Natural Body Healing

Restoring health and harmony to your body

Home Articles Books Contact  



We RECOMMEND that you BUY:


Alcohol Consumption and its Long-Term Effect on Your Health

By Liz Barrington, Natural Body Healing


A low to moderate intake of the occasional glass of red wine can be beneficial in reducing stress and possible coronary heart disease, because of its powerful antioxidant content.  Red wine should ideally be drunk to accompany food, rather than consumed on its own, as it seems to reduce the potentially harmful effects of saturated fats that you eat through its blood-thinning action.


Measures poured at home however are often overly large.  The average UK pub measure of wine is 175ml versus the recommended 125ml, so 2 glasses can easily take people well over a safe level of consumption.  In addition, the original UK guidelines were established for wine that contained 8% alcohol content, whereas these days stronger wine (up to 14% alcohol content) is widely consumed. 


The guidelines are that women should have no more than 2-3 units of alcohol per day and men should drink no more than 3-4 units per day.  A measure being: one 125ml glass of wine/one 25ml shot of a spirit/one half-pint of regular strength beer, or 50ml sherry, port or vermouth.


However, as we regularly pour ourselves two or three glasses of wine at the end of a busy day, it is worth noting that alcohol is indeed a powerful cell toxin Research shows that women come to more harm and also more quickly than men when they drink heavily, and are far more vulnerable to alcohol-induced brain damage than men.  Alcohol can also affect fertility levels in both men and women.  Women should certainly not drink any alcohol during pregnancy as research shows that it potentially can harm the unborn baby.


Alcohol is in fact metabolised in the liver to become ‘acetaldehyde’ – a cell poison even more toxic than the original alcohol – which can damage our liver, brain and heart muscle cells.  Long-term excessive alcohol is linked with 4 particular types of liver damage – fatty degeneration, alcoholic hepatitis, liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.


1. Fatty Degeneration

Whenever alcohol is consumed, our liver cells halt their normal metabolic operations and work overtime to eliminate alcohol from the system, converting it first into ‘acetaldehyde’ and then into ‘acetate’.


Because liver enzymes are diverted from their normal daily tasks, fewer fatty acids are processed or converted into the storage substance ‘glycogen’.  Consequently, liver cells start to accumulate unprocessed globules of fat and become abnormally swollen.  Even one single episode of binge drinking can change liver metabolism and trigger fatty degeneration.


Regular consumption of excess alcohol will result in liver cells accumulating more and more fatty globules.  The liver enlarges and takes on a yellow appearance, resembling the grossly abnormal, fatty livers of the force-fed geese in France (used to make pâté de foie gras).


Even at this advanced stage of fatty degeneration however, changes can be reversible.  Liver cells have a tremendous ability to regenerate - following a session of detox treatments, the use of beneficial herbs, a healthy diet, exercise and most importantly, the avoidance of alcohol


2. Alcoholic Hepatitis

In some cases, a hypersensitive reaction to alcohol causes the liver to become inflamed on top of the fatty degeneration – leading to condition known as ‘alcoholic hepatitis’.  This is a more serious condition, as liver cells start to degenerate and die.  Fever, nausea and vomiting occur, with pain and tenderness over the liver area in the upper right-hand section of the abdomen.  Yellow jaundice develops as the liver inflammation worsens.  Recovery is slower and is followed by the formation of permanent liver scar tissue.


3. Alcoholic Fibrosis

A liver full of fatty degeneration will eventually lay down scar tissue (or fibrosis) even if alcoholic hepatitis has not intervened.  If fibrosis is extensive, it interferes with the liver’s blood supply which can lead to back pressure on vessels trying to feed blood to the liver.  Back pressure is pressure pushing backwards, so as it builds up, it becomes increasingly difficult for blood to push forwards against it.  Subsequently, the vessels swell and varicose veins develop in the oesophagus (the ‘food’ pipe between the larynx and the stomach), which as a result can bleed profusely.  Fibrosis can become progressive and lead to cirrhosis, especially if repeated attacks of alcoholic hepatitis occur.


4. Cirrhosis

Alcoholic cirrhosis is a serious liver disease from which it can be difficult to recover.  Cirrhosis develops as a result of liver cell death, fibrosis, impaired blood supply and the desperate attempt of some liver cells to regenerate new tissue.  The balance between blood supply and the regenerating nodules of liver is abnormal.  As a result, the blood-starved cells continue to die which triggers more fibrosis and destroys more blood cells – and so a vicious cycle is therefore established.


