Causes of Alcohol-Related Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)
The only cause of alcohol-related fatty liver disease is alcohol. This is obvious to medical experts because those who drink more than two to three drinks daily for long periods of time will often have fatty liver disease – and the fatty liver disease may disappear when the person gives up alcohol.
There are usually no symptoms with alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, some people do experience fatigue, pain in the liver area of the abdomen, and weakness. The cells of the liver are storing large amounts of fat in the form of triglycerides.
Alcohol-related fatty liver disease is not the only liver problem caused by alcohol. Hepatitis can also result. Hepatitis means that the liver cells become inflamed. In fact, in hepatitis, you’ll find the same fat deposition in the liver cells along with inflammation and scarring of the liver. The symptoms worsen with hepatitis and there may be nausea and vomiting, fever and the patient may lose his appetite. His or her skin may also turn yellow because of jaundice.
Alcoholic hepatitis can progress to a severe health condition that results in a quick death. However, it can also be a condition that is reversed. Diet plays a big part in how well the person recovers.
Alcoholic cirrhosis is one additional health problem that is brought on by drinking alcohol. Cirrhosis is the worst because of the scarring in the liver. With scarring, regular liver tissue is replaced with hard, fibrotic tissue that has lost its function. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to reverse scarring.
When liver conditions progress to the cirrhosis state, there’s edema – swelling – in the abdomen as well as the veins in the abdomen enlarging, called caput medusa because the veins are visible underneath the skin and look like a twisted body of a snake. The condition can progress to kidney failure, coma and death.
If an alcholic shows fatty liver disease, it can then progress to hepatitis and then cirrhosis. It’s not true that fatty liver disease will always progress in this fashion, and sometimes patients who drink a lot of alcohol have hepatitis but not the cirrhosis. One thing is certain though: continuing to drink alcohol will worsen the condition.
4 Risk Factors of Alcohol-Related Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)
There’s primarily one risk factor for developing alcohol-related fatty liver disease (ALD): the consumption of alcohol.
So who is most likely to become an alcoholic drinker? Psychological studies show that those who are dependent on alcohol are people who can’t say no to an extra drink, or the first drink at all. Here’s a list of people who are most likely to become dependent on it:
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 The statistic of those in this age range who binge drink – a habit that can easily lead to fatty liver disease – is as high as 41%.
Those who tend to be impulsive Someone who is impulsive will tend to try something on a whim. If friends are encouraging a person to drink all day at a get-together, someone who is impulsive might be more apt to do exactly that. He or she may be in a home situation where feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, frustration and being trapped have been coming up recently, making an impulsive person even more impulsive.
Those who are influenced by a peer group Those who are influenced by friends are less apt to stand up for what they believe when the peer pressure is applied.
Those whose parents drank while they observed the behavior Watching a parent drink and treat family members poorly is nothing that a child wants to watch. A child can make a decision to never be like the offending parent but then later in life, finds himself or herself walking in the parent’s footsteps.
Counseling helps a lot in these cases.
Those who have had a previous history of drug abuse, and are going through a rough time in their life Stress brings out the worst in us. A previous history of abusing drugs or alcohol can be ‘relived’ when times get hard, making a person turn to alcohol.
Those who received accolades for drinking large amounts of alcohol Getting praised by one’s friends and talked about as if “you’re the man” is a good feeling. But when that feeling is associated with alcohol, it starts a neural pathway in the brain that links happiness with alcohol. This link has to be broken if you are going to give up alcohol, something that is essential to reverse fatty liver. Replacing the happiness with a disgusted feeling (such as imagining maggots in the alcoholic drinks) is an old trick that psychologists and hypnotherapists use to break bad habits.
If you recognize that you could be at risk to develop fatty liver disease as a result of your personal drinking habits, the best choice of health practitioner to see is a psychologist.
Symptoms of Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)
Symptoms of alcoholic fatty liver disease (ALD) depend on whether or not alcoholic hepatitis will develop. In the early stages of alcoholic liver disease, there are no specific symptoms of anything wrong.
However, if you look closely, you will find symptoms and signs that the body is not right.
