About Me

My photo

Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More simplification...

I’m not an expert… but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. But I doubt that it makes me an authority on anything other than room service. Certainly, I am not a medical professional. I have done some research and what I have come up with, I’m willing to share with you.

A few days ago I wrote about the liver. Today I’ll try to simplify the workings of the pancreas and kidneys. These are both vital organs and, it would seem to me, we should do everything in our power to keep them healthy and happy.

The pancreas has two functions, one is to supply enzymes that aid in digestion and the other is to regulate our blood sugar. It is located behind the stomach and is surrounded by the portal vein which is one way blood is supplied to the organ.

Enzymes important to digestion are produced in the pancreas and are released when food enters the stomach through the pancreatic duct. These enzymes juices are known as bile.


With excessive use of alcohol the bile ducts become block due to inflammation and other factors. The inflammation is similar to swelling around the opening which decreases the flow of bile. Just as in the liver, scarring in this duct can also block the flow. That, in turn, causes a build of up bile inside the liver creating high levels of bilirubin in the blood.

The unfortunate trait of the pancreas is that it is digestible by our bodies and the build up of bile causes the pancreas to start being digested. From the way I understand, our pancreas eats itself because it can’t get out to eat anything else.

Medical attention and a hospital stay may be necessary where the alcoholic’s condition can be monitored. But the only real solution to the self-digestion is for the alcoholic to stop and not resume alcohol consumption.


Let us assume that Mr. Jones is an alcoholic and has been diagnosed with Cirrhosis and/or Chronic (which means it happens over and over again) Pancreatitis. Because of his condition other parts, or organs, of his body are going to be affected. Alcohol is a toxin that is being induced and circulated in the blood stream. The liver is not removing the toxins because the ducts are closed and the blood cannot enter the organ. Also the pancreas is not breaking down the sugars or regulating his glucose because it’s busy feasting on itself. So – the toxins are taking a journey through his body’s internal super-highways.

One stop on this highway is the kidneys. Within less than a half-hour of consumption, alcohol produces the need to urinate. The more alcohol consumed the more trips Mr. Jones takes to the men’s room. All this bathroom activity is diluting the amount of fluid in the body. Mr. Jones can actually become dehydrated from all the booze he is drinking. It seems like a contradiction that he is drinking fluid and yet doesn’t have enough in his body.

Since Mr. Jones has been diagnosed with Cirrhosis, he has a tendency to retain salt. This causes a progressive accumulation of fluid which ends up in the abdominal cavity. In a quick glance at Mr. Jones, one would think he might be pregnant. The truth is his abdomen has so much fluid that he appears to be pregnant or have a “beer belly”. This accumulation is called “ascites.” This accumulation can continue to other parts of the body such as legs and arms.

All of this fluid in the empty spaces of Mr. Jones body may create many other complications, such as pressure on the heart. A heart attack may be the end result.

So now, Mr. Jones has blood that is heavy on toxins and his body is undue stress from the fluid build up. In my opinion, it’s time for Mr. Jones to take a cold hard look at what his alcoholism has done to his physical well-being and admit himself to a detox and rehab center.


Syd said...

Alcohol is a major dehydrating agent. We use 100% to preserve critters! It truly does pickle people too.

jo said...

another good descriptions of alcohol and the body. thanks, linda.

Eclectic Bohemian said...

Awesome job Linda! Your descriptions are spot on. Clinically accurate and you explain it well for the lay-person. I think it helps people tremendously to understand the physiology of alcoholism.

You are truly a gem!