Want to stay healthy and slow the aging process? Learn how to activate autophagy within your body…
You may be wondering, what the heck is “autophagy,” and why should you care anyway? Though it’s not a common word yet among either medical professionals or the general public, science has discovered some truly fascinating facts about this process, and many resarchers now believe that it may be the key to improved overall health and longevity.
Autophagy (aw-TOFF-uh-gee) literally means self-eating, and it’s a process your body undergoes every single minute of every day. This process improves the function of your cells by repairing them and getting rid of waste and dead cells.
However, as we age, your body becomes less efficient at this process, and may believe that this is part of the reason we show signs of aging and disease as we get older. Learning to activate this process and encourage your body’s natural autophagy activity can help to remove toxins, repair cellular damage, increase energy, encourage proper immune function, and more.
Below are a few ways to activate and support autophagy, and thereby improve your health and maintain youthfulness:
When you’re sleeping, your body is naturally working its hardest to activate the youth inside of the cell. That’s when the autophagy is removing, recycling, and really regenerating at a cellular level. Just think of autophagy as a clean kitchen after you cook a meal. If you were in a kitchen and you were making a meal, your autophagy would start working. After the meal, you clean up the surfaces so that they are all beautiful. The compost is put in the compost bin, the recycling is put in the recycling bin, the garbage is put in the garbage bin, and everything smells clean and fresh and you’re ready to start preparing your next meal. When autophagy is not working well, that’s when you start to accumulate too much food in the kitchen, the garbage can gets filled up, the recycling bin can’t go out to the edge of the street because the garbage man and the recycling company isn’t coming for a couple of days. Well, when you get one and a half cycles of sleep rhythms throughout the night you utilize your circadian rhythm. This is the clock that’s in every single one of your cells that allows autophagy to work its best. When you do not get enough sleep (both in quantity and quality), then your body can’t get into a rhythm of repair and rejuvenation.
Autophagy loves fat. It loves ketones, and it really doesn’t do well with lots of carbohydrates. So a high fat low carb ketogenic diet is a great way to activate autophagy. That means incorporating healthy fats, like those found in avocado and olive oil. And it also means reducing carbohydrates, especially those simple carbs and sugars.
One of the best ways to stimulate autophagy is through cycling between periods of eating and periods of fasting. I like to fast for about 16 hours a day (that includes sleeping), so that my window of eating is about 8 hours. This is called intermittent fasting. It’s pretty easy to do—all you’re doing is cutting out one meal a day (for many who do this, it’s usually breakfast). So if you stop eating at about 8:00 pm at night and you start eating again at noon, that’s a 16-hour fast.
When you’re exercising, that creates a short-term stress on your body (your muscles are working harder, your heart is beating faster). That’s a good thing for autophagy because it loves acute, good stressors like this (it doesn’t do so well with long-term chronic stress). While any exercise can help, the two best forms of exercise for activating autophagy are interval training and resistance training such as weight-lifting or yoga.