Can the Liver Repair Itself After Years of Drinking?
Depending on what stage you are in your alcoholism, you may have caused serious damage to your liver. You have heard the expression, “What’s done is done.” This is not always the case with your liver. Because it is a regenerative organ, physically healing your it from years of alcohol abuse is possible.
The liver is your body’s only regenerative organ. You are probably aware of the chameleon and how it can regrow its own tail. The liver works in very much the same way. It can rebuild itself. If you had 75 percent of your liver removed, it could grow back to its full size. This is good news when it comes to repairing your liver.
When Alcoholics Get Sober, The Liver is Always a Concern
Focused on regaining physical health, many recovering alcoholics worry about their liver and go get a physical from the doc when they sober up. Rightfully so. It is no secret that alcohol completely destroys the liver. Responsible for cleansing toxins from the body, the liver works overtime to process beer, liquor, and wine.
Not surprisingly, many alcoholics in recovery learn they have damaged their liver or contracted some kind of liver disease during the course of their alcoholism. Frantic to get healthy so they can enjoy their newly found freedom in sobriety, many ask –can I heal my liver?
By abstaining from alcohol, drinking lots of water, and eating a liver-friendly diet, you can reverse some of the effects of alcohol abuse. Yes, the good news is, the liver can repair itself after years of drinking.
What Does the Liver Do, Anyway?
To give you a brief lesson in biology, the liver is a large organ in the digestive system. It weighs about three pounds. Its number one function is to filter blood coming from your digestive tract before that blood flows to the rest of your body.
The liver works to detoxify chemicals that pass through the body. It metabolizes drugs and alcohol. It also secretes an enzyme called bile, which aids the body in digestion. Additionally, the liver produces protein, which is vital to the clotting of your blood.
When this organ is not healthy, your body can not function properly. It is essential to your health and well-being. When your liver does not effectively rid the body of toxins and assist with the process of digestion, a host of really nasty health problems inevitably come about.
When You Abuse Alcohol, the Liver Takes a Beating
Many alcoholics consume large quantities of alcohol for decades and then make the courageous decision to get sober. By then, their liver has sustained years of abuse and has become ill due to the effects of the alcohol.
Most chronic alcoholics have been told just how dangerous alcohol is to the liver at some point during their abuse of alcohol. Nevertheless, alcoholism doesn’t allow the alcoholic to care and the drinking continues. Sadly, the liver sustains a beating and becomes damaged. After years of processing mass quantities of alcohol, it no longer functions properly.
Before we learn about healing the liver from alcohol abuse, let’s take a moment to learn more about some of the most common liver diseases caused by alcoholism – cirrhosis, fatty liver, and Hepatitis C. All three of these conditions can be diagnosed with a blood test.
Cirrhosis of the Liver – The Number One Offender
Chances are, if you’ve been abusing alcohol long enough, you’ve been warned about cirrhosis of the liver. This is one of the most commonly diagnosed alcohol-related liver diseases and the most serious. Cirrhosis develops when scar tissue replaces normal, healthy liver tissue. The scar tissue hardens the liver and makes it unable to function properly. This leads to severe complications.
Cirrhosis always shows up as the result of another liver-related disorder. This might be alcohol-related liver cancer, Hepatitis, or fatty liver. Cirrhosis is irreversible, but progression of the condition can be slowed tremendously by following some of the suggestions offered later in this article about how to heal your liver.
Years of Alcohol Abuse Could Result in Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver (also called “hepatic steatosis”) is a common liver disease. As the name implies, this condition develops when too much fat builds up in the liver. When the organ stores five to ten percent of its weight in fat, it is considered a fatty liver.
Fatty liver affects up to twenty percent of the U.S. population, mostly targeting people between the ages of 40 and 60. Although many nondrinkers develop the condition, the most common cause for fatty liver is alcoholism. Alcohol addiction wrecks the liver. Years of alcohol abuse will almost always result in a fatty liver.
Hepatitis C – Death to the Liver
Many alcoholics contract Hepatitis C. This condition attacks the liver and breaks it down slowly over time. Essentially, it causes the body to poison itself. It’s a horrible illness.
For decades, Hep C was a death sentence. If you were lucky enough to have insurance, you could prolong your life and avoid the agonizing death it promised…. for awhile. You could stay comfortable with medication and treatment. But, in the end, it got you.
Thankfully, there have been incredible developments made in the medical community for treating this degenerative liver disease. Modern medicine has finally found a cure for Hepatitis C and there is hope for remission for people with this illness. Now, there are drugs like Harvoni that can actually cure Hep C and reverse its effects.
