What is autophagy? What role does it have in fasting? How is it good for you?
First, let’s break down the word autophagy.
PHAGY= TO EAT
So , autophagy literally means to eat oneself. Now, why would we want to fast and start the process of “autophagy”?
This is the body’s mechanism of getting rid of clutter and garbage. The body needs to degrade and recycle old cell components. Then the body can regenerate new components that function better and more efficiently.
An easy example is comparing the body to a car. You just bought you snazzy new car, you love it, you drive is everywhere. After a while it starts to look beat up. And as time goes by, the car isn’t looking so great. It keeps breaking down all the time. You have to get the breaks fixed, engine cleaned, and more. The car you love is costing you thousands of dollars to repair. So what do you do? You replace the old parts and get new parts. This keeps the car running smoothly.
The same process happens in the body at the sub-cellular level. When parts of the cell get old, they needed to be broken down and replaced with new parts. Now the cell is new and improved. This is called AUTOPHAGY. The sub-cellular organelles are destroyed and the new ones are built to replace it.
How is autophagy stimulated? Fasting is the key to activating autophagy. Fasting, or nutrient deprivation, causes increases in the hormone glucagon.
GLUCAGON is what jump starts autophagy. Let me explain.
Remember that glucagon is opposite hormone to insulin.
Insulin UP, glucagon DOWN
Insulin DOWN, glucagon UP
As we eat, insulin goes up and glucagon goes down. When we don’t eat (fast) insulin goes down, and glucagon goes up. This increase in glucagon stimulates the process of autophagy. In fact, fasting (raises glucagon) provides the greatest known boost to autophagy.
This is in essence a form of cellular cleansing. The body identifies old and substandard cellular equipment and marks it for destruction. It is the accumulation of all this junk that may be responsible for many of the effects of aging.
Fasting is a nice DEEP CLEANSE of your body.
Fasting is actually far more beneficial than just stimulating autophagy. It does two good things. By stimulating autophagy, we are clearing out all our old, junky proteins and cellular parts. At the same time, fasting also stimulates growth hormone, which tells our body to start producing some new snazzy parts for the body. We are really giving our bodies the complete renovation.
In summary, fasting cleans you up! It stimulates glucagon, which promotes autophagy. The old cell components are broken down. And then the growth hormone gets secreted to produce the new parts of the cell.
I would recommend trying at least a 16 to 18 hour fast. Autophagy will begin. As you get more practice, 24-36 hours fasts are the most beneficial.