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Alcohol and Health

Alcohol and Hepatitis: Everything You Need To Know

Published:
June 2, 2023
·
17 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 2, 2023
·
17 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 2, 2023
·
17 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 2, 2023
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17 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 2, 2023
·
17 min read

Did you know that your liver is one of the most vital organs in your body? It’s the largest internal organ, and it’s responsible for over 500 different functions — from detoxifying harmful substances to purifying our blood. We simply wouldn’t survive without it!

Given that it’s such an indispensable part of our biological system, it’s worth considering how alcohol affects our liver — more specifically, how alcohol can cause hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver.

In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic hepatitis symptoms. We’ll also look at treatment options and ways to keep our liver healthy.

What Is Hepatitis?

Before we look at the connection between alcohol and hepatitis, it’s helpful to understand hepatitis. Simply put, hepatitis is a type of inflammation of the liver, the organ responsible for filtering and detoxifying the body’s blood. While our liver has many important functions, detoxification is one of its most essential. 

Inflammation in our liver can be caused by a number of different things, such as a virus, drugs, toxins, or alcohol use. The three most common types of viral hepatitis are A, B, and C. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It’s primarily spread through contaminated food and water, and it’s common in countries with poor sanitary conditions and lack of access to clean water. The symptoms of hepatitis A range from mild to severe and usually resolve within several months without treatment. Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. It’s usually spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. In some cases, it can also be spread through an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. The symptoms of hepatitis B can range from mild to severe, and they usually resolve without treatment. Despite this, however, the virus can cause permanent liver damage if untreated. The good news is that it can also be prevented with a vaccine.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. It’s primarily spread through contact with the blood of an infected person, often through sharing needles and other injection-related drug equipment. The symptoms of hepatitis C may be mild or absent, and the virus can cause severe, permanent liver damage if left untreated. One common sign in people with hepatitis is a “liver rash” — or a rash on the skin due to liver damage. 

The Connection Between Alcohol and Hepatitis

As we’ve learned, hepatitis can be caused by an infection due to a virus, drugs, or toxins. While we typically don’t think of it as such, alcohol is actually a toxin — which is why drinking alcohol can cause hepatitis. In fact, alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of developing hepatitis.

Heavy alcohol use can cause fatty liver disease, a condition caused by a buildup of fat in the liver cells. People who drink more than four alcoholic beverages a day are more likely to develop fatty liver disease, which can lead to the progression of hepatitis. 

Heavy alcohol consumption can also weaken a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infection from hepatitis A, B, and C viruses. Furthermore, people who drink heavily for several years are also more likely to develop cirrhosis, which increases the risk of developing liver cancer.

Diagram about the different types of hepatitis

Alcoholic Hepatitis and Alcoholic Cirrhosis

Alcohol use can lead to two types of hepatitis: alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. Both are caused by excessive alcohol consumption over time, which overwhelms the body’s ability to break down and process the alcohol. When alcohol is present in the liver in large amounts, it can lead to inflammation and further damage. Let’s take a closer look at both alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis: 

What Is Alcohol Hepatitis?

Alcoholic hepatitis occurs when a person drinks too much for too long, resulting in inflammation of the liver with the destruction of liver cells. Alcoholic hepatitis symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Over time, alcohol’s damage to the liver can lead to fat build-up, scarring, and tissue death. 

When severe hepatitis begins to interfere with our liver’s functioning, we may notice symptoms such as a fever, fast heart rate, confusion, and easy bleeding and bruising. In some cases, a person with alcoholic hepatitis may have no symptoms; others can become seriously ill and require hospitalization. The severity depends on how much and for how long the person has been drinking. 

It’s important to remember that it’s possible to develop alcoholic hepatitis without drinking heavily over time; this can happen after a binge drinking session, as well.

What Is Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most advanced stage of alcoholic liver disease. This develops when the inflammation and scarring caused by alcoholic hepatitis builds up and damages the liver. The liver becomes increasingly unable to process nutrients, toxins, and hormones from the body. 

As a result, alcoholic liver disease symptoms include jaundice, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, and confusion. Sadly, there is no cure for alcoholic cirrhosis, and it is a life-threatening illness. The only treatment option in the most serious cases is to have a liver transplant.

