How Can You Increase Autophagy?

Our bodies have different functions to ensure we are healthy and remain healthy. One of those functions is autophagy. This process improves cellular health, overall wellbeing, and longevity. In today's article, we will go over what autophagy is, what triggers it, foods you can eat, and how fasting can help. 

What Triggers Autophagy?

The human body is made up of trillions of cells. Therefore, it’s only natural that some of these cells become damaged over time. Fortunately, the body has a function to dispose of these damaged cells before they lead to health complications. This function is known as autophagy. 

During autophagy, the body will clear out old and dysfunctional organelles, renewing our cells and allowing them to continue operating with efficiency. Researchers believe there are three primary ways to induce autophagy - caloric restriction, fasting, and exercise. We will go over these methods later in the article. 

How Long Do You Have to Fast to Reach Autophagy?

Fasting is one of the best ways to induce autophagy, but how long does it take to reach autophagy? Do you need to swear off food for a whole day? No, it’s not that extreme. Intermittent fasting can induce autophagy. You can achieve that by simply skipping out on breakfast or dinner. 

Under normal conditions, when our cells have sufficient nutrients, autophagy degrades damaged components in the cell. When in a fasted state cells are deprived of nutrients and autophagy helps digest and recycle damaged cellular components, providing enough energy for survival. Fasting can also induce ketosis, which provides numerous health benefits. It is possible to achieve ketosis and autophagy at the same time. 

How Do You Maximize Autophagy?

Inducing autophagy is only step one. How can you maximize autophagy? Living healthy and avoiding harmful lifestyle choices can help maximize the autophagy process. Here are some ways you can maximize autophagy:

  • Sleeping well - During sleep, the body recovers from a long day of work. However, the glymphatic system and autophagy are very active during sleep. A healthy sleep schedule will maximize the effects of autophagy
  • Exercise - Regular exercise can increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients your cells get by increasing blood flow in vital organs
  • Protect your genes - While it’s often out of our control, try to avoid electromagnetic radiation, chemicals, pollutants, and toxins
  • Go outside - Exposure to nature has been shown to decrease inflammatory mediators and upregulate inducers of autophagy
  • Eat a well balanced diet - Research has identified certain micronutrients that help enhance the autophagic process. Some of these include:
    • Curcumin - Commonly found in the turmeric root.
    • Green tea - Polyphenols contained in green tea.
    • Resveratrol -  Commonly found in berries and grapes

What Drinks Increase Autophagy?

When it comes to fasting to induce autophagy, many people are confused as to what they’re allowed to drink. During a fast - especially one to induce autophagy - you don’t want to drink any beverage that’s high in calories. While water fasts exist, the most common forms of fasting - such as the 16-8 diet, for example - allow you to drink beverages with no or very little caloric content. Some of those beverages include: 

  • Water
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Broth
  • Vinegar

Experts highly recommend staying hydrated while fasting. This means drinking plenty of water. Try to avoid sports drinks, however, as they are often sneaky with the calories.

What Foods Increase Autophagy?

Trying to find foods that increase autophagy can be difficult. This is because many researchers are still unsure as to what exactly causes the process. However, what researchers are sure of is that spermidine can help. Therefore, eating foods that are high in spermidine should be a part of any autophagy diet plan—wondering what foods are high in spermidine? 

  • Soybeans
  • Green peas
  • Lentil soup
  • Potatoes
  • Chicken
  • Beans 
  • Mushrooms

It should be noted that the foods listed above also provide other health benefits. Adding these foods to your diet can greatly increase your overall well-being. 

How Do I Know I'm in Autophagy?

Knowing the signs of autophagy can help you better understand whether your methods are working. Unfortunately, there’s no specific feeling that lets you know you’re in autophagy, but here are some signs to look out for:

  • Loss of appetite - Your insulin and blood sugar levels drop when you’re in autophagy which can lead to a loss of appetite
  • Fatigue - Energy levels drop when blood sugar levels drop, so if you’re feeling fatigued, it could be a sign that you’re in autophagy
  • Weight loss - While autophagy may not directly lead to weight loss, fasting and caloric restrictions can reduce weight gain by boosting metabolic function
  • Bad breath - Yes, bad breath can be a sign that you’re in autophagy. It could also be a sign that you need to brush your teeth. Fortunately, your levels will balance back out, so your breath will return to normal

These signs are just an indicator that you’re experiencing autophagy; they are not a guarantee. 

How Can You Increase Autophagy Without Fasting?

If fasting doesn’t sound interesting to you, that's completely understandable. Many people simply don’t want to skip entire meals and others can’t due to medical reasons. Here are some of the ways you can increase autophagy without fasting:

  • Exercise regularly - When exercising, the cells in the body are put under stress. The cells become inflamed and damaged. The body responds to this by inducing autophagy
  • Use turmeric - Sprinkle in some turmeric next time you are cooking. Curcumin, a chemical in turmeric roots, can induce autophagy and help with cognitive function
  • Green tea - Drinking green tea can kickstart the autophagy process
  • Coffee - Coffee contains polyphenols that promote autophagy. Drinking coffee during a fast can boost the process as well
  • Ginger - Like turmeric, ginger is a spice that activates the autophagy process

What Stops Autophagy While Fasting?

The autophagy process can continue even when you break a fast. The exact type and amount of calories which slow down the autophagy process is still under research. However, it is important that you break your fast in a healthy way. While it may seem tempting to head to the local pizza buffet after a long period without eating, it’s important to break your fast by eating healthy foods and drinking healthy beverages. 

Supplements May Help

As we mentioned above, foods that are high in spermidine can also help induce autophagy. Unfortunately, most Americans fail to get their recommended daily dose of spermidine through their diet alone. At spermidineLIFE®, we offer the world's first award-winning spermidine rich supplement to help ensure you get the recommended daily dose of spermidine, allowing your body to benefit from autophagy.


  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.