Autophagy: cellular renewal

Heard of autophagy? It’s the term experts use to describe our body’s ability to regenerate and slow down the ageing processes that cause ill health and disease. The good news is that with some changes in habits, improved nutrition and the right supplements, it’s possible to reactivate this powerful, basic bodily function.

Is it possible for your body to replace damaged cells?

Yes! Auto (meaning ‘self’) and phagy (meaning ‘eat’) means ‘self-eating’ – a process where cells devour themselves, recycling damaged and distressed cellular organelles and replacing them with better functioning ones. The result is renewed cells that are better equipped to fight off disease and distress – it’s how our bodies have evolved over time to eliminate worn and poorly functioning cellular parts and reuse them in a way in which they function optimally.

Research shows that autophagy may be a powerful force in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases, some cancers and auto immune diseases. I’ve been amazed at the positive results I’ve seen with clients once they’ve implemented some of the principles of autophagy into their lifestyles.

How exactly does the autophagy process work?

The premise is relatively simple. In the absence of external food sources, the body looks to itself for fuel. Cellular components that are damaged or no longer hold any value are devoured and recycled into better functioning cells, ones that are better equipped to fight illness and degeneration.

Does autophagy reverse ageing?

Ageing is inevitable for every human being, and although ageing itself isn’t a disease, it is the primary risk factor in many chronic conditions and diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Some experts are proposing that slowing ageing (on a cellular level) and encouraging a state of autophagy may be the answer we need to slowing down and even possibly eradicating some dread diseases. A growing body of research also supports the idea that intermittent fasting can be an integral component in addressing autoimmune disease.

Ancient man was a master at autophagy

Our ancestors hold the key to understanding how in times of enormous stress, that they were able to continue functioning. Despite food scarcity and significant swings between states of feast and famine, our ancestors survived and even thrived.

Experts are now saying that by emulating our ancestors and the state of food scarcity they so often found themselves in through fasting, targeted food choices and timing our food ingestion we are able to trigger our longevity

A guide to inducing autophagy

Practise intermittent fasting
A known stimulant of autophagy, fasting has been practised for thousands of years. Followers praise fasting for its ability to aid with weight loss and for the mental clarity it brings, while experts are increasingly noting the increase in lifespan and lowering of disease risks fasting appears to offer.
I recommend intermittent fasting every other day for no less than 16 hours a session and on days when you are not fasting, allow 4 to 5 hours between meals.

Eat less carbohydrates & more protein
By reducing carbohydrates to low levels through the likes of a ketogenic diet, your body is forced to use fat as a fuel source. There is evidence that a state of ketosis can help the body fight cancerous tumours, protect against brain disorders such as epilepsy and lower the risk of diabetes.

Plan your nutrient intake
Autophagy advocates advise on consuming fats before carbohydrates, whether you’re practising fasting or not. In a typical (non-fasting) day, feed the body with fats on waking and save any carbohydrates for later in the day to aid with cellular recovery while you sleep.
I recommend breaking your fast with water, fibre, good-quality fats and small amount of protein to regulate blood sugar levels and nourish the body. The body functions best with nutrients, not calories, so after a 12 to 14 hour fast choose nutrient dense food such as green juice and a salad with avocado, rocket, lemon juice and hummus or egg or grilled fish with some almonds.

Regular exercise
Regular exercise causes micro damage to cells which your body rushes to heal – the continuous cycle of tear and repair activity makes your muscles stronger and more resistant to future damage.

Eat to promote autophagy
It’s possible to activate autophagic processes in our bodies by ingesting active ingredients.

  • Coffee contains polyphenols that can induce autophagy
  • Green tea is crammed with polyphenols like EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). I recommend and take Origine 8 Complete Green Tea Extract.
  • Cinnamon is full of antioxidant, lowers blood sugar lowering and increases autophagy
  • Turmeric is a naturally occurring autophagy modulatorI take Bio-Curcumin with BCM-95.

Autophagy is a state of cellular renewal our ancestors needed for survival. By implementing some of the basic tenets of autophagy we may set ourselves on a path to surviving and thriving in the world we live in.



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