How Much Alcohol Can Your Liver Take?

Your Liver is your friend, treat it well.

The relationship of alcohol with the human liver is not a friendly one. Your liver is a robust organ and can usually cope with drinking a small amount of alcohol. However, the liver can only handle a certain amount of alcohol at any given time. If you drink more than the liver can deal with by drinking too quickly, or drinking too much, your liver cells struggle to process it.

When alcohol reaches the liver, it produces a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde which can damage liver cells and cause permanent scarring, as well as harm to the brain and stomach lining. But that’s not all…

Your liver also requires water to do its job effectively. When alcohol enters the body, it acts as a diuretic and as such dehydrates you, thereby forcing the liver to find water from other sources. The severe dehydration is part of the reason why, after a big night of drinking, you can wake up nursing a whopping headache.

Regular and heavy drinking over time can strain or upset the way alcohol is metabolized within the body, which can lead to alcoholic liver disease.

How Much Alcohol is Safe to Drink?

How much alcohol you can safely consume in one sitting depends on your age, weight, gender and what you’ve eaten that day.

In the long term, if you are regularly drinking more than 3-4 units a day, then it is quite likely that you will have developed a fatty liver. If you are regularly drinking more than 5-6 units a day (30-40 units / week) then you will almost certainly have a fatty liver, and may develop more serious liver problems over time.

In general, the amount of alcohol consumed (how much, how often, and for how long) determines the risk and severity of liver damage.

Symptoms range from none at first to fever, jaundice, fatigue, and a tender, painful, and enlarged liver. These issues then move on to more serious problems such as bleeding in the digestive tract and deterioration of brain function.

To help identify whether drinking is a problem, doctors may give the person a questionnaire and ask family members how much the person drinks.

In the short term, unless a person has developed a very high tolerance for alcohol, a BAC rating of 0.20% represents very serious intoxication. In general, most first-time drinkers are unconscious by about 0.15%. A range of 0.35% to 0.40% usually represents potentially fatal alcohol poisoning. 0.40% is the accepted lethal dose for about 50% of adult humans. However, in rare cases, a very heavy long time drinker may be able to more than double that number.

Alcohol is removed from your bloodstream by a combination of metabolism, excretion, and evaporation. The proportion of alcohol removal varies from person to person, but typically about 92 to 98% is metabolized, 1 to 3% is excreted in urine, and 1 to 5% evaporates through the breath. Only a very small proportion, less than 1 percent, is excreted in the sweat.

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