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How to Reverse Damage From Alcohol Abuse

I am a Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I also come from a family that was plagued with substance abuse and depression.

Alcoholic Drinks

Alcoholic Drinks


Alcohol is a legal drug that is socially accepted worldwide. Like any drug, alcohol is dangerous to the user’s body, brain, and nervous system. These problems are most prevalent while the user is under the influence of alcohol and during withdrawal. To repair the body of the damage caused by the abuse, it is important to understand the complications.

The physical recovery from severe alcohol abuse on the body can be a long journey. Many different internal body parts are affected by long-term exposure to this substance.

Liver Damage

Fatty liver disease is largely caused by continuous alcohol consumption.

The liver cannot process large amounts of alcohol and stops working properly, prompting fat to build up around the liver. This can lead to steatohepatitis, which means that the fatty liver is also inflamed and could be producing more noticeable symptoms. Those may include discomfort in the abdomen and jaundice of the skin or eye area.

If the alcohol abuse continues, the next stage is liver cirrhosis caused by scar tissue. Each time the toxins damage the liver in alcohol, it creates scar tissue. The scar tissue will build up and prevent the liver from functioning properly. Repetitive scaring can result in permanent damage and possibly complete liver failure.

Reversing Liver Damage

The liver is an amazing organ in that it can repair itself to a certain degree with the proper support. The scar tissue prevalent in cirrhosis is irreversible, but in mild cases, the liver can function fairly well around it. To reverse fatty liver disease or steatohepatitis, the individual would need to adopt a diet low in fat and high in essential vitamins and nutrients. The elimination of excess body weight is also very important as reducing the number of over-the-counter pain medications taken regularly. Of course, this would all be futile without the elimination of alcohol.

Gastritis and Stomach Ulcers

Acute gastritis and/or stomach ulcers are common results of alcohol abuse.

Gastritis is an inflammation in the stomach caused by damage to the stomach lining. This can lead to a stomach ulcer.

An ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach caused by excessive acid and bacteria that the alcohol can create. Left untreated, an ulcer can burst and become extremely painful and even life-threatening.

Reversing Gastriointestinal Damage

Gastritis and most stomach ulcers can be relieved and reversed by stopping the excess stomach acid from being created. In some cases, medications is necessary.

The elimination of all alcohol is necessary in all cases however

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

An extremely frequently neurological condition that is associated with alcohol abuse is called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. This is caused by the lack nutrients in the body, most specifically Thiamine or vitamin B1 due to the abuse of alcohol.

Korsakoff syndrome is loosely described as a memory deficit. The symptoms include: the inability to process new information, short term and/or long term memory loss, attention deficit and being disoriented. There may be other symptoms and in-depth difficulties associated with this syndrome as well. Wernicke syndrome has been described as feeling confused and/or impaired eye movement and function.

These symptoms are most often experienced at the same time, prompting the name Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.

Reversing the Damage of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Eliminating alcohol from the system is the first and most important step in repairing the damage of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Professional medical assistance is required to sufficiently regain as much mental clarity possible. More severe cases may require hospitalization until the symptoms stabilize.

High doses of Thiamine supplements will most likely be prescribed and will dramatically reduce the Wernicke Syndrome but will not affect the Korsakoff symptoms. A diet full of nutrients and low in carbohydrates will have an enormous impact on preventing further damage to the brain and nerves.


Cardiomyopathy is a disease that could affect long time alcohol abusers and may go largely unnoticed until the critical stages. This disease enlarges the heart and weakens the muscle. This can cause multiple serious long term conditions, some of which can be life altering or fatal.

There are definite symptoms that are associated with cardiomyopathy but many of them may be dismissed as something else because they resemble many of the other complications brought on by alcohol abuse. These symptoms include but are not limited to: fatigue, swollen abdomen, dizziness, lack of physical ability, and swollen feet.

Managing Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy may certainly be one of the life-long effects of alcohol abuse.

While much of the damage caused by excessive abuse may be reversed with a life style change, this one isn’t that simple. Although, there are medications and treatments that can help immensely to improve and prolong the life of the individual with this disease.

