Alcohol Induced Liver Damage

Alcoholic Liver damage (ALD) is an umbrella term for the wide-range spectrum of illnesses that can result from chronic alcohol consumption. When an individual consumes an alcoholic beverage, proteins in the liver carry out reactions resulting in the elimination of ethanol from the body’s blood supply. The ultimate goal of these metabolic pathways is to break down ethanol into carbon dioxide and water, but toxic byproducts are produced along the way. First, ethanol is converted to a toxic molecule called acetaldehyde, which is quickly converted to acetate and excreted from the body by the kidneys.

Since the liver has a limited supply of enzymes, consuming large quantities of alcohol can deplete the cells from available enzymes that convert acetaldehyde to acetate, leading to increased concentrations of this toxic substance in the body. When this behavior is repeated constantly over many years, the liver becomes inflamed and the structure of the cells is interrupted, altering liver functions. Since the liver plays important roles in the body such as producing/breaking down fats, muscle synthesis, and regulation of many more metabolic pathways, disruptions to its function can have severe consequences on the whole body.

Treatment options range from avoiding alcohol completely, undergoing psychotherapy, behavioral/social therapy, different drugs and drug combinations, and lastly undergoing liver transplantation. Because these treatment options only work to manage the disease, and can rarely reverse previous damage, scientists across many fields have been, and still are, looking for new targets for drug therapy than can have a higher impact on the disease and hopefully reverse some of the damage i patients with advanced ALD.

Click the following buttons to find more in-depth review of the literature on the following topics involving ALD
Metabolic Context Pathogenesis Treatment Novel Drug Targets

For a complete list of my references, please go here!

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8 Replies to “Alcohol Induced Liver Damage”

  1. This is valuable information that would make one stop and think about the adverse affects of alcohol consumption. Education at an early age such as in health class would also be an effective tool.

    1. I agree, and I believe that we should work on removing the negative stigma associated with alcoholism and addiction to make it more comfortable for addicts to seek medical and mental help early on, since liver damage can still be reversible at early stages of the disease.

  2. What would be the most effective way to delivery these cures into the body? via IV? Orally through a capsule or through another liquid?

    1. All of the medications I mention are administered orally in tablet form, which is cheaper and more efficient than IV, making it more easily accessible to patients. I mention enteral nutrition briefly in my blog, which is when a tube is used to deliver the patient’s caloric requirement into the gastrointestinal tract in case of severe damage to the mucosa or high levels of leptin (which suppresses appetite). I believe this method can be utilized to administer the drugs in situations where the patient cannot ingest the tablet orally.

  3. Great information! I especially liked the part about the physiological effects of alcohol on the liver. Another important connection is that cholesterol synthesis happens in the liver. Cholesterol is a precursor of many hormones, therefore hormonal imbalances can also be linked to chronic alcohol use.

    1. I agree. Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, angiostensiongen, thrombopoietin, and hepcidin are very important hormones produced in the liver, and severe damage to hepatocytes impairs the liver’s ability to carry out its function and result in imbalances in hormone levels. Thank you for making this connection, and pointing out yet another way in which chronic alcohol consumption can harm the human body.

  4. Since the alcohol first passes through the esophagus and stomach, would a person first experience issues in these areas prior to cirrhosis?

    1. Yes, damage to the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tracts and the esophagus is a common issue for heavy drinkers that can result in oesophagitis, gastritis, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting long before cirrhosis occurs. In fact, for a long time it was thought that these symptoms directly lead to malnutrition and that was the cause for ALD, but now we know that many other factors are responsible for liver damage when alcohol is chronically consumed.

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