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  #1  
Old 09-27-2000, 05:19 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Like a lot of folks, I enjoy drinking beer. But it has gotten me wondering: How much damage am I doing to my liver?

I used to never give it a second thought. But I just turned 33, and as I reflect on the hundreds and hundreds of times I have drank beer in social gatherings (many times 6 or 7 at one gathering), I begin to wonder about the condition of my liver. What are the chances I've done damage? I usually don't drink beer during the week, but weekends can be a different story. It's not uncommon for me to drink 5 or 6 beers at a family or social gathering during a weekend night. Should I be concerned? Is there any way to test the health of your liver? How many beer drinkers develop cirrhosis, and what drinking habits did they have? (And in case you're wondering: I don't drink and drive.)
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  #2  
Old 09-27-2000, 05:49 PM
charizard charizard is offline
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You may be in the danger zone

According to current guidelines, moderate drinking is considered 6-7 drinks per week, with not more than 2 in one sitting. For most people this level is considered not to be harmful (and may actually have some health benefits, though this is still under study.)

Going over this amount is considered "at-risk" drinking and puts one at an increased risk of a long list of health problems, of which liver damage is only one. Of course, the farther one goes over this amount, the more the risk of health problems increases. So, you probably want to cut down on the amount you're drinking at gatherings.

As for the damage that's already done, there are ways of having this checked. For many reasons, your mid-thirties might not be a bad time to have a full physical. Your health insurance may even pay for this in full, since many insurance companies want people to take more steps for preventative care.

As part of the physical, request a full blood panel. This will give a lot of information about the functioning of your various internal organs, including the liver.
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  #3  
Old 09-27-2000, 06:28 PM
Engineer Don Engineer Don is offline
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IANAD - obviously, but as I understand it, beer is less harmfull than other drinks because it has a lot of water in it, so that should count for something. I figure American beer companies know this and are including extra water for it's health benefits, but who knows.
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Old 09-27-2000, 06:34 PM
wring wring is offline
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Engineer, the relevant factor, as I understand it, is the amount of alcohol.

You could water down a shot of vodka, it's still the same amount of alcohol.

What DOES seem to happen is that with beer many folks "feel" full and MIGHT drink a tad less 'cause they're full.

But the amount of alchol being processed is the issue. Your liver doesn't know/care if it was beer, wine or gin.
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  #5  
Old 09-27-2000, 07:59 PM
Engineer Don Engineer Don is offline
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Wring - I am out of my field here, but as I understand it, lots of water is used in by the liver while it is processing alcohol. If a person drinks a lot of hard liquor, and doesn't have much else to drink or eat, then the sometimes the liver has problems processing the alcohol. Beer, and wine for the most part, have a high water to alcohol ratio, so the liver has less trouble with it.

I look at this now and realize that it is probably not too common an occurance for a person to be without other sources of water, so it is unlikely to be a major factor in a person's health. Perhaps it would be a factor in the survival of homeless alcoholics, with limited access to money who choose to only purchase liquor.

I just remember it from somewhere. I'll shut up now.
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  #6  
Old 09-27-2000, 08:18 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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I don't want to encourage your drinking but it does not sound as if you are doing any appreciable harm to your liver just yet. One has to apply oneself to suffer cirrhosis of the liver. It varies by individual but, in general, it takes many drinks and many years to develop cirrhosis. To give you an idea, 6 drinks a day for 20 years might do it, 8-10 drinks a day for 30 years will probably give some degree of cirrhosis. Alcoholics that die of cirrhosis often drink amounts of alcohol that are unimaginable to the average person (20-40 drinks a day during late stage alcoholism). During heavy drinking, the liver develops what is called "fatty liver" which is the precursor to cirrhosis. This will reverse itself with abstinence or moderation. Anti-alcohol advertisements are intended as scare tactics to prevent you from becoming a long-term alcoholic. Those that keep it at least a little under control will probably not develop cirrhosis.
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  #7  
Old 09-28-2000, 02:19 AM
Skribbler Skribbler is offline
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Next time you go to your doctor, ask him for a liver test. If you have any damage, it will show up.
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  #8  
Old 09-28-2000, 10:07 AM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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From one of Dr. Dean Edell's segments on the local news some years back, I remember the guidelines: No more than one drink an hour, no more than 4 drinks in a day, no more than 16 drinks in a week." Of course, these are probably for an average sized adult (male?).

