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How Quickly Does The Liver Heal After You Quit Drinking?

When you first quit drinking alcohol, you likely wonder how long it will take to reverse the damage to your body.

Specifically, how long will it take for the liver to heal?

Alcohol is incredibly taxing on the liver. Fortunately, it is one of the most resilient organs in the body.

So long as you intervene early, you should be able to recover completely! Let’s look at the timeline and signs of alcohol-induced liver disease you should never ignore.

How long after quitting drinking does your liver heal?

The liver can regenerate its cells, which means it can heal itself after you stop drinking alcohol. The process of regeneration, where the liver creates new cells to replace old ones damaged or dead, is known as hepatocyte proliferation.

The liver’s main function is to metabolize (or break down) everything we put into our mouths and swallow by breaking down toxins and filtering harmful chemicals from the blood.

When a person drinks large amounts of alcohol, this process is disrupted as the liver can’t break down alcohol fast enough to protect the rest of the body from its toxic effects.

Once you stop drinking, the liver begins to heal itself. Is this true for everyone?

Unfortunately, no.

We’ll dive into the factors determining whether you’ve done irreversible damage to your liver due to your drinking. Additionally, we’ll look at how long it takes for all reversible damage to occur. Let’s jump in!

Two hands surrounding a healthy liver
Liver Repair After Quitting Drinking

Liver Repair Timeframe

The general consensus is that your liver will begin to repair itself as soon as you stop drinking alcohol. Just because the process begins quickly doesn’t mean it’s a fast process.

The duration of the healing process will vary depending on each individual and how long they drank, how much they drank, and other factors like the presence of liver damage before quitting drinking.

It could take anywhere from a month to several years for your liver to completely heal after you stop drinking.

However, various factors will influence this time frame, like your age, the amount you drink each day, and if you quit drinking cold turkey versus tapering off.

How to heal your liver naturally

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to help your liver heal. Of course, none of these things work if you continue to drink, nor can they override a bad drinking habit. When you do quit, however, these things can help.

  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your liver as it helps flush out toxins and harmful chemicals from the body. This includes not only the alcohol that is currently in your system but also the alcohol that is stored in your fat cells.
  • Eat healthy foods high in antioxidants to help protect your liver, such as dark berries (like blueberries), nuts, green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruits), and stay away from processed foods and refined sugars. Following a fruit and vegetable-rich diet like The Mediterranean Diet is a great way to promote healing in the body.
  • Avoid too many over-the-counter medications used for headaches, body aches, and fevers. These medications are safe when used sparingly but can cause liver damage if used in excess.
A graphic of an injured liver holding up a help sign standing behind bottles of alcohol. The title reads How quickly does the liver heal after you quit drinking?
liver repair timeframe

How long does it take liver enzymes to return to normal after you quit drinking?

It takes 30 days for your liver enzymes to return to normal after you quit drinking alcohol. However, many drinkers actually notice improvements within three weeks.

The faster your body processes toxins without the aid of alcohol, the more quickly your liver returns to normal function. If you’ve been drinking heavily for a long time, you can expect more than 30 days for your liver enzymes to return to normal.

A few things can inhibit the recovery of the liver after you stop drinking alcohol, including:

It’s important to manage lifestyle and additional risk factors throughout the quitting process to speed up healing.

Signs Your Liver Is Healing From Alcohol

You’ll notice immediate physical symptoms as your liver starts healing from alcohol abuse. Additionally, many of the liver’s functionality will start returning to normal.

Unfortunately, the healing process is not always comfortable. Much like how a wound will hurt and itch as it starts to get better, your body may cycle through unpleasant side effects as it repairs from alcohol damage.

Two hands hold a small, red object shaped like a liver. There are white hearts surrounding this image. The title reads "Signs your liver is healing form alcohol." The URL reads soberish.co
Signs your liver is healing from alcohol

Physical Signs of Liver Detoxing

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive sweating

These symptoms can become serious, so it’s always advisable to talk to your doctor about a medically supervised detox before quitting alcohol.

Your liver is healing from alcohol use when it starts to:

The following functions indicate your liver is on the mend:

  • Amino-acid regulation
  • Balancing glucose levels
  • Enabling blood clotting
  • Creating immune factors
  • Eliminating bacteria from the bloodstream
  • Efficient bilirubin removal 
  • Eliminating drugs from the system
  • Converting glucose to glycogen

Source: https://www.addictiongroup.org/blog/heal-your-liver/

What are the first signs of liver damage from alcohol?

