I was a ride-or-die heavy drinker for many years. Because of this, I was unknowingly struggling with liver damage signs that I didn’t recognize, even long after I had quit drinking.
In fact, I now know that I was born with genetic issues connected to my liver function which actually played a major role in my biological susceptibility to alcohol addiction.
The fact that I didn’t know my liver was unhealthy negatively impacted my physical and mental health unnecessarily for a long time into my recovery. I’m writing this because everyone who has gone through addiction (especially alcohol) most likely faces this same issue.
Learning to support your liver can be an absolute game-changer in your recovery.
I remember before I quit drinking, I would occasionally go in to see my doctor. I would get my labs back, and my doctor would tell me my liver was ‘fine’. Fine meaning only that I didn’t have fatty liver or cirrhosis and that I wasn’t fatally ill. I would always choose to take this as permission to keep drinking. Maybe you’ve done the same?
Little did I know back then, and well into my recovery, that looking only at fatty liver or cirrhosis (which are the only things western medicine generally looks for), was an extremely narrow assessment of my liver’s health. This left me unaware of the impact it was having on the quality of my recovery and my wellbeing in general. I was living with so many liver damage signs but never got a diagnosis.
Since I began my healing journey, I have come to understand that many of the things I was struggling with were directly linked to the fact that my liver was damaged. It was super underactive, overburdened, and wasn’t working properly to detoxify my body. This was keeping me feeling basically like crap.
For those who’ve experienced addiction, it’s likely you were born with genetic issues that can negatively impact your liver’s ability to perform many functions.
These genetic issues can actually contribute to our addiction taking hold of us in the first place. These genetics make us more sensitive to substances than people who don’t have these inherent issues.
Genetic SNPs associated with liver function and mental health such as MTHFR, COMPT, and MAOA, amongst others, can not only limit our body’s ability to detoxify but can also disrupt our liver’s ability to perform all of its other functions.
A healthy liver helps us store nutrients such as vitamin D. It also aids in digesting the fats that our brain needs to be healthy, regulates the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, balances our hormones, and so much more.
It’s pretty common for those of us who’ve gone through addiction to think that our liver’s only job is to get rid of the ungodly amount of drugs and alcohol we ingest.
This part becomes pretty obvious for a lot of us. We can actually feel the pain after a good bender, right? I remember the worst part of my own hangovers was the feeling that someone kicked me on my right side (my liver) with a steel-toed boot after a few days of ‘fun’ on the town. These were liver damage signs that we do notice.
Thinking the liver’s primary job is to process our drug and alcohol binges, most of us enter into recovery and never even think about the fact that all the chemicals, junk food, and prescription meds we continue to put in and on our body will continue to overburden our already weakened liver, resulting in an inability to really heal up from all the damage our years in addiction left behind.
Being unaware of how our liver works, what it does for us, and how to heal it as people recovering from addiction can really hold us back from experiencing health and a rock-solid recovery. Not knowing this part of the recovery process can keep us from reaching our full potential and even put us at greater risk for relapse.
It’s easy to overlook and misunderstand the less obvious liver damage signs because we aren’t taught to connect the dots on this one.
Some liver damage signs that you might not expect:
- cravings for toxic substances like drugs, alcohol, and junk food (like attracts like)
- chronic pain conditions
- chronic infections
- chemical sensitivities
- skin issues
- abdominal pain
- poor digestion
- GI issues
- dark circles under the eyes
- chronic fatigue
- and more
If the body is toxic, the brain will become toxic. If our brain is toxic, then our mind becomes toxic. Our life reflects our inner environment. If our body stays toxic in recovery, we will remain in struggle.
It’s hard to let go of emotional toxicity if the body is carrying toxins.
Adopting a low-toxin lifestyle is highly recommended for anyone who is recovering from addiction. This is important even if you don’t have cirrhosis, fatty liver, or otherwise worrisome lab results.
An overburdened liver is a likely case with addiction and in recovery. This creates toxins in the body that can contribute to many chronic physical and mental health conditions.
I equate recovering from addiction without healing our livers, cleansing our bodies, and adopting a low-toxin lifestyle and expecting to fully recover to a person expecting to heal from serious house-fire injuries by them leaving the burning building and then laying out in the hot August sun to ‘rest’ and heal their burn wounds.
Obviously, leaving the burning house was a good first step, but resting in the sun will not allow the burn injuries to heal very well.
Similarly, discontinuing the heavy chemical poisoning that happens in addiction is a great first step to healing. But, following a recovery program where we keep putting chemicals into the body via the food we eat, fluids we drink, things we inhale, the medications we take, and the products we use is expecting the chemical burn we get from the fire of addiction to heal by moving into a bath of more chemicals.
We live in a toxic world today. It takes awareness, intention and effort to live a clean life.
There are two critical steps you can take to maximize your liver’s ability to remove toxins:
- Decreasing toxic load
- Supporting the liver through dietary and lifestyle improvements
Our liver is one of our most important organs. It’s responsible for over 500 vital functions in the body. It can actually grow itself back, which is incredible and really good news for those of us who regret how we’ve treated it in the past.
If you’d like to know some simple ways to support your liver, check out my 4 Ways to Support Your Liver post.