Autophagy is a naturally occurring process in which our cells remove the unwanted build-up of harmful toxins. Autophagy provides a range of benefits including disease prevention, reduced inflammation and cellular maintenance. Fasting is one of the most common pathways to inducing autophagy, however, there are other ways to promote the autophagic process without enduring an uncomfortable period of fasting.
What Is Autophagy?
Autophagy is the process by which the body rids itself of damaged cellular material, often onset by aging, in order to create healthier cells. The literal translation of autophagy from Greek is “self-eating,” and while that may sound like a negative thing, it is very beneficial to your health. During the process of autophagy, the body removes debris within a cell and reuses what’s left for the cleaning and repair of other cells. This helps to renew the cell and prevent any health complications otherwise caused by damaged or aged cells. Autophagy is the reset button for your cells that gets them back to normal function.
Autophagy promotes anti-aging properties as it creates younger cells in your body. It causes healthy cells to regenerate and provides energy and building blocks for cells in need of repair. Autophagy may also aid in preventing Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases by removing toxins from the cells that cause these illnesses.
Does Autophagy Occur Without Fasting?
If you are wondering how to trigger autophagy, it is a constant process. Autophagy occurs naturally in our bodies when our cells are put under stress. When you are fasting, your cells are deprived of nutrients. This decrease in nutrients, or energy, causes the cells to work more efficiently. Cells do this by cleaning out and recycling any unnecessary or damaged parts, using them as fuel.
You do not need to fast for days or hours to induce autophagy as intermittent and prolonged fasting are not the only ways to trigger it. When you engage in exercise or calorie restriction, the autophagic process is also sped up. There are studies that suggest that certain foods, beverages, and spices also trigger this process.
How Do You Induce Autophagy Without Fasting?
If fasting is not your cup of tea, or you cannot do it for health reasons, you can induce autophagy in other ways. Suggestions for inducing autophagy without fasting include:
1. Engage in Regular Exercise
When we engage in physical activity, the cells in our bodies are put under stress. The body’s cells become inflamed and damaged during exercise, and they respond to this with autophagy. Engaging in aerobic exercise or cardio promotes autophagy in the liver, muscles, and heart. High-intensity interval training is another type of exercise that can induce autophagy over time.
2. Consume a Spermidine Rich Diet
Spermidine is a naturally occurring polyamine present in all living tissue. Many of the foods you probably already eat contain spermidine. Spermidine has the fascinating ability to mimic fasting and in doing so induces autophagy. Diets rich in spermidine have been linked to longer lifespans in certain populations.
3. Sprinkle Turmeric
Curcumin is a naturally occurring chemical present in turmeric roots. Turmeric is a spice that is used in cooking or added to teas or smoothies. In studies done on mice, curcumin-induced autophagy helped with cognitive impairment caused by chemotherapy. It also aided in diabetic cardiomyopathy.
4. Drink Green Tea
Drinking green tea immediately kicks your cells into the mode where they begin the autophagic process.
5. Consume Coffee
Polyphenols found in regular and decaffeinated coffee promote autophagy. Drinking coffee during a period of fasting is an excellent way to ramp up the process as well.
How Do I Increase My Autophagy Naturally?
If you are looking to increase autophagy naturally, there are many things you can do to help. Diet and exercise both contribute to the autophagic process, and you can follow these suggestions:
1. Follow the Keto Diet
The keto diet is basically a low-carb and high protein diet that helps to restrict glucose. This diet causes your body to rely on fat as its fuel source instead of sugar. When you reduce your carbohydrate consumption, your body enters a state of ketosis that increases autophagy.
2. Get Quality Sleep Each Night
Practicing good sleep hygiene boosts your body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that maintains your body’s natural circadian rhythm, and it also regulates autophagy.
3. Use a Sauna
The lymph system is stimulated when our body is exposed to high temperatures. This also promotes autophagy as it opens detox pathways and keeps them activated.
4. Try Protein Cycling
Protein cycling, or protein fasting, can stimulate autophagy without having to do a complete fast. Pick one or two days a week where you limit your protein consumption to 15 or 20 grams.
Do I Need to Fast for Autophagy?
Do I fast for autophagy? Yes and no. Autophagy is a constant process happening within your cells, but it happens less often and more slowly when you are eating a lot. For this reason, you should choose foods that promote autophagy, such as:
- Ceylon cinnamon
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
- Red grapes
- Red wine
How Many Hours Into Fasting Before Autophagy Starts?
If you are wondering how long do I fast before autophagy starts, it depends on your metabolism. It can take two to four days of fasting before significant autophagy occurs. Autophagy begins when there is a considerable decrease in glucose and insulin levels. In studies conducted on animals, the process started after 24 hours of fasting and peaked around 48 hours.
How Long Do You Need to Stay in Autophagy?
There is no precise way to measure autophagy in humans, and most studies on the process were conducted on mice. If you are fasting with the intention to stay in autophagy, you need to be careful. It is not recommended that people fast over 36 or more hours more than two or three times per year. You should consult with your doctor before doing an extended fast, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition or are on medication.
Spermidine Can Help
As mentioned previously, spermidine is very beneficial for autophagy whether you're fasting or not. One of the underlying mechanisms of spermidine is its ability to induce autophagy, aiding in cellular health and maintenance. Our bodies naturally produce spermidine, however as we age our natural production of spermidine begins to decline. This decline in natural production makes it more and more important to supplement spermidine through your diet. Epidemiological studies have been conducted on populations who eat a spermidine-rich diet. The findings have found positive correlations with increased spermidine levels and longer lifespans. Spermidine has been shown to reduce inflammation, aiding in brain health, heart health and immune health.