What is Autophagy?
Autophagy is a natural process or recycling cells in your body. The word literally means “self” and “eating,” and is your body’s way of getting rid of cellular junk. You are made up of trillions of cells, and these cells are constantly being made and destroyed. Some cells get damaged and can then become dangerous to the body. Imagine all the rubbish you build up in your house, the food waste, packaging, broken items etc. Now imagine you had no way of getting rid of all this waste, it just grew bigger. Autophagy is a way of getting rid of all the harmful cellular waste in your body. Not only does it get rid of damage cells, but it breaks them down and from the waste, energy and the building blocks to create new cells are produced.
The benefits of autophagy
Because autophagy rids the body of potential dangerous damaged cells and creates new cells it’s very good for anti-aging. It protects the brain cells, helping to regrow new brain cells. And the heart, regrowing new heart cells, the immune system etc. After infection, autophagy can destroy bacteria and viruses. Autophagy protects against diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and certain forms of dementia. It has also been reported to be beneficial against infections and protects against excessive inflammation.
- Provides fuel for energy and building blocks for cell renewal
- Rids the body damaged cells, to counteract the negative effects of aging
- Protects against diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s
- After infection, autophagy can destroy bacteria and viruses
So how can we take advantage of autophagy
The autophagy process can be ‘switched on’ by fasting. There are many ways to practice fasting. The 5: 2 diet where you eating a normal healthy diet for 5 days then a calorie restricted diet of 500 Calories for 2 days. Alternate Day Fasting can switch on autophagy, or limiting your daily window to somewhere between just 4 to 8 hours a day. Studies suggest that fasts between 24–48 hours probably have the strongest effects, but this isn’t always doable for many people. Try to at least fast for 12 to 36 hours at a time. Fasting can be built up gradually like exercise. Do not be over ambitious at the start, extend your normal nightly fasting period of sleeping by small degrees.
A keto diet is very high in fat, very low in carb diet that works in similar ways to fasting. The carb restriction results in your body producing ketone bodies that have many protective effects. Reports suggest this can cause autophagy.
Stress caused by exercise can also induce autophagy. Recent research has shown that exercise induces autophagy in multiple organs, such as muscle, liver, and the pancreas.