If you or anyone you know has a history of heart disease in your family or are recovering from severe alcohol abuse, see a doctor for a formal examination.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiencies can occur due to a lack of appetite and alcohol preventing the absorption of necessary nutrients in the body. The most common deficiencies are vitamins D, B12, B6, A, C and thiamine.

A Return to Health

Most of the damage caused from alcohol abuse can be reversed or dramatically improved by eliminating alcohol completely. It is also extremely important to eat a diet low in fat and high in nutrients, engage in moderate exercise, keep weight under control, and take the appropriate vitamin supplements.

It isn’t uncommon for it to take a year or more to regain the physical heath that the alcohol has damaged. It could take as long as two year for the mental clarity to fully return and for the short term memory to function as it once did.

Detox and Withdrawal

The detoxification of alcohol from the body or withdrawal can be life threatening.

It is a process that needs to be monitored closely by a medical professional and should not be done at home alone without supervision. The neurological and physical changes experienced while intoxicated and during withdrawal can be scary and painful in the best scenario and fatal in the worst.

Once the alcohol has control, it is imperative that the user seek help to get the control back.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can fatty liver disease be reversed after a person stops drinking?

Answer: Someone can certainly reverse fatty liver once they've stopped drinking! However, if any portion of the liver tissue has died from a prolonged lack of oxygen (blood flow), that damage will be irreversible.


Christina on March 06, 2017:

I found this article because I was curious about the effects after I have been sober for nearly 6 years. The article is informative. Thanks

harry on December 21, 2016:

Nice article

Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on June 14, 2015:

Scary stuff. Fortunately, the folk I've known who had alcohol issues weren't my immediate family so didn't affect me too much. It's worrying to see how some people let things slide to that extent, though. Great Hub.

Marilyn from Nevada on April 30, 2015:

I had an uncle that became an alcoholic over time, and at one point his physician told him his liver was "pickled". He drank from sunrise, on breaks at his job (scary since he ran heavy equipment in a steel manufacturing company), and heavier from the time he got home until he passed out for the night. Two years later he was in a wheelchair, unable to care for himself, lost his memory, and eventually died. It was a long and painful road, with no chance of recovery. Thank you for sharing this information! More people NEED to know what transpires, and what can be done to change. Any support you can find will help you, especially AA. You are in my thoughts!

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on April 28, 2015:

Michelle, first let me say that I am so proud of you! That is not an easy thing to admit to yourself or others! Please find an AA meeting in your local area, it's the very best first step! The reason I say this is because AA is filled with people who have been exactly where you are right now. They will support you unconditionally, give you guidance and truth. They completely understand everything you are feeling and doing. No judgment! Each meeting has a different feel and slightly different format so try different ones until you find your "tribe". This may not be the complete answer for you but it will certainly be a stepping stone. There is no shame in seeking support, we ALL need each other in one way or the other. Please let me know how it goes and know that I am thinking about you!

Michelle on April 18, 2015:

I'm an alcoholic I'm 36 and I hate it I battle it every day I am not cured I don't know what to do I don't how to get back to normal I want to now after years of denial I admit I am HOW DO I FIX THIS?

Marilyn from Nevada on March 26, 2015:

Wow...I had no idea so much was involved with alcohol. My uncle suffered serious effects of drinking for over 30 years, and it was terrible to watch him. I had no idea until I read your hub just what he must have been going through! I am passing along your information to some other friends who drink, so they will also understand the damage that is being done internally. Thank you so much for sharing this important information!

Drinker on May 27, 2014:

Thanks for posting this info. I have been looking for a long time about what damage can and cannot be reversed after years of drinking. I now have hope that it's still worth stopping, even after drinking for so long. Thank you.

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on April 21, 2014:


It is pleasure to meet you. Hello,

Excellent hub. Great read and great topic. I voted up and all across on this presentation. Loved the presentation, graphics, and refreshing style of lay-out.

I am going to leave you some fan mail and then become a follower. Would you consider reading one or two of my hubs and do the same?

I would love that.

