Most of us drink now and then, as a bit of alcohol acts as a social lubricant and creativity boost, releasing the much-desired endorphins that make us happy and enthusiastic about the oh-so-ordinary things in life. Some of us may even get tipsy or even drunk sometimes.
Therefore, the fact that alcohol is the world’s most popular and socially accepted drug comes as no surprise – but the stats showing how much it affects the global population may raise a few brows. The World Health Organization estimates that alcohol is the cause of death for three million people every year, and 1 in every 20 deaths is due to an alcohol-related disease, accident, murder, suicide, or injury. In America alone, excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths every year (261 deaths per day), making it the leading cause of preventable death.
Let’s talk a bit about America’s drinking problem
If we look at the statistics, we’ll notice that Americans aren’t the biggest drinkers globally, regardless of the rumors. Europeans, in fact, lead the rankings in regards to the amount of alcohol consumed. However, despite the widespread alcohol consumption, Europe has lower rates of binge drinking, addiction, and alcohol-related deaths.
For example, in countries like Italy, a glass of wine to accompany a good meal and a pleasant conversation is a golden standard. Most of the European countries don’t treat alcohol as a refuge, a stress-coping mechanism, and don’t villanize it.
It’s hard to tell if the cause is the cultural attitude, the early exposure, the education focused on responsible drinking, or a mixture of all – but Americans have more trouble respecting the dietary guidelines regarding responsible and safe alcohol consumption. As a result, our drinking habits tend to lead more often to tragic outcomes than manageable headaches.
The bottom line is that enjoying a drink or two is perfectly fine (and even beneficial) – but imbibing too often may put your body at extreme risk. To put it simply, if your liver could talk, it would probably tell you to drink the Italian way.
How drinking affects the liver
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ and is a heavy worker, performing over 500 vital functions, from metabolizing fats, protein, and carbs to detoxifying the blood.
Each time you ingest alcohol, the diligent liver filters the toxins from the blood, converts ethanol to acetaldehyde, and then into water and carbon dioxide that will be safely excreted from the body. In order to do that, the liver even sacrifices a few cells in the process. Thankfully, the human liver is resilient and can develop new cells – but only to a certain extent.
A healthy one can metabolize one alcoholic drink per hour. If you overload the liver regularly, the alcohol will start converting into toxic chemicals that generate inflammation and result in liver diseases such as alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. The main problem is that the early stages of alcohol-related diseases are often asymptomatic and are difficult to detect promptly.
What happens to the liver once you stop drinking
Given the harmful effects of alcohol on the liver, you might be wondering what happens when you quit drinking. The truth is, even if your liver can’t regenerate like Wolverine, it can heal and go back to normal functioning.
Fatty liver disease is fully reversible, and alcoholic hepatitis is reversible in most cases (but may leave some leftover damage), but cirrhosis is fatal in most cases without specialized treatment or even liver transplant. The healing process is influenced by the patient’s lifestyle, weight, and diet and may take from a few weeks to a few months to complete.
The good news is that the positive impact of alcohol cessation can be noticed quickly. One study discovered that liver function improved in subjects after only one month of abstinence, helped lower the BMI, and improved insulin resistance. Another study explored the effects of alcohol cessation among moderate drinkers and discovered a remarkable reduction in GGT levels. However, both studies mention that just a detox is not enough to restart the liver – you need to stop drinking for good.
It all sounds simple in theory, but given that most people struggling with alcohol abuse have trouble accepting they have an addiction problem that requires specialized help, it’s easier said than done.
What is responsible alcohol consumption?
The Dietary Guidelines mention that adults of the legal drinking age should limit intake to two drinks (or less) for men and one drink (or less) for women per day if we’re talking quantities. However, responsible alcohol consumption is a vague notion, and it goes beyond simply limiting the amount of alcohol ingested.
Responsible alcohol consumption involves considering many other factors, such as making sure you and the people around you are safe while drinking, never driving while intoxicated, drinking at a slow pace, and alternating alcohol with water, and eating properly. It requires significant self-control and consideration toward yourself and those around you.
I know that no matter how determined and how good your intentions are, it’s often difficult to overcome an addiction problem on your own. My name is Siggi Clavien, I have extensive experience in creating game-changing detox/cleansing products, and I would be beyond honored to help you overcome your challenges as well. My mission is to provide you with the support needed to identify your individual cleansing goals and dutifully guide you every step of the way until you reach them.
Siggi Clavien worked in the alcohol industry for 15 years before leaving that world behind and launching Equilibrium Labs in 2010. His aim is to reduce preventable liver disease through a combination of education, research, and product development. You can learn more about how he’s changing things for the better at http://siggiclaviencharities.org/