Healing can begin as early as a few days to weeks after you stop drinking, but if the damage is severe, healing can take several months. In some cases, “if the damage to the liver has been long-term, it may not be reversible,” warns Dr. Stein.
About one-third of people with elevated liver enzymes will have normal liver enzyme levels after two to four weeks. If your liver enzymes stay high, your provider may order more blood tests, or imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. They may also refer you to a liver specialist (hepatologist).
The liver can develop new cells, but prolonged alcohol misuse (drinking too much) over many years can reduce its ability to regenerate.
So what happens when you stop drinking? The good news is that the liver is the only organ that can restore and regenerate itself. Because the liver is in a constant state of regeneration, in many cases the healing process can begin within just weeks after foregoing alcohol.
Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase test: This test measures the level of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (an enzyme that is produced in the liver, pancreas, and biliary tract). This test is often performed to assess liver function, to provide information about liver diseases, and to detect alcohol ingestion.
Sometimes liver damage can be caused by a virus or autoimmune condition. There are effective treatments for these conditions. It's never too late. See your doctor and follow a healthy lifestyle to reduce inflammation, reverse scarring and improve how your liver works.
By abstaining from alcohol, drinking lots of water, and eating a liver-friendly diet, you can reverse some of the effects of alcohol abuse. Yes, the good news is, the liver can repair itself after years of drinking.
The liver is a unique organ that can regenerate itself if damaged. Abstaining from alcohol gives the liver the best chance of healing and returning to normal function. You'll notice positive health changes like increased energy and mental alertness when your liver begins to heal from alcohol damage.
Reversing liver damage Liver Basics
Barring complications, the liver can repair itself completely and, within a month, the patient will show no signs of damage. However, sometimes the liver gets overwhelmed and can't repair itself completely, especially if it's still under attack from a virus, drug, or alcohol.
Therefore, patients with NAFLD should avoid alcohol entirely if possible. If you do not think you can completely stop drinking alcohol, it is important to minimize alcohol intake (less than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women).
By 4-8 weeks after quitting, your gut will start to level out. Your sleep-quality will improve. Though we may fall asleep faster when we drink, our brains actually increase alpha wave patterns, which cause our brains to be more active than they should be while we sleep.
Damage already done to your liver is permanent. But your liver is a large organ. If part of your liver is still working, you might be able to slow the progression of disease, depending on its cause. For instance, if your cirrhosis is caused by alcohol use, talk to your provider about how to stop drinking.
After two weeks off alcohol, you will continue to reap the benefits of better sleep and hydration. As alcohol is an irritant to the stomach lining, after a fortnight you will also see a reduction in symptoms such as reflux where the stomach acid burns your throat.
To check your blood for alcohol, your doctor uses a needle to take blood from your arm and measure the amount of alcohol. The other tests you might get for alcohol, like a breath or urine test, don't use blood samples. Each of these tests has the same goal: to check how much alcohol is in your body.
To determine if you have alcoholic liver disease your doctor will probably test your blood, take a biopsy of the liver, and do a liver function test. You should also have other tests to rule out other diseases that could be causing your symptoms. Your symptoms may vary depending upon the severity of your disease.
While the liver's job is to break down alcohol effectively, regular usage can overburden the process and damage the liver. When this situation occurs, a condition called fatty liver is seen.
It is estimated that alcohol-related fatty liver disease develops in 90% of people who drink more than 40g of alcohol (or four units) per day. That's roughly the equivalent of two medium (175ml) glasses of 12% ABV wine, or less than two pints of regular strength (4% ABV) beer.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite is a common cause of liver disease. It is especially likely if the person also has nausea and vomiting as symptoms. Not surprisingly, weight loss is a common result. The good news is that this is considered an early sign of liver disease.
Signs and symptoms
However, as your liver loses its ability to function properly, you're likely to experience a loss of appetite, nausea and itchy skin. In the later stages, symptoms can include jaundice, vomiting blood, dark, tarry-looking stools, and a build-up of fluid in the legs (oedema) and abdomen (ascites).
After a week without alcohol, you may find that you have a lot more energy. After the sluggishness and discomfort at the beginning of the week, suddenly, you wake up full of beans. You may notice your face is less puffy too, and your eyes might seem brighter.