The thought has probably not occurred to you: how I can my body repair itself by “eating” unhealthy and dying cells? I know its a strange question, but just bear with me…
The fact is that “autophagy”, derived from the Greek words “auto” (self) and “phagein” (to eat), may be one of the best ways the body has to “clean house” for detoxification and overall health. Autophagy typically happens when the body is starved of nutrients under specific conditions such as fasting. More than likely, your body is engaging in this process already through activities you may already be doing.
The Principles Behind Autophagy
On October 3, 2016, Japanese cell biologist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. His topic of research was autophagy, or “self-eating” and because of his research, we now understand better how this process controls physiological functions on the genetic level. Ohsumi first studied autophagy in yeast, and later translated his findings to human processes.
When autophagy occurs in the body, damaged cells and unused proteins are being “consumed.” The cells “hunt out” diseased and worn-out cells, “strip them” of their parts, use what they can for molecular energy (or to create new cell parts) and send the rest to be eliminated. The process is similar to how your mechanic may change out parts of your car, recycle what is still usable and throw the defective parts away.
Why Autophagy is So Good for You
First of all, autophagy can help reduce inflammation, which can boost immunity, and it can help prevent neurological decline and slow the aging process. A 2008 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease found that autophagy increases right after brain injury.
Still other research is discovering the connection between cancer and autophagy. In a 2011 British study, the process was found to control oxidative stress as well as the inflammatory and immune responses connected to cancer tumor growth. In fact, dysfunctions in autophagy signaling at the cellular level are often found in cancer patients.
The consensus is that autophagy plays a protective role when it comes to cancer. According to Dr. Thomas Seyfried, “Fasting can limit the growth of glucose-dependent tumors.”
Three Ways You Can Help Your Body’s Autophagy
Autophagy relies on the body undergoing just a little bit of stress. That being said, it is important not to overdo it since this can lead to health decline, not enhancement:
#1 Exercise. Working out can create tiny tears in muscles which the body begins to heal. Doing so catalyzes detoxification through autophagy. A study published in the journal Nature discovered that treadmill workouts increased autophagy responses in the muscles, liver, pancreas and the neurological pathways of mice. One of the best ways to get a solid aerobic workout if you are short on time is through Burst Training.
#2 Fasting. Invoking a sense of hunger puts the body in a mild “stress mode.” The benefits of intermittent fasting and calorie restriction include a lower risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, neurological decline and cancer; recently researchers are beginning to connect these benefits directly to autophagy. A study conducted by Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California found that sporadic or intermittent fasting (i.e. going from between 12 to 36 hours without food and drinking lots of water) “represent(s) a simple, safe and inexpensive means to
promote…potentially-therapeutic neuronal response.”
Fasting for several days can be a great way to kick-start autophagy. In his book, The Complete Guide to Fasting, Dr. Jason Fung states that “increased glucose, insulin and protein all turn OFF autophagy.” So the key is to take a few days every month to fast and kick start autophagy.
#3 Lower Carb Intake. In ketogenesis, the body uses fat for fuel instead of glucose. A “ketogenic diet” consists of very few carbs, a high amount of healthy fat and a moderate to low amount of protein. Although I don’t think that following a ketogenic diet is practical nor safe as a way of eating long-term, following such a regime for a short period of time can help kick start many healing processes connected to autophagy. As mentioned above, this can profoundly help boost the immune system, restore energy and possibly even help to reverse many disease processes.
Evoking ketosis has been shown in studies to help with obesity, lower diabetes, help with autoimmune conditions and even help decrease tumor growth. Even if you do not want to follow a strict ketogenic diet, some research points to profound benefits for individuals who simply cut their carb intake. A 2016 Iranian study found that after just 8 weeks on a diet where 43-49% of total caloric intake was from carbs, the obese participants realized increased antioxidant capacity and higher glutathione levels overall.
Now that you know what “autophagy” is, you can take simple yet significant steps towards ramping up autophagy in your own body. Simply exercising and practicing occasional fasting or intermittent fasting, as well as lowering your overall carbohydrate count, can profoundly affect your immune function, increase cognitive ability, help you lose weight and may even help you prevent and potentially support you on your Breast Cancer journey.
Dr. Veronique Desaulniers, better known as Dr. V, is the founder of The 7 Essentials System ™, a step-by-step guide that teaches you exactly how to prevent and heal Breast Cancer Naturally. To get your F.R.E.E. 7 day mini e-course, and to receive her weekly action steps and inspiring articles on the power of Natural Medicine, visit https://breastcancerco.wpengine.com/.