Most people have experienced some consequence of poor digestion. Both acid reflux and fatty liver are disorders that may be related to your diet. Although the two conditions represent distinct disease processes with different symptoms and an array of possible causes, they both can be caused or aggravated by alcohol.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a common disorder characterized by the release of stomach acid into your esophagus, the long tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. The most common symptom is heartburn, or a sensation of discomfort and burning in the chest. If reflux is severe, stomach contents can reach your mouth and cause hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and chronic cough. Some people experience asthma as a result of this condition. Because stomach acid can erode your teeth, dental decay is possible.
Acid Reflux Causes
Acid reflux is caused by anything that compromises the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. The LES is a band of smooth muscle connecting your esophagus to your stomach. A hiatal hernia is a common malformation of the sphincter that weakens it and allows stomach acid to reflux into your esophagus. Many lifestyle factors can also relax the LES, including smoking, caffeine, chocolate and fatty meals. In addition, alcohol can relax the sphincter and cause or worsen acid reflux.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is the most common cause of abnormal liver tests in the U.S., according to “Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 2011.” NAFLD is a common disorder, affecting as much as 25 percent of the population. Its cause is unknown, and over half of patients have no symptoms. If you develop symptoms, you may experience vague pain on the right side of your stomach or fatigue. If severe, NAFLD can cause redness of your hands and swelling of your abdomen. These are signs of severe liver dysfunction.
Alcoholic Fatty Liver
Alchoholic liver disease is caused by chronic alcohol consumption exceeding, on average 80 g/day for men—the equivalent of six 12-oz cans of beer, 1 liter of wine or 5-6 liquor drinks—and 60 g/day for women. In its early stages, alcoholic fatty liver may cause no symptoms and may remain so. If chronic alcohol use persists, however, the condition may progress to hepatitis and eventually to cirrhosis, or liver failure. These more serious disorders include symptoms such as jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, liver enlargement and difficulty concentrating.
- "The Family Medicine Handbook, 5th Edition"; Mark A. Graber; 2006
- "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment"; Stephen J. McPhee; 2011
- Alcohol image by Sergey Yakovenko from Fotolia.com