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How are Alcohol and Cirrhosis Connected?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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Alcohol and cirrhosis are connected because cirrhosis is one of three types of liver damage caused by excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages over the years. The degree of liver damage in cases of cirrhosis is also directly related to the degree of a person's abuse of alcohol in terms of the amount consumed and the time period over which those amounts are consumed. This is why damage continues to spread if an individual continues to drink. One of the most profound ways in which alcohol and cirrhosis are connected lies in the fact that the only "cure" for cirrhosis is to cease drinking alcohol.

Although it is the abuse of alcohol that can and often does lead to the development of cirrhosis, it is the complete cessation of drinking of alcoholic beverages that is needed after cirrhosis has developed. Some people might think that scarring of the liver, which is the result of the destruction of liver tissue by alcohol, can be halted by ceasing to drink excessively. They might assume that the connection between alcohol and cirrhosis can be broken by cutting down to what is generally considered moderation in drinking. This, however, is not the recommended treatment for cirrhosis. According to medical doctors, the only effective treatment for cirrhosis is to completely cease to drink alcohol.

When considering the connection between alcohol and cirrhosis, it should be understood that "alcohol" refers not only to pure alcohol such as 100-proof whiskey or vodka, but also to wine and beer. Treatment of cirrhosis via abstinence includes avoiding beverages to which alcohol has been added, such as a piña colada. The connection between alcohol and cirrhosis might not be quite as strong when only naturally brewed beer is consumed instead of commercially made beer. This observation has not been endorsed by many healthcare providers, but a good number of proponents of all natural eating have claimed that there is a difference.

Most people are surprised to learn the medical definition of "excessive" when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. The connection between alcohol and cirrhosis is also stronger in women than it is in men. As little as 0.67 ounces (about 20 ml) of pure alcohol consumed daily by a female is enough to damage the liver. That amounts to approximately 13 ounces (384 ml) of beer, 6 ounces (177 ml) of wine or 2 ounces (59 ml) of vodka. Men are at risk of developing cirrhosis when they consume 2 ounces (59 ml) of pure alcohol per day. This is roughly equivalent to 40 ounces (1183 ml) of beer, 20 ounces (591 ml) of wine or 6 ounces (177 ml) of vodka.

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