What is Autophagy?
The process of cell replication is known as autophagy. In our bodies, we are constantly replacing the cells because they have stopped working optimally.
The word autophagy is derived from the Greek language with “auto” meaning “self” and “phagy” meaning “to eat”. So, autophagy means self-eating.
But, this might sound like a self-defeating thing for our bodies to be doing. However, what the body is actually doing, is the housework. It is removing old cells that are no longer fit, have become dysfunctional or are broken.
The ability of our bodies to repair themselves is evolution in action.
The modern world is full of toxins and poisons. And these toxins enter our cells, where they interfere with the correct operation of the cells.
Autophagy can remove the dysfunctional cells and use parts of them for cellular repair in other cells. This is biological recycling at its most efficient.
Dr. Luiza Petre cardiologist explains that the purpose of autophagy is to remove debris and retune the cell operation.
“It is recycling and cleaning at the same time, just like hitting a reset button to your body. Plus, it promotes survival and adaptation as a response to various stressors and toxins accumulated in our cells,” she adds.
This has the anti-ageing benefit of creating younger cells, effectively turning back our body clock.
The cell biologist Dan Klionsky of the University of Michigan was praised for including the music Macromusophagy, written by Wendy Wan-Ki Lee, in his presentation.
This praise was given by a blind student of autophagy who couldn’t see the presentation.
Researchers are continuing to see that autophagy is an integral part of many biological processes, such as ageing, development and immunity.
However, when autophagy goes wrong it is suspected of being responsible for conditions as diverse as inflammatory diseases, cancer and neurodegeneration.
Autophagy is the process of cellular housekeeping where dysfunctional organelles, aggregated macromolecules, misfolded proteins or pathogens are removed and degraded.
A human body contains trillions of cells, each of which is prone to damage or degradation. Unwanted molecules can accrue inside the cells and this can cause cellular damage.
Autophagy will remove unwanted molecules and dysfunctional organelles. While autophagy destroys faulty cell components, it can also recycle some elements for reuse in new cells.
Autophagy also plays an essential role in the immune system by cleaning out toxins and infectious agents. There is some evidence that autophagy improves the outlook for cells with infectious and neurodegenerative diseases, by controlling inflammation.
Fasting is mooted to induce, or trigger, autophagy. Hence, it can be seen why fasting may delay the ageing process. When this happens the cells respond by cleaning out and recycling any unnecessary or damaged parts.
While fasting and calorie restriction may induce autophagy, science does not believe fasting to be a very efficient mechanism for weight loss.
Autophagy, Apoptosis and Necrosis
Autophagy, apoptosis and necrosis are all methods for our body cells to end their lives.
Cell death may sound fairly terminal but, it is actually a normal part of our development, growth and health.
- Apoptosis is a very carefully controlled process of cell death.
- Autophagy refers to a process where a cell degrades its own cytoplasmic material
- Necrosis is caused by a lack of blood and oxygen to the tissue.
Apoptosis is the programmed cell death, or “cellular suicide.”, an orderly process in which the cell contents are broken down and bundled into small packets for disposal by the immune system. This housekeeping function can also eliminate virus-infected cells and pre-cancerous cells.
Furthermore, cells are removed to make way for newer healthier cells and to maintain homeostasis or body balance.
And, apoptosis also plays a part in removing unnecessary cells and tissue during development. Generally, while we are still embryos in our mother’s womb.
Where apoptosis fails to remove pre-cancerous cells, uncontrolled cell division can lead to full-blown cancer.
Necrosis (a messy end)
Necrosis is not a pretty end to the life of a cell. When harmful factors (toxins or physical injury) damage a cell, the cell’s plasma membrane cannot control the passage of ions and water. The cell contents leak through holes in the plasma membrane causing inflammation in the surrounding tissue.
In autophagy, the cell degrades its internal contents. It effectively eats itself. The cell devours itself into what is sometimes called the cell’s stomach or more accurately the lysosome.
The lysosome can consume improperly formed proteins, infectious organisms, damaged mitochondria and much more.
How to induce Autophagy
Fasting for Health
In mammalian cells, the total depletion of amino acids is a strong signal for autophagy, but the role of individual amino acids is more variable.
However, the plasma amino acid levels vary only a little. Amino acid signals and growth factor/insulin signals are thought to converge on the mTOR pathway. This is sometimes called the master regulator of nutrient signalling.
In the early stages of fasting, amino acid levels start to increase. The amino acids from the autophagy process are delivered to the liver for gluconeogenesis.
