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Consultancy corner: Binge drinking during festivals will have adverse effect on liver

A large proportion of youngsters are binge drinkers, as age progresses this tendency to binge comes down. Festival drinking is a kind of binge drinking, where herd mentality plays a role.

Consultancy corner: Binge drinking during festivals will have adverse effect on liver
Dr Harikumar R Nair, Senior Consultant Hepatologist and Liver transplant physician,Gleneagles Global Health


Drinking alcohol for fun or pleasure is a socially reinforced habit- when your peers do it, you tend to copy. Binge drinking is the practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session or over a short span of time, usually defined as five or more drinks at one time for a man, or four or more drinks at one time for a woman.

In the liver large doses amount of alcohol in a short span as happens during festive drinking can result in severe alcoholic hepatitis necessitating emergency hospitalization associated with more than 50 percent death rate. Equally important is the fact that other organs like heart, lung, and brain get affected by binge drinking.

Heart may develop rhythm abnormalities (Holiday heart syndrome), Blood pressure shoots up and makes the person prone for heart attack. Brain bleed can happen and withdrawal seizures when a person who massively drink, stops since he is so weak to consume any further. Lungs develop a critical illness called “aspiration pneumonia”-in an inebriated person who is half awake, food materials and digestive juices may come up through food pipe and get deposited in the lungs inducing pneumonia

Each ml of alcohol is harmful to the liver and other organ systems. Once alcohol enters our body, the body views it as a toxic molecule. Since Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is not usually involved in normal metabolism of body, the body will try to expel it. A step by step destruction of alcohol molecule happens and a lot of this process in fact happens in liver. When large amounts of alcohol is ingested, the step by step destruction process gets saturated and liver can no longer handle the alcohol and high levels of ethyl alcohol circulate in blood stream causing ill effects in brain causing inebriation and potentially dangerous effects in other organ systems

There is no cure for alcoholic hepatitis, but treatment will aim to reduce or eliminate symptoms and stop the progression of the disease, hence stop consuming alcohol is the main treatment for alcoholic hepatitis. Scarring of the liver is permanent, but the liver can repair some of the damage. Treatment aims to restore as much normal function to the liver as possible.

Dietary changes: Vitamin supplements or a focused diet plan may help to correct the balance of nutrients in the body if a person has malnourishment after regular alcohol use.Medication: medicines including corticosteroids and pentoxifylline to help reduce liver inflammation.Liver transplant: In severe cases, a liver transplant may be the only chance for survival. However, the process of finding a donor can be long and complicated. The best hope of recovery is to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms and to reduce, manage, or stop alcohol consumption before the condition progresses.

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