Intermittent Fasting Induced Autophagy Benefits
I have experimented with fasting since I was a teenager. I’ve tried juice fasts, broth fasts, water fasts, extended fasts, intermittent fasts, you name it. When I first started, I was in awe that when I stopped eating food for a given period of time, my itchy and painful eczema would calm down and my skin would be less inflamed. It seemed that resting my digestion provided me with many other benefits throughout my body. It was a rather magical discovery for me – so much that it sparked a deep curiosity around nutrition, lifestyle and wellness.
What I didn’t know then that I now know is that my fasting experiments turned on a deep cellular repair process within my body called autophagy. Autophagy is what allowed my cells to heal and relieve me of the physical and psychological torment I had been agonizing over for years from eczema. Through many trials of experimentation, I have refined my fasting practice to mostly intermittent fasting because it is what helps to keep my immune system in check and my skin glowing.
Today on my blog, I want to share with you what I’ve learned from health experts, scientists and through my own experiments about the powerful ways that autophagy and fasting are connected.
What is Autophagy?
Let’s start with the autophagy definition. Autophagy is a fundamental process working at the cellular level to remove waste, repair damage, restore and rejuvenate your cells. When autophagy is working properly, you feel better and you look better… all because your cells are functioning at their best. Autophagy is the foundation of my book and 15-day program, Glow15. The science uncovered in this book is your internal fountain of youth.
Autophagy sounds pretty great, right? I don’t want to burst the autophagy bubble, but there is a bit of a downside. In today’s world, we are exposed to more toxins in the environment than ever before. Toxins coming from pollution, chemicals, and stress collect in our bodies, damage cells and slow down the process of autophagy. The result is faster aging, weight that is harder to lose and bodies that just don’t feel and function at their best.
Instead of autophagy being an unconscious process that just naturally happens, it is now up to us to implement strategies to promote it. So, like most things in health, achieving our goals isn’t magic – it requires we show up and exert a little effort. Now the good news is that with a few shifts in habits, autophagy can easily get back on track without gimmicks or becoming a slave to our health routine and spending hours and hours devoted to reading, preparing, cooking, working out or taking expensive retreats or treatments at exotic spas. I’ve done the leg work so you don’t have to. What I’ve found is that with just a few simple shifts we can promote autophagy through diet, movement, supplements, good sleep, and yes, with fasting.
How to Induce Autophagy with Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is one of the easiest ways to begin a safe, and effective, fasting practice that has been shown in the scientific literature to upregulate, or increase, autophagy .
Intermittent fasting is the practice of shifting between periods of unrestricted eating and restricted eating. By creating this clear definition between eating and not eating, instead of constantly grazing, the body is able to activate autophagy and put cellular clean-up to work. When we are fasting, or not eating, autophagy works its magic.
The benefits of intermittent fasting are far-reaching. It has been shown to be helpful for:
- weight loss
- reducing inflammation
- modulating the microbiome
- increasing energy
- decreasing the risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases (2,3)
These health benefits are likely due to autophagy itself!
Here is the science behind it: when fasting, insulin levels drop which promotes autophagy. When you eat and insulin levels are higher, autophagy is blocked. Insulin, the hormone that helps move sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into cells, can also help to explain why a low carb or keto diet is beneficial for autophagy in addition to fasting.
If fasting seems scary and overwhelming, I assure you that intermittent fasting is the best place to start building your fasting muscle and gaining confidence!
The most common form of intermittent fasting is called 16:8. This is where you restrict eating and fast for 16 hours and then un-restrict eating during an 8-hour eating window. Some people choose 18:6, for the added benefits to autophagy from those extra two hours. If you are just starting out, I recommend starting with 12:12 and then slowly increasing your fast.
The good news here is that you can count sleeping hours as fasting hours. Simply stop eating at 8 pm and then don’t eat again until after 8 am. That sounds doable, right? Once you feel good with that, you can work on pushing breakfast back to 10 am and then 12pm. You can still eat the same amount of food and the same number of meals if you desire, but you squeeze them into a shorter window allowing your body and digestive system to rest from food for the remainder of the day.
The other piece about intermittent fasting that I want to mention, is that you don’t need to do it every day! For women especially, I recommend alternating days and this is a key part of my Glow15 program. For example, you could intermittent fast on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and then have a larger eating window on the other days.
In many ways, using the practice of intermittent fasting autophagy can help you generate wonderful results in the journey to improve your health. By using these essential tools together, you encourage your body to operate at its best on a deep cellular level. Whether you chose a longer or shorter intermittent fasting period, or alternate your intermittent fasting schedule, I hope you will find using this means of inducing autophagy very beneficial.