What is Autophagy
Did you know your body actually eats itself?
The term in alternative medicine for this is Autophagy.
Autophagy: The word Autophagy is derived from the Greek “Auto – Phagein” meaning “self-eating” Rest assured, this is a good thing. Autophagy is when your body cleans out damaged cells and toxins and helps you regenerate newer, healthier cells.
An expert on Autophagy, Naomi Whittel, explains it this way.
Think of your body as a kitchen. After making a meal, you clean up the counter, throw away the leftovers, and recycle some of the food. The next day, you have a clean kitchen. This is autophagy doing its thing in your body, and doing it well.
Now think of the same scenario, but you’re older and not as efficient. After making your meal, you leave remnants on the counter. Some of it gets into the garbage, some of it doesn’t. They linger on the counter, garbage, and recycling bin. They never make it out the door to the dumpster, and toxic waste starts to build up in your kitchen. There’s food fermentation on the floor and all kinds of nasty smells wafting out the door. Due to the onslaught of pollutants and toxins, you’re having a hard time keeping up with the daily grime. This scenario resembles autophagy that isn’t working as well as it should.
Benefits of Autophagy
When you activate autophagy:
- You slow down the aging process
- Prevent or delay neurodegenerative diseases
- Reduce inflammation
- Boost your body’s natural ability to function.
- Promote a glowing skin complexion.
How to Activate Autophagy
Our bodies were created brilliantly. It was very common for our ancestors to have stressful circumstances such as long periods of time without food, high-intensity activity and excessive exposure to heat and cold. Instead of harming the body, these demands stimulated a regular and healthy dose of autophagy within their cells.
In our modern world, most are living a lifestyle that inhibits autophagy. We are not doing the hard things our body was designed to do. We are too comfortable. Too safe. And it’s actually harming our body, making us age, and creating inflammation that leads to disease.
The good news is, the more we get back to living the way our body was designed to live, the more our body will run how it was designed to run. With a side of glowing skin and increased energy. . . who doesn’t want that?
Five Ways To Activate Autophagy
Modern lifestyle = snack snack snack. 5 meals a day. Sugar. Packaged foods. This is not how our bodies were designed to work.
What is built into our DNA from ancestral times is a feast-famine cycle of eating. Our ancestors ate until they were full when they ate due to a lack of consistent food supply and a lack of refrigeration and other modern food storage strategies.
The thing that triggers autophagy most is fasting or intermittent fasting.
Although fasting is the greatest stimulator of autophagy, we also need to stimulate the mTOR and insulin pathways in order to build and produce energy on a regular basis. Too much autophagy, as witnessed in individuals who are on a long-term calorie restricted diet leads to muscle wasting, depressed thyroid and sex hormone activity.
So the key to fasting is also feasting! This is why just eating less and restricting calories is actually harmful to your metabolism and hormones. If you are wanting to lose weight, the best strategy is not necessary to limit calories but to eat all of your food in a certain window of time and abstain from food for a certain period of time to activate autophagy and using fat for fuel.
Intermittent fasting is a type of cyclic fasting that involves time-restricted eating.
An easy way to accomplish this is to eat just 1 or 2 meals per day, rather than grazing on many small meals and snacks. If you usually finish dinner at 6 or 7 p.m, then try to fast until at least 7 a.m or 11am the next morning. You can also choose to occasionally do a 2–3 day fast, or even longer once you’re more experienced with fasting.
When we periodically feast on healthy nutrient dense foods we flood the body with key nutrients it needs and we also stimulate metabolic pathways that help us to burn fat for fuel and have proper lean body tissue development.
The key principle to remember is that it’s powerful to fast, but it is equally as powerful to eat enough nutrient-dense food in the time you are eating. This balances the body between the physiological mechanisms behind both building and cleansing the cells.
High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity exercise and resistance training help stimulate human growth hormone (HGH) which creates an environment that favors fat burning, autophagy and muscle tissue repair and preservation. The boost in HGH is higher when the individual is in a fasted state.
High-intensity interval training and resistance training while fasting can ramp up autophagy, stimulate fat burning and improve mood and mental focus.
Higher Fat Diet
Most people in society are burning sugar in the form of glucose as their primary energy source. When we are in this sugar burning mode, we end up with large blood sugar fluctuations and higher insulin levels. This physiological process inhibits autophagy.
Phasing through a diet that is a high fat, lower carb and moderate protein lowers blood sugar and insulin levels and causes the body to adapt to burning dietary fat and its own body fat for fuel.
By blunting insulin, a high-fat diet primes autophagy pathways and when we apply intermittent fasting, we get into a state of autophagy much quicker.
- Healing Fats
Hot and Cold Exposure
Short periods of intense heat and cold exposure have also been shown to promote autophagy mechanisms.
When you are exposed to hot or cold for a short period of time, your body has to adapt. This adaptation pushes autophagy and gives us a much greater ability to adapt to temperature changes and other stressors we encounter. Strategic dosing of hot and cold temperatures makes us stronger and more resilient human beings.
Sauna use and cold showers are two of the best ways to induce the environment for autophagy.
Sleep may be the most important part of your health (besides your mindset).
It is where healing and repair happens, it is where growth happens, it is where you build intelligence, it’s basically the ultimate reset for your brain and body that keeps you running to the best of your ability.
Autophagy is in part regulated by light & dark cycles and deep sleep favors an environment for optimal autophagy mechanisms.
Realted article: 13 amazing tips for sleep