To put it simply, autophagy is cellular death. The body will go through this process to cleanse the body of bad cells and make room for good cellular growth. The old cells in the body get programmed for cellular death to make room for clean and healthy cells.
Since autophagy is a normal process, you would think that it is something that people would have been talking about for years. However, to kick off this cellular cleanse you have to have certain things happen in your body. One of those things is nutrient deprivation.
Dr. Jason Fung of Canada utilizes extended fasting as a way to manage chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. One of the reasons that he posits his method is so successful is the nutrient deprivation of an extended fast starts autophagy. The old cells die making way for new healthy cells.
Why Is Fasting Important for Autophagy?
One of the reasons that fasting is necessary for mass autophagy is glucagon. Glucagon is one of the preceptors to the process of this cellular cleansing. The easiest way to get high levels of glucagon in the body is to lower levels of insulin. How do you lower insulin levels? You stop taking in calories and practice an intermittent or extended fast.
Isn't Fasting Bad For You?
Any fasting protocol should be supervised by a doctor. The thing about fasting is that it can mess with electrolyte levels and other little elements. You need to have a physician on board to monitor you during a fast to make sure you don't have any underlying problems that could interfere with your health.
If at any time during a fast you start to feel ill, you should begin re-feeding yourself. This process means you intake a moderate amount of easily digestible calories, wait a few h
ours, then resume normal eating.
When participating in a fasting protocol you are not starving yourself. You will typically follow a fast then feast program that ensures when you are eating you get plenty of nutrient dense foods to give your body all of the vital nutrients it needs.
According to Dr. Fung, one of the best things you can do for your body is to participate in a medically supervised fast. This allows your body to go through the natural process of autophagy (cellular cleansing) and it also increases human growth hormone.
The Opposite of Autophagy
If you want to think in polar dynamics human growth hormone allows the body to do the exact opposite of autophagy. This hormone allows the body to build new cells. So, fasting not only kicks off cellular death, but it also increases the hormone responsible for allowing your body to build new cells.
This process really does replace dead broken cells with new cells. In fact, the protection that temporary extended fasts (over 24 hours less than 7 days) provides your body is being seen in clinical settings outside of disease management.
Cancer and Extended Fasting
In a documentary titled The Science of Fasting, film makers chronicle the use of fasting in clinical settings in Russia, Europe and the United States.
One highlight to this film was the effects that fasting has on cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. These patients who fast for 48-72 hours before they received their chemotherapy had fewer side effects from their chemotherapy treatments.
Why? The fasting not only targets bad cells (cancer cells) for autophagy, but it encapsulates the body's healthy cells and protects them from damage. This encapsulation from the fasting is seen to protect patients healthy cells from the damaging effects of chemotherapy while allowing the death of the unhealthy cells.
Fasting and autophagy are allowing clinicians to have healthier patients during the course of chemotherapy. This healthier body is providing patients with improved outcomes and quicker recovery times.
Autophagy, while being a natural process, may be a secret weapon to fighting disease and even cancers. While this natural cellular cleanse is not the answer to all disease management, it may provide people with a much needed edge when fighting disease.