Signs Your Liver Is Healing From Alcohol
By The Recovery Village Ridgefield
Last Updated: June 1, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Knowing the signs of your liver healing from alcohol, like increased energy and appetite, can be helpful if you have liver problems from drinking.
One of the most common serious medical problems caused by alcohol abuse is liver issues. Recognizing liver problems early on can help you to avoid irreversible liver damage and get treatment. If you have liver problems, it can also be helpful to identify if your liver is healing itself.
Signs of Liver Damage
Early liver damage can occur without any signs. Once symptoms beyond general fatigue have developed, liver damage has typically been happening for some time.
The signs of liver damage include:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain, often mild, in the upper right abdomen
- Problems sleeping
- Darkening of the urine
- Dry, itchy skin
- Confusion or personality changes
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Swelling of the legs or feet
- Abdominal swelling
- Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin
It is important to remember that by the time liver-specific symptoms develop, the damage has already been occurring for some time.
Can Your Liver Heal Itself?
Liver disease caused by alcohol has three steps. The liver can heal itself from the first two steps if alcohol is stopped; however, the third step is permanent.
- In the first step, alcohol causes fat to build up in the liver. This is called fatty liver disease, or hepatic steatosis, and does not generally cause severe symptoms.
- During step two, fatty deposits create inflammation in the liver. This condition is called hepatitis and begins to cause problems in how the liver functions, often leading to the first liver-specific symptoms of liver disease.
- The final step of alcohol-related liver disease is called cirrhosis, which occurs when inflammation creates scarring on the liver.
The liver can heal the inflammation of hepatitis and remove the fatty buildup of fatty liver disease. However, liver scarring is permanent. Only a liver transplant can restore function lost by scarring, also called cirrhosis. The good news is that, even if you have some scarring, the liver can still heal inflammation. Therefore, the liver function affected by inflammation can be restored, even with scarring.
Insurance May Cover The Cost of Treatment
Use our instant verification tool to see if your insurance will cover addiction treatment at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill.
All submissions are 100% confidential. Your insurance provider will not be contacted.
How Long Does It Take the Liver To Heal From Alcoholism?
The liver can heal from the effects of alcohol within weeks as long as cirrhosis has not developed. Even if cirrhosis is present, other types of damage, such as hepatitis, will heal once alcohol use is stopped.
Alcohol is a toxin that places stress on the liver while it is in the bloodstream. Once alcohol use is stopped, the strain on the liver will be relieved within a day, and further damage will stop developing. Healing will begin within days, and by the first week after stopping alcohol use, recovery will be underway.
Research shows that fatty liver disease will almost completely heal within about three weeks of stopping alcohol use. By the first month after stopping alcohol use, the liver should be about as healed as possible. Healing rates, however, will be different for everyone. Anyone with liver damage should speak with their doctor about how well and quickly they should expect their liver to heal after stopping alcohol.
Signs Your Liver Is Healing
The best way to tell if the liver is healing is by having your doctor conduct medical tests. However, you may notice several signs as your liver begins to heal. While you should ultimately rely on medical testing, these signs can indicate that liver healing is likely occurring.
1. More Energy
Liver disease causes fatigue in many ways, including causing malnutrition, making toxins build up, disrupting sleep, creating inflammation and lowering the number of red blood cells. As the liver heals, these factors will be improved, creating more energy.
2. Increased Appetite
The liver plays a key role in helping absorb food and balancing the hormones that control appetite. Liver disease causes a decreased appetite, often leading to unexpected weight loss. Once the liver begins to heal, you will likely notice an increased appetite.
3. Clearer Thinking
Liver disease can cause fatigue, which makes thinking more difficult. Liver disease also can cause a buildup of a chemical called ammonia in the brain. This chemical causes confusion and disorientation. As your liver heals, you will have more energy and can process ammonia in your bloodstream, allowing clearer thinking.
4. Stabilized Weight
The decreased appetite that liver disease causes combines with poorer absorption of nutrients caused by changes in bile production in the liver. These factors cause unexpected weight loss. Additionally, fluid can build up in the legs, feet and abdomen, leading to weight fluctuations. As your liver heals itself, your weight will likely become more stable.
5. Improved Immune Health
Liver disease disrupts the immune system through several processes. If cirrhosis is not responsible for immune system problems, an improved immune function will likely occur as the liver heals. This effect will take time to notice, resulting in fewer illnesses over time.
6. Decreased Yellowing of Skin and Eyes
Severe liver disease causes yellowing of the skin and eyes. The liver is responsible for breaking down bilirubin. When bilirubin accumulates, it causes a yellowish discoloration and a darkening of the urine. Decreased yellowing of the skin and eyes can indicate the liver is breaking down bilirubin as it should.
7. Improved Liver Function
Liver function can be tested using blood tests. These tests detect chemical changes in how the liver functions before symptoms develop. Improved liver function tests are a definitive sign that liver function is improving and healing is occurring. These tests can only be conducted by doing medical blood work.
Tips for Liver Recovery
If you have liver problems, several steps can improve your liver health. The liver will need time to heal itself; however, by supporting it through healthy interventions, you may help it to heal faster.
Hydration helps the body work better. Drinking plenty of water can help support liver function by making liver cells work better and providing improved blood flow to the liver. Staying hydrated, especially when exercising or outside in the sun for long periods, can help your liver heal faster.
Get More Exercise
Exercise helps increase your metabolism and improve your overall health. Regularly exercising can help improve circulation and make your body work more efficiently. In addition, regular exercise will help your liver heal faster and perform better.
Eat Liver-Friendly Food
Certain foods place increased stress on the liver. Fat, sugar and salt are especially impactful on the liver. Avoiding these foods and eating foods high in fiber or nutrients can help improve liver health. Drinking green tea or coffee may also improve liver function.
Of all the changes you can make to help your liver, avoiding alcohol is the most important. While other foods like fat can increase the workload on your liver, alcohol actively damages it. If you have liver problems, alcohol is adding fuel to the fire. Stopping alcohol is essential, as the liver will worsen while you drink.
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction
Stopping alcohol can literally save your life if alcohol is causing liver damage. If you are addicted to alcohol, however, stopping alcohol can be easier said than done. At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we have years of experience helping people overcome alcohol addiction, allowing their liver time to heal.
If alcohol is damaging your liver, but you’re finding it hard to stop drinking, we can help. Contact us today to start your journey to lasting freedom from alcohol addiction.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
- MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed March 28, 2023.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Symptoms & Causes of Cirrhosis.” March 2018. Accessed March 28, 2023.
- Phillips, Michael M. “Alcoholic liver disease.” MedlinePlus. July 7, 2021. Accessed March 28, 2023.
- Thomes, Paul G.; Rasineni, Karuna; & et al. “Natural Recovery by the Liver and Other Organs after Chronic Alcohol Use.” Alcohol Research. April 8, 2021. Accessed March 28, 2023.
- MedlinePlus. “Ammonia Levels.” September 9, 2021. Accessed March 28, 2023.
- Noor, Mohd Talha and Manoria, Piyush. “Immune Dysfunction in Cirrhosis.” Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology. March 10, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2023.
- American Liver Foundation. “Liver Awareness Month Feature.” June 24, 2021. Accessed March 28, 2023.
- American Liver Foundation. “A Healthy Diet, a Healthier Liver, a Healthier You.” March 16, 2023. Accessed March 28, 2023.