Healing Your Liver after Alcoholism

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When you enter treatment for an alcohol use disorder (AUD), the first step is to remove all traces of alcohol from the body. Usually after one month, most people notice visible health improvements such as weight loss, clearer skin and lowered blood pressure.

Another improvement that can happen after one month of abstinence is a healthier liver. If your liver did start to become fatty, it may have already cleared up. More severe liver problems may take longer. 

Let’s learn more about how alcohol affects the liver, the damage it can cause and signs that your liver is healing. 

How Alcohol Impacts the Liver

Your liver is a vital organ that is responsible for eliminating waste and toxins from your body. It’s the largest internal organ in the human body and it has the remarkable ability to repair itself, even after years of heavy drinking. However, how quickly your liver heals depends on several factors, such as your age, weight and the severity of your AUD.

When you consume alcohol, most of it goes through the liver, while the rest leaves your body through sweat, urine and breath. As the alcohol is processed in the body, it can damage liver cells and enzymes. While one drink may not cause harm, regular alcohol consumption can. 

Typically, liver damage from alcohol starts as fatty liver disease, which is essentially a buildup of fat in your liver. Most of the time, there are no symptoms and it is easily reversible. However, if you continue drinking, the damage can progress, leading to alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation in the liver). Mild forms can be reversed if you stop drinking, but more severe cases can be life-threatening. 

The last stage of liver damage is cirrhosis, which is generally not reversible. It involves permanent scarring on the liver due to alcohol use. The good news is that by stopping drinking, you can slow the progression of the disease. 

Signs that Your Liver is Unhealthy 

At first, there are usually no signs of liver damage. But if you continue drinking alcohol, it is possible to cause permanent damage to your liver. Some of the signs you may notice include: 

  • Jaundice
  • Weakness
  • Building up fluid in abdomen
  • Darkened urine
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Disorientation or confusion 
  • Easy bruising or bleeding 
  • Nausea and vomiting 

Can the Liver Heal Itself? 

Unlike other organs that create scar tissue to replace damaged tissues, the liver replaces damaged tissue with new cells. In fact, 50-60 percent of liver cells can be damaged and the liver will still be able to repair itself completely after 30 days. 

However, if you continue drinking, the liver won’t have a chance to repair itself, as the alcohol will continue attacking it. In the case of cirrhosis, there is permanent scar damage, and this makes it difficult for the liver to self-heal. But again, quitting alcohol can slow the progression. Many people with cirrhosis are able to feel good and live well for many years. 

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How Long Does it Take the Liver to Heal? 

The length of time it takes for your liver to heal depends on many factors, such as your age, weight and severity of AUD. Just a few days and weeks without alcohol is enough to start your liver on the path to healing, so you should expect to see results in about 30 days. This is the time it takes for the liver cells to restore themselves. 

Withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult to stay sober, which is why it’s important to enlist professional help. Medical detox can help you safely withdraw from alcohol while managing your symptoms. Seeking treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab gives you the opportunity to explore the deeper reasons for the alcohol use and how to develop healthier ways to cope. 

What are the Signs that Your Liver is Healing? 

While a blood test can give you the most insight into how your liver is functioning, there are things you can look for as you go through the recovery journey. Below are some signs that your liver is healing from alcohol use. 

  • Increased energy. When your liver isn’t working properly, it negatively impacts your metabolic processes, which can cause you to feel sluggish and tired. As your liver heals, you should notice an increase in energy.
  • Improved appetite. The liver plays a role in digestion by producing bile to turn fat into energy. With a healthy liver, you can digest food and nutrients easier, improving your appetite. Be sure to focus on eating a liver-healthy diet as well. 
  • Reduced brain fog. A backup of toxins in the liver can lead to brain fog and confusion. Quitting alcohol gives your liver a chance to heal, improving your focus and concentration.
  • Improved immunity. The liver also has the role of detecting and eliminating viruses and bacteria. Heavy drinking lowers the immune system, making you more likely to get sick. As your liver heals, you should notice that you get sick less often. 
  • Balanced weight. Since liver damage affects your metabolism, it’s not uncommon to deal with weight gain. As the liver heals and you maintain a healthy diet, your weight should stabilize. 
  • Normalized skin color. Jaundice refers to yellowing of the skin and eyes and is caused by the liver’s inability to process red blood cells as they break down. Without alcohol, your liver can heal and your skin and eye color should return to normal. 
  • Balanced glucose levels. Heavy drinking also affects blood sugar levels. By quitting alcohol, your glucose levels should return to normal. This will also help keep your energy levels more stable. 

Start Treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder 

Are you ready to take the next step to quit drinking? Recovery Cove in Easton, PA offers treatment services for alcohol use disorders. We can also treat co-occurring mental health conditions. We have convenient outpatient programs that allow our clients to receive a high level of care while returning to their families at night. 

Not only do we help individuals get sober, but also we work with them to build a new lifestyle that embraces sobriety, with healthy relationships, rewarding hobbies and a clear sense of purpose. Contact Recovery Cove at 484-549-COVE to learn more about our services and how we can help you or a loved one overcome alcohol addiction.