According to Greek mythology, Zeus punished Prometheus for giving fire to humans.
Zeus chained Prometheus and fed his liver to an eagle. Every night, however, the organ grew again. And every day the eagle came back to have another feast.
But can a liver actually grow back?
The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body. It is essential for hundreds of processes in the body, including the degradation of toxins present in medicines and alcohol.
And, as it is the first organ that comes into contact with alcoholic beverages, it is not surprising that it is the most susceptible to the harmful effects of this habit.
However, we must not forget that other bodies, like the brain and the heartmay also be harmed by long-term excessive alcohol consumption.
As a hepatologist (liver specialist), I treat people every day with liver diseases that are related to alcohol consumption.
This is a spectrum of diseases that ranges from the accumulation of fat in the liver (the popular fatty liver) to the formation of scars (cirrhosis). These conditions generally do not cause symptoms until the damage is well advanced.
At first, alcohol causes the liver to accumulate fat. And all this fat causes the liver to become inflamed.
The organ reacts and tries to get rid of this excess alcohol. In this process, ends up producing scar tissue.
If this is not controlled, the entire liver can become a network of scars with small islands of “good” liver between them – we are talking about cirrhosis.
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In the more advanced stages of cirrhosis, when the liver begins to fail, the person may experience yellowish skin (known as jaundice), gain a swollen appearancedue to fluid retention, and feeling drowsy and confused. This is a serious situation, which could even be fatal.
Most people who regularly drink more than the limit of 14 units of alcohol per week (about six pints of beer at 4% alcohol content or about six glasses of medium-strength wine at 14% alcohol content) will begin to accumulate fat in the liver.
And, in the long term, they will develop scars and cirrhosis in this organ.
Fortunately, we have good news. If people with fatty liver just two or three weeks without drinking alcoholtheir liver can heal and return to looking and functioning like it was new.
In individuals with inflammation or mild scarring in this body structure, just seven days without alcohol results in a noticeable reduction in liver fat, inflammation and scarring.