They can also be broken down into glucose through the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. The third potential fate of amino acids is to be incorporated into new proteins.
The consequences of accumulating old inefficient proteins can be seen in two main conditions, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and cancer.
Alzheimer’s Disease involves the accumulation of abnormal protein. Either amyloid beta or Tau protein which gums up the brain. It makes sense that a process like autophagy has the ability to clear out old protein could prevent the development of AD.
This allows for cell growth during eating, and cellular cleansing during fasting – balance. Life is all about balance.
Renew your Body
Essentially, autophagy is the mechanism your body uses for getting rid of all the broken down, old cell machinery (organelles, proteins and cell membranes) when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain it.
There is a similar, better known, process called apoptosis. Also known as programmed cell death. After a certain number of divisions, cells are programmed to die.
While cell death may sound like a very negative process, it is actually essential to maintaining good health.
However, it makes perfect sense to retire old cells that are no longer efficient and need to be “put out to grass”
Where apoptosis kills off old cells in their entirety, Autophagy simply destroys sub-cellular organelles and new ones are rebuilt to replace them. The old cell membranes, organelles and other cellular debris can be removed. The cell debris is disposed of by sending it to the lysosome which is a specialized organelle containing enzymes to degrade proteins.
Nutrient deprivation is the key trigger of autophagy. But, fasting does more than stimulate autophagy. It produces the growth hormone to signal the production of new cells.
You have to dispose of the old inefficient cells and replace them with new more vital cells.
Autophagy is a highly regulated process. If it were to run amok it would be VERY bad for your health.
The real way to cleanse your body
Miracle Diet Plans
You follow social media and you’ve seen all the posts, pins and ads purporting to transform your health with radical detox drinks and cleansing diet regimes.
It is quite possible that any or all of these miracle diet plans could cleanse your body. But, why would you want to use an add-on product when you already have the original and best body cleansing system known to man or woman.
Your body already has a perfectly good cleansing mechanism and you can actually help to make it better.
This body cleansing process is called autophagy. Your cells can create membranes that can filter out and collect the scraps of dead, diseased, or worn-out cells.
Once all the dodgy cells have been scooped up, they are stripped for parts before being sent to the crusher.
After all the ropey old cells have been disposed of, a shiny new, super-efficient cell structure remains.
Recent research has shown that the autophagy process protects our bodies from:
- Neurodegenerative disorders
- Inflammatory diseases
- Insulin resistance
Another study in mice has shown that a lack of autophagy can be very harmful. When autophagy is not fine-tuning our bodies, you may see weight gain, lethargy, higher cholesterol, and impaired brain function.
Furthermore, there is another way to cleanse your body that you may have already heard of. Drinking lots of cool, pure water.
Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes.Colin Champ
Foods that promote Autophagy
If you wish to realise your improved health goals, you need to enhance autophagy and cellular healing in your body.
According to Dr Jockers “Autophagy is your body’s natural method of detoxification”. He is a great believer in natural healing and is looking for ways to enhance our own self-healing mechanism.
To that end, he has identified “7 Herbs That Enhance Autophagy and Cellular Healing”.
This green tea has many health benefits because it is rich in polyphenol EGCG. This mimics the effect of calorie restriction which induces autophagy. And, apparently, some people even refer to Matcha green tea as the autophagy-tea.
We know ginger is one of the best anti-inflammatory herbs you can get. Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy by the Chinese and the Indians. It became popular in Europe after the Roman Empire.
Additionally, ginger should enhance autophagy, decrease inflammation, and lower pain levels.
Food is the Ultimate Medicine
In common with ginger, turmeric is a rhizome with anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains the active compound, curcumin.
Ulcerative colitis, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and lupus are just some of the conditions known to be improved by Turmeric.
Resveratrol is a powerful plant compound found in grapes, berries, peanuts and red wine. It may also be said that resveratrol should also be beneficial for brain health, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and joint pain.
Avocado is a fruit that is rich in antioxidant flavonoids which are very beneficial for your heart health and cholesterol levels.
Native to the Mediterranean region, Oregano, Sage and Rosemary are three fragrant anti-inflammatory herbs.
However, these are all regular guests in our kitchen, these herbs possess powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Not surprisingly, these herbs are a foundation stone of the Mediterranean Diet.
Found in onions, leafy greens, tomatoes, berries and broccoli, quercetin is one of Dr Jockers favourite bioflavonoids. Because as well as enhancing autophagy, it can fight inflammation, improve immunity and prevent free radical damage.