Although anybody can develop fatty liver disease, it’s more likely to occur in people who drink a lot of alcohol.

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Yes, avoiding alcohol can help prevent damage from fatty liver disease. In alcohol-related fatty liver disease, abstaining from alcohol could help reverse the condition.

Doctors highly recommend that people with fatty liver disease avoid alcohol because alcohol can worsen the symptoms and reduce your quality of life.

Although anybody can develop fatty liver disease, it’s more likely to occur in people who drink a lot of alcohol.

There are two types of fatty liver disease: alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD), which occurs in people who drink a lot of alcohol, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which occurs in people who do not drink a lot of alcohol.

Drinking a lot of alcohol — even heavy drinking over a short period — can cause fatty acids to collect in the liver. This causes AFLD.

In the early stages of AFLD, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any symptoms.

However, AFLD can progress into:

  • alcoholic hepatitis, which involves inflammation of the liver
  • fibrosis, which is a buildup of certain types of protein in the liver
  • cirrhosis, which involves severe, often irreversible, scarring of the liver

Avoiding alcohol can reverse the damage of AFLD and prevent it from developing into more severe liver conditions.

Although NAFLD occurs in people who do not drink a lot of alcohol, completely cutting out alcohol is strongly advised. Alcohol can worsen the symptoms of NAFLD, leading to further liver damage.

Researchers in a 2012 review looked at studies on the effects of alcohol on people with NAFLD. They concluded that people with NAFLD should avoid consuming alcohol altogether.

More recently, a 2020 review found that alcohol use probably increases the risk of liver disease progressing in people with NAFLD. In other words, people with NAFLD should avoid alcohol as much as possible, preferably altogether.

This is because alcohol use — even when moderate — can cause the liver to accumulate additional fat, which damages the liver.

You may consider limiting or eliminating alcohol use if you have fatty liver disease, whether it’s AFLD or NAFLD.

You might also want to consider reducing your alcohol consumption if you’re at risk of developing fatty liver disease.

The risk factors for fatty liver disease include:

  • older age
  • a family history of liver disease
  • overweight or obesity
  • smoking cigarettes, vaping nicotine, or using other tobacco products
  • certain medications, such as methotrexate (Trexall), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), and amiodarone (Pacerone)

You’re also more likely to develop fatty liver disease if you have, or have had, any of the following health conditions:

If any of the above risk factors apply to you, it doesn’t mean you’ll definitely develop fatty liver disease. Rather, it means your chances of developing it are slightly higher.

Consult with a healthcare professional if you’re concerned about developing fatty liver disease.

No. Alcohol withdrawal typically only affects people who regularly drink more than the recommended daily limits of alcohol.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as more than eight drinks per week for people assigned female at birth and more than 15 drinks per week for people assigned male at birth.

The CDC defines the following as the equivalent of one drink:

  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor, including gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 12 ounces of beer

If you often drink more than this, you may experience alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal from alcohol can be life threatening, so it’s recommended to work with a healthcare professional to manage alcohol withdrawal safely.

Although you can manage mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal on your own, it’s recommended that a trusted friend or relative stays with you and calls emergency services if your symptoms become severe.

Sometimes, hospitalization may be necessary, especially if your symptoms are severe. You might need intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration. You might need prescription medications for alcohol withdrawal, such as benzodiazepines, as well.

A clinician might be able to recommend an alcohol detoxification program or rehabilitation program in your area. In addition to helping you withdraw safely from alcohol, these programs can also include alcohol counseling.

Withdrawal symptoms can start 6 hours to a few days after your last drink. These include:

The most severe type of withdrawal syndrome is called delirium tremens (DT). The symptoms of DT include:

  • auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations
  • excessive sweating
  • extreme confusion
  • extreme irritability
  • fast breathing
  • fever
  • seizures

If you’re withdrawing at home and experience any symptoms of DT, call 911 or visit the emergency room as soon as possible. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptom is a medical emergency.

If you have received a diagnosis of fatty liver disease, a healthcare professional will probably recommend that you follow a couple of lifestyle strategies in addition to eliminating alcohol.

They might recommend that you:

  • eat a balanced diet that is low in refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats
  • quit using nicotine or tobacco products
  • exercise regularly
  • drink enough water
  • lose weight
  • manage any other health conditions you have, such as diabetes or high cholesterol

If you’re currently taking any medications or supplements that can damage your liver, a healthcare professional might recommend reducing them or stopping them.

Never stop taking prescription medication without a healthcare professional’s go-ahead, though. It’s also important to tell your healthcare professional about all the supplements and over-the-counter-meds you’re currently taking.

Your clinician might also suggest having regular checkups or tests to monitor the condition of your liver.

Yes. Heavy alcohol use can lead to the development of AFLD because it increases fat accumulation in the liver.

If you don’t drink or seldom drink, your risk of developing fatty liver disease is lower than someone who drinks regularly or heavily.

What else can you do to help prevent fatty liver disease from developing?

In addition to eliminating alcohol, other lifestyle strategies can help you prevent the development of fatty liver disease.

Preventive strategies can include:

  • taking steps to manage your blood sugar, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels
  • getting in exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week
  • drinking plenty of water, as hydration helps your liver stay healthy
  • reducing or quitting cigarettes, vaping nicotine, or using other tobacco products

It’s also a good idea to eat a nutrient-rich, balanced diet. This can include:

If you think you’re at risk of developing fatty liver disease, consider making an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare professional. They might be able to give you more specific advice about preventive strategies.

Whether you have alcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, abstaining from alcohol can prevent further damage to your liver.

If you often drink more than the recommended daily limit, seek medical attention when withdrawing from alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life threatening.

In addition to eliminating alcohol, certain lifestyle strategies — such as avoiding tobacco and nicotine, eating a nutritious diet, and staying hydrated — can help keep your liver healthy.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.