We should note that while some people can consume alcohol in moderation without developing alcohol-related problems, it only takes a short amount of time for an individual to experience the effects of excessive drinking on the liver. Doctors recommend reducing the amount of alcohol we consume, or abstaining from alcohol entirely, to minimize the risk of hepatitis. (And saying goodbye to alcohol brings a number of other benefits, too!)

What Are the Treatment Options for Hepatitis?

The treatment of hepatitis depends on the type of virus and the severity of the infection. For virus types A, B, and C, there is no specific treatment, and the virus will typically clear on its own. However, lifestyle changes such as reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and eating a balanced diet can reduce hepatitis symptoms and reduce the risk of progression to more advanced stages. For people with hepatitis, it’s crucial to get plenty of rest, maintain a healthy weight, and drink enough water. 

If we have alcoholic hepatitis and we don’t quit alcohol, we’ll continue to progress toward cirrhosis and liver failure. While existing scar tissue in our liver can’t be reversed, we can prevent further damage and preserve the rest of our liver by no longer drinking. In fact, people who quit drinking alcohol after being diagnosed with hepatitis typically show great improvement after six to 12 months

In some cases, medications may be needed. Several medications treat hepatitis, including antiviral drugs, which reduce the virus’s ability to replicate itself. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are used to reduce inflammation and help the liver recover from injuries caused by the virus. Anti-inflammatory and other supportive medications can also be prescribed to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of progression.

No matter the type of hepatitis, it’s absolutely vital to seek medical help as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment can reduce both the severity of the virus and the risk of progression. A medical professional can check our liver enzyme levels; high levels of liver enzymes in our blood can indicate a medical condition like hepatitis. Liver enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions in our body, such as producing bile and substances that help our blood clot, break down food and toxins, and fight infection.

How To Maintain a Healthy Liver

Apart from reducing or eliminating our alcohol consumption, several actions can support a healthy liver and prevent hepatitis. Here are 6 tips:

  1. Eat a liver-friendly diet. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help to support a healthy liver and immune system. Green tea and coffee, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, turmeric, berries, nuts, fatty fish, and beets are particularly beneficial. 
  2. Avoid toxins. Toxins can injure liver cells, so limit direct contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives. If you do use aerosols, make sure the room is ventilated — and be sure to wear a mask!
  3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity benefits nearly every aspect of our health, including our liver. Consistent exercise helps prevent fatty deposits in the liver and decreases inflammation. Even just a brisk 10 minute walk can be beneficial! 
  4. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can also do wonders for our liver health. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out unwanted toxins that can otherwise harm liver function. On the flip side, dehydration often results in toxins accumulating, causing liver damage. Experts recommend drinking at least six 8-oz glasses of water a day.
  5. Wash your hands. Basic hygiene protocol is simple but can prevent the risk of many dangerous infections and diseases like hepatitis. Use soap and warm water immediately after using the bathroom or before preparing or eating food. Try to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and don’t forget to get under your fingernails! 
  6. Be mindful of medications. It’s important to follow directions for all medications because taking too much of them or taking them for too long can harm your liver. Keep in mind that most adults shouldn’t get more than 4,000 milligrams per day of acetaminophen, which is in more than 600 medications, including many cold and flu drugs.

These simple practices are some of the most effective ways to maintain healthy liver functions.

The Bottom Line

Alcohol can cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), which can be a serious medical condition. While alcoholic hepatitis typically develops after heavy, long-term consumption of alcohol, even one night of binge drinking can lead to acute inflammation. Because our liver is such a vital organ, we should think twice before drinking. One of the best ways to protect ourselves from hepatitis is by reducing or eliminating our alcohol consumption. If we’re concerned that we may have hepatitis, it’s essential that you see your doctor for a diagnosis.

If you want to cut back or quit drinking but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits.

Did you know that your liver is one of the most vital organs in your body? It’s the largest internal organ, and it’s responsible for over 500 different functions — from detoxifying harmful substances to purifying our blood. We simply wouldn’t survive without it!

Given that it’s such an indispensable part of our biological system, it’s worth considering how alcohol affects our liver — more specifically, how alcohol can cause hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver.

In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic hepatitis symptoms. We’ll also look at treatment options and ways to keep our liver healthy.

What Is Hepatitis?

