Alcohol Abuse and the Liver

Alcohol abuse affects our health and our body in a variety of ways. Several keys organs and internal functions can be irreparably damaged because of heavy drinking over an extended period of time. Chief among those areas at risk is the liver – one of our body's most critical organs. Once the liver is damaged by alcohol, a number of serious health problems can ensue – many of which event lead to death. It is important that young people be made aware of the risks to their liver than originate from alcohol abuse.

The liver is "in charge" of processing the liquor that enters your body. A healthy liver is able to properly process about one drink (one ounce of liquor) per hour. If you drink more than this, the liver is unable to do its job and body starts to become seated with alcohol.

What happens when your body becomes saturated with alcohol? The unprocessed alcohol goes straight to your brain and causes the kind of behavior commonly associated with drunkness (impaired judgment, loss of inhibitions, etc.).

But over time, a much bigger problem begins to occur.

When an individual engages in heavy drinking over a long period of time, the liver becomes swelled and fatty. A fat liver causes several key internal problems:

oIt chokes off the supply of blood coming into the liver – which keeps oxygen and critical nutrients from being delivered.

oThe lack of oxygen and nutrients causes liver cells to sicken and die

oThe live liver cells are replaced with scar tissue (this process is known as cirrhosis of the liver).

Once cirrhosis of the liver occurs, the individual is no longer able to properly tolerate alcohol because the liver lacks the proper cells to process and metabolize it.

How likely is a person to get cirrhosis of the liver? Genetics play a big role in whether or not someone is stricken with cirrhosis of the liver. If the drinker has a history of the problem in his family, then he might show symptoms relatively quickly (in as little as a year of consuming 3-4 drinks per day). On the other hand, there are some people who drink heavily on a regular basis for their own lives and never get cirrhosis.

What happens if the liver fails because of excess alcohol consumption? The results can be fatal. The liver is a critical part of our how our body functions. It is responsible for so many vital operations that we can not live without it. The liver is:

oThe largest organ in the human body

oResponsible for most of the blood flow between the intestinal tract to the heart

oThe storage area for glycogen – the body's breakdown of sugar which is used to generate energy

oResponsible for breaking down toxins that occur with the body's metabolism.

One of the most prominant warning signs of cirrhosis of the liver is jaundice. Jaundice is characterized by a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

Not only older people are candidates for cirrhosis of the liver. Young men just out of their teens (who have already been drinking for years) have experienced liver failure brought on by cirrhosis of the liver.

For this reason, and many others, it is important to make young people aware of the dangers of chronic alcohol abuse. If young people establish good habits early on, they will be that much less likely to develop into alcoholics later in life. While it is harder to fight the problem in those genetically pre-disposed for alcoholism, problems with the liver can still be avoided with a solid education on the topic combined with a healthy lifestyle.