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Alcohol - Overtime for the liver

By Rosie Hewitt
Rehabilitation and Delegated Claims Manager

Ever really wondered why all the talk about Christmas alcohol excess and the January detox? It’s predominantly down to one amazing human internal organ – the liver. It is our largest internal organ, has over 500 different roles and is the only human internal organ capable of natural regeneration of lost tissue – as little as 25% of a liver can regenerate into one whole one. One of its key functions is getting rid of waste products and toxins i.e. alcohol – too much and we begin to destroy it…


Which is why having alcohol free days does it a power of good.

So what does it do?

Getting rid of waste and toxins is no simple task and the liver is a part of your body that regularly does overtime – the liver also plays a vital role in fighting infections, particularly in the bowel. Drinking too much simply gives it no time off and what’s more you won’t generally know that it is being damaged until things get serious.

So if you drink over the safe Government limits*, there could be damage being done.

So what? It won’t happen to me.

Many people, and in particular the young who binge drink, think no damage is occurring, that ‘It Won’t Happen to me’ because we can’t see anything wrong. But figures show victims of liver disease are getting younger – more than 1 in 10 of deaths of people in their 40s are from liver disease, most of them from alcoholic liver disease.

And drinking over these safe Government limits is a major cause of the 25% increase in deaths from liver disease in England over the last decade (from 9,231 in 2001 to 11,575 in 2009). Overall, alcoholic liver disease accounts for well over a third (37%) of liver disease deaths.

What are the signs of damage?

People can spend 20 years damaging their liver and not feel any of the effects. This is because the liver has enormous reserves so that you can damage an awful lot of it and it can still do all of its jobs.

Early symptoms of liver disease can include:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • abdominal pains 

Later stage liver damage symptoms are more serious – and you’ll know about them.

They can include:

  • jaundice (yellow skin)
  • vomiting blood
  • fatigue
  • weakness, loss of appetite
  • itching & easy bruising
  • swelling of the legs ankles, or abdomen
  • liver cancer
  • increased sensitivity to alcohol and drugs, both medical and recreational (because the liver cannot process them).

This can result in liver cirrhosis (scarring) which is irreversible – the damage can’t be reversed and can become so extensive the liver stops functioning – this is called liver failure.

So when at that 2015 Christmas party, have a think before you have that drink…

If you or a person you know are concerned about alcohol please contact your GP.

*Men should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day.

Women should drink no more than 2-3 units a day