Quick Facts About the Liver
|Location||Upper right abdomen, beneath the diaphragm|
|Size||Largest solid organ in the body, weighing about 3 pounds|
|Blood Supply||Hepatic artery (oxygenated blood) and hepatic portal vein (nutrient-rich blood)|
|Functions||Filters blood and removes toxins, Produces bile to aid in fat digestion, Stores vitamins and minerals, Regulates blood sugar levels, Produces clotting factors, Produces proteins, Breaks down drugs and other substances|
|Regeneration||Posesses remarkable ability to regenerate damaged tissue|
|Common Issues||Cirrhosis, Hepatitis, Fatty liver disease|
With the liver being a self-healing and regenerating organ in the human body, the question of how long to abstain from alcohol to repair liver damage is one that every individual that has had to give up alcohol, to help themselves live a healthier life by improving the health of their liver, have on their minds.
With every individual being different, there is o specific time frame anyone can give you to ascertain when the damage done to your liver will heal completely, and you can resume a fully healthy life again. However, depending on the extent of damage the liver has experienced, it may take up to 60 days for the liver to completely regenerate, provided there are no complications during regeneration.
In this article, we will discuss the effects of alcohol on the liver, the unique ability of the liver to heal itself, and how you can help your liver regain good health by abstaining from alcohol and other drugs abuse. Ultimately, you’ll know how long you have to stay away from alcohol to help your liver heal.
The liver and its major function
The human liver is a cone-shaped organ, comprised of two main lobes, and positioned in the upper right part of the abdominal cavity. It is located beneath the diaphragm but above the stomach, intestines, and right kidney. It is reddish-brown and is one of the largest organs in the human body.
The importance of the liver lies in its contribution to every chemical and biological process of the human body. It holds about one pint of blood at every moment and it is responsible for the metabolism of drugs, and detoxification of the body. It produces bile which is useful in the fat digestion process that takes place in the duodenum. Bile is also regarded as a waste transporter from the liver.
The liver regulates the number of amino acids present in the blood; converts excess glucose into glycogen, and back to glucose when needed; stores iron and processes hemoglobin, and converts ammonia to urea, to be expelled out of the body.
These functions of the liver affect all the biological and chemical processes in the human body, and a deviation from the normal state of health, by the liver, means a major health setback for any affected individual. Therefore, substances such as alcohol and drugs should be minimized to keep the liver in a good working condition.
How Alcohol Affects the Liver
Alcohol is a common central nervous system suppressant among people in the world. It is consumed for leisure, at parties, and when you’re alone at home. Although when taken in moderation, it can be beneficial to the stomach and harmless to bodily organs; however, excessive alcohol consumption can cause alcoholic liver disease.
Alcoholic liver disease, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the main cause of chronic liver diseases in Western countries, and it is one of the most common reasons for liver transplants. There are three types of alcoholic liver disease – fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. Each type is usually a progression over the other, as the liver deteriorates in health and its ability to regenerate its cells and tissues.
Alcoholic liver disease begins with the fatty liver, and it occurs as a result of consistent consumption of alcohol. If at this stage of liver damage, an individual continues to consume alcohol consistently, and in large volumes, the liver disease progresses to alcoholic hepatitis, and then to alcoholic cirrhosis, at which point the liver damage may only be remedied by a liver transplant.
The liver is responsible for processing alcohol in the human body, and the more alcohol it processes, the more stress it undergoes. Continuous heavy drinking causes scars on the liver tissues and when they cannot be healed, the liver begins to perform below par, affecting every aspect of the individual’s health.
Helping your Liver to Heal
The liver is uniquely capable of healing itself, as long as the cause of the damage is discontinued. However, it is common for the early signs of alcoholic liver disease – abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting – to go without paying them much attention.
The liver is scarred when you consume alcohol consistently, leading to the death of hepatic cells that help in carrying out the liver’s biological functions. However, due to the liver’s ability to heal itself, it sheds off the scar and grows new cells that multiply to form tissues. With the new tissues, its functioning can return to par.
However, since the early signs of alcoholic liver disease usually get no attention, the consumer continues to abuse alcohol and makes it impossible for the liver to regenerate. The alcoholic liver disease then progresses from fatty liver – since the liver is unable to process fats as it should – to alcoholic hepatitis – characterized by inflammation of the liver, and permanent scarring of the liver. On continued alcohol abuse, the scar tissues replace working liver tissues in a stage called alcoholic cirrhosis.
To help your liver heal from the initial damage, you need to embrace a lifestyle change by abstaining from alcohol consumption and following a diet that encourages detoxification, cell regeneration, and easy digestion. These help the liver work better and easier and help it regrow its cells and tissues.
How Long to Abstain from Alcohol to Repair Liver?
The length of time needed for the liver to regenerate its cells and tissues depend on the extent of liver damage. Usually, when the alcoholic liver disease is at the fatty liver stage, the liver damage is around 30 percent or less and can be easily reversed. It takes about 30 days for the regeneration of liver cells to occur at this stage.
However, when scarring begins, liver damage is usually more than 40 percent and tissue regeneration may take up to 60 days, or more. On reaching alcoholic cirrhosis, the scars have become permanent and liver damage is over 70 percent. The most effective treatment is a liver transplant.
Therefore, abstinence for 60 or more days will help the liver heal itself. But, since every individual is different, it may take more or less than 60 days for complete regeneration in some individuals, provided no complications such as incomplete tissue regeneration, occurs.
To answer the question regarding how long to abstain from alcohol to repair liver damage, people have different bodies and the duration varies from person to person. On average, 60 days will suffice to help a scarred liver, in the alcoholic hepatitis stage, heal, and lesser for alcoholic liver diseases in the fatty liver stage.