Alcohol & Your Liver
In this episode of Breaking the Bottle Legacy with Molly Watts, the host Molly Watts endeavors to foster a peaceful relationship with alcohol, addressing its impact on the past, present, and future. Each week, she delves into real science, encouraging listeners to use their own brains to transform their relationship with alcohol. Broadcasting from a cloudy Oregon, Molly emphasizes the importance of understanding the science behind alcohol consumption and its effects on the body. She highlights the detrimental impact of excessive alcohol intake, discussing liver cirrhosis and its symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, swelling, and jaundice. Molly emphasizes that liver damage often starts with fatty liver disease, which can be caused by consuming more than one and a half to two ounces of alcohol per day. Exploring the liver’s critical functions, she explains its roles in metabolic detoxification, breaking down food, and maintaining the body’s repair processes. Molly touches on the liver’s ability to regenerate itself, stressing the significance of alcohol-free days to allow the liver to heal and function optimally. She discusses the importance of reducing alcohol intake and suggests dietary changes, such as cutting back on red and processed meats, sugars, and processed foods. Molly advocates for physical activity, emphasizing its role in preventing obesity, a leading cause of liver disease. Lastly, she stresses the importance of sleep and staying hydrated in maintaining liver health. Molly’s episode educates listeners on the scientific intricacies of the liver and encourages them to adopt healthier habits to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol.
You’re listening to break in the bottle legacy with Molly watts, Episode 25. Hi, I’m Molly, after a lifetime living under the influence of family alcohol abuse, spending more than 30 years worrying about alcohol and my own drinking, believing I had an unbreakable daily drinking habit, I changed my relationship with alcohol forever. If you want to change your drinking habits than breaking the bottle legacy is for you. My goal is to help you create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, past, present, and future. Each week all focus on real science and using your own brain to change your relationship with alcohol. Nothing has gone wrong, you’re not broken, you’re not sick. It’s not your genes. And creating peace is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Hello, and welcome. Or Welcome back to breaking the bottle legacy with me your host, Molly watts, coming to you from well, it’s a fairly gray and cloudy Oregon today. Not completely unusual for springtime, but it has been pretty beautiful. Well, at least last week it was and so I wasn’t prepared. I never am when the rain sneaks up on me even though you’d think that after 30 years living here, I get used to it. And we definitely need it for our green forest. So I guess I have to just suck it up and live with it. But you know, I like to always tell you all about what’s happening in the Oregon weather scene. And right now it’s a little bit it’s a little bit overcast. Anyways, today on the podcast, before we get into the episode, I want to first ask of you a little bit of housekeeping. If you have not grabbed your free ebook, alcohol truths, how much is safe, I would love for you to go over to www dot Molly watts.com. That’s Molly with a Y and watts with an s.com. And grab that free download. And I’ve read on the website recently. So I would love for you to go check it out. And it’s also great because if you do that you’re going to get on my mailing list, which is a great place to be not because I’m going to inundate you, I promise. But because when my book breaking the bottle legacy comes out later here on Amazon this summer. If you are on that mailing list, you will get notified when the book is free in ebook and when it’s at a discount in paperback. So you definitely want to get on my mailing list so you can get notified for when that promotional period is happening. Plus, you are to get a free eBook just by going there alcohol trues, which is really a wonderful tool to get you started on changing your relationship with alcohol. So please go over there and do that. Also, if you haven’t joined me and joined my private Facebook group on Facebook, I would love for you private Facebook group on Facebook. Do you like that? All right, it’s a private group. No one has to know you’re there. You can go there and search for it by name on Facebook, alcohol minimalist, change your alcohol habit. And I would love for you to join. It’s just a great place. It’s growing community and we’re supporting each other in finding a peaceful relationship with alcohol, and learning some tips and tricks and just supporting each other’s journey as we improve our own drinking habits. Also, if you haven’t followed me on instagram, youtube or clubhouse, you can find me at either alcohol minimalist or alcohol minimal depending on the on the social media site because of the limit of characters. All right. Anyways, I will link all of that in my show notes. And that is it for housekeeping, I promise. So today on the podcast, we are going to be doing a little deep dive into the science of alcohol and your liver. So before I get started, I will of course remind you that I am not a physician or an addiction expert. And everything on this podcast is meant for educational and informational purposes only and cannot be substituted for medical advice. All right, disclaimer. Yes. Of course everyone probably knows already that alcohol affects the liver, right? And heavy alcohol use causes liver disease including cirrhosis. According to the World Health Organization, it is the most common cause of cirrhosis in the world. And you may think, I guess I think everyone has heard of cirrhosis but do you really know what it is and what it means I really didn’t. So this is from the Mayo Clinic. Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring fibrosis of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases. and conditions such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism, each time your liver is injured, whether by disease, excessive alcohol consumption or another cause it tries to repair itself. In the process scar tissue forms. As cirrhosis progresses, more and more scar tissue forms, making it difficult for the liver to function decompensated cirrhosis, and advanced Cirrhosis is actually life threatening. The liver damage done by cirrhosis generally can’t be undone. But if liver cirrhosis is diagnosed early and the cause is treated, further damage can be limited and, and but of course, as we said, rarely reversed. And cirrhosis often has no signs or symptoms until liver damage is extensive. So when signs and symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue, easily bleeding or bruising loss of appetite, nausea, swelling in your legs, feet or ankles, weight loss itchy skin, yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes jaundice, fluid accumulation in your abdomen, spider like blood vessels on your skin, redness of the palms and for women absent or loss of periods not related to menopause. For men loss of sex drive, breast enlargement or testicular atrophy, confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech. Wow. A lot right. Now, the problem is that with cirrhosis and you know, obviously liver disease we most we pretty much know, right? We don’t want to go there. And for most of us that are that have a daily drinking habit like I did, we can actually reverse liver damage before we have crossed the threshold into actual cirrhosis. And as a reminder, I wanted to say for healthy adults, heavy or high risk drinking is defined as more than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks a week. For men. Those are standard drinks in full transparency. However, when it comes to liver disease, epidemiological studies of liver damage suggests that our threshold dose of alcohol must be consumed for serious liver injury to become apparent. And I will link the study that that is from and for men, this dose amounts to 600 kilograms taken chronically over many years, which an intake of that could be achieved by consuming approximately 72 ounces of beer, a liter of wine, eight ounces of distilled spirits daily for 20 years. So that’s like a six pack of beer for 20 years. For women, the threshold dose is only 1/4 to one half that amount. So I read that and I was really kind of shell shocked as a woman. Let’s look at that more closely. The threshold dose for serious liver injury could be as low as 18 ounces of beer, or 8.3 ounces of wine, a standard drink of standard glass of wine is five ounces. So it’s less than two classes per day for 20 years. So ladies, I don’t know how many of you are putting yourself at risk for serious liver and injury but I know I certainly did. And thank goodness as we’ll soon hear, the liver is amazingly forgiving. It’s also why thresholds are so variable because as with all other aspects of alcohol metabolism, other things impact your risk. The fact that only a portion I’ll be at a relatively large one of heavy drinkers develop chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. It indicates that there is other important factors at play heredity, gender diet, other forms of liver disease are all influenced that have another are other things that influence the risk of alcoholic liver disease. But as I mentioned before we reach the stage of serious liver disease, many of us will develop something known as a fatty liver. When you’ve ingested too much alcohol for your liver to process in a timely manner. The Topps toxic substance begins to take its toll on your body starting with your liver. The oxidative metabolism of alcohol generates molecules that inhibit facts oxidation in the liver and subsequently can lead to a condition known as fatty liver. And fatty liver, which is also early stage alcoholic liver disease develops in about 90% of people who drink more than one and a half to two ounces of alcohol per day. You may remember if you’ve listened to this podcast, I actually talked about the fact that when I had a gallstone and they did a ultrasound of my abdomen, they marked in the notes thought that I had mild fatty liver disease. And I was like what? Anyway, it’s Yeah, because 90% of people who drink more than one and a half to two ounces of alcohol per day can develop fatty liver disease. And if you drink that much or more, on most days of the week, you probably have fatty liver disease, just like I did. And continued alcohol use can lead then to liver fibrosis. And finally, cirrhosis. Good news is that fatty liver is usually completely reversible in about four to six weeks, if you completely abstain from drinking alcohol. So a really good reason and one, you know, something that I definitely believe that was of huge benefit to me when I did dry your weary back in January. And it’s you know, it’s just something that everybody should consider doing. So we’ve discussed a little bit about having a diseased liver. And the idea that we want to avoid those things is pretty common sense, right. But I don’t know that we’re always aware of just how important the liver is, and what’s happening when your liver does not effectively rid the body of toxins and assist with the process of digestion that it typically is supposed to do. Right? Your liver is your body’s largest solid Oregon, and on average, it weighs around three pounds in adulthood. It is roughly the size of a football. This organ is vital to the body’s metabolic detoxification, and immune system functions. Without a functioning liver, a person cannot survive. It filters out dangerous chemicals breaks down the food you eat, and builds proteins that help keep your body in good repair. It carries out over 500 essential tasks. Now I’m going to touch on the major functions and I’m going to tell you right now that these are very science driven so these are very much