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Alcohol and Health

What Are the Signs Your Liver Is Healing?

July 12, 2023
11 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.
July 12, 2023
11 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.
July 12, 2023
11 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.
July 12, 2023
11 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 12, 2023
11 min read

One of your body’s most remarkable qualities is its ability to heal itself. Consider what happens when you get a cut: platelets in your blood clot together to stop the bleeding, white blood cells remove the dead or injured cells, and new healthy cells repair the damaged tissue.

While this is a visible example of how our body repairs itself, our body’s cells are constantly working to bring us back to a natural state of homeostasis or equilibrium. When we ingest harmful substances, such as alcohol, our body has to work extra hard to rid toxins from our body. Over time, chronic exposure to alcohol can cause significant damage across our bodily systems, particularly our liver.

So can your liver repair itself? Absolutely! With proper care, your liver can bounce back, regenerating itself even after years of exposure to toxic substances like alcohol. How long does this process take, and how can you tell if your liver is healing? Let’s take a look.

Understanding Our Liver

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Our liver is the largest internal organ in our body, and its role is to eliminate waste and toxic substances. Whenever we consume alcohol, most of it goes through the liver, while the rest gets out of our system through our breath, sweat, and urine.

The liver processes alcohol in two steps. First, it converts it to acetaldehyde — a compound even more toxic than alcohol itself. This toxin can cause damage over time, especially as the liver starts lagging behind, leading to acetaldehyde buildup. The second step involves converting acetaldehyde to harmless acetate (a substance similar to vinegar), which is then excreted from the body by the kidneys.

Alcohol’s Impact on the Liver

As the alcohol in our system is processed, it can cause significant damage to liver cells and enzymes. While an occasional drink might not do much harm, regular alcohol consumption can cause liver damage or disease. In extreme cases, it can lead to liver cirrhosis, a widespread scarring of the liver that cannot be healed. However, prolonged alcohol consumption is more likely to cause fatty liver disease and hepatitis, both of which can be managed — and even reversed — before progressing to cirrhosis.

Liver damage might not show any signs at first. As the damage progresses, however, it might lead to several signs and symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, weight loss, jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), loss of appetite, drowsiness, confusion, blood in stools, vomiting blood, or swollen ankles, feet, or stomach. But can the liver heal itself?

Can Your Liver Heal Itself?

Our liver can heal itself from the effects of alcohol within weeks, so long as cirrhosis has not developed. But even if cirrhosis is present, other types of damage — such as hepatitis — can heal once alcohol use is stopped.

In fact, research indicates that fatty liver disease will almost completely heal within about three weeks of stopping alcohol use. By the first month after stopping, the liver should be almost entirely healed. However, it’s worth noting that healing rates differ for everyone and depend on a variety of factors, such as sex assigned at birth, hormone levels, body weight, and overall health.

Signs Your Liver Is Healing

Signs Your Liver Is Healing

When our liver begins to repair itself, we’ll likely notice some effects. Here are some signs our liver is healing:

  1. More energy. Reduced liver function can negatively affect our body’s metabolism and leave us feeling tired and sluggish — even when we rest. As our liver heals, we’ll likely notice an uptick in our energy levels.
  2. Clearer thinking. When our liver isn’t functioning well, it can create a backup of toxins in our system. For instance, liver disease can lead to a buildup of ammonia in our brain, which causes confusion and disorientation. As our liver heals, it will regain its ability to remove toxins and unwanted compounds from our blood, resulting in clearer thinking.
  3. Increased appetite. Our liver plays a vital role in digestion, helping absorb food and balance hormones that control appetite. Diminished liver function has been shown to lead to a decreased appetite. By eliminating alcohol and allowing our liver to heal, it becomes easier to digest food and nutrients, so we’ll likely notice an improved appetite.
  4. Regulated weight. The effect of liver damage on our metabolism can also cause us to gain weight due to nutritional imbalance. As our liver heals, our weight will likely become more stable, even though our appetite has increased, because our body is better able to get the nutrients it needs.
  5. Normal skin and eye color. Alcohol liver damage can cause jaundice — a condition marked by yellowing of the eyes and skin due to the liver’s inability to efficiently process red blood cells as they break down. We’ll know our liver is healing when our eyes and skin return to a normal color.
  6. Improved immune function. Our liver plays an important role in regulating our immune system. Liver disease disrupts the immune system through several processes, making it difficult for our body to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, and leaving us more susceptible to common ailments. A strengthened immune system and resistance to infections is another sign that our liver is healing itself.
  7. Reduced pain. Liver disease can cause an uncomfortable amount of pain. We’ll know our liver is healing when we start feeling less pain, or maybe even using fewer painkillers to manage the pain.
  8. Improved blood work. Perhaps the most obvious sign our liver is healing is through our bloodwork. Blood tests can detect chemical changes in how the liver functions. These tests usually include checking levels of the following substances:

    • Albumin: a protein produced by the liver
    • Total protein: the total concentration of protein in the blood
    • Liver enzymes: alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine transaminase (ATP), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) are enzymes that get released into our bloodstream when the liver is damaged
    • Bilirubin: a compound released from red blood cells when the liver doesn’t break them down
    • Prothrombin time: a test that measures blood clotting rate

Blood tests can provide an overview of how well your liver is functioning. If you have concerns, you can contact your doctor or medical professional to talk about doing lab work.

Tips for Helping Your Liver Heal

In addition to eliminating alcohol, we can do several things to help our liver heal and repair itself. For instance, drinking plenty of water can support liver function by making liver cells work better and improving blood flow to the liver. Experts recommend drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. If we’re exercising or outside in the sun for long periods of time, we should be drinking more.

Similarly, it’s important to eat a liver-healthy diet. Certain foods — especially fat, sugar, and salt — place increased stress on the liver. Try opting for nutrient-dense foods high in fiber, which can help improve liver health.

Finally, regular physical activity can help increase our metabolism and improve our overall health. It also helps improve circulation, allowing our body to work more efficiently.

Keep in mind that of all the things we can do to help our liver heal, cutting out alcohol is the most important. If you’re finding it difficult to stop drinking, Reframe can help.

Cut Alcohol Out of Your Life 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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