There are numerous signs of liver damage, and the effects depend upon the amount and duration of alcohol use. According to the American Liver Foundation, some early warning signs of liver disease include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness in hands, feet, or both
  • Yellowed skin (jaundice) Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Confusion
  • Excessively sleepy Fatigue or weakness

As liver disease progresses, sufferers typically experience additional signs of liver damage, including: 

  • Severe itching
  • Weight loss (no matter how much is eaten)
  • Darker urine
  • Confusion
  • Seizures or coma
  • Pale-colored stool (if bowel movements can be passed at all)
  • Breathing problems, including wheezing and coughing up blood
  • A swollen, tender abdomen
  • Stomach pain

It is important to seek medical attention as soon as you start presenting symptoms. It is often the case that symptoms do not present until the liver disease is in an advanced stage, which makes healing the liver significantly more difficult, if not impossible.

What is Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease?

Alcohol-induced liver disease (AULD) is a condition that describes inflammation of your liver that occurs only when you drink too much.

Three types of alcohol-induced liver disease represent the disease’s three stages. 

Diagram of livers at various stages of alcohol induced liver disease and liver cancer
Understanding Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease

Fatty liver Disease

The first stage is often referred to as “fatty liver” (hepatic steatosis) because the liver contains excess fat caused by excessive alcohol consumption. People with fatty liver may not experience any signs or symptoms, but it can progress to inflammation, fibrosis, and eventually cirrhosis if drinking continues.

Fatty liver disease is usually reversible with proper weight management and quitting alcohol. Roughly 5% of the American population has fatty liver disease.

The early stages of AULD are tricky because most people do not have symptoms. In fact, many people will not start to get symptoms until the disease has moved to an advanced stage which may no longer be reversible.

That is why it’s incredibly important to see your doctor for annual check-ups and to be honest with your alcohol consumption and lifestyle choices.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

The second stage is alcoholic hepatitis. It’s an inflammatory condition that often affects the liver of someone who has continued to drink alcohol excessively for a long time. If caught early enough, much of the damage can be reversed. However, if left unchecked, alcoholic hepatitis can lead to liver failure.

It is imperative that people diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis quit drinking alcohol immediately. With continued abstinence from alcohol, the liver may start to heal within 6 to 12 months.

Additionally, a doctor might recommend a special diet and/or vitamin supplements to repair the damage from malnutrition commonly associated with alcoholic hepatitis.

Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis

The third stage is alcoholic cirrhosis, which occurs when the liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, and the liver becomes permanently damaged or stops working altogether.

The prognosis for people diagnosed with alcoholic liver cirrhosis is grim. Between 60 to 90% of patients will die of liver disease.

Bottom Line on Liver Repair After You Quit Drinking Alcohol

It’s normal to want to see the benefits of sobriety as soon as possible after quitting drinking. You get results fairly quickly with the liver, depending on the many factors discussed in this article.

On the flip side, ignoring early warning signs of liver damage or prolonging alcohol abuse puts your health at significant risk.

If you’re concerned about your drinking and/or think you might be at risk for liver disease, speak with your doctor. Early prevention is so important.

If you need additional resources, check out the following:

Access should not be a barrier to help.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a therapist with the knowledge and background to help you navigate your specific issues, try BetterHelp. Learn more about my counseling journey with BetterHelp or visit their website below.

Take the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test

If you’re curious about your drinking patterns, you can take the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). This assessment is for informational purposes and should not be taken for medical advice or diagnosis. Speak with your doctor about your results and drinking habits.

Welcome to your Alcohol Use (AUDIT) quiz

1. 
1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

2. 
How many units of alcohol do you drink on a typical day when you are drinking?

A unit of alcohol is one standard drink. Examples of one standard drink include:

  • 12 oz can of beer with about 5% alcohol
  • 5 fl oz of wine (roughly 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fl oz shot of spirits like vodka, rum, or whiskey (about 40% alcohol)
3. 
How often have you had 6 or more units if female, or 8 or more if male, on a single occasion in the last year?

4. 
How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?

5. 
How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?

6. 
How often during the last year have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

7. 
How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

8. 
How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

9. 
Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

10. 
Has a relative or friend or a doctor or another health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?

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