Increasing Autophagy and Strengthening Your Cells
Your cells are constantly working to become stronger and more efficient. That’s a great thing, since as we age, our cellular multiplication naturally decreases. We all want to have the strongest set of cells that we possibly can, but how? The answer is by increasing autophagy in our bodies.
Autophagy is like organizing your cellular closet.
Autophagy is our body’s way of removing damaged cells, making way for newer, healthier, and stronger cells.
In Greek, “auto” means self, and “phagy” means eat. Literally, autophagy means “self-eating.” Here’s a quick overview of autophagy, with help from Thomas Delauer, a trainer studying the impact of autophagy on the body:
As we grow, “our cells are functioning with the survival of the fittest.” If all or part of a cell becomes weak, it is devoured by what are called auto phagosomes and used as energy to strengthen and create other cells. Delauer compares auto phagosomes to soldiers, who patrol our cells searching for what is weak and consuming it for energy. Without autophagy, our cells would fill with toxins and useless bits of cellular tissue.
Delauer’s summary is supported by nutritionists and cardiologists at Columbia University, who say that autophagy “promotes survival and adaptation” in response to “stressors and toxins accumulated in our cells.” It’s considered an “evolutionary self-preservation mechanism” that makes our cells strong.
Think of it this way: if you’re going through your closet frequently, you organize it, throw out old or damaged clothes, and perhaps donate or sell some items be worn by someone else. If you never clean out your closet, but keep buying clothes, it will get so full and crammed with useless clothes that you’ll have a hard time finding what you want to wear.
Autophagy acts in a similar way for our bodies. It cleans out, reuses what it can, and sends the rest away to make space for new, strong cells. When you activate autophagy or create opportunities for it to happen more often, you’re giving your body a chance to renew itself and boost longevity. We’ll talk about how exactly to do that later, but here are a few ways autophagy benefits your body.
6 benefits of autophagy
Besides keeping a clean house of cells, why do you want autophagy to happen? Here are six benefits of autophagy:
- Neuroprotection: It removes toxic proteins that are linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Removes residual proteins: It cleans out proteins that can damage your brain cells or cause chronic inflammation.
- Produces stronger cells: It provides energy for your cells and helps strengthen those that might be damaged by stress. It also helps minimize cell death.
- Promotes healthy cells: It naturally encourages cellular regeneration and growth.
- Maintains youthfulness: All this cellular regeneration and recycling keeps you looking and feeling younger. It helps your metabolism, keeps your skin looking healthy, and helps regulate inflammation.
- Helps prevent cancer: New research shows a promising connection between autophagy and reducing the risk of cancer.
5 ways to increase autophagy
Now that you know why autophagy is so amazing, it’s time to encourage it in your own body. There are five main ways to activate autophagy:
- Eat a high-fat, low-carb diet: We’re talking healthy fats here, from things like avocados, nuts, and dark chocolate (Yes! We said chocolate!). In fact, following a keto diet is a great way to reduce carbs and encourage those healthy fats.
- Limit protein intake: Once or twice a week, keep your protein to 15 grams a day. You’re giving your body a chance to recycle proteins without muscle loss. Just be cautious about how much you exercise that day.
- Practice intermittent fasting: There are many different ways to practice intermittent fasting — it’s not just about starving yourself all day. Fasting allows your body to take care of lingering toxins without more entering the body through food.
- Exercise in a fasted state: Autophagy is a response to stress, so exercising in the morning before you’ve eaten is a good way to activate it within your cells. Be sure to pay attention to your body, and don’t push it too hard when you haven’t eaten.
- Get restorative sleep: Your body works so hard when you’re sleeping. Cleaning up your brain and your cells is its number one task. Getting enough good, restorative sleep can be life changing. And cell changing.
We all want to help our bodies stay young and healthy. Encouraging autophagy is an easy, and very natural, way to do just that. The list of benefits is growing as researchers study the incredible process of “self-eating.” Take charge of your cells, and try something new to help encourage autophagy.