THE LIVER & ALCOHOL
Alcohol hits the headlines on a regular basis and one of the main parts of the body affected by too much of it is the liver. It is estimated that over half of all liver conditions are due to too much alcohol. Too much alcohol on a regular basis, with no let up, can cause the liver to silently scar, called cirrhosis. If the damage continues it can lead to liver cancer and possibly death. Unfortunately liver doctors often refer to alcohol-related liver conditions as ‘Alcoholic liver disease’ or ‘ALD’, but guess what? You don’t
need to be an ‘alcoholic’ to be affected by liver damage
Here are some frequently asked questions that we get asked on our helpline all the time:
Why do men metabolise alcohol more effectively than women?
Men are able to dilute alcohol more efficiently, due to the concentration of water in the body which is approx 61%, whereas for a woman it is 52%. (Men also have a higher concentration of dehydrogenase, which is an enzyme responsible for metabolising alcohol before it passes into the bloodstream). Also, due to the level of hormones prior to menstruation, women can become more quickly intoxicated. Medications e.g. birth control pills (which contain estrogen) can increase the time it takes for the body to eliminate the alcohol.
Because fat doesn’t absorb alcohol, women experience alcohol-induced intoxication more quickly than men, due to the fact that women carry more fat than men. Therefore, all the alcohol in the bloodstream is highly concentrated.
How much pure alcohol (ethanol) is in 1 unit?
10 Milliliters (mls) OR 8 grammes (gms)
How do I work out how many units there are in my glass of wine?
If you fill your glass with water to the measure where you usually fill your wine up to, then pour the water into a measuring jug, and read the measurement on the jug to see what it is in mls.
Next, have a look on the label of the wine bottle to check the alcohol by volume (abv) %. You then multiply the abv % by the mls, and divide by 1000.
For example, if the volume of wine in your glass measured 200mls, and the abv % was 14%, you multiply 200 x 14, which equals 2,800 then divide by 1000, which equals 2.8 units.
The guidelines are:
Daily limit: Men – 3-4 units; Women – 2-3 units
Weekly limit: Men – 21-28 units; Women – 14-21 units
NB – if you drink over these recommendations, it is classed as ‘binge drinking’. The liver can only process so much alcohol at a time, so if you’re consuming more than it can handle, you are causing your liver to be under a lot of stress, (it’s already working flat-out 24/7) and it just can’t cope with the added work that it’s being hit with.
Therefore, it is far better to spread your alcohol intake over a few days, rather than at just one sitting. It is also vital that you give your liver some days off from dealing with alcohol, and so it is recommended that you have three consecutive days within a week, which are alcohol-free.