How Binge Drinking Affects Your Liver
Today, at least one in every six adults consumes an average of eight alcoholic drinks per sitting. This translates to about 32 alcoholic drinks per month. What does this tell us about alcohol consumption in America? It tells us that binge drinking is becoming a national concern.
The Substance and Mental Health Services Administration defines excessive drinking as at least four alcoholic drinks for women and at least five drinks for men in a single sitting. Essentially, if you’re beginning to feel impaired or have a blood alcohol level of above 0.08, it’s likely you’re binge drinking.
Binge Drinking and Your Liver
While binge drinking behavior affects every organ in your body, it has a particularly large impact on your liver. That organ is in charge of some pretty important things, including:
- Storing energy and other essential nutrients
- Filtering toxic materials from your blood
- Manufacturing a wide range of hormones, enzymes, and proteins
- Triggering bile to aid your digestive system
When compared to moderate drinkers, binge drinkers are far more likely to suffer some form of liver damage. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that long-term alcohol use among individuals is the most common cause of diseases and deaths from liver-related illness in the U.S. In most cases, the consequences of binge drinking are frightening.
Long-term binge drinking tendencies can lead to:
- Acute alcoholic hepatitis. This diagnosis means your liver is severely inflamed and may soon be unable to perform its necessary functions. Some of the common symptoms of this condition include vomiting, nausea, and severe abdominal pains. This is a serious problem, with many patients dying within one month of diagnosis.
- Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD). In more serious cases, this can cause your skin to yellow, your hair to fall out, swelling of your arms and legs, and severe fatigue.
- Alcohol liver cirrhosis. If your body starts to replace healthy liver tissue with scar tissue, you may have a condition known as alcohol liver cirrhosis. According to the American Liver Foundation, between 10 and 20 percent of heavy drinkers will develop this condition in their lifetime.
No matter how old you are or how much you drink, cutting back on your alcohol consumption right now can quickly and drastically improve your liver’s health.