WHAT IS AUTOPHAGY?
Autophagy means “self-eating” — but rest assured, this is a good thing. Autophagy is the method by which your body cleans out damaged cells and toxins, helping you regenerate newer, healthier cells.
Over time, our cells accumulate a variety of dead organelles, damaged proteins and oxidized particles that clog the body’s inner workings. This accelerates the effects of aging and age-related diseases because cells aren’t able to divide and function normally.
Because many of our cells, like those in the brain, need to last a lifetime, the body developed a unique way of ridding itself of those faulty parts and defending itself naturally against disease. Enter: autophagy.
HOW AUTOPHAGY WORKS
In an episode of the Bulletproof Radio podcast with Naomi Whittel, author of the autophagy-centric book “Glow15: A Science-Based Plan to Lose Weight, Revitalize Your Skin, and Invigorate Your Life,” Whittel uses the following analogy to explain 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, think of the same scenario, but you’re older and not as efficient. After making your meal, you leave remnants on the counter. Some of it gets into the garbage, some of it doesn’t. The scraps linger on the counter, garbage and recycling bin. They never make it out the door to the dumpster, and toxic waste starts to build up in your kitchen. There’s food fermentation on the floor and all kinds of nasty smells wafting out the door.
Due to the onslaught of pollutants and toxins, you’re having a hard time keeping up with the daily grime. This scenario resembles autophagy that isn’t working as well as it should.
Autophagy usually hums along quietly behind the scenes in maintenance mode. It plays a role in the way your body responds to periods of stress, maintains balance and regulates cellular function.
There’s evidence that when you trigger autophagy, you slow down the aging process, reduce inflammation and boost your overall performance. To help your body resist disease and support longevity, you can increase your autophagy response naturally (more on that later).