Before we look at the connection between alcohol and hepatitis, it’s helpful to understand hepatitis. Simply put, hepatitis is a type of inflammation of the liver, the organ responsible for filtering and detoxifying the body’s blood. While our liver has many important functions, detoxification is one of its most essential. 

Inflammation in our liver can be caused by a number of different things, such as a virus, drugs, toxins, or alcohol use. The three most common types of viral hepatitis are A, B, and C. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It’s primarily spread through contaminated food and water, and it’s common in countries with poor sanitary conditions and lack of access to clean water. The symptoms of hepatitis A range from mild to severe and usually resolve within several months without treatment. Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. It’s usually spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. In some cases, it can also be spread through an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. The symptoms of hepatitis B can range from mild to severe, and they usually resolve without treatment. Despite this, however, the virus can cause permanent liver damage if untreated. The good news is that it can also be prevented with a vaccine.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. It’s primarily spread through contact with the blood of an infected person, often through sharing needles and other injection-related drug equipment. The symptoms of hepatitis C may be mild or absent, and the virus can cause severe, permanent liver damage if left untreated. One common sign in people with hepatitis is a “liver rash” — or a rash on the skin due to liver damage. 

The Connection Between Alcohol and Hepatitis

As we’ve learned, hepatitis can be caused by an infection due to a virus, drugs, or toxins. While we typically don’t think of it as such, alcohol is actually a toxin — which is why drinking alcohol can cause hepatitis. In fact, alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of developing hepatitis.

Heavy alcohol use can cause fatty liver disease, a condition caused by a buildup of fat in the liver cells. People who drink more than four alcoholic beverages a day are more likely to develop fatty liver disease, which can lead to the progression of hepatitis. 

Heavy alcohol consumption can also weaken a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infection from hepatitis A, B, and C viruses. Furthermore, people who drink heavily for several years are also more likely to develop cirrhosis, which increases the risk of developing liver cancer.

Diagram about the different types of hepatitis

Alcoholic Hepatitis and Alcoholic Cirrhosis

Alcohol use can lead to two types of hepatitis: alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. Both are caused by excessive alcohol consumption over time, which overwhelms the body’s ability to break down and process the alcohol. When alcohol is present in the liver in large amounts, it can lead to inflammation and further damage. Let’s take a closer look at both alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis: 

What Is Alcohol Hepatitis?

Alcoholic hepatitis occurs when a person drinks too much for too long, resulting in inflammation of the liver with the destruction of liver cells. Alcoholic hepatitis symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Over time, alcohol’s damage to the liver can lead to fat build-up, scarring, and tissue death. 

When severe hepatitis begins to interfere with our liver’s functioning, we may notice symptoms such as a fever, fast heart rate, confusion, and easy bleeding and bruising. In some cases, a person with alcoholic hepatitis may have no symptoms; others can become seriously ill and require hospitalization. The severity depends on how much and for how long the person has been drinking. 

It’s important to remember that it’s possible to develop alcoholic hepatitis without drinking heavily over time; this can happen after a binge drinking session, as well.

What Is Alcoholic Cirrhosis?

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most advanced stage of alcoholic liver disease. This develops when the inflammation and scarring caused by alcoholic hepatitis builds up and damages the liver. The liver becomes increasingly unable to process nutrients, toxins, and hormones from the body. 

As a result, alcoholic liver disease symptoms include jaundice, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, and confusion. Sadly, there is no cure for alcoholic cirrhosis, and it is a life-threatening illness. The only treatment option in the most serious cases is to have a liver transplant.

We should note that while some people can consume alcohol in moderation without developing alcohol-related problems, it only takes a short amount of time for an individual to experience the effects of excessive drinking on the liver. Doctors recommend reducing the amount of alcohol we consume, or abstaining from alcohol entirely, to minimize the risk of hepatitis. (And saying goodbye to alcohol brings a number of other benefits, too!)

What Are the Treatment Options for Hepatitis?

The treatment of hepatitis depends on the type of virus and the severity of the infection. For virus types A, B, and C, there is no specific treatment, and the virus will typically clear on its own. However, lifestyle changes such as reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and eating a balanced diet can reduce hepatitis symptoms and reduce the risk of progression to more advanced stages. For people with hepatitis, it’s crucial to get plenty of rest, maintain a healthy weight, and drink enough water. 