the scientific parts of the of the liver, so bear with me as we go through them. The major functions of the liver include number one bile production, bile helps the small intestine break down and absorb fats, cholesterol and some vitamins. Bile consists of bile salts, cholesterol, bilirubin, electrolytes, and water. The liver also is responsible for absorbing and metabolizing bilirubin. bilirubin is formed by the breakdown of hemoglobin and the iron released from hemoglobin is stored in the liver or bone marrow, and it is used to make the next generation of blood cells. The liver is responsible for supporting blood clots. Vitamin K is necessary for the creation of certain coagulants that help clot the blood and bile is essential for vitamin K absorption. And it’s also obvious as we talked about created in liver if the liver does not produce enough bile, clotting factors cannot be produced. The liver is responsible for fat metabolism ation. Bile breaks down fats and makes them easier to digest. It’s also responsible for metabolizing carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are stored in the liver where they are broken down into glucose and siphoned into the bloodstream. To maintain normal glucose levels. They are stored as glycogen and released whenever a quick burst of energy is needed. The liver is responsible for vitamin and mineral storage, the liver stores vitamins A, D, E, k and b 12. And it can keep significant amounts of these vitamins stored. In some cases, several years worth of vitamins are held as a backup. And the liver stores iron from hemoglobin in the form of ferritin ready to make new red blood cells and it also stores and releases copper. The liver helps metabolize proteins. Bile helps break down proteins for digestion. And so again, we’ve got metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins all up the liver is responsible for all parts of that the liver helps filter the blood. The liver filters and removes compounds from the body including hormones, such as estrogen and aldosterone, and compounds from outside the body including alcohol and other drugs. The liver plays a role in immuno immunological function. The liver is a part of the mono nucular phagocyte system. It contains high numbers of Kupffer cells that are involved in immune activity, the cells destroy any disease causing agents that might enter the liver through the gut. The liver is responsible for the production of albumin, and albumin is the most common protein in the blood serum. It transports fatty acids and steroid hormones to help maintain the correct pressure and prevent the leaking of blood vessels. fairly important right? And lastly, the liver is involved in the synthesis of angiotensinogen this hormone raises blood pressure by narrowing blood vessels when alerted by production of an enzyme called Renan in the kidneys. So, again, just, you know, 500 essential tasks I just highlighted the most critical, but to say that the liver is the most important organ in the body is really not an understatement, right? We cannot function we cannot survive without our livers. And unlike most other organs in the body, what’s really cool about the liver, it has a special ability to renew damaged parts of itself. Sounds amazing, right? Don’t feel bad if your reaction is that kind of sounds more like science fiction than fact. According to a weapon D survey in collaboration with UPMC. More than three quarters of respondents in a survey said that they were not aware that a liver can regrow. Because of the importance of the liver and its functions evolution has ensured that it can regrow rapidly as long as it is kept healthy. This ability is seen in all vertebrates from fish to humans, and the liver is the only visceral organ that can regenerate. It can regenerate completely, as long as a minimum of 25% of the tissue remains. One of the most impressive aspects of this feat is that the liver can regrow to its previous size, without any loss of function during the growth process. So with regards to the damage that alcohol causes to the liver every time we drink, the great news is that the liver begins to heal itself, the moment it’s done processing the last alcohol you consumed. And we can improve our liver health by factoring in things like alcohol free days, reducing our overall alcohol consumption, and some other tips and tricks I’m going to talk about in just a few minutes. Let’s talk about the reason that alcohol free days are important even if you are currently drinking at low risk levels. As a reminder, that is no more than seven standard drinks per week for women, and no more than three drinks in any one day. And for men, it’s 14 standard drinks per week, and no more than four drinks in any one day. So why are alcohol free days important? Even if you’re sticking to low risk levels, it’s because every time you consume alcohol, it damages the liver. The liver recognizes alcohol is a toxin and stops everything else it’s doing to process and get rid of the alcohol, it can effectively do that with only very small amounts of alcohol, which is why the hole no more than one drink per hour is widely publicized as the rate at which the liver can eliminate alcohol. Of course, as we’ve talked about many times on the podcast, it is not a static process. It is dynamic. And there are lots and lots of factors that influence how your body specifically metabolizes alcohol, so that one drink per hour may work for you or it may not and it may be damaging your out your liver more so than somebody else’s. It’s all your own kind of unique petri dish, right. So even at low levels, if you never take a day off, your liver is essentially never getting a chance to heal itself. And over time, its overall ability to heal itself could be negatively impacted. A less healthy liver functions at a lower level in all of its jobs, including how it heals itself. Another reason that alcohol free days are so important is simply because it de facto lowers your overall alcohol intake. And since