Autophagy 101


 Autophagy is gaining popularity in wider health communities more and more, and for very good reasons. It can help you to detox, eliminating anything harmful in your body to fight major illnesses like cancer and autoimmune diseases. 

Your body uses this process to heal itself. That’s why we’re excited to help you learn all about autophagy and how to activate it for a healthier you!

What is Autophagy?

Autophagy literally translates to "self-eating" and is a metabolic process where the cells in your body break down damaged parts of cells so they can be eliminated. Through this process, you are able to regenerate new and healthier cells. 

This process is mostly activated through some form of fasting, and can also be supported by other means, which we will discuss in this article. 

Your body is intelligent enough to leave healthy cells intact while breaking down damaged cells. This is a natural and powerful way to fight cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and other lifestyle diseases that may be negatively affecting your health. 

How to Activate Autophagy

The original way of getting into this metabolic state where your body is pretty much eating damaged parts of itself is through fasting. Our ancestors practiced fasting often as they went through times of feast and famine and we can activate autophagy by utilizing this tool ourselves. 

There are other means of activating autophagy so let’s look at all of them individually. 


Water fasting allows your body to shift its energy away from breaking down food and toward some internal self cleaning. Some studies say that the process can start in as little as 14 hours but really you’ll see full benefits by going at least 18 hours without consuming any calories at all. 

There are several types of fasting to help you get into this metabolic state: 

  • Intermittent fasting: Fasting for shorter times, often in successions such as 16, 18 or 20 hours each day
  • Warrior fasting: Fast for 24 hours every other day
  • Dinner to dinner fasting: Fast after dinner until you eat dinner the next day
  • 24 hour dry fast: Do not consume every water
  • 3-day and 5-day water fasts: Extended fasts that help you stay in this metabolic state for longer periods aimed at achieving greater benefits

All of these fasting methods have some benefit to your body and can activate autophagy, but you may also activate autophagy pathways via other methods. 

Herbal Compounds and Teas

Several teas and herbs have been found to induce or enhance autophagy. Quercetin, found in red onions, cranberries, and elderberries, and resveratrol, found in blueberries, grapes, and red wine, are two of our favorites. These are cancer-fighting compounds that can be consumed to support and activate autophagy. 

ECGC, found in green tea, oolong tea, and dark chocolate, as well as citrus bergamot, found in earl grey and bergamot teas, also activate autophagy. So do ginger, curcumin (found in turmeric), and the carnosic acid found in herbs such as rosemary, sage, and oregano. 

Incorporate these teas and herbs in your daily diet to support your cells’ self-cleaning function. 

External Ways to Activate Autophagy

There are also things you can do to activate autophagy that have nothing to do with food and drinks. These include breath work, hot-cold therapy, and getting good sleep. 

Try hyperbaric oxygen therapy if it is available in your city, as it will boost your body’s natural healing abilities. You enter a special room or chamber where you saturate your tissue with pure oxygen.

You can also try hot and cold contrast therapy where you enter a hot near/far/or both infrared sauna for some time and then follow this with a cold bath. If there’s no infrared sauna where you are, you can benefit from a blast of cold water at the end of a long hot shower. 

Getting great sleep will also activate autophagy as your rest time is used by your body to perform healing. If you’re not getting good, deep sleep each night, here are some tips to help you reset your circadian rhythm so you can benefit from this cheap and simple yet powerful therapy. 

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Even when tempted to sleep in on the weekends, this is important to help reset your circadian rhythm for better sleep.
  • Turn off your devices and your WIFI if possible at least an hour before you turn in for bed. Blue light blocking glasses can be a big help, especially if you’re on a device all day.
  • Make your room as dark as possible and at a cool temperature at night to signal to your body that it is time for bed.
  • Try to get some sun exposure every day and practice grounding, where you get your bare feet on the earth for some time each day.

How a Ketogenic Diet Helps Autophagy

Eliminating sugar from your diet, drastically minimizing your intake of carbohydrates, focusing on eating lots of healthy fats, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, and moderate protein is the basis of a healthy ketogenic diet. This diet can activate your autophagy pathways. 

One of the main benefits of following a ketogenic diet is lowering your blood glucose and insulin levels. When you lower your insulin, your cells get the chance to break down any damaged cells, activating the process of autophagy in your body. 

Now that you know all about the process of autophagy, you can incorporate this tool as one of your go-to health practices along with a great diet and exercise. 



Disclaimer: This content is strictly the opinion of Drs. Warren and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All recipients of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Drs. Warren do not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All recipients of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.


Wellness Radio: 01/09/21