Alcohol abuse is a very real and growing thing. Depression, anxiety, you name it. People will come to alcohol for some relief. Everyone knows alcohol is awful for your liver, but I don’t think they really know what they’re at risk of, or what is really happening to their bodies. So I’m gonna break it down for you:

Your liver is made of liver cells, or hepatocytes. (“hepato- means pertaining to the liver, and “-cytes” means cells.) These liver cells have a couple of really important functions, other than making bile. Your hepatocytes are responsible for making a vital protein called fibrinogen. Fibrinogen assists in the ability to make your blood clot. Your liver cells are also responsible for producing albumin, which helps control osmotic pressure. This just means that it helps to prevent fluids from leaking into surrounding tissues.

When your liver tries to break down alcohol, the chemical reaction it produces results in the partial or complete damage of your hepatocytes. If you don’t have enough healthy hepatocytes, then your liver can’t produce albumin. So when you lose albumin, you lose the ability to keep the osmotic pressure balanced and fluids will start leaking out into your tissues into the abdominal area, which is called ascites. This is how most severe forms of ascites come about — from chronic alcohol abuse.

And since your liver cells are damaged and now can’t produce fibrinogen, you could lose your blood’s ability to clot. This is why a major side effect or risk of alcohol abuse is hemophilia (loss in the ability of blood to clot), which is more common in men than women.

Alcohol affects you negatively in many other ways, but I thought I would clear up or elaborate on what it does to the liver specifically. I tried to make this as general and easy to understand as possible!