6 Autophagy Triggers: Force Your body to “Self-Eat” Old, Damaged Cells

Each and every day, your body incurs damage that ages you, contributes to disease, and will one day result in your death. 

Not exactly a pleasant thing to think about, right?

As unpleasant as this is though, it’s a reality. 

But, what if you could slow down this process? 

What if you could slow the process and effects of aging? And, what if you could reverse the effects of disease? 

Things are getting a little more pleasant now, huh?

What if you could trigger and increase a natural process within your body to both lengthen and add health to your days?

Autophagy can potentially do just that! 

So, what is autophagy and how can you trigger this process? 

Let’s take a look…

What Is Autophagy?

There are trillions of cells inside your body. And, these cells are responsible for numerous tasks: 

  • giving your body form and shape 
  • taking in nutrients from the foods you eat
  • making energy 
  • disposing of waste
  • building proteins
  • providing your brain with information

Unfortunately, as your cells perform all of these tasks, they suffer damage. 

As such damage accumulates, it can hinder cell function. 

We see the effects of this in aging, in disease, and eventually in death. 

The good news is, your cells have yet another task in their long list of responsibilities. 

They also work within your body as agents of self-healing to automatically fight against the damage they incur. 

This is done through a process known as autophagy. 

Autophagy simply means self-eating. Nice image there, right? 

Don’t worry, we’re not talking Silence of the Lambs here. The only ones doing the “eating” are your cells. 

Autophagy is kind of an “out with the old, in with the new” type of process wherein your healthy cells devour damaged and non-functioning cells. 

The devoured cells can then be used for energy, and new cells can be generated.  

If those damaged cells are not removed, inflammation can occur, become chronic, and lead to a number of diseases. 

In fact, autophagy is not only believed to fight diseases like various cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but it is also linked to:

  • Anti-aging
  • Immune system enhancement
  • DNA protection
  • Regulating mitochondria function (energy conversion)
  • Protection against necrosis (damage to healthy tissues)
  • Facilitating brain and nerve cell growth
  • Slowing chronic inflammation
  • Preserving muscle tissue

The problem is, even this self-healing process of autophagy, can suffer in function as we age. 

Thankfully, both the benefits of autophagy and the fact that this natural process can decline with age has led to the search for ways to trigger, induce, and enhance it. 

How To Trigger Autophagy


Fasting is the best way to trigger autophagy. 

In fact, when we mentioned the meaning of the word earlier, “self-eating,” that was truly only the breakdown of the actual word. 

In fact, the full definition of autophagy is, as stated by Dr. Daniel Pompa, “the body’s process of recycling its own damaged tissue into reusable energy during times when food is not present.” 

That underlined portion is the key to this process. 

So, how can you incorporate fasting to trigger and enhance autophagy and its benefits?

It is most widely believed that after 16 hours of fasting is when the body begins to address cell damage by devouring the “bad cells.”

With intermittent fasting, this would be facilitated through a feeding window of 8 hours or less, with a fasting window of 16 hours or more. 

For example, you may choose to fast from 8:00 pm, through the night hours, until 1:00 pm the following day. You would then eat between the hours of 1:00 pm and 8:00 pm that day. 

The above pattern would put your body in a fasted state for 17 hours and thus trigger autophagy. 

To promote deeper levels of autophagy, some suggest 24-48, or even 72 hours of fasting. 

Just be sure to talk to your doctor before taking on a prolonged fast–especially if you have any health issues!


Research has shown that exercise can trigger autophagy especially in your muscles, liver, and pancreas. 

Typically, moderate exercise for approximately 30 minutes per day can induce this process. 

While a mixture of aerobic, resistance, and high intensity interval training is recommended for triggering autophagy, you truly don’t have to be picky. Just get moving! 

One study measured autophagy in 12 men over the course of 8 weeks. Some of the men trained with a regular cycling program for exercise, and some did high intensity cycling. 

