Alcoholic liver disease is the progressive deterioration of the liver due to excess alcohol consumption. The damage to the liver can only be reversed if it is discovered in the early stages of the disease.
Stage 1 – fatty liver
Drinking too much alcohol causes a build-up of fat in the liver, leading to what is known as fatty liver disease. This happens because the liver is unable to process the amount of toxins in the body and fat is deposited in the liver. Even binge drinking for just a few days can lead to a build-up of fats in the liver and the liver becomes temporarily enlarged.
The deposits of fat on the liver and the subsequent enlargement of the liver can be reversed at this stage if the individual stops drinking alcohol. The condition can be completely reversed within about six weeks if no further alcohol is drunk.
Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle can also help heal the damage caused to the liver at this stage. Fruits and vegetables provide valuable amounts of carbohydrates, water and antioxidants, all of which are important for a healthy liver. You should try to eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, which tend to provide the most antioxidants such as carrots, berries, spinach, kale, tomatoes, apricots, watermelon and oranges.
Stage 2 – Alcoholic hepatitis
If the individual continues to drink, the liver disease can develop into Alcoholic hepatitis.
Alcoholic hepatitis is when the liver becomes permanently enlarged due to excess alcohol consumption. If the condition is caught early enough, it can sometimes be reversed through complete abstinence from alcohol. However, alcoholic hepatitis can often go undiagnosed for a long time as the symptoms are quite generic, which means it has usually progressed too far by the time it is diagnosed and it is no longer reversible. The liver is permanently damaged.
Although you cannot reverse this damage, you can certainly stop its progression by stopping drinking alcohol.
Stage 3 – cirrhosis of the liver
Cirrhosis of the liver is when normally healthy tissues of the liver are gradually replaced by scarred tissues. This usually ensues from alcoholic hepatitis but sometimes it can evolve without hepatitis developing. Cirrhosis is when the liver becomes lumpy and hard from fibrosis. This damaged tissue can eventually prevent the liver from working properly.
Damage caused by cirrhosis of the liver cannot be reversed but you will need to refrain from drinking to prevent the conditioning worsening and the liver from stopping working altogether. A person who has alcohol-related cirrhosis and doesn’t stop drinking has a less than 50% chance of living for at least five more years.
A liver transplant can be an option for someone with severe cirrhosis of the liver, but the patient will have to be completely alcohol free before they will be considered as a suitable transplant patient.
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction you may need to enrol in a withdrawal programme to help you give up drinking.