Do you know any health benefits of autophagy? Autophagy is a Greek word derived from “auto,” meaning self, and “phage,” which means eating. It’s a natural process by which the body recycles and destroys unwanted damaged cells, malformed proteins, and other unnecessary cell elements to give room for newer and healthier cells.
It’s a self-preservation and protection mechanism that allows the body to self-regulate for optimum functions and overall health.
Different studies have linked autophagy to various health benefits.
This article goes over the health benefits of autophagy and how you can naturally induce it.
Benefits of Autophagy
Here are the top 10 to keep in mind:
1. Autophagy fights inflammation
With more and more research showing how inflammation can lead to many different illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, it is becoming increasingly important to learn different ways to reduce inflammation. One of them is autophagy.
In recent years, scientists have begun to study autophagy more closely, and they have found that it may play a role in several diseases. For example, autophagy has been shown to be impaired in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,
The process of autophagy is a key mechanism our bodies use to help fight inflammation. By increasing the rate at which our cells recycle and repair themselves, autophagy can help reduce the amount of cellular damage that leads to inflammation.
By getting rid of damaged and unwanted cell organelles, autophagy maintains homeostasis, a state of body balance needed for survival and optimum body functions. This allows the different inflammatory cells such as macrophages, lymphocytes, neutrophils, and cytokines to be at their best shape in fighting inflammation and its associated effects.
2. Promotes healthy aging
The process of autophagy becomes increasingly important as we age, since it helps to prevent the accumulation of damaging molecules that can lead to age-related diseases.
Autophagy helps you feel and look younger, thanks to its ability to eliminate aging cells and cellular waste products that promote inflammation and gene instability that may facilitate the general aging process.
Recent research has shown that autophagy plays an important role in promoting healthy aging. For example, a study published in Cell Reports found that autophagy helps protect against age-related muscle loss by removing damaged proteins from muscle cells.
Another study, published in Nature Medicine, found that autophagy helps prevent a buildup of harmful deposits in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
However, autophagic activities tend to decrease with old age, thus the need to engage in autophagy stimulating activities, which we’ll look at shortly!
3. It may enhance weight loss
Autophagy is not directly linked to weight loss. However, weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic conditions are associated with a lack of autophagy.
When there is a constant nutrient supply to the cell, that’s through energy intake; there is no room for autophagy. However, starving your cells of energy such as during fasting induces autophagy, which repairs and destroys damaged cells, thus improving cell metabolism, leading to proper energy utilization and weight loss.
4. It may help reduce oxidative stress
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between harmful free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals disrupt normal cell function, destroy cell tissue and cause DNA damage. This may lead to cell mutations stimulating the formation of different chronic conditions, including diabetes and cancer.
Inducing autophagy is a natural way the body ensures that any harmful component within the cell has been destroyed.
5. Autophagy may prevent cancer
You may know that cancer is a disease caused by mutations and uncontrolled cell growth, whereby cells are not able to stop dividing. What you may not know is that your cells have a natural defense against cancer: autophagy. In every human body, there are always tiny “microscopic trashcans” in the form of autophagosomes roaming around trying to collect all the garbage or damaged cells before they turn into cancer.
Cancer is a disease caused by the abnormal growth of cells. The body’s immune system normally recognizes and destroys these abnormal cells, but sometimes it doesn’t work properly. When this happens, the abnormal cells can grow out of control and form a mass called a tumor or cancer
why do people get cancer then? You may ask. The development of any disease depends on various things including your general lifestyle and wellbeing. In other words, how you live your life including what you eat can facilitate the autophagy process or slow it down.
Research shows that in the early stages of cancer, autophagy may help reduce tumor growth.
However, autophagy may contribute to cancer cells’ survival, growth, and proliferation if the tumor has progressed. So, autophagy may be good for cancer prevention but not in managing an already active cancer growth.