The liver takes on a shrunken, ‘nobbly’ appearance.  Owing to inadequate blood supply, these nodules of regenerated tissue fail to function properly.  Back pressure on the blood supply becomes worse, and the varicose veins in the oesophagus enlarge further.  Alcoholic cirrhosis eventually leads to death from haemorrhage, liver failure or liver cancer.  Liver cancer develops in about 10% of cases, as a result of the abnormal cell regeneration.


If people of average weight drink more than 2 beers, cocktails or glasses of wine in an hour, the alcohol becomes a powerful central nervous system depressant.  The more serious effects of alcohol tend to occur in people who are addicted to the substance.  Abstinence from alcohol at this late stage can improve cirrhosis by removing the toxin that is causing liver cell damage.  In addition, extracts of milk thistle have been shown to improve liver function, even when cirrhosis is present.


To evaluate your present levels of alcohol consumption, why not complete the Alcohol Audit Questionnaire and see for yourself?  It’s totally anonymous, it’s just there for your own curiosity and it’s an opportunity to evaluate your current lifestyle habits.  There are also details of alcohol support groups in the UK, which may also be of help.


If you are following a comprehensive detox programme, like Nature's Sunshine's Healthy Starter Pack in order to specifically cleanse your liver, it is important to AVOID alcohol altogether.  Afterwards, you should limit your intake to no more than 2 small alcoholic drinks per day in addition to having several alcohol-free days per week.  Nature’s Sunshine’s Lycium and Peony Combination is a Chinese combination that nutritionally support the blood, liver, glands and general circulation, improving the quality of the blood as it supports the body’s removal of toxins.


Vitamins that are essential to a healthy liver include: Vitamins A, B6, C and E, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum, Thiamine, Pantothenic Acid, Folic Acid, Amino Acids and Sulphur – all of which can be supplied by a nutritious, varied diet.  Certain herbs can also help maintain a strong healthy liver and these include:


  • Milk Thistle – This helps protect liver cells from free radicals, inhibits the production of damaging inflammatory compounds and boosts the production of the liver’s natural chemical ‘glutathione’ by 35%.  Milk thistle also strengthens liver cell membranes, making it more difficult for toxins to invade; it stimulates the flow of bile and helps increase liver cell regeneration when damage has occurred.

  • Dandelion – The ‘bitter’ ingredients in the root enhance liver function by increasing the production of bile and by improving gallbladder function.  Dandelion also contains ‘choline’, a form of B vitamin that’s involved in normal liver function, and dandelion root is rich in vitamins and minerals and improves digestion and helps lower cholesterol.

  • Turmeric – Its antioxidant properties protect the liver from numerous toxic chemicals and can almost double bile output and increase the solubility of bile - therefore preventing and treating gallstones.  Turmeric has also been found to reduce cancer-causing agents in the urine of smokers, lowering the levels of these toxins in the body.  Try to include turmeric in your everyday cooking!

  • Bupleurum – This traditional Chinese herb protects against liver damage and also stimulates parts of the immune system.  Nature’s Sunshine’s Peony and Cinnamon Combination is a Chinese combination of 12 herbs, including Bupleurum, to optimise the overall health of the organ by decongesting an already distressed liver.

  • Schizandra – Its berries protect the liver from damage through its antioxidant effects within a variety of substances.  It is also a mild ‘adaptogen’ – that helps improve overall health – essential when long-term stress is part of your life.


In addition, you need to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water a day, detox 2-3 times a year and make sure you eat a wholesome, high-fibre diet rich in fruits and vegetables (particularly berries such as red grapes, cranberries and blackcurrants), whole grains, oats, nuts (walnuts and cashews), oily fish 2-3 times a week, and also greatly reduce your consumption of convenience and processed foods.


What’s more, regular physical activity increases the liver’s detoxification cycle by almost 60%.  It takes about one month of regular workouts for the effects to materialise.  Finally, avoid toxins whenever you can!  Try to eat organically grown foods and avoid toxic chemicals in household cleaning products and lawn and garden supplies.  Don’t smoke, try to keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum and never use drugs or medication you don’t absolutely need. 


Common over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can cause liver damage when used over the long-term.  If you take these drugs routinely and also drink alcohol, the effect is even worse. 


Finally, watch out too for environmental air, water and soil pollution that can all contribute to the body’s intake in toxins and a subsequent overload of the liver!  Try to be sensible - look after your liver and it will work hard to look after you during your lifetime!


The products links stated in this article can only be purchased from this website in UK and in Europe.  Furthermore, because of strict regulations in the sale of nutritional products in Spain, our range of NSP products there are rather limited, so we have a separate section on our website for you.  Therefore, if you live in Spain, please click here.


The above information should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.







 Web Disclaimer

Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved Natural Body Healing