Autophagy & Intermittent Fasting: Activate your natural-healing mechanism!

The word autophagy comes from the Greek αυτόφαγος, which means ‘to eat oneself.’

What is autophagy, and why is it important?

Ahh, autophagy! We can’t say enough about the process! Autophagy or autophagocytosis, in a nutshell, is the body’s self-healing mechanism. When we stop eating for a period of time, i.e. intermittent fast, autophagy begins. This process is exclusive to intermittent fasting, meaning that diets (yuck!) or calorie deficits alone won’t bring autophagy about! As if you needed another reason to start IF with Fastic… 

The Nobel Prize Method

In 2016, cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded a Nobel Prize for his discoveries on autophagy, though the term was originally coined by Christian de Duve, another Nobel Prize winning scientist. The word autophagy comes from the Greek αυτόφαγος, which means ‘to eat oneself.’ 

Essentially, this is what autophagy is!

No, your body isn’t actually becoming a cannibal on a cellular level, but it does begin to break down parts of the cell that are old, inefficient, or sick! Because of this, autophagy can help ward off disease, stimulate the growth of shiny new cell parts, and keep our bodies running in top shape.

How does intermittent fasting kickstart autophagy?

As we fast, our insulin levels decrease. Insulin is a hormone responsible for the absorption of glucose (energy from the food we eat) from the bloodstream into our liver, muscles and fat. Think of insulin as a traffic guard, overseeing the transport of glucose to its destination.

When we fast for 12 hours or more, our insulin levels are very low and glucose is nowhere in sight, as we’ve not eaten. Our body sees this, and summons glucagon. Glucagon (no, it’s not a Transformer) starts rounding up stored glucose in the body and releasing it into the bloodstream, keeping our blood sugar levels, and in turn, insulin levels, stable.

So what does this have to do with autophagy?

Although insulin and glucagon have their own little cycle to keep our blood sugar levels stabilized, some things are triggered in the process, one being autophagy.

Insulin goes down, glucagon goes up, and vice versa. It’s this increase in glucagon that stimulates autophagy. 

Autophagy – Natural Self-Care

Autophagy is the body’s way to practice self-care. Old, inefficient or sick cell parts are consumed by the body, meaning that we stay healthy. Nothing better than a little Marie Kondo on a cellular scope!

It’s out with the old and in with the new! Intermittent fasting also stimulates a little hormone called HGH (Human Growth Hormone), so as more space is made inside the cells, HGH can begin to produce brand new parts that work at top speed. Upgraded cells equal a healthy, happy you. Isn’t it amazing what our body can do?

What does autophagy have to do with disease prevention?

Perhaps the most interesting and promising benefit of autophagy is that it could have an impact on the treatment and prevention of some of the most devastating diseases we know today.

In the most basic sense, all cancers come about via abnormal cell changes. This can be due to old cell parts that have stopped working and accumulate over time, or parts that begin to mutate and multiply. Alzheimer’s is caused by a bunch of junky old proteins piling up in brain cells, leading to debilitating cognitive decline.

If only there were a way to prompt the body to discard these sick parts before they lead to disease… see where we’re going with this?

Leading medical studies are looking into the idea of using intermittent fasting for the curing and prevention of these diseases.

Though the road of medical research is long and winding, intermittent fasting proves hopeful!

Is intermittent fasting safe?

As with anything, it’s all about the balance! Intermittent fasting does bring about the wonderful health effects of autophagy, however, fasting for too long can become draining or even dangerous. 

Because autophagy peaks after 16+ hours of fasting, it’s important to realize that you may not reach the autophagic state every day. It’s all about finding what works for you. Balance is key, and so is enjoying a flexible schedule!

Reminder: check with your doctor before undertaking a fast of more than 23 hours!

Track your fasting in the Fastic app. With the help of the body status tracker, you’ll be able to log more than just your times – you’ll be the first to know when your body has started autophagy! Download here:

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