What Are the Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Liver?

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While widely consumed in America and across much of the world, alcohol acts as a toxin inside the human body. You rely on your liver to break this substance down and safeguard your health. However, unless you limit your intake while drinking, you can easily outstrip the organ’s peak processing ability. Let’s look at the short-term alcoholic effects on liver tissue when you do and don’t keep your intake within the maximum safe capacity.

Alcohol Processing Basics

When you drink, alcohol gets absorbed into your bloodstream through the lining of your stomach and small intestine. Once in your bloodstream, it travels to your liver for processing. Since alcohol is toxic, the organ places a priority on its breakdown and elimination. Still, these actions take time, and your liver can only effectively deal with a maximum of a single ounce of pure alcohol per hour. This is the equivalent of just one standard drink. (The overall size of a standard drink depends on whether you consume beer, wine or distilled liquor.)

Short-Term Effects If You Stay Within Safe Limits

Alcohol will not typically harm the function of your liver if you limit your intake to one standard drink or less per hour (although some people may have conditions that considerably lower this upper limit). However, since the organ treats alcohol processing as a priority, your intake may still temporarily reduce its ability to perform its ongoing tasks. These tasks include such vitally important things as:

  • Helping your immune system function normally
  • Helping you eliminate everyday waste products from your bloodstream, and
  • Creating clotting proteins in your blood

Short-Term Effects If You Exceed Safe Limits

The damaging short-term alcoholic effects on liver tissue appear whenever you consume more than a single drink in a given hour. The first problem to arise is typically an alteration of the organ’s normal chemical balance. If you habitually drink in excessive amounts, the frequent presence of alcohol in your system will lead to a significant reduction of your liver’s ability to process fat (another one of its crucial jobs). Eventually, this short-term effect can lead to the onset of something called alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when fat starts to build up abnormally inside the organ. The presence of this condition is the first stage of alcohol-related liver disease, which can lead to severe, potentially life-threatening inflammation and scarring in its advanced stages.


Canadian Liver Foundation: Alcohol and the Liver                                                https://www.liver.ca/liver-disease/types/Alcohol_and_the_liver.aspx Cleveland Clinic: 6 Surprising Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health – Not Just Your Liver https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/07/6-surprising-ways-alcohol-affects-health-not-just-liver/ Brown University: Alcohol and Your Body                                               https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/health/services/promotion/alcohol-other-drugs-alcohol/alcohol-and-your-body American Liver Foundation: Alcohol-Related Liver Disease https://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/alcohol/

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