Thank you sincerely,


Dr. Gary L. Sidley from Lancashire, England on January 14, 2014:

A well-written hub providing a comprehensive account of the potential pitfalls of prolonged heavy drinking. Voted up as useful.

aLostKat on February 28, 2013:

That's what I thought about the multivitamins too.I went to the healthfood store,and this women says she is a doctor,and everything u suggested i take is in this one capsule.Not taking it.I think I'm just going to get the vitamins u suggested in individual bottles,and do like u said take each one at a time a week and adding another one each week to see how I feel.I have gotten sick of some stuff in the past,but I don't think it will kill me to give this a test run.I started to take the cocunut oil yesterday.I feel somewhat clearer.but that comes and goes like u said.1o yrs of abuse,I'm lucky to still be alive.The cocunut oil I just have been taking it on a spoon,and chase it down with some water.Yes,the moments that I'm clear are what keep me going.I figure that if at times my brain can work properly sometimes,why can't it again all the time?U gave me hope.thank u.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on February 28, 2013:

Kat, unfortunately the multivitamins probably don't have a high enough concentration of the supplements you need right now. Mulit's are good for people who have already achieved optimal health and just want to maintain. (if they get a good one, many are full of fillers and useless) The Thiamine is just another word for B1 which can be found at a supplement store along with the Magnesium Citrate, C1000, Omega-3 and Vitamin D 1000IU. I highly suggest you begin taking these one at a time and wait a week before adding the next one. That will give your body time to get used to it. The C1000 can be increased to one in the morning and one in the evening after the initial week. These are natural supplements and should never give you any negative side effects! Just remember that more isn't always better, take them as the bottle suggests and always listen closely to your body. If something isn't working for you, it will tell you. :) I'm really glad you are getting the coconut oil! Some people are able to take it with a spoon but I could never do it. If you want to integrate it into your food to make it easier, that is totally ok! There is a lot of info out there now about coconut oil and ideas on how to take it. This is just one of many,

Please remember that healing is a process. These tips will definitely help you but they aren't a quick fix. There are good days and bad so don't get discouraged! Find strength in the good ones because they will get you through the bad.

Let me know!

aLostKat on February 27, 2013:

Thank u for all ur kind words and encouragment.I don't have a doctor,so would it be okay to take the Thiamine without the advice of a doctor?Also could I could I take a multie vatimine instead of getting all the natural supplements?If not I will go buy the supplements.And I am going to do the coconut oil,and change my diet.Also my nerves are shot from the physctrist put me on a benzo.will these supplements make me have a bad reaction.Thank u so much u are a really big help.I will not lose hope!!Bless ur heart.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on February 26, 2013:

aLostkat, I am so sorry this is happening to you and I want you to know that I am not a doctor, just someone who has had a lot of experience with alcohol and it's effects. The good new is... you aren't crazy, this is common and it isn't permanent! You took the first HUGE step which is quitting drinking. Congratulations!! It takes a lot of work and a lot of courage and I deeply commend you for that. The next step toward physical health is also within your control. It is common for people recovering from addiction to be deficient in nutrients. Your body has a lot of repairing to do and it needs some really good fuel to do that. I would suggest you talk to your doctor about taking some Thiamine supplements, magnesium, vitamin c, omega 3 500EPA/250DHA and Vitamin D. I know it sounds like a lot but your rebuilding and your body needs some tools to get it done. Try eating 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day to dramatically help with mental clarity and reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, bagels, etc). Try to eat some protein, fiber and/or vegetables daily. This process takes time so please be patient and don't give up! Your body won't be fully recovered from the abuse for about 2 years. That doesn't mean that you won't begin feeling better and thinking clearer all the time, it just means you will continue to improve for up to 2 years. I know it's scary but you aren't alone! Many people have had to rebuild but they have all come out smarter and stronger. You Can Do It!

aLostKat on February 26, 2013:

