The body is an amazing creation, it truly is. It is designed to prosper, to survive and to renew. This post is about the benefits of autophagy, huge for health and longevity.
What is Autophagy?
“Autophagy (or autophagocytosis) (from the Ancient Greek αὐτόφαγος autóphagos, meaning “self-devouring” and κύτος kýtos, meaning “hollow”) is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that disassembles unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It allows the orderly degradation and recycling of cellular components” according to Wikipedia
So this means that during this process called autophagy the body actually eats and recycles its own damaged cells and toxins which is a good thing. This clean up leaves us with the opportunity to build healthier new cells through a balanced lifestyle. This way the body can defend itself naturally against disease and premature aging. Even in a healthy body autopagy is needed. Cells are getting damaged as a part of normal metabolic processes although influences like aging, stress and being bombarded by free radicals increase the damaging effects on our cells.
Dead organelles, damaged proteins and oxidized particles need to be cleaned out regularly. Autophagy is active in all cells but when the load gets bigger due to aging, more stress and free radicals the cleaning can lack behind. This is where activating autophagy comes in. It is important for health and longevity to remove damaged cells from the body for they can trigger inflammation and development of various diseases.
How to induce autophagy?
Autophagy activity can be increased by stress or nutrient deprivation. I don’t mean you should increase your workload to create more stress, exercise and periodic fasting like intermittent fasting can boost autophagic processes.
While intermittent fasting ( IMF ) you are still eating only you take your meals during a smaller window of time. You can drink water, coffee or tea during this time. The good thing about IMF is that I don’t feel deprived. I have been doing IMF for a couple of years now and my body likes this way of eating a lot.
Try to do at least a 12 hour fast to induce autophagy, 16 hours is even better. That sounds like a lot but that leaves 8 hours to eat during the day. From 11AM to 7PM, that’s pretty doable. This way of fasting doesn’t screw up your metabolism and it can aid in weight loss. You don’t have to do this every day, try what works for you and see how you feel.
A shorter HITT session from 20 – 30 minutes a day gives just enough impact and stresses the body enough to provoke biochemical change and stimulate autophagy. Weightlifting or resistance training a few times per week is also good for strength and cellular health.
What are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are the toxic by-product of oxidative stress. Electrons prefer to live in pairs. Oxygen is essential for life, but oxygen also causes breakdown in the body during digestion. Free radicals are lonely atoms on a mission to find another electron to form a pair with. They attach themselves to everything they can and cause damage to cells, proteins and DNA. Certain vitamins and minerals called antioxidants help the body combat oxidative stress.
Some of the free radicals are created by natural bodily processes in the body such as,
- normal cell division
- the immune system
- the detox system
What is oxidative stress and what causes it?
Oxidation is a normal process but oxidative stress is an imbalance between the amount of free radicals and antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize the activity of free radicals by releasing one electron to them.
Below is a list of “unnatural” causes of oxidative stress,
- excessive exercise
- trauma to bodily tissues due to inflammation and injury
- a diet lacking antioxidants
- a diet made up of refined and processed foods, rich in coloring agents and additives, artificial sweeteners, trans fats etc.
- smoking and alcohol
- chemicals, pesticides, drugs, medication
- UV rays
There are many substances that can act as antioxidants. The body also produces some, known as endogenous antioxidants, the ones we get through our diet are called exogenous. Each antioxidant has its own role and is not simply interchangeable with another. Eating a varied diet is of much importance.
The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables, foods with vibrant colors.
- vitamin A, converted from carotenoids found in plant based foods, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, butternut squash
- vitamin C, fruits and vegetables. berries, oranges, bell pepper
- vitamin E, almonds, hazelnuts, swiss chard, spinach, pine nuts, peanuts, brazil nut
- beta-carotene, brightly colored fruits and vegetables
- lycopene, cooked tomatoes, watermelon, sun dried tomatoes, guava
- lutein, green leafy vegetables, orange, yellow and green fruits and veggies
- selenium, 1 brazil nut a day is sufficient, whole grains, rice, legumes, nuts
- manganese, whole grains, nuts, leafy vegetables, green and black tea
- zeaxanthin, dark leafy greens, peas, corn, green, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits
- Flavonoids, flavones, catechins, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens are all types of antioxidants and phytonutrients
- black beans or kidney beans
- red grapes
- dark chocolate
- goji berries
- blueberries and all other berries
- spinach, swiss chard and kale
Click on highlighted food for a recipe using this ingredient. For more health, beauty and longevity related posts,
If you feel inspired to try approaching your health and possible lifespan this way, you could give intermittent fasting a chance. The easiest way is to build up the fasting hours, lets say if you normally eat breakfast at 8 am try to do this for a few days at 9 am, then at 10 am. You get it, until you are at a 16 hour fasting period. Adding sufficient exercise is always a good plan, as it is here, something you can build up. Any movement is better than nothing and everyone can start somewhere.
ps. When pregnant, nursing or experiencing an eating disorder you should not be intermittent fasting. Having a disease or being on medication is always a reason to check with your dokter before starting a new diet or exercise routine.
- Autophagy: cellular and molecular mechanisms … https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990190/
- Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods … https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/
- Exercise induces autophagy … https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3463459/