we don’t conclusively know, have a safe level of alcohol consumption. Remember, all the science is associative, not causative, and the safest amount of alcohol intake is zero. But if we want to include alcohol in our lives, we’re going to need to reduce it for its potential harm as best we can. And so adding more alcohol free days is just a great step in a way to overall reduce your alcohol consumption. So we just talked about the fact that the liver can only process a small amount of alcohol in at any one time, right. And it is that time aspect that is so important in not only over time over a chronic period, but also in a short amount of time. Alright, so in any day, because when the liver has too much alcohol to be able to process it, the alcohol that is left that is unprocessed by the liver is what circulates through the bloodstream. And it’s this feeling of intoxication is actually a result of the excess liquor that is left over being carried throughout the body. And experts agree that safe amount is going to vary from person to person and it’s going to depend on a whole bunch other things. But typically, typically, if you are going to drink two to three alcoholic drinks in a sitting, you’re going to damage your liver and binge drinking four or five drinks in a row absolutely can result in liver damage right there in an acute way, not just over time over days and days. So while it would not be therefore beneficial to have four or five alcohol free days in a week, and then drink three or four drinks or more on the weekend days, and so it’s not a trade off, you can’t drink excessively on two days a week and then be alcohol free for five and believe that you’re actually not causing your liver any harm, it’s most likely that you are still causing liver damage on those days that you are drinking in a way that is more than the liver can process in that timeframe. And as we’ve discussed previously, the liver isn’t the only consideration for physical health and binge drinking can have other consequences like increased increased food intake, higher calories, potential for injury from accidents. And of course, the more you drink, the more likely you are to not be able to use your logical brain to stop drinking. Right. Okay, so I digress back to the liver. When we take a break from alcohol, the liver can focus on its other jobs, such as breaking down other toxins produced by the body metabolizing fats and excess hormones that need to be broken down. Besides just cutting back on alcohol by reducing the amount we drink on days that we do drink and incorporating alcohol free days into our week, we can improve our liver health, ensuring that it is in top form to process the alcohol when we do drink it. So here are four things you can do beyond your alcohol intake to improve your liver health. Number one diet. Non alcohol related fatty liver disease is often caused by a Western diet, which is typically high in saturated fat and sugar from animal derived foods, meats and cheeses and processed foods. Saturated fat and sugar can lead to a buildup of fat inside and around the liver cells and impair their function. So you need to cut back on red and processed meat, processed and packaged foods, white bread and other white flour products, sugar sweetened beverages and foods with lots of added salt. You should increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, herbs and spices such as turmeric, the more colorful your food the better. And because they basically provide antibiotic oxidants which helped the liver with the whole detoxifying process in the first place. Number two another boost to liver health is exercise. Make the most of that trip out of the house and go for a long walk, run or ride your bike. Exercise decreases stress on the liver. It increases energy levels and helps to prevent obesity, which is another leading cause of liver disease. Number three sleep the body does most of its processing at night and that includes the liver too. So it’s tempting to stay up and you know binge Netflix but stick to a routine aiming to go to bed between 10 and 11pm and wake up between six and 7am so that the liver can perform its necessary cleansing and resting functions. And for more on sleep and tips for better sleep. Go back to listen to episode 18 which I will link in the show notes. And last but certainly not least, you want to up your water intake. If you want to heal your liver naturally drink lots and lots and lots of water. The very best thing you can do for your liver is flush it with pure clean, unadulterated water. This does not mean iced tea it does not mean juice. We fool ourselves into believing that we’re drinking plenty of water because we drink things with water in it. But we need to be drinking water, just water and lots of it. Enough cannot be said about the benefits of drinking water. Water cleanses the system of toxins. And as you know the liver is responsible for flushing the body of toxins. Water aids the liver with this process. It hydrates your body and keeps your brain firing on all cylinders. It helps you stay alert productive and in a balanced mood. Water is just awesome. So drink more of it. Switching to water needs to be a conscious decision. If you want to improve the health of your liver you simply need to drink water. Alright, that is a ton of information folks all about About the liver, and all about how alcohol and cutting back on alcohol will benefit your liver. I will be linking up you articles that I used in researching this episode in the show notes, as well as the episode that I mentioned. And for more information on liver health and liver disease, please visit www dot liver foundation.org. All right, that is all I have for you this week, my friends. Until next time, please choose peace. Thank you for listening to breaking the bottle legacy. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Take something that you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol. Now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com