What is Autophagy?
The word autophagy is an ancient Greek word that means self-devouring. While that doesn’t sound very appealing, autophagy is actually a normal physiological process within the body that deals with the construction of bodily cells. With aging, cellular damage happens at an increased rate as the body experiences stress and free radical damage. Autophagy helps to clear those damaged cells from the body, including senescent cells that serve no functional purpose and just loiter inside organs and tissues while triggering inflammatory responses causing chronic disease. In addition to playing a janitorial role, autophagy protects against genetic mutations and prevents necrosis or cell death of healthy tissue and organs due to injury and disease.
By eliminating toxic assets and promoting cell viability, autophagy has been deemed to prevent infections and chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiomyopathy, liver disease, neurodegeneration, cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases. Autophagy has emerged as a new and potent modulator of disease progression that is both clinically relevant and scientifically intriguing. Though active in all cells, autophagy increases in response to stress or nutrient deprivation. Therefore, the state of ketosis, fasting, and exercise will help induce this process which we will cover later in this article.
What are the Benefits of Autophagy?
As mentioned earlier, autophagy is basically the body consuming its own tissue to clear damaged cells from the body. The physiological process of autophagy has many anti-aging benefits as it helps destroy and reuse damaged components within the cells. In other words, the destructive waste is used to create new building blocks that aid repair and regeneration. Following are a few autophagy benefits.
- Remove toxic proteins from cells that are linked to inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases
- Recycle residual proteins
- Provide energy and building blocks for cells that still need repair
- Prompt regeneration and healthy cells
How Can I Induce Autophagy?
If you’ve been downtrodden by an inflammatory condition such as diabetes, lupus, or some other autoimmune disease, then you can induce autophagy by three simple methods that include the ketogenic diet, fasting, and exercise.
A ketogenic or keto diet is a very high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet that works similarly to fasting. It forces the body to burn fat for energy rather than sugar. With the diet being low in carbohydrates, the body produces ketone bodies that have many health protective benefits, including autophagy.
The keto diet is basically 75 percent dietary fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrates. It is a whole foods based diet consisting of beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, seafood, cheese, heavy whipping cream, low-carbohydrate vegetables, and berries.
*** NOTE: You may want to read What are Ketones and Will They Reduce Body Fat?
Fasting is a very simple concept. Basically, its food abstinence. Studies suggest that fasting with water for 24 to 48 hours will induce fatty change and autophagy in the liver.
Because exercise is a form of stress, it causes tissues to break down, repair, and regenerate stronger than before. Recent research has proven that exercise induces autophagy in multiple organs involves in metabolic regulation such as muscle, liver, pancreas, and adipose tissue. Though it’s not clear how much exercise is needed to induce autophagy, research does suggest that intense exercise is probably the most beneficial.
Autophagy is very beneficial to the human body as it gobbles up defective cells in tissue and organs, as well as regenerate cells. It is the key in preventing disease such as inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disease. A ketogenic diet, fasting, and intense exercise induces autophagy.