Autophagy. It’s happening in every single cell, and why we need to encourage it for our health.
When we look at our modern world there are many stark differences in the way humans live now, as opposed to 30, 50, and 100 years ago. I am not one to suggest that because we live differently, that is inherently undesirable. There is no reality that “natural” is necessarily more natural. Life, since inception, has ebbed and flowed, changed, changed back and continued to fluctuate. With that being said, there are many aspects which through adaptation, affect our physiology, our metabolic functionality, and how our internal environments interact with outer environments.
These processes are affecting our everyday lives in ways such as, energy consumption, circadian rhythms, and immune health. Never in human history has food been so convenient. Never in history has food been so calorically dense. Our recent ancestors could never imagine waking up to a coffee containing 400 calories and muffin or cinnamon bun containing 500-800 calories of sugar. Somewhere along this journey of social experimentation our bodies became more comfortable with eating throughout the day, rather than for brief periods. This is due to the body getting “comfortable” only accessing sugars as energy, rather than switching from sugars to stored fat, and back again.
I compare it to this hypothetical scenario.
Let’s say fossil fuels were always cheap, always accessible, and combust to give you the energy you need, so long as you have your tank filled up. What incentive is there to switch to an alternative energy source?
Both sources of energy get the job done. However, there is no mechanism for storing vast amounts of carbohydrate (fossil fuels) derived fuel. Most of us can look down and see that there is definitely a mechanism for storing fat (alternative energy) for future use. If your body loses its incentive, or ability to access these fat sources, you will be starving as soon as the little bit of glucose stored in the liver and muscular tissue is depleted. If you have metabolic flexibility (which can be gained by daily fasts) you have the ability to use those stored glucose quantities followed by the old love handles, for energy.
Here is where the problem comes from. We have to keep filling up our tanks, every 3-5 hours to have energy. So we eat. Usually a calorically dense, carb heavy meal. Carbs are the cheapest, most prevalent foods out there. The processed nature of these foods, and massive grain subsidies make sure of this.
Autophagy is the cleaning crew that takes care of cells. It is responsible for “out with the old, damaged, or degraded.” It rarely happens when there is no break in eating. It’s a “repair” biological process and when we’re constantly eating we’re in a growth and cell building phase. Muscular cells? Yep. Cancerous cells, too? Yep. Intracellular pathogens? It’s believed so.
A few of the jobs of autophagocytosis mechanism:
- Cellular clean-up-
- Process of recycling cellular components that are old, faulty, or useless.
- Immune Booster-
- The basic idea behind the “hygiene hypothesis” is that when our immune systems are underutilized fighting external pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc.), the immune system is more likely to malfunction and turn against our own tissues (resulting in more allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune problems).
- While other factors can stress your body and produce excess free radicals and inflammation, once autophagy processes can no longer keep up with the demands, free radical damage and inflammation are drastically increased, sending a person on a path of deteriorating health.
- Autophagy acts as an immune effector that mediates pathogen clearance.
- Autophagy is increasingly recognized as a process that is also involved in innate and adaptive immune responses against pathogens.
- They balance the beneficial and detrimental effects of immunity and inflammation, and thereby may protect against infectious, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
- Recycling proteins-
- This is one reason I feel I need much less protein than most sources tell you, to build muscle.
- The release of autophagic amino acids allows the maintenance of protein synthesis and viability during nitrogen starvation.
- Better mitochondrial (cell powerhouses) function. Better/more energy.-
- Mitochondria in our cells are responsible for producing energy through ATP pathways. However, this is not a completely efficient process and wastes are produced. It is up to the process of autophagy to clear out the damaged mitochondria. If not able to do so, cell damage accumulates and leads to energetic malfunction.
- By recycling old degraded portions of cells, the good is left in use, and the old is discarded. This promotes better cell health and a function to fight disease, which was discussed above. This advantageous function is closely related to the immune boosting aspects, in my opinion.
Many of these benefits are inter-related; as much of human health is.
Proven ways to induce autophagocytosis:
- Intense exercise while fasted
- Using Ketones as energy (running off of fat)
While air pollution, heart disease, and continuous eating trends go up, autophagy is going down due to nominal modern life. I truly believe the fact that I fast daily, strength train, and maintain a relatively low carbohydrate diet, is the reason I cannot remember the last time I got sick. I also discovered my own cure for my cold sores. No, seriously. Autophagy’s role is responsible for these things. This is not some “hippie dippy” stuff either. I feel great, squat over 2.5 times body weight and maintain an 8% body fat.