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How to Detox Your Liver from Alcohol

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 01/02/2024

Alcohol has toxic effects on liver cells, and individuals who regularly drink alcohol are more likely to develop liver cancer and fatty liver disease.


Learn how to detox your liver from alcohol and discover the best foods and supplements to enhance toxin elimination, curb alcohol cravings, and promote healthy liver function.  

Liver model holding help sign

How alcohol affects your liver


Alcohol contains ethanol, which has detrimental effects on the liver, and regular alcohol use is associated with the development of various liver-related problems. 


The liver is the body’s main detoxification organ responsible for breaking down and eliminating a wide range of toxic substances, including alcohol. 


Alcohol detoxification requires several biochemical reactions that convert ethanol into acetaldehyde, which is further broken down into acetate, a relatively inert substance that can easily be eliminated. 


Acetaldehyde is toxic to liver cells, and regular alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, a serious liver disease characterized by liver inflammation and scar tissue development.


“Acetaldehyde interferes with cellular energy metabolism, which leads to the accumulation of fatty acids in liver cells,” says Dr. Berg. “This explains why drinking alcohol causes fatigue and results in fatty liver disease.“   


While it’s well-known that chronic alcohol abuse can cause liver damage and cirrhosis, even occasional drinkers are at risk of liver injury.  


A report released by The American Liver Foundation warns that consuming four to five alcoholic beverages within two hours can cause acute alcoholic hepatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition that can result in liver failure. 


Watch the video below to discover how much alcohol can cause liver damage. 

Signs of liver damage


Liver pain can be obscure and often manifests as muscle tension and pain in the right shoulder and neck area, which can make it difficult to spot signs of liver damage early.


The liver is a vital organ that regulates crucial physiological functions, and poor liver health can lead to various hormonal, metabolic, skeletal, and skin issues. 


Here are common signs of liver damage:

  • Jaundice

  • Ascites

  • Abdominal pain or swelling

  • High blood pressure

  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss

  • Hair loss

  • Blood clotting disorders 

  • Fatigue  

  • Itchy skin

  • Bone pain

  • Brain fog and memory problems

  • Insulin resistance

  • Estrogen dominance 

  • Nutrient deficiencies  

  • Poor kidney function

Human liver illustration

Can liver damage be reversed?


The liver has a remarkable capacity to regenerate and repair itself. 


Evidence published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that a liver can regrow to its normal size even if 90 percent of liver tissue has been removed. 


However, the liver’s ability to reverse alcohol-related injury and scarring depends on several factors, including dietary and lifestyle habits, genetic predisposition, and overall health status.


Cases of severe liver scarring can progress to cirrhosis, which is an irreversible end-stage liver disease that may require a liver transplant to maintain essential physiological functions. 


Early detection increases the chances of reversing liver damage, and it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider if you suspect liver issues or have developed symptoms of liver damage.

Man refusing a drink

How to detox your liver from alcohol


For a liver detox to be effective, it’s essential to stop drinking alcohol. This eases the liver’s burden to detoxify ethanol and reduces the toxic effects of alcohol metabolism in liver cells. 


While alcohol is typically eliminated from the liver within a few hours, the harmful impact of metabolic by-products generated during alcohol detoxification can persist significantly longer.


Although quitting alcohol is imperative for a liver cleanse, it’s equally as important to promote overall liver function to repair liver damage after alcohol.  


A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a nutritious diet low in sugars, refined carbs, and processed foods promotes liver health and can help reverse the toxic effects of alcohol. 


Cravings can make it difficult to stop drinking, and kudzu root extract has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to curb alcohol cravings.  


A study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependency investigated kudzu’s effects on alcohol consumption and concluded, “A single dose of kudzu extract quickly reduces alcohol consumption in a binge drinking paradigm.” 

Choline-rich foods

Top liver-cleansing foods and supplements


Optimal liver function relies on various essential nutrients, and incorporating certain foods and supplements into your daily routine can promote alcohol detoxification and support liver cleansing.

 

Here are some of the best liver-cleansing foods and supplements. 


Choline-rich foods

Choline is a vital nutrient with potent antioxidant properties that can help protect cells, including liver cells, from oxidative stress. 


Alcohol metabolism generates free radicals, which are volatile compounds that may contribute to liver damage by causing oxidative damage to cellular organelles, including mitochondria, DNA, and proteins.  


Choline is crucial for liver health as it helps neutralize free radicals and protects the liver from the harmful effects of ethanol detoxification.


Increasing choline-rich foods such as organ meats, chicken, beef, eggs, and oily fish promotes healthy liver cell function and helps cleanse your liver from metabolic by-products created during alcohol detoxification. 


Spirulina

Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that contains high concentrations of astaxanthin, a bioactive compound with potent anti-inflammatory properties. 


Research published in Antioxidants found that astaxanthin supplementation can reduce alcohol-induced liver inflammation and may help mitigate the adverse effects of acetaldehyde in liver cells. 


Leafy green vegetables 

Leafy green vegetables such as arugula, dandelion, bok choy, collard greens, spinach, and kale are rich sources of chlorophyll, which is a bioactive plant pigment responsible for their dark green color. 


A study published in Frontiers in Physiology suggests that chlorophyll can reduce liver inflammation and improve cirrhosis in alcohol-damaged liver tissue. 

Broccoli sprouts

Broccoli sprouts 

Broccoli sprouts are an incredibly rich source of sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing compound with detoxification-enhancing properties. 