Healing the Liver from Cirrhosis, Fatty Liver, Hep C, and Other Liver Diseases
When talking about the liver’s ability to heal itself, people are always in a big hurry to know how long it will take. This is understandable, of course, but, it is a difficult – if not impossible – question to answer this question.
Everybody’s body is different. The progression and type of liver disease, a person’s age, weight, and overall health are all contributing factors when it comes to how long it takes the liver to repair itself from an alcohol-related liver disease.
The liver is constantly in a state of regeneration. The moment it stops processing alcohol, it begins the process of healing itself. This process could take as few as four weeks or as long as several years. It really all depends on the health of the individual person.
This might seem like a frustrating answer, but it’s an honest one. To be sure, you cannot heal your liver overnight. You have to implement some new health practices over time and work with your doctor to measure your liver enzymes to measure the upward progression of your liver’s health.
How to Repair Your Liver Naturally – Drink Water
Taking steps in recovery is about more than working the 12 Steps. It’s about taking steps to heal your physical body from the damage caused by your alcoholism. Want to heal your liver naturally? Drink lots and lots (and lots) of water.
Seriously, the very best thing you can do for your liver is flush it with pure, clean, unadulterated water. This does not mean iced tea. This does not mean juice. We fool ourselves into believing we are drinking plenty of water because we drink things with water in it. We need to be drinking water. Just water. Lots of it.
Enough cannot be said about the benefits of drinking water. Water cleanses the system of toxins. As you know, the liver is responsible for the flushing of toxins. Water aids the liver with this process. It hydrates your body and keeps your brain firing on all cylinders. It helps you stay alert, productive, and in a balanced mood. Water is just awesome!
Switching to water has to be a conscious decision. If you want to improve the health of your liver, you need to drink water.
A Liver-Friendly Diet is Vital to Healing Your Liver
In order to aid your liver in the healing process, you need to be on the right diet. Eating the right foods is essential when it comes to repairing your liver. Equally important? Staying away from the wrong ones.
Here is a quick list of do’s and don’t’s when it comes to a liver-friendly diet:
- Eat lots of veggies (broccoli, carrots, and green leafy vegetables especially)
- Eat acidic fruits like grapefruit, lemons, and oranges
- Drink coffee. Yes, coffee is good for your liver…. Yay!
- Maintain a plant-based diet as much as possible
- Eat foods high in Omega-3, like fish, nuts, and healthy oils
- Eat foods high in fiber like oatmeal
- Eat foods high in fat or loaded with grease
- Eat a lot of processed sugar
- Drink soda
- Consume a lot of fatty animal proteins (sorry, this means steak!)
- Drink alcohol
Another thing to keep in mind as you focus on repairing your liver from alcohol abuse is maintaining a healthy weight. When you eat the right diet, this comes with the territory. Want to spice things up in the kitchen and cook up a good meal for your liver? Get some liver-friendly recipes.
To Heal Your Liver, You Must Stop Drinking Alcohol
Simply put, there is no way to heal your liver if you are still drinking alcohol. As long as you are consuming wine, beer, or liquor, you are continuing to damage your liver. There is just no way around it. If you want to regain physical health, you must make the decision and subsequent commitment to abstain from alcohol. No matter what.
If you have a problem with alcohol, help is available. You may need to go a detox to safely withdraw from alcohol. You might need to stay at an inpatient facility and get professional addiction treatment services. Or, you may be able to find freedom from your alcoholism at Alcoholics Anonymous.
Whichever path you choose, if you want to help your liver, please make the decision today to get the help you need to stop drinking alcohol.
The Good and Bad News When It Comes to Healing Your Liver
The liver is quite magical really. We destroy it with drunken binges. Then, we get our act together and make better choices, and shazam! We can bring healing to our poor, tired, overworked liver.
That being said, please keep in mind that some liver damage is irreversible. Many people wait until it is too late before they focus on repairing their liver. Long-term effects of drug and alcohol abuse, liver diseases, and untreated conditions like Hepatitis C can leave our liver in a perpetually damaged state.
This does not mean you cannot start making better choices today and live a long and healthy life…. even if your liver is a little under the weather. Doing the next right thing in terms of taking care of your physical body goes a long way when it comes to health and wellness.
Yes, your liver can heal itself….. but you are going to have to help.
Remember, to help repair your liver from years of drinking alcohol, follow the three simple suggestions offered in this article. drink water, don’t drink alcohol, and eat a liver-friendly diet.
Do you have experience with healing your own liver? What health tips can you share?