Fighting the aging process can seem like an endless undertaking. As our bodies and organs experience the natural process of aging, it may feel like however hard we try, there seems to be fewer noticeable progress. But working from the outside-in may just be the strategy we need. Enter, autophagy, the process we need to hack to properly counter aging.
With wrinkles, pigmentation (dark spots), and weight gain as the most typical signs of aging, wanting to prevent their appearances is no surprise. And that’s exactly where autophagy comes in — it helps to prevent and reverse this damage caused upon your cells.
“[Autophagy] cleans up the mess left behind from your overwhelming day and repairs any damage, restoring and rejuvenating your cells,” writes nutritional expert Naomi Whittel in her new New York Times bestselling book, Glow15: A Science-Based Plan to Lose Weight, Revitalize Your Skin, and Invigorate Your Life. “Your cells function better, your body runs better, you look and feel better… While you can’t completely avoid the causes of aging, you do have control over how your body ages.”
With constant physical stressors and agers — most notably added sugars and environmental toxins, which we can prevent — it’s no shocker that we age quicker and more noticeably.
“If cells lack nutrients, are deprived of energy or are damaged in some way, a ‘stress response’ mechanism is activated, which initiates autophagy,” Whittel explains. “As a result, cell function actually improves when we’re under stress. In the absence of added stress, autophagy remains functioning at a moderate level, maintaining cell function. This is known as its maintenance mode.”
But it’s this sweet spot of induced autophagy and wanted stress that really help us not only keep weight off, but also reverse the most prominent signs of aging. If you manage to activate autophagy, you’ll be fighting the age-caused diseases and symptoms.
Because autophagy means “self-eating,” according to Whittel, it’s your cells that are actually eating their own unwanted additions, leaving you with healthier and younger cells and skin.
“It’s like a cellular garbage disposal, taking the parts it doesn’t need and obliterating them so they don’t cause a mess anywhere else,” Whittel explains in the book. “When it’s working well, it’s a form of self-renewal, breaking down older structures so that new ones can be built in their place. The result is that the newer, more youthful structures allow our cells to function as if they’re, well, newer and more youthful!”
By cleaning themselves through this biological process, our cells begin to act younger, all on their own, even preventing possible neurodegenerative disorders.
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Autophagy, Whittel notes, helps to clean up the damaged proteins that are associated with Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, ridding the body of the proteins that lead to these age-related diseases. It can also help fight infectious diseases, improve muscle memory, and even fight cancer.
And doing so means you incorporate intermittent fasting and protein cycling (IFPC), a healthy proportion of fats to carbs, omega-3 fatty acids, and getting “AutophaTea” into your diet are key, Whittel says. And timing your meals properly (while also watching what you’re consuming) can mean the perfect anti-aging fighter.