I will think of autophagy as my own personal clean up woman busy inside my body. I have heard of detoxing and detox diets though I never delved into the practice. I have read that your body detoxes naturally if you consume a healthy diet (whatever that is, right?). So, I had an idea that our bodies self-cleaned but didn’t give the “how” too much thought. I was too busy trying to lose weight!
I first read about autophagy in Dr. Fung’s Intensive Dietary Management post Fasting and Autophagy – Fasting 25. He has several posts where he describes the process and it’s relationship to fasting.
“The word derives from the Greek auto (self) and phagein (to eat). So the word literally means to eat oneself. Essentially, this is the body’s mechanism of getting rid of all the broken down, old cell machinery (organelles, proteins and cell membranes) when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain it. It is a regulated, orderly process to degrade and recycle cellular components.”
The Caveman Doctor has a nice article on autophagy. It is a little “science-y” but worth the read. In it, he summarized what autophagy is:
- Decreases unnecessary cellular processes during starvation or fasting
- Rids the cells of clutter, which causes aging of cells and the body
- Performs cellular remodeling, which is a form of internal spring cleaning
- Suppresses cancer and tumor formation by blocking over-proliferation of cells
- Destroys microbes and other infectious elements of cells
- Regulates our immune system to fight future infections
- Supplies us with energy during times without food
Lyrics from The Clean Up Woman by Betty Wright:
So take a tip, you better get hip
To the clean up woman ’cause she’s tough
I mean, she really cleans up