For example, there will be mental signs and symptoms, such as lack of concentration, moodiness, depression, confusion at times, insomnia and fatigue. The consumption of alcohol depletes the body of nutrients, especially B vitamins and magnesium, which all cause these types of symptoms.
Magnesium deficiency further causes muscle tremors – and in severe deficiency is responsible for the delirium tremens that occurs when an alcoholic tries to withdraw from the drink.
Alcoholism is also associated with a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency, which is called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency include memory loss, confabulation, confusion, lack of coordination, and vision disturbances.
These symptoms may be accompanied by blood sugar swings that cause irritability, hunger, cravings, nervousness, anger outbursts, dizziness, and shakiness. The blood sugar swings occur because alcoholic drinks are being substituted for food. There are no nutrients in alcoholic drinks so the body’s reserves of the nutrients gets used up. Without eating a healthy diet or taking nutritional supplements, the body starts dying of deficiency diseases. Fatty liver can be caused by nutritional deficiencies as well as alcoholic consumption.
The liver itself starts out with an accumulation of fat – called fatty liver – and then progresses to hepatitis. Not all alcoholics will get hepatitis; some will progress to the worst stage of cirrhosis.
Once hepatitis sets in, there’s an inflammation of the liver. Similar to fatty liver, there may not be very many symptoms in the beginning. But as the condition gets more advanced, the following symptoms may appear:
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stool
- Lack of libido
- Bruising easily
- Swelling in the legs, ankle and abdomen
- General poor health
- Enlarged liver
- Pain in the abdomen
The sad part about alcoholic fatty liver disease is that when it progresses to a certain point, there may not be a way to reverse the condition. A liver transplant may be needed in order for the patient to survive.
Treatment of Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)
There are several ways of treating alcoholic fatty liver disease, but the most important method is to stop drinking alcohol. This really does mean the total elimination of alcohol – all beer, wine, hard drinks, tonics and everything else that contains alcohol.
Alcohol damages the liver in several ways:
When you drink large amounts of alcohol, you begin to lose your appetite. Over time, you end up with vitamin and mineral deficiencies that contribute to the development of fatty liver disease. Studies show that deficiencies of vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, methionine, choline, vitamin C, and other B vitamins may be related to fatty liver disease.
The high amounts of calories in alcohol can pack on the pounds. Once you are overweight or obese, there is a great risk of developing fatty liver disease.
Alcohol damages the liver cells directly. It causes oxidative stress and generates free radicals that attack the liver directly. Free radicals are clearly related to fatty liver disease.
Alcohol damages the liver indirectly by increasing the space between the cells in the intestines so that substances can leak out into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, they make their way back to the liver, and some of these toxins may start an inflammation reaction or directly damage cells.
Giving up alcohol is easier than one may think if you approach it like you can approach giving up other bad habits – looking for the goodness and benefits that will replace what you will miss.
For example, what types of activities are you unable to do now? How’s your endurance? How do you feel when you get up in the morning? Do you ever look into the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful (or handsome)? If not, this is simply where you are now but you won’t be in the same place after your journey to health ends. Look for positive reinforcement along your journey, never the things you are missing.
Part of the treatment for alcoholic fatty liver disease includes switching to a healthy diet. This is a diet full of leafy green vegetables, fruits, wholesome grains, protein foods, and healthy fats without alcohol, sugar, processed foods, and high amounts of salt. You may notice an immediate improvement in the way you feel – within a week – just from a healthier diet. One thing to remember is that your body will respond quickly and it really does want to show you its regenerative abilities.
Medications may also be used for alcoholic fatty liver disease but no medications have ever been shown to benefit or reverse the condition.
To get more understanding about alcoholic fatty liver disease, watch this video – Alcohol-related liver disease: Mayo Clinic Radio
This post is from the Fatty Liver Remedy Program. It is created by Layla Jeffrey who is a Nutritionist and an Expert on the subject of Fatty Liver. She was diagnosed with a “fatty liver”, or to be more precise, Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatisis (NASH). In this program, she will share how she has succeeded in reversing her fatty liver. This program offers T ime-tested, proven and all-natural ways to PREVENT & REVERSE the 3 main categories of Fatty Liver Disease: Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD), Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatisis (NASH).
To find out more about this program, visit her website – Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Remedy