I'm 27 yrs old.I started binge drinking when I was 17yrs old.I noticed the memory problems,about 4 yrs ago.I didn't really think much of it cause I figured I was so young.Didn't really care at the time either.I finally started to notice I felt retarted,but I continued to drink cause I wanted to escape that alcohol was damaging my mind,and it's crazy but when I drank it felt like it made my mind better.I went to rehab finally.Did 4 months.In 4 months I could not retain anything.short term and long term.I could'nt keep my attention in mtgs and groups,and while I was in there I told my counselors I felt confused a lot and my mind felt worse since I had quit drinking.I have been out of rehab 3 months.sober 7 months and am still having all these issues.I can't remember where I put things,what I say,what I write,and can barely remember my day.I go to doctors and I tell people what is going on and they mostly laugh.I say I think I have dementia.Doctors don't believe me.Is there any hope for me??I'm so scared that I'm completely going to lose my mind.I cry a lot about it.If I would of knew then what I know now I would of never picked up a drink ever.Can u give me some advice.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on January 16, 2013:

Lazer tag sounds awesome! I havn't tried it because I am a big chicken but my sons love it. :) It sounds like you are very informed and responsible, you should be very proud of yourself!

samowhamo on January 16, 2013:

Thank you roxanne. I am also thinking about trying lazer tag I think it would be cool I could do that with my brothers and maybe my dad (if his back is up to it). If I do drink it will be my dad driving I never learned how to drive (I don't like cars) and I am well aware of how damaging alcohol can be (my grandfather use to be an alcoholic and would violently beat my mother and her brothers and sister but my mother got it worst because she was the youngest).

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on January 16, 2013:

Happy (almost) Birthday! :) 21 is a milestone and should be celebrated. It is my belief that if you have waited until you are legally of age and want to experiment with the different tastes of wine, you should! Alcohol can be fine once in a while, it's just important to remember how dangerous it can be and don't forget it's potential power. I hope you have an amazing time on your birthday! Just make sure someone else it driving you to safety :)

samowhamo on January 16, 2013:

Is alcohol ok every now and then because my 21 birthday is coming February 11 and I am thinking about going out to a bar just to try some wine. I am not interested in beer but I would like to try wine preferably something that tastes fruity.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on October 22, 2012:

You are absolutely right! Reducing those fats has to go hand in hand with restricting the alcohol intake in order to repair a damage liver. Thank you so much for your input! :)

Alex Simring from Australia on October 22, 2012:

Nice hub with lots of accurate information. Losing weight is really important in reversing liver damage, as fatty liver due to metabolic syndrome will accelerate liver disease due to alcohol. Reducing intake of saturated animals fats is important, as you stated, as well as increasing mono and polyunsaturated fats... the so called good fats. Voted up and useful

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on September 17, 2012:

It is quite possible to recover from years of alcohol abuse believe it or not. It really depends on how healthy the addict was while their body was growing and forming. A strong foundation can tolerate a large amount of abuse before irreversable damage is done. On the flip side, if a body doesn't get the vitamins and nutrience when it's forming, it won't be as resilient.

carol stanley from Arizona on September 17, 2012:

My question to you is that after 4 years of drinking 3/4 of a gallon of vodka..what are really the chances of surviving without some serious damage. There is a family member and she was forced to not drink for four months..but i wonder about her prognosis. She has caused more damage than could ever happen to her body.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on September 06, 2012:

Giving up alcohol is definitely one of the hardest things a person can do, no doubt about it! I have an enormous respect for anyone who has had the courage and support to quit and regain control over their lives. It's a nightmare that I wouldn't wish on anyone

Journey01 on September 06, 2012:

It is not easy to give up alcohol. Perhaps we will know to protect our health when unluckily, we have a dangerous disease related to alcohol.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on August 29, 2012:

Any addiction is dangerous and scary for so many reasons! I certainly wouldn't wish it on anyone but there is hope and help for those who need it. I give full respect to anyone who has been able to reach recovery and heal themselves :)

grumpiornot on August 29, 2012:

Awesome hub, thanks for writing it. A further challenge that seems to arise from abuse of alcohol is heightened lifestyle risk, such as higher exposure/risk of drug dependence and a riskier sex life.

It wreaks social havoc on your life too and chews up and spits out friendships and relationships along the way.

Thankfully, your article is full of positives and solutions - by and large, the problems can be remedied.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on August 18, 2012:

Thank you WhydThatHappen! Alcohol can be dangerous on many different levels but it's so socially embraced that unfortunately, people don't like to talk about the dark side.