If we have alcoholic hepatitis and we don’t quit alcohol, we’ll continue to progress toward cirrhosis and liver failure. While existing scar tissue in our liver can’t be reversed, we can prevent further damage and preserve the rest of our liver by no longer drinking. In fact, people who quit drinking alcohol after being diagnosed with hepatitis typically show great improvement after six to 12 months

In some cases, medications may be needed. Several medications treat hepatitis, including antiviral drugs, which reduce the virus’s ability to replicate itself. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are used to reduce inflammation and help the liver recover from injuries caused by the virus. Anti-inflammatory and other supportive medications can also be prescribed to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of progression.

No matter the type of hepatitis, it’s absolutely vital to seek medical help as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment can reduce both the severity of the virus and the risk of progression. A medical professional can check our liver enzyme levels; high levels of liver enzymes in our blood can indicate a medical condition like hepatitis. Liver enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions in our body, such as producing bile and substances that help our blood clot, break down food and toxins, and fight infection.

How To Maintain a Healthy Liver

Apart from reducing or eliminating our alcohol consumption, several actions can support a healthy liver and prevent hepatitis. Here are 6 tips:

  1. Eat a liver-friendly diet. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help to support a healthy liver and immune system. Green tea and coffee, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, turmeric, berries, nuts, fatty fish, and beets are particularly beneficial. 
  2. Avoid toxins. Toxins can injure liver cells, so limit direct contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives. If you do use aerosols, make sure the room is ventilated — and be sure to wear a mask!
  3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity benefits nearly every aspect of our health, including our liver. Consistent exercise helps prevent fatty deposits in the liver and decreases inflammation. Even just a brisk 10 minute walk can be beneficial! 
  4. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can also do wonders for our liver health. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out unwanted toxins that can otherwise harm liver function. On the flip side, dehydration often results in toxins accumulating, causing liver damage. Experts recommend drinking at least six 8-oz glasses of water a day.
  5. Wash your hands. Basic hygiene protocol is simple but can prevent the risk of many dangerous infections and diseases like hepatitis. Use soap and warm water immediately after using the bathroom or before preparing or eating food. Try to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and don’t forget to get under your fingernails! 
  6. Be mindful of medications. It’s important to follow directions for all medications because taking too much of them or taking them for too long can harm your liver. Keep in mind that most adults shouldn’t get more than 4,000 milligrams per day of acetaminophen, which is in more than 600 medications, including many cold and flu drugs.

These simple practices are some of the most effective ways to maintain healthy liver functions.

The Bottom Line

Alcohol can cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), which can be a serious medical condition. While alcoholic hepatitis typically develops after heavy, long-term consumption of alcohol, even one night of binge drinking can lead to acute inflammation. Because our liver is such a vital organ, we should think twice before drinking. One of the best ways to protect ourselves from hepatitis is by reducing or eliminating our alcohol consumption. If we’re concerned that we may have hepatitis, it’s essential that you see your doctor for a diagnosis.

If you want to cut back or quit drinking but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits.

Summary FAQs

1. What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a type of inflammation of the liver, which can be caused by a virus, drugs, toxins, or alcohol use. The three most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

2. What is the connection between alcohol and hepatitis?

Alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of developing hepatitis. People who drink more than four alcoholic beverages a day are more likely to develop fatty liver disease which can lead to the progression of hepatitis. 

3. What types of hepatitis are associated with alcohol? 

Alcohol use can lead to two types of hepatitis: alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. Both are caused by excessive alcohol consumption over time, which overwhelms the body’s ability to break down and process the alcohol. When alcohol is present in the liver in large amounts, this can lead to inflammation and further damage. 

4. What are alcoholic hepatitis symptoms? 

Alcoholic hepatitis symptoms include yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue

5. What are treatment options for alcoholic hepatitis?

Depending on the severity of the condition, doctors may prescribe some medications to help reduce inflammation. However, lifestyle changes such as reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and eating a balanced diet can help to reduce the symptoms of hepatitis and reduce the risk of progression to more advanced stages.

6. What are some tips for maintaining a healthy liver? 

Apart from reducing our alcohol consumption, we can help protect our liver by eating a healthy diet, avoiding toxins, exercising regularly, drinking lots of water, washing our hands, and taking medications only as prescribed. 

Cut Back on Alcohol With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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