The results indicated that both types of exercise triggered autophagy. 

This suggests that the body can benefit from both types of exercise in inducing this cell-clearing task. 


Some research suggests that autophagy is triggered during sleep, following the pattern of our body’s circadian rhythm. 

To reap optimal benefits from this, you must improve your quality of sleep, as this is when autophagy is most active.

To avoid disruptions in circadian rhythm, seek to do the following to promote restorative sleep:

  • Wake up at the same time each morning
  • Go to bed at the same time each night
  • Try to eat at the same time each day, avoiding snacking prior to bedtime
  • Exercise at the same time each day
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly
  • Turn electronics off within 2 hours of bedtime
  • Sleep in a cool room
  • Unplug or turn off all electronics in the room where you sleep

Practicing the above sleep-promoting habits will aid in melatonin production, which helps to maintain circadian rhythm, and regulate autophagy.

Diet (high fat, low carb)

“Keto” has been quite the buzz word of late. But, what is it?

Keto is short for the ketogenic diet, a diet primarily focusing on consuming very high amounts of fat and very low amounts of carbohydrates with moderate quantities of protein. 

This diet actually mimics fasting in some ways. 

The science behind this high fat, low carb diet is that your body begins to produce ketones as a response, in part, to the drastic restriction of carbohydrates. 

This puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis which can also trigger autophagy. 

Protein Cycling

If you’re unable to fast (going without food completely), consider reducing your protein intake a few days a week to induce autophagy. 

Also known as protein fasting, this method of triggering autophagy can give you most of the benefits of fasting without having to completely deprive yourself. 

The recommendation with protein cycling is to dedicate a few days a week to cutting your protein intake down to 15-20 grams. 

During autophagy on these low protein days, your body will consume its own proteins and toxins, thus cleansing your cells. 


It is believed that mitochondria can influence autophagy. 

There are certain foods that hinder the role of mitochondria in this process as they diminish their function and cause inflammation in your body. 

These foods include:

  • Processed sugars like cereals, pastries, candies, cakes, etc.
  • Dairy
  • Processed foods like classic junk foods, chips, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, etc.
  • Saturated fats
  • Hydrogenated oils

And, just as some foods can hinder autophagy, there are other foods (primarily spices) and drinks that can induce or trigger it. 

These foods include:

  • Curcumin, found in turmeric
  • Green tea
  • Coffee
  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Ginseng
  • Garlic
  • Pomegranate
  • Elderberries
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon

Incorporating the above practices to trigger autophagy and thus aid your body in cell clean up and renewal is a step in the direction of healing, increased health, and a longer life. 

To your health,

— Mike

Co-Founder, Natural Healthy News

P.S. I’ve personally used many of the techniques listed above this year to drop 59 pounds. Most recently I’ve had success breaking through a plateau with a combination of the keto diet and intermittent fasting.

I can tell you that THE hardest part of keto was not being able to eat BREAD!

It’s everywhere… and it smells so good… but there’s this myth you can’t eat ANY bread when you’re on keto. That’s just not true.

You just need these recipes for keto bread.

By using “intelligent ingredients”, you can actually enjoy your favorite bread, sandwiches and pizza… And actually support your success on KETO – because they’re very low in carbs and rich in healthy, slimming fats!

Be sure to check out the BEST grain-free bread ever created–Real-Deal Keto Bread.


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2 years ago

What would a typical menu for a day look like? (I’m an avid exerciser so I’ll work on nutrition.)

Reply to  DJO
1 year ago

For keto? I did roughly this:
Breakfast – eggs, avocado, maybe other veg
Lunch – Cesar salad, no croutons, maybe some salmon
Dinner – Veggies cooked with coconut oil + some protein OR zoodles with pesto or olive oil/tomato/olives/meat sauce.
“Fat bombs” with nut or tahini base for snacks. Lots of recipe books out there.

1 year ago

For the protein reduction – do you do it several days in a row or just one day on, one day off?