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What Happens To Your Liver When You Drink Beer

Here's just one big reason you want to keep your brewski consumption in check.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Many of us who drink alcohol enjoy sipping on a cold brewski in the late afternoon or evening, especially now that it's summer. Although alcohol is dehydrating, a tall cold glass of beer is wildly refreshing. But, as is the case for just about any beverage, too much of anything isn't good for you.

Alcohol especially can pose a threat to vital organs—primarily your liver. This is because one of the liver's key functions is to break down and filter out toxins and other harmful substances in the blood—and alcohol is considered to be a toxin. But that's not all the organ does. It also produces proteins, enzymes, and hormones that the body uses to stave off infection.

RELATED: This Major Ingredient in Beer May Help Treat Liver Disease, Says New Study

The liver's also responsible for producing bile, which helps break down fats in the small intestine during digestion and carries away waste. The organ even helps to regulate blood clotting. As a driver behind so many essential processes in the body, it's vital that your liver remains in tip-top shape so that it can function properly and keep you healthy. But if you drink too much alcohol, which could consist of more than just two to three beers every day, then you could be at risk of liver damage.

Heavy drinkers are at high risk of developing alcoholic fatty liver disease also known as hepatic steatosis. In fact, it's estimated that 90% of heavy drinkers having some degree of the condition. Drinking too much alcohol can inhibit the breakdown of fats in the liver, therefore, fat buildup occurs.

In addition, your liver is responsible for breaking down most of the alcohol you drink—a process that generates harmful substances. These substances can then promote inflammation, damage liver cells, and ultimately weaken your body's immune system. The good news? The disease is reversible.

craft beer
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Someone who has alcoholic liver disease can reverse the condition by removing alcohol from their diet for several weeks at the minimum. So, if you drink a lot of beer regularly and start to notice discomfort near your liver, feel fatigued, or have unexplained weight loss, know that these are symptoms of alcoholic liver disease.

If left untreated for a period of time, it can turn into alcoholic hepatitis, which is much more severe and may not be reversible. In fact, the best treatment for people with this type of liver damage is to stop drinking alcohol permanently. Scar tissue can then replace healthy tissue in the liver after years of routine alcohol consumption and liver damage in a process called fibrosis. As this scar tissue continues to form, alcoholic cirrhosis develops which inhibits the liver from working properly. In the worst of cases, a liver transplant may be needed.

Of course, if you suspect something is wrong, make an appointment to see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. In the interim, stick to just having one or two beers every other day or even less frequently to help protect your liver from damage.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of <Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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