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Autophagy and Your Immune System

Coots, Jessica. Dr. Mindy Pelz | Reset Your Health, 20 Nov. 2020,

Nov 20, 2020

Hot off the press! A recent meta analysis published in October 2020 titled Intermittent fasting, a possible priming tool for host defense against SARS-CoV-2 infection, has made some impressive findings about the benefits of fasting, specifically autophagy fasting, in promoting health and preventing illness.

Directly from the study: “[…]strengthening immunity along with maintaining a healthy living is the best way to survive this disease. As a healthy practice, calorie restriction in the form of intermittent fasting (IF) in several clinical settings has been reported to promote several health benefits, including priming of the immune response. This dietary restriction also activates autophagy, a cell surveillance system that boosts up immunity. With these prevailing significance in priming host defense, IF could be a potential strategy amid this outbreak to fighting off SARS-CoV-2 infection. Currently, no review so far available proposing IF as an encouraging strategy in the prevention of COVID-19. […] This review aimed at revisiting the immunomodulatory potential of IF that may constitute a promising preventive approach against COVID-19.”

The study specifically talked about the benefits of autophagy fasting.
Now remember, autophagy is a natural, regulatory mechanism inside the cell that instructs the body to clean out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. Autophagy helps clean up the mitochondria and everything inside the cells, as well as bad bacteria and pathogens. Best of all, autophagy can initiate cell death, also called apoptosis, when sick cells commit suicide by activating an intracellular death program. Keep in mind, autophagy is different from ketosis. There are many ways to stimulate autophagy and one of those ways is through fasting.

What does autophagy do for your immune system?
It helps regulate cytokines. The cytokines’ job is to form an army to fight a virus or pathogen. But the key is cytokines need to be turned on and off and autophagy plays an important role in cytokine regulation. We’ve heard a lot about this in 2020, especially “cytokine storm” which is basically a dysregulation of how cytokines are produced and turned off. When we look at this study, we know that when you stimulate autophagy you are stimulating both the innate and adaptive immune system. Autophagy makes your innate immune system more primed to defend against foreign invaders.

Autophagy should become part of your health toolbox, helping you become less immune compromised. – Dr. Mindy

We also know that autophagy is also helpful at controlling inflammation and making us more insulin sensitive. This is incredibly helpful for those who are immunocompromised, including people who are diabetic, pre-diabetic, and those with metabolic syndrome.

Along with fasting, the article discusses other things you can be doing to support your health, including exercise, meditation, eating an anti-inflammatory diet and keeping stress low.

The article also discussed what nutrients might be necessary for those who are in autophagy for an extended period of time, ie. fasting for 3+ days. In which case, the article recommends supplementing with the following nutrients:

Vitamin C
Vitamin D

Now let’s talk about the details of autophagy and your immune system:
We know that autophagy kicks in around 17 hours. Some people may need to fast for a little longer, so it’s safe to say autophagy is enabled somewhere between 17-72 hours. You can do this with daily 17-hour fasting, or you can do a 3 day water fast.

In addition to fasting, there are also other ways to stimulate autophagy. A high fat, low carb diet is one, in addition to limiting protein to under 20 grams. Coffee has also been shown to stimulate autophagy, as well as powerphenol plants like curcumin, berberine, green tea and bergamot, commonly found in Earl Grey tea. There is also evidence that HIIT training will help signal autophagy. I do this in my Reset Academy every Saturday morning.

Biohacking tools like red light therapy (such as the JOOVV) and hyperbaric oxygen therapy can also help people turn on autophagy. Listen to The Resetter Podcast episode with Naomi Whittel, where we talked about how to heal with autophagy, foods that stimulate autophagy and how quality sleep affects autophagy.


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Autophagy, Immunity

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