WhydThatHappen on August 18, 2012:

I never knew how dangerous alcohol withdrawal could be- i knew it cold be stressful, but deadly? Ots news to me- great hub

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on April 29, 2012:

Thank you taw2012! I will definitely check it out ;)

taw2012 from India on April 29, 2012:

Dear Roxanne, you have done a great job in thins hub. This would help a lot of people. even I have worked on this topic; check it out if you are interested.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on April 29, 2012:

I too have dealt with Alcoholism in my family. Everyone deals with things in their own way and learning as much as I can about the disease is how I deal. :) Thank you so much for the comments!

Mmargie1966 from Gainesville, GA on April 28, 2012:

Nice Job! This hub was really informative, and I thought I knew just about everything, given my work background and personal experience with family member.

Voted up and useful!

Dianna Mendez on April 28, 2012:

I never knew alcohol could do so much damage to a person's body. It seems that some of them are due the the lack of vitamin's in the diet. I have seen firsthand what it an do to a person and to their family. It is a progressive path that can lead to so much emotional turmoil.

Thank you for sharing this information. I hope that it will reach those who need to hear how damaging alcohol can be. And, perhaps they will reconsider the use and abandon the habit. Voted up.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on April 28, 2012:

fpherj48, I agree completely and I'm proud of you for having the strength to remove yourself from a toxic situation! The role of codependent frequently sneaks up on people and holds them hostage for many years and it just breeds the destruction. You are courageous! Thank you :)

Suzie from Carson City on April 28, 2012: extremely informative and important article for anyone who has physical damage as a result of years of alcohol abuse....and/or their loved ones who share in their recovery.

Thankfully, it appears there are lifestyle changes as well as supplements that can support the physical healing procss.

I understand that the emotional, mental & spiritual devastation done to the addict as well as family & friends,can often be mended and re-built as well. This requires enormous courage, sincerety and determinatin on the part of all invovled.

I divorced a helpless alcoholic 26 years ago...who continues his love affair with booze, along with his alcoholic wife. They have a relationship made in Hell and they like it there. Sad, but many individuals enjoy the long, slow, painful suicidal approach.

Kudos to you for this uplifting hub. UP++

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 28, 2012:

That's lovely of you and I'll do the same!

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on April 28, 2012:

Thank you billybuc! Your imput is greatly appreciated as you are inspirational to me. I applaud your courage and strength! I added a link to your hub, Alcoholism: What A Sneaky Bastard It Is? I hope that is ok. :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 28, 2012:

As you well know I am a recovering alcoholic and one of the lucky ones. Somehow I escaped without any of these physical effects and for that I am so grateful. I have seen first hand the effects you write about, had far too many friends die of this disease, so I applaud you for this hub.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on April 28, 2012:

The physical damaged caused by alcohol isn't discussed nearly as much as the effects of other addictions. I can only assume the reason for that is that alcohol is legal and so many people drink. No one wants to thing about what they are actually consuming I guess. Thank you Marcy and TahoeDoc!!

TahoeDoc from Lake Tahoe, California on April 28, 2012:

Great information on how to save yourself from the health consequences of alcohol, unless and until permanent damage is done. I don't think a lot of people realize the organ damage that can be done beyond the liver, so this is very useful for many, many people.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on April 28, 2012:

This hub discusses physical issues I've never heard of; I think most of us have heard about liver damage, but not the specifics related to it. I'm so impressed with the thorough and helpful information you've given here. I often feel so uninformed when I encounter someone who has alcohol addiction, and your hub helps me understand what is going on in their bodies.

Roxanne Lewis (author) from Washington on April 27, 2012:

The physical damage isn't discussed in AA and NA meeting as much as the social and psychological imact of addiction is. Thank you for your imput Wesman, I appreciate it! :)

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on April 27, 2012:

This is a very good article!

I've not ever even heard of some of these things...and - as a veteran of thousands of A.A. and N.A. meetings, I should have.

I'm not clean or sober, however, but I'd imagine the day will come when I have to stop it. Or possibly I can just "outgrow" my drinking.

That does happen too, for some, as I'm not really an alcoholic...or at least not yet.