What do you envision when the word cleansing or detox comes to mind?
Do you picture a specific detox diet or fasting? While there is definitely a place for the aforementioned it is worth noting that our body has an innate ability to ‘self-clean’ through a process called autophagy, and it does so to maintain homeostasis. Picture it as a self-cleaning crew that takes care of all the ‘rubbish’ such as cellular debris, toxins and bad cells that no longer serve the body. Autophagy has been getting a fair amount of attention since Yoshinori Ohsumi, a molecular biologist, won a 2016 Nobel prize for discovering its mechanisms.
The word autophagy, originating from the Greek meaning ‘eating of self’, was coined in 1963 by a Belgian scientist and Nobel prize winner Christian de Duve who discovered the lysosome. The lysosome is an organelle / cellular subunit where degradation of the cells takes place during autophagy.
What can enhance the process of autophagy?
· Fasting - time restricted feeding has the ability to reset the hands of time and activate the genetics that are hardwired to bring your body back to homeostasis. Contrary to what some may believe, intermittent fasting isn’t necessarily a diet. It’s a pattern that provides a set-eating window that allows your body to reset its insulin output and better burn fat storages for fuel. Intermittent fasting 16/8 is the most popular. However, there are various types of fasting that also can come with a host of other health benefits such as regulating insulin levels, encouraging cellular repair, promoting gene expression to support longevity and more.
· Low carbohydrate diet – if you limit your carbohydrate intake the body is then required to switch from burning glucose to burning fat. It can start producing ketones as a result of severe carbohydrate restriction which induces autophagy; the body perceives itself as being in a fasting-type state.
· Exercise – we know that exercise can come with a host of benefits, and autophagy is one of them. Studies in humans have shown that aerobic exercise, including eccentric and concentric exercise, can activate autophagy in skeletal muscle. In fact, the role that exercise has on diabetes has been shown to be dependent on autophagy induction.
· Restricting protein intake – it takes extra energy to digest animal protein and many people don’t produce enough hydrochloric acid (which is essential for protein digestion) for the large amounts of animal protein we consume. Limiting protein for several days can therefore help boost digestion and immunity by allowing the body to recycle protein. In our own bodies, protein provides us with building blocks (i.e. amino acids) to produce things like cells, greater muscle mass, and even neurotransmitters. However, a moderate amount of protein is enough to do the job.
I hope you find this insightful. As always, seek the help of a qualified practitioner to implement any significant changes to your nutrition and lifestyle plan.