Sulforaphane has been found to activate enzymes that facilitate the conversion of acetaldehyde into acetate, which supports the liver's ability to eliminate the toxic by-products of alcohol detoxification.  


Milk thistle 

Milk thistle contains silymarin, a group of bioactive compounds with impressive benefits for liver function. 


Evidence published in Annals of Medicine indicates that silymarin helps protect liver cells from the harmful effects of detox reactions, which is associated with a lower risk of liver damage.


Milk thistle’s potent anti-inflammatory properties may be particularly beneficial for individuals with alcoholic liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), characterized by liver inflammation and poor detoxification.


Turmeric

Turmeric is a vibrant spice rich in curcumin, a potent polyphenol linked to various benefits for liver health and detoxification processes. 


Curcumin may help stimulate the activity of certain liver enzymes that speed up the conversion of acetaldehyde into acetate, thereby promoting the quick and safe elimination of alcohol from the body.   


CoQ10  

Chronic alcohol consumption increases the risk of liver inflammation, which not only causes liver scarring but also impacts energy metabolism in liver cells.  


CoQ10 is an essential nutrient that helps lower inflammation and plays a critical role in regulating cellular energy production.


A study published in Nutrire investigated the effects of CoQ10 supplementation on liver function and concluded, “Administration of CoQ10 can protect from the toxic effects of chronic alcohol exposure.”

Intermittent fasting concept

Liver disease prevention


While regular liver cleanses can benefit overall liver function, taking preventative measures to lower your risk of liver disease is the most effective strategy to promote health and longevity.


Alcohol has no health benefits, and avoiding alcohol is essential to help the liver heal and prevent liver problems.


It’s also vital to avoid a high-carb diet, which can contribute to the development of fatty liver disease. The liver converts excess dietary carbs and sugars into fatty acids and deposits them as triglycerides in liver cells. 


In contrast, a nutritious high-fat diet like Healthy Keto® pushes your liver to utilize fat as a primary fuel source, which helps burn liver fat and explains why a ketogenic diet may prevent fatty liver disease.  


Combining Healthy Keto with intermittent fasting is an excellent strategy to promote liver health and lower the risk of liver fat linked to inflammation, liver disease, and poor detoxification processes. 


During periods of fasting, the liver is forced to tap into body fat stores to generate energy. This helps prevent and eliminate fat accumulation in liver cells and supports a healthy weight, which is crucial for optimal liver function. 

Doctor talking

When to seek medical attention 


Chronic or excessive alcohol use can have serious health consequences, and it’s crucial to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of liver damage such as abdominal pain or swelling, jaundice, or unexplained fatigue.


It’s recommended that individuals who’ve consumed excessive amounts of alcohol for prolonged periods detoxify from alcohol under medical supervision as they’re at increased risk of severe withdrawal symptoms and seizures. 


Alcohol cravings and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can make it challenging to stop drinking. If you are concerned about your alcohol intake or show signs of alcohol addiction, consult a healthcare provider or licensed therapist specializing in addiction counseling for support. 

Post-it note on a liver drawing

Key takeaways


Various foods and supplements can help detox your liver from alcohol and lower the risk of long-term liver damage.


Avoiding alcohol and supporting liver function with choline-rich foods, green leafy vegetables, and broccoli sprouts in combination with taking milk thistle, CoQ10, and turmeric is an excellent strategy to minimize and even reverse the detrimental effects of alcohol on the liver. 



FAQ


1. How long does it take to reset your liver after alcohol consumption?

A relatively healthy liver can be restored within a few days after abstaining from alcohol.


However, individuals with a damaged or inflamed liver may require significantly longer periods of abstinence from alcohol to restore liver function and may benefit from consuming liver-cleansing foods, including broccoli sprouts, spirulina, and green leafy vegetables.   

   

2. What helps your liver get rid of alcohol?

There are various natural remedies that promote liver function and protect liver cells from the detrimental effects of acetaldehyde, a toxic metabolic by-product of alcohol detoxification.


You can support alcohol detoxification by consuming a healthy diet rich in egg yolks, organ meats, green leafy vegetables, broccoli sprouts, and turmeric and taking liver-cleansing supplements, including milk thistle, CoQ10, and astaxanthin.


3. Can you reverse alcoholic liver disease?

Yes, in some cases, it is possible to reverse alcoholic liver disease by abstaining from alcohol, adopting a healthier lifestyle, and supporting liver function with liver-protective foods and herbal remedies. 


4. How can I make my liver healthy again after drinking?

To improve liver health after drinking, it’s crucial to support liver cell function with a nutritious liver cleanse diet rich in green leafy vegetables, broccoli sprouts, and turmeric. 


In addition, certain supplements, including milk thistle, CoQ10, and astaxanthin, have been found to mitigate the adverse effects of alcohol and promote liver cell regeneration. 


5. What are the best foods to detox your liver after drinking?

Some of the best foods to detox your liver from alcohol include green leafy vegetables, broccoli sprouts, turmeric, dandelion root, and choline-rich foods such as organ meats, chicken, beef, eggs, and oily fish.


6. What are the signs of alcohol-related liver damage?

Signs of alcohol-related liver damage include jaundice, abdominal pain or swelling, persistent fatigue, easy bruising, mental confusion, or memory problems.



Sources


  1. https://liverfoundation.org/liver-diseases/alcohol-associated-liver-disease/ 

  2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/cells-maintain-repair-liver-identified 

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4510012/ 

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9598831/ 

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288434/ 

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9186366/ 

  7. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s41110-023-00197-9 



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