What is autophagy?

What is Autophagy and why is it important?

Autophagy (Self Eating) is the newest buzz word in the Wellness Space and some of you have asked me about it.  It s also a term that is connected to the Keto Type Diet,  Intermittent Fasting and Protein Cycling.  Topics we ave covered in previous blog posts.

Autophagy is the method by which your body cleans out damaged cells and toxins, helps you regenerate newer, healthier cells.  Autophagy requires a little stress to work well.

It is very important that this system works well, so that we can detox and clean up the waste.  If this system is not operating well then we are subject to age related diseases due to the accumulation of toxins and debris.  Autophagy also helps the body by naturally defending against disease.

How autophagy works

Think of your body as a kitchen. After making a meal, you clean up the counter, throw away the leftovers, and recycle some of the food. The next day, you have a clean kitchen. This is autophagy doing its thing in your body, and doing it well.

Now if  after making your meal, you leave remnants on the counter. Some of it gets into the garbage, some of it doesn’t.  You start  having a hard time keeping up with the daily grime. This scenario resembles autophagy that isn’t working as well as it should.  The garbage and mess that builds up over time is why we start to feel aches and pains as we get older, things don’t quite work as they once did and so on.  You can also notice autophagy not working well in the short term after a weekend of  poor food choices, too much to drink, lack of sleep, etc etc..

Autophagy works to help you maintain homeostasis

Homeostasis  is like the bodies thermostat,  The goal is to maintain a constant temp of let say 72 degrees.  Too cold ? The body turns on the functions to increase the temp.  Too hot then the body turns off functions till the temp is back to 72 and homeostasis is achieved.  How can you tell if Autophagy is working?  You can see it in someone whose eyes sparkle, there is a lightness to their step, their skin is glowing, there is a calmness and fluidity to their cadence.

 3 ways to increase autophagy

Keep in mind that because autophagy is a response to stress, you need to trick your body into thinking it’s a little bit under siege. Here’s how:

Eat a high-fat, low-carb diet

Fat needs to be the dominant macronutrient in our diets because it’s different from protein. Whereas protein can turn into a carb and become a sugar, [fat cannot].” Specifically, a keto diet (a high-fat, low-carb meal plan) gives you an edge you when it comes to autophagy. The shift from burning glucose (carbs) to ketones (fats) that occurs on a keto diet mimics what occurs naturally in a fasted state — and this increases autophagy in its own right.

Practice intermittent fasting

By skipping breakfast and eating all of your meals within an eight-hour window, you will increase your body’s inherent autophagy process. Intermittent fasting gives your body a chance to “catch up” on all those lingering toxins — by cleaning up in real-time. Remove toxin build-up with a 16-28 hour fast.

If done incorrectly, intermittent fasting can cause hormone imbalances in women. That’s because women are highly sensitive to signs of starvation or calorie restriction. To sidestep issues, consume a fat-only breakfast, By keeping carbs and protein out of your meal, you remain in a fasting state, while the fat tells your body that you’re not starving.

Exercise using high-intensity interval training

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercise is another advantageous way to stimulate autophagy. Remember, autophagy is a bodily response to stress, and high-intensity exercise puts you in the good-stress sweet spot because it stresses you just enough to provoke biochemical change. You’ll get just enough impact load to make your muscles stronger (and induce autophagy) without harm. Aim for approximately 20-30 minutes a day to give your longevity an optimal boost.

Less is more” approach to exercise for inducing autophagy. “Weightlifting and resistance training exercises for 30 minutes every other day is the best way to activate autophagy.  You could also go for a walk,  Walk at a very fast pace and alternate with a slow pace as a simple way to activate autophagy.

A couple of things:

  1. Make sure the quality of the fat you consume is high quality.
  2. Not everyone does well on a Keto Diet due to dairy sensitivity
  3. Not for you if you are pregnant or have hormone imbalances
  4. You can and should incorporate lots of healthy greens and cruciferous veggies
  5. Go slow: if you eat a bunch of  simple carbs and sugar, then start by cutting back on those, increase the veggies and slowly add good fats.
  6. Not for you if you are training for a marathon
  7. Keep it simple by not eating too much and try a 12-12  fasting window
  8. In order to create Autophagy snacking is off limits.  Love this.

Lastly if you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask me.  What I have learned in practice is that everyone is different and what is right for one person is not right for another.  The reason I write about these topics is to hopefully help you get some perspective on the current research and health and wellness trends.

My best and have a fabulous start to summer

Dr Pia