The liver breaks down and filters out harmful substances in the blood and manufactures the proteins, enzymes, and hormones the body uses to ward off infections. It also converts vitamins, nutrients, and medicines into substances that our bodies can use. The liver is also responsible for cleaning our blood, producing bile for digestion, and storing glycogen for energy.
The liver processes over 90% of consumed alcohol. The rest exits the body via urine, sweat, and breathing.
It takes the body approximately an hour to process 1 alcoholic beverage. This time frame increases with each drink. The higher someone’s blood alcohol content, the longer it takes to process alcohol. The liver can only process a certain amount of alcohol at a time. When someone has too much to drink, the alcohol left unprocessed by the liver circulates through the bloodstream. The alcohol in the blood starts affecting the heart and brain, which is how people become intoxicated. Chronic alcohol abuse causes destruction of liver cells, which results in scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), alcoholic hepatitis, and cellular mutation that may lead to liver cancer. These conditions usually progress from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis to cirrhosis, although heavy drinkers may develop alcoholic cirrhosis without first developing hepatitis.
Per University Health Network, a safe amount of alcohol depends on a person’s weight, size, and whether they are male or female. Women absorb more alcohol from each drink in comparison to males, so they are at greater risk of liver damage. Consuming 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks daily can harm one’s liver. Furthermore, binge drinking (drinking 4 or 5 drinks in a row) can also result in liver damage.
Mixing alcohol with other medications can also be very dangerous for your liver. Never take alcohol and medication simultaneously without speaking with your physician first. When combined, certain medications (such as Acetaminophen) can lead to severe damage to your liver. Other medications that are dangerous to combine with alcohol include Antibiotics, Antidepressants, Sedatives, and Painkillers.