Simple, accurate health tests for the home and the workplace.

What Happens to Your Liver When You Stop Drinking

 

Whether you’re attempting Dry January or you’ve decided to cut down on alcohol this year to improve your health, you’ll be doing your liver and entire body a big favour. Read on for information about liver health and at-home liver tests.

Liver Health and at Home liver tests

What Happens to Your Liver When You Stop Drinking?

As the only organ in the body that can regenerate itself (within reason), the liver is pretty amazing. But, it’s also vulnerable to damage so don’t take its regenerative superpower as the go-ahead to drink as much alcohol as you like. Whilst it can repair after a period of abstaining, it can’t continue to do that if it becomes severely scarred.

What does the liver do?

As the largest solid organ in the body, the liver is responsible for around 500 essential processes in the body. It plays a vital role in detoxifying the body and removing contaminants, storing nutrients and vitamins, and converting fat, protein and carbohydrates.

When you drink alcohol excessively, the liver becomes damaged, which can lead to liver disease and liver failure if not treated early. Read more about the effects of alcohol on the liver by clicking here.

Common symptoms of liver damage.

Common symptoms of liver damage include:

  • Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin (also called jaundice)
  • Dark urine
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling itchy
  • Pain in the right upper abdomen
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Change in the colour of your stools – pale, bloody or very dark

Whilst there are various symptoms that can present if your liver is damaged, many of these symptoms could be related to other conditions. It’s always wise to seek advice from a GP if you experience any of the above.

How quickly can your liver repair itself?

The good news is that your liver is incredibly resilient and can repair after four to six weeks (providing it isn’t too damaged).

When you cut out alcohol completely for several months, your liver cells can return to normal.

What is too much alcohol?

As a guide, having two to three alcoholic drinks per day can harm your liver. Binge drinking (when you consume more than four alcoholic drinks in one sitting) will have the same effect.

The NHS states that ‘the current UK guidelines advise limiting alcohol intake to 14 units a week for women and men. This is equivalent to drinking no more than 6 pints of average-strength beer (4% ABV) or 7 medium-sized glasses of wine (175ml, 12% ABV) a week’.

However, there isn’t a fixed number of alcohol units that applies to all people. Each individual is different so think about how much alcohol is a safe level for you – it could be even less than the NHS recommends if your liver is already damaged. A good place to start is to test your liver to evaluate its current condition.

How to test the health of your liver

Many people won’t experience any symptoms from liver disease until 75% of the liver is damaged, which is why it’s important to have regular check-ups and liver blood tests if you regularly drink alcohol.

Your GP can arrange liver tests, but you can also do it in the comfort of your home at your convenience.

How home liver tests work

A home health liver test will check for Bilirubin and Urobilinogen in your urine.

Bilirubin is the yellow substance found in the blood, which is why high levels can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes. Urobilinogen is also associated with the breakdown of red blood sales. Raised levels can indicate liver disease.

The home tests are easy to do. You simply pee into a pot and dip the test strip into the urine. Results will appear on the strip within 30-60 seconds. The test includes a colour chart, which will enable you to compare your results. This identifies if you need to take action or see a doctor.

By understanding the current health of your liver, you will be able to make informed choices about your health and how much alcohol you should and shouldn’t drink in the future.

Find out more about testing your liver at home here.

Want help with cutting down on alcohol? This article may help: Why Giving up Alcohol Improves Your Life in More Ways Than You Think.

Further information about liver health and tests

For more information about liver disease from the NHS click here.