Many of us have heard the word alcohol and liver used in the same sentence, it's common knowledge that too much drinking can harm the liver, but exactly how does alcohol affect the liver? What is the biological process that takes place after you finish pounding your fifth shot in one hour? And can this process be altered for your benefit?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that roughly 15% of all U.S. alcoholics will develop liver disease at some point in their lives.  The link between poor liver health and excessive, chronic consumption of alcohol is definitive.
To understand how alcohol affects the liver you must first understand what role the liver plays in your body. You liver is vital to your survival. It plays a role in almost every system in your body; it’s vital to hormone and enzyme production, blood filtration, and chemical digestion. Your liver is continuously processing blood being used by the rest of your body. Think of the liver as a large purification tank for your blood. Blood enters the liver to be purified, circulates through your body, and enters your liver for purification again. Just about anything you put into your mouth and swallow interacts with your liver in some way, including alcohol.
As soon as you take a swig of alcohol it slides down your throat and into your stomach. From there, it quickly makes its way into your intestines and is absorbed into your blood. How quickly and how much alcohol is absorbed into your blood depends on many factors such as how much food is in your stomach.
After the alcohol has been absorbed into your blood from your intestines it needs to be purified by your liver. Each of our livers contains an enzyme called “Alcohol Dehydrogenase” (ADH). This enzyme is responsible for breaking down alcohol into acetaldehyde (which happens to be very toxic)
Eventually the acetaldehyde is broken down into acetate by the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALD). Then the acetate is further metabolized in carbon dioxide and water and leaves your body.
Besides the build-up of acetaldehyde (which plays a large role in hangovers) there are two important things to consider regarding your livers breakdown of alcohol.
Chronic heavy drinking has been shown to damage one's liver in the following ways:
If you are a heavy drinker you should be doing everything you can to minimize the damage being done to your liver. Even if you don’t quit drinking, there are many easy things you can do to reduce the damage being done.
A great deal of research has shown that taking Dihydromyricetin can protect the liver from the harmful effects of alcohol consumption. this article has more information about how it does this.
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