Next time you have a drink – think about your liver, and explore the great alternatives to alcohol and sugary drinks.
The liver is a major part of the body’s digestive system. Everything that passes through your body like alcohol, water, food and medicine is processed by the liver. It’s important to take care of your liver so it can stay healthy and do its job. The liver is particularly susceptible to alcohol-related injury because it is the primary organ that processes alcohol.
The effects of alcohol
If you drink large amounts, your liver starts to have a hard time processing the alcohol. If your liver cells are worked too hard, they can start to become damaged. This damage can lead to fatty liver or fibrosis (scarring of the liver) and sometimes cirrhosis (serious liver damage).
In general, the amount of alcohol consumed (how much, how often, and for how long) determines the risk and severity of any potential liver damage.
Liver cirrhosis caused by alcohol consumption was responsible for an estimated 6,825 deaths in Australia from 1992 to 2001 (1).
How much is too much?
The Australian Guidelines state that to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy people should drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four drinks on any one day .
The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people not drinking at all is the safest option. If you have a health condition, such as chronic hepatitis B or a cirrhotic liver, it is a good idea to stop drinking alcohol completely.
In Australia it is quite easy to access alcohol so it can be hard to know if you are drinking too much.
Tools to help monitor your drinking
Think in terms of standard drinks. Drinks come in different sizes. Some are stronger than others and each contains different amounts of alcohol. Check out the Department of Health’s Standard Drinks Guide to compare a range of drinks.
How generous is your pour? Use this tool to see how much is a glass of a standard drink. It could be less than you think.
Are you drinking too much? Take this short questionnaire about your drinking habits, health and social circumstances, and find out whether you are at risk.
Impact of COVID-19 on alcohol consumption
Listen to this podcast on Quarantine and Alcohol featuring Suzanne Powell from Ballarat Community Health. Suzanne talks about alcohol during lockdown, harm minimisation and how to seek help.
The following articles provide insights into alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s Little Habit website provides information and tools to help determine if your little habit is becoming a big problem