Preventable Illness

By Dr. Roxanne Pero, MD, FACOG, DIPABLM

My patient had come in the year before for routine bloodwork done as part of her annual physical. We sat down later to discuss the results, which showed significantly elevated liver enzymes. She opened up to me about her struggles with alcoholism; she had never told anyone before that day and she was scared after seeing her lab results. She was able to enter rehab and came back to see me one year later, now six months sober, and with normal bloodwork.

Wow, such a mind-blowing account of the resiliency of the human body.

An immense database of research clearly indicates that chronic, heavy alcohol consumption leads to damage of normal organ function in virtually every tissue of the body. In alcoholic individuals, the liver is especially vulnerable to alcohol-induced injury. After drinking stops, damaged organs may regain partial function or even heal completely, depending on the extent of organ damage and whether there is relapse (i.e., resumption of drinking). Organ damage due to heavy drinking is greatest in the liver, in part because the liver has higher levels of enzymes that catalyze the metabolism of acetaldehyde from alcohol. Alcoholism also impacts the GI tract, causing GI tract ulcerations, chronic diarrhea, and an increased risk of GI tract cancers; but studies have shown that even just a 3-week abstinence following the removal of alcohol brings about significant recovery of the gut barrier function.

Heavy alcohol intake as well can negatively impact heart function, causing elevations in heart rate and blood pressure and increasing heart damage and leading to a diagnosis of alcohol-induced dilated cardiomyopathy. In most studies, heart function returned to normal baseline just after one month of alcohol cessation!

For women, breast cancer is diagnosed in 1 in 8 women in the United States. Studies have observed a 10% increase in breast cancer risk with each 10 g per day of alcohol intake, which is considered a “standard drink.” When 1 in 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer, a 10% increased risk is significant! Most breast cancer risks surprisingly have little to do with your family history or genetic makeup. There are several modifiable risk factors for breast cancer and eliminating alcohol consumption CAN reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

For all the damage that alcoholism does to your physical health, it is empowering and inspiring to know that your one given body has the power to heal when you start the steps to recovery!


Dr. Roxanne Pero brings over 15 years of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Infertility, 4 years of Lifestyle Medicine, and a freshly found passion for Functional and Integrative medicine to Carpathia Collaborative. She is a client’s biggest advocate, educator and ally on his/her journey to root cause discovery of disease processes, having personally had her own health struggles that holistic medicine has helped her overcome. She works tirelessly to help her clients find that inner source of self-healing and self-compassion. Empowerment in what we can do together- the provider and the patient- when we are equal participants is the most meaningful way to regain a resilient life.