6. Autophagy may help fight infections
Autophagy has been shown to be effective against a range of infections, including viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. It also allows for each cell to fight intracellular pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and viruses. It also helps eliminate the toxins released by these pathogens.
There are many different mechanisms by which autophagy fights infection. For example, autophagy can help remove damaged cell components that could provide a foothold for an infection to take hold.
Autophagy can also help modulate the immune response, making it more effective at fighting off an infection.
Additionally, infections can cause cells to malfunction and die. When this happens, autophagy can help remove the damaged cells and clear out the infection.
7. It may protect against neurodegenerative conditions
Autophagy provides a compensatory, neuroprotective mechanism by properly eliminating harmful protein aggregates inside neurons that may cause brain cell death and a loss of mental capacity.
Neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by the progressive loss of function of neurons in the brain. This loss of function can lead to a decline in cognitive abilities and, eventually, death. Many neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), have no cure. However, research has shown that autophagy, a process by which cells break down and recycle their own components, may help to fight these diseases.
In Alzheimer’s disease, autophagy has been shown to help clear out the build-up of amyloid-beta proteins that are thought to contribute to the disease. In Parkinson’s disease, autophagy has been shown to help clear out the build-up of alpha-synuclein proteins that are thought to contribute to the disease. And in ALS, autophagy has been shown to help clear out the build-up of mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) proteins that are thought to contribute to the disease.
While more research is needed to determine whether autophagy can truly help fight neurodegenerative disorders, the early evidence is promising.
8. It may improve liver functions
The liver is one of the most important organs in our body. And doing its job well is key to keeping us healthy and living a long life. Yet, it’s also the organ that’s most susceptible to damage because it’s so busy playing all its roles – from dealing with broken down molecules to filtering toxins from your system.
Research shows that autophagy promotes liver function and prevents the progression of different liver conditions, including nonalcoholic fatty liver, Wilson’s disease, acute liver injury, and chronic-alcoholic related liver disease.
9. It can lower blood sugar
Autophagy is a process that helps to break down and recycle old or damaged cells in the body. This process can have a number of benefits, including reducing blood sugar levels. When autophagy is working properly, it can help keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating.
This is because autophagy helps clear out excess glucose from the bloodstream. Additionally, autophagy can help to improve insulin sensitivity, which can also help to lower blood sugar levels.
If you are struggling with high blood sugar levels, incorporating autophagy into your health routine may help improve your condition.
How Can You Induce Autophagy?
Recycling and clearing away any deformed cells and cell components is essential to having a healthy body and fully functioning cells.
However, most of our daily practices do not promote autophagy, the reason why most people struggle with premature signs of aging, unnecessary infections, inflammation, and even mental issues.
Luckily enough, the things that induce autophagy are not that difficult to do. They include:
1. Engaging in intense exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to induce a state of autophagy.
When you engage in prolonged endurance exercises and strength training, your body goes through a lot of stress and needs to repair itself. In order to do this, it breaks down old and damaged cells and replaces them with new ones. This process of cell turnover is known as autophagy.
Exercise also helps to increase levels of certain hormones, like growth hormone and testosterone, which can help to promote autophagy.
2. Fasting and calorie restriction
Starving your cells through Intermittent fasting or calorie restriction allows cleaning and recycling damaged and unwanted cells and cell components. This is because low glucose levels are associated with low insulin and high glucagon levels, which have been shown to trigger autophagy.
According to one review, both fasting and calorie restriction can induce autophagy.
3. Getting better sleep
Naturally, autophagy happens when we are asleep. So a lack of sleep or an interrupted sleep pattern will disrupt the body’s ability to induce autophagy.
Sleep is also essential for your brain to detoxify metabolic waste, rebuild new neural connections, eliminate dysfunctional neural cells, and enhance neurotransmitter receptor sensitivity. Top 10 Benefits Of Getting Enough Sleep.
4. Eating foods high in spermidine
Spermidine is a polyamine compound present in some foods. It’s involved in different biological processes and has been shown to induce autophagy.
