More Millennials are Drinking to the Point of Liver Damage

Alcohol is a major part of the social landscape for young adults. Unfortunately, many young people drink too much, and it’s starting to lead to serious health issues, especially for millennials, those born between 1980 and 1994.

According to a June 2018 cohort study published in The BMJ, researchers found a significant increase in alcohol-related liver disease deaths in people between the ages of 25 and 34. 

Fortunately, your liver is one of the most resilient organs in your body and has the ability to regenerate, which means liver damage from drinking is potentially reversible. Our gastroenterology team at GastroMed in Miami, Florida wants you to know how your drinking habits affect your liver and what you can do to stop liver damage and improve liver health.

Drinking and your liver

The USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines say if you drink alcohol, you should do so in moderation. What does that mean exactly? No more than one alcoholic drink a day for women, and no more than two alcoholic drinks a day for men, where one drink equals:

Though some claim moderate consumption of alcohol offers health benefits, the Mayo Clinic says there’s very little concrete evidence linking alcohol consumption (even in moderation) to better health. However, much is known about the potential health risks of alcohol, especially for your liver.

Alcohol is a toxic substance, and your liver is responsible for metabolizing it and eliminating it from your body. When broken down in your liver, alcohol produces by-products —  acetaldehyde and highly reactive free radicals — that damage the tissue. 

Your liver has the ability to repair itself, so a drink every now and again may not cause any damage. However, consuming 2-3 drinks every day, or binge drinking — consuming four or more drinks in two hours — can lead to liver damage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking is a major public health issue, especially for millennials.  

Stages of liver damage

Liver damage from drinking tends to progress in stages. Identifying alcohol-induced liver damage during the early stages may prevent chronic liver disease. 

The stages of liver damage include:

Fatty liver

Heavy drinking leads to the accumulation of fatty deposits in your liver. A fatty liver is usually the first sign of alcohol-related liver disease and is reversible. However, you’re unlikely to experience symptoms to indicate you have a fatty liver. 

Alcoholic hepatitis

Over time, excess alcohol consumption causes liver inflammation, tissue damage, and scarring. With alcoholic hepatitis, you may experience symptoms such as yellowing of the skin (jaundice), fever, or abdominal pain. This stage of liver damage is serious and potentially fatal, but it is also reversible. 

Alcoholic cirrhosis

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most serious and severe stage of liver damage. At this stage, your liver is so scarred and damaged it can’t function properly, which affects the function of other vital organs, such as your kidneys and brain. 

Abstinence from alcohol is essential when diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis to prevent further liver damage. 

Taking steps to improve liver health

Whether you turn to alcohol to help you loosen up in social situations or to deal with stress, it shouldn’t come at the expense of your health. If you have concerns about your liver, our liver disease specialists can help. We offer comprehensive evaluations to assess liver health and function, and can develop a plan of action to prevent or reverse liver damage.

To schedule an appointment to discuss your drinking habits and liver health, contact us today by calling the office most convenient to you. Telemedicine appointments are available.

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