See your GP and ask for specific liver functioning tests to check for fatty liver and Alcoholic Liver Disease. A liver biopsy may be required.
- If you are hospitalized for drinking, follow up with Hepatologists (liver specialists). Medical exams may be required weekly depending on the level of damage.
What happens if you are diagnosed with ALD?
If it is determined that you have Alcoholic Liver Disease the following things will happen.
- You MUST stop drinking alcohol. This cannot be emphasized enough.
- You will be prescribed specific medications (water pills for fluid retention, prescription strength vitamins, lactulose for HE if needed).
- You may need to have paracentesis (removal of abdominal fluid), this will be done more often depending on how your body responds to diuretic medications.
- You will need to restrict salt in your diet
- You may need to restrict protein in your diet
- You will want to reduce fat in your diet
- Many tests will be performed on a regular basis to monitor and care for damage done to your liver.
- Blood transfusions may be required if the quality of your blood is bad, or if you've suffered blood loss from varices (Alcoholics generally have terrible Thiamine and Folic Acid deficiencies which can cause Liver HE).
- You may need medications for Anemia, or Diabetes (if those develop).
- You may have an ICU stay and extended hospitalization until your liver stabilizes.
- You may require a TIPS procedure to manage ascites.
- You may be put on steroid medications which show some evidence of helping stabilize or heal a damaged liver from alcohol.
- You may be prescribed medications to alleviate pain in the intestines and allow you to eat easier.
- Varices may be banded to prevent bleeding.
- You may be tube fed if you cannot eat or meet calorie needs.
- You may require a liver transplant, kidney dialysis, palliative or hospice care when the liver is no longer able to function. If you have any type of liver disease, please seek counseling for help dealing with grief and depression.
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Alcoholism is a multifaceted disease. Using alcohol is extremely damaging to the body, mind, and major organs in your body. Alcoholic Liver Disease can develop at any time and turn cirrhotic. ALD is life-threatening and requires extreme care and management. 3/4 of those diagnosed with ALD die if the disease is not halted. Most die within 6-12 months of onset of symptoms if not treated in the appropriate medical setting. End of life disease is scary for the patient and caregivers. It is psychologically taxing, stressful and painful.
Reduce or eliminate your chances of developing Alcoholic Liver Disease by not drinking. Help those with alcohol problems.
© 2014 Rebecca