High intake of spermidine-containing foods has also been shown to reduce overall mortality from cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
These foods include:
5. Try heat and cold therapies
Exposure to intense short periods of heat and cold can put severe stress on the body because of the extreme temperatures. This will quickly induce autophagy as a way to prompt the body to regain balance or homeostasis. This may further strengthen your immune system and increase your resistance to colds and viruses.
One way to induce a state of autophagy is through cryotherapy. Cryotherapy is a treatment that involves exposing the body to extremely cold temperatures. This can be done by using ice packs or by sitting in a special chamber that is cooled with liquid nitrogen.
Exposing the body to cold temperatures causes the body to go into survival mode. In order to survive, the body starts to break down its own cells in order to use them for energy. This process of breaking down cells induces autophagy.
Cryotherapy has been shown to be effective in inducing autophagy. In one study, healthy people who underwent cryotherapy had an increase in markers of autophagy compared to those who did not undergo cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy is a safe and effective way to induce autophagy. However, It is important to note that cryotherapy should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional.
Sauna therapy is one of the best ways to induce a state of autophagy. Saunas increase the body’s core temperature, which helps to trigger autophagy. Sauna therapy also has a number of other health benefits, including improved circulation and detoxification.
You can try a Sauna Bath, then jump into a cold pool, or alternate between 3 seconds cold and 3 minutes hot showers, ending with 3 seconds cold.
If you don’t have access to a sauna, you can also try heat therapy. This can be done at home using a heating pad or infrared lamp. The key is to raise your body’s core temperature to induce autophagy.
6. Ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet is one of the ways to induce autophagy. This diet involves eating low-carb, high-fat foods that help to promote ketosis. When your body is in a state of ketosis, it begins to burn fat for energy instead of carbs. This process helps to cleanse the body of damaged cells and debris.
Foods that promote autophagy
There are many foods that naturally promote autophagy, allowing you to reap the rewards without having to make any major lifestyle changes! This may include:
Blueberries are high in anthocyanins—compounds that have been linked to increased cell turnover and autophagy, meaning that they’re among foods that promote autophagy . But blueberries aren’t just good for your brain—they’re also a powerhouse of nutrients and antioxidants, protecting your eyesight and reducing inflammation throughout your body.
Research shows that onions can kill cancer cells in lab animals and could have similar effects on human cancers as well. And like broccoli, they’re rich in quercetin, an antioxidant that helps regulate autophagy—as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Research shows that apples are an excellent source of pectin, a type of soluble fiber that promotes autophagy and helps remove harmful metabolic waste products from your body’s cells. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also found that pectin can slow down digestion, which gives you more time to absorb nutrients from your food and helps prevent overeating.
A common ingredient in French herbal medicine, milk thistle has been used to treat liver disease for centuries and is currently being studied for its potential ability to fight off toxins in a more general sense — with an eye toward reducing oxidative stress and helping promote autophagy.
These leafy green veggies contain compounds called glucosinolates, which have been shown to induce autophagy in some research models—meaning that if you eat more of them, your body may get more of these anti-aging chemicals. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric that gives it its distinctive golden color, is known to regulate several important biological processes that influence autophagy. Curcumin’s most well-known ability is inhibiting cancer cell growth, but it also appears to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
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Autophagy is a natural process by which your body cleans up itself of any unwanted cells and other cell debris through destruction or recycling. This helps boost cell metabolism, prevent inflammation, and promote overall cell function.
Top health benefits of autophagy include healthy aging, weight loss enhancement, and cancer prevention, protection against infections, improved liver functions, and prevention of oxidative stress.
Autophagy may slow down due to different factors such as poor diet, lack of adequate sleep, and physical inactivity.
Luckily, there are simple practices you can adapt to induce autophagy in the body. They include having a good night’s sleep, fasting and calorie restriction, endurance and strength training exercises, heat and cold therapies, and consuming spermidine-containing foods.
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