Nutrition / Food

Autophagy 101: What Is It and Does My Body Need It?

How body cleansing can remove dangerous or damaged cells and lead to better overall health.

In Greek, autophagy literally means to eat one’s self (auto: self and phagy: eating).

How can something that sounds so, well, cannibalistic be the next trend in overall body health? And how can it be a digestive phase we should work toward implementing into our systems? The answer lies in the primitive nature of the human body.

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When we were hunters and gatherers, the human body wasn’t aware of when it would get its next meal. So it went into a state of stress and performed natural cleansing after hours of not consuming food.

During this cleansing period, the body consumed dangerous and damaged cells. These cells could cause harm in the form of cancer or inflammation.

In fact, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the ritual of having three square meals a day with snacks in between is not a natural, evolutionary behavior that benefits the body in any way.

The study proves that in sixteen-hour fasting periods, the body begins “mechanisms [that] involve a metabolic shift to fat metabolism and ketone production, and stimulation of adaptive cellular stress responses that prevent and repair the molecular damage.”

So, how do we introduce autophagy and body cleansing into our routines? We spoke to Linzi Cruz, nutritionist and founder of Whole Cruzine, about how to incorporate proper body cleansing, physically and mentally, and the benefits of adapting to an autophagic lifestyle.

Understanding the Overall Benefit to Your Health

“Body cleansing, intermittent fasting, and autophagy are all terms used to describe the body’s natural process of ‘exfoliating’ our body from the inside out. The largest benefit of body cleansing is allowing your body to naturally decrease the oxidative stress that happens from everyday living. [This] ultimately impacts the aging process,” Cruz says.

“The beauty of this process is that you don’t have to follow a fasting regimen forever to see the benefits of letting your body go through a cycle of cellular cleansing.”

Some individuals choose to follow a daily routine of eating one to two full nutritious meals a day. This gives their bodies six to 16 hours of everyday cleansing. Others opt for a 24-hour weekly cleansing or a 48-hour monthly cleansing.

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The timing is up to you and what works best for your body. As Cruz mentions, giving your body a natural restart without introducing cleansing regularly can have a long list of health benefits. These include prevention of infections, liver disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

The Best Way to Introduce Autophagy Into Your Routine

Cruz says, “When trying this process, it’s important that the overall purpose for body cleansing not be for weight loss or restrictive behavior for eating something ‘bad,’ but rather to truly shed cells that are working at an inefficient pace and to allow new cells to grow.”

Like most fitness and wellness endeavors we try, the intention should be for overall health, not aesthetic or superficial reasons.

“The best way to introduce this method of cleansing is by slowly increasing the amount of time from eating each meal,” Cruz says.

“The first signs of autophagy can begin after six hours of not consuming energy. So for beginners, the idea would be to start by initially separating mealtime to three times a day, six hours apart, for roughly two days. Then increase to ten hours, only eating two nutrient meals, for two days. Lastly, try eating 12 hours apart for two days. After this time, you will have achieved a natural state of body cleansing. And [you] may fall back into a normal eating routine of meals every four to six hours.”

Tips and Guidelines

Hydration is key.

Water is a key ingredient when it comes to not only external exfoliation but also the internal exfoliation process. Cruz recommends aiming for at least 64 ounces of sugarless fluid daily. This includes plain water or water infused with lemons or other fruit.

Electrolytes are a must.

For our Aaptiv readers who are heavy exercisers, electrolytes are vital to staying healthy. “It’s important that anyone going through body cleansing or medical weight loss programs, and people diagnosed with cardiac issues, have adequate electrolytes in their system,” Cruz says.

“This includes magnesium, potassium, and sodium to prevent any lightheadedness or hypotension from plain water. (This balances the body’s function as it crosses through the cells while going through the cleansing process).”

Eat nutrient-dense meals.

“If you are genuinely interested in experiencing the benefits of body cleansing, then you will also be aiming to provide adequate nutrition during meal times to provide optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals needed for your cells to function at their best,” Cruz says.

Examples of nutrient-dense meals are a plant-based protein shake with Amazing Grass Greens Powder and organic fruits and vegetables. Or a salad with an oil-based dressing, three different-colored fruits and vegetables, and a piece of chicken, steak, or fish.

Make Sure You’re Cleansing Properly

There are many problems that can come with fasting. A major one is behavior abuse with a restrictive diet that can cause lightheadedness or low blood sugar.

“Body cleansing should not be used as a method for weight loss,” Cruz says. Reducing inflammation through this process can allow your body to achieve weight loss more efficiently. However, the primary goal should be overall body health rather than just to shed extra pounds.

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According to Cruz, “Pregnant women should be highly cautious of this process, [as well as] individuals with clearly defined medical diagnoses such as heart stents, renal dialysis, or recent weight loss surgery.”

The possibility for these individuals to engage in body cleansing is not completely restricted. However, she adds that “the process should always be monitored by a registered dietitian or other health care provider to ensure it’s properly implemented.”

Food Nutrition


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