Also (IANAD), I would think you'd want to cut back if you were taking Tylenol, or some other drug which could damage your liver in an overdose. No data to support this, just my own personal caution.
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  #9  
Old 09-28-2000, 10:29 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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According to my doctor, the problem with focussing on the liver damage is it is hard to detect until the damage is pretty severe. OTOH, it is pretty easy to detect early neurological deficits. And while the liver can repair itself to some extent, lost brain cells are gone forever. Depending on how much you have drunk for how long, you might be surprised to find evidence of damage already done.

Do you drink 5-6 beers EVERY weekend night, or only at gatherings? IMO, this is a significant distinction. It is very easy for someone to function acceptably at wrk, socially, etc., yet drink more than they should by regularly binging every chance they get.
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  #10  
Old 09-28-2000, 12:30 PM
Opengrave Opengrave is offline
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Recovering alcoholic chiming in with my experience.

I drank 4-6 drinks (vodka) almost every day for the last 5 years and before that I drank at least 2 cases of beer and some hard liquor every week for 10 years so a total of 15 years of hard drinking. I weigh about 150 pounds. My liver test came out normal (and I used to use Tylenol for hangovers before I knew it was bad). Everyone is different but my best guess is at the rate you are going you won’t have any liver damage.
Quote:
Alcoholics that die of cirrhosis often drink amounts of alcohol that are unimaginable to the average person (20-40) drinks a day during late stage alcoholism
Very true and not all of these have liver damage but still its not something you want to go messing around with. Your doctor can do a test – they just draw some blood and you get the results in a day or two.
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  #11  
Old 09-28-2000, 01:16 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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I'm starting to feel a little more relieved after reading Mavpace's and Opengrave's comments. And to answer Dinsdale's question: No, I do not drink 5 to 6 beers every weekend night; I usually drink on a Friday or Saturday night, but never both (more on this below).

More info on my drinking habit: The only time I drink beer is when I'm with other friends or family members who also happen to be drinking beer. I never drink alone, and I never drink beer if no one else is. I never drink beer during the weekdays. And I never drink hard alcohol, mixed drinks, or wine. Just beer. And good beer! (stouts, IPA's, etc.)

But here's the "problem": I come from a large Catholic family (My grandparents had 9 kids), and everyone is local. It seems we're always having some kind of family function. And if I attend I invariably drink at least 6 beers (my wife drives, of course!). I don't know why I drink so many; I guess I just get caught up in the festive atmosphere. And if a buddy comes over to watch a movie I usually end up drinking 6 or so.

So whether it is a family function or just getting together with friends, my drinking habit for the last 15 or so years has been approx. 6 to 8 beers a week, but they're all consumed in a single evening (Friday or Saturday night, but never both). I guess I'm more concerned about the "binge" characteristic of my beer-drinking pattern, and what effect that has on my health, than the total quantity of alcohol I've consumed.
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  #12  
Old 09-28-2000, 01:42 PM
Opengrave Opengrave is offline
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Quote:
I guess I'm more concerned about the "binge" characteristic of my beer-drinking pattern, and what effect that has on my health, than the total quantity of alcohol I've consumed.
Try this: Either go to the places you normally drink and don't drink, or go and drink a few (3 or 4) then stop. If you can't do either then you exhibit at least the beginnings of alcoholic behavior. And believe me I'm not trying to scare you here - these are just questions to ask yourself.
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