How to induce autophagy

Autophagy is a natural process and takes place in our bodies without us having to do too much to trigger it. Unfortunately, due to the modern lifestyle, autophagy takes place a lot less often than it used to and people are wanting to know how to induce autophagy to make up for this.

The process of autophagy slows down as we age, so how to increase the amount of time we spend in autophagy is often of particular interest to older people.

People in this age group can often compensate for this by introducing a few healthy new habits into their daily lives.

If you are not already familiar with the process of autophagy, and why it is important for our health, you can visit Autophagy and Fasting where you will learn more about this process and its multiple health benefits.

There has been increasing interest in the scientific world about autophagy, and there is now a mounting body of evidence as to how important and beneficial this is to our health and our continued health in the future.

Fortunately, there are several ways that can be employed that will allow us to enter the state of autophagy more often than is occurring naturally for us.


Fasting is the biggest and most well-known cause of autophagy, and even a short fast of 12 hours is enough to trigger this natural cleansing and resetting process in your body.

Snacking and grazing leaves many people with too small a window of time without food for them to enter this important process.

Despite all the current advice to eat small and frequent meals, it is now accepted that its important to leave some time between meals.

This time can be during the night while sleeping, several hours during the day or even a longer time of 12 – 36 hours which occurs during intermittent fasting.

Autophagy would have happened much more often in our distant past, but the modern lifestyle has caused it to take place much less frequently, with some serious consequences.

Easy and frequent access to food stops autophagy dead, and we pay the price with our health.

You can read more about this by visiting Autophagy and fasting .

Cold exposure

We may not be big fans of feeling cold, but the stress caused to our bodies when in this state will initiate autophagy.

The idea of taking a daily cold shower for its health benefits has been around for years, but its only recently that science has shown why this is.

There are various ways practiced of regularly giving the body a boost via cold stress.

Winter swims in near freezing water, walking outside in the cold in a t-shirt.

People have been getting creative when finding ways of getting their dose of cold.

If you’re brave enough, you will be reaping a lot of health benefit for a few moments suffering.

For those of us less tough than hole- in- the- ice swimmers, it seems that a quick cold shower is definitely worth your trouble.

Heat exposure

For centuries people have been visiting hot springs to ” take the water” in the belief that it is good for their health.

Amazingly modern science has put its weight behind this idea and has proved that both hot showers and saunas are able to trigger this important process.

This is another way to put the body under stress as it needs to adapt to the higher than normal temperature.

For people who really don’t want to feel cold, this method will set in motion the same healthful process: stress – autophagy – health benefits.

So the next time you’re at the gym, try to make the time for a sauna before leaving.

Better still, a cold shower followed by a sauna will turbo charge your whole system and here’s why:

Alternating heat and cold

A study observed a group of swimmers who swam in freezing conditions in the winter sea and then took a sauna.

It was discovered that this group entered autophagy quicker and stronger than others.

Their ability to quickly enter autophagy was stronger than those who were subjected to just heat or just cold.

If you don’t have easy access to a sauna, alternating between hot and cold water while you shower will produce the same effect, and is a quick and healthy way to start your day


The importance of exercise is now well-known, and there can be few people who still believe that you can be in your best health while not taking enough.

This study on exercise and autophagy demonstrated how exercise targeted autophagy in peripheral tissues and in the brain and they conclude that exercise induces autophagy in the cerebral cortex of the brain.

Even if you are a stranger to the gym there are plenty of things you can do to get fit such as walking, taking the stairs more often or swimming.

However, the more rigorous forms of exercise are the ones that will help you get into autophagy, as once again, your body needs to be experiencing stress to make this happen.

High-Intensity Interval Training, running, jogging and weight training are all great choices.

The fact is that there is a direct correlation between how strenuous your work out is and how quickly you will get into autophagy.

The ketogenic diet

The keto diet restricts carbohydrates and lowers the levels of both glucose and insulin in the body.

This very low carbohydrate way of eating helps get Autophagy underway because the keto diet activates many of the same pathways to autophagy as fasting.

Being in ketosis can activate certain pathways to autophagy that would not be activated while eating, unless on a very restricted calorie diet.

Both low glucose and low insulin levels are two of the conditions necessary to induce autophagy.

If you choose to start an intermittent fast while on the keto diet, you will certainly get into autophagy faster than someone who has to use up a lot of glucose first.

So, although you don’t need the keto diet to trigger autophagy, combining this diet with any of the other ways to produce autophagy will get you there a lot quicker.

MCT oil

This amazing oil has many health benefits and you can read more about it here mct oil for keto .

By itself MCT oil will not bring about autophagy, but it still has a place in the list as an autophagy-supportive supplement.

By using MCT oil with the keto diet or with intermittent fasting you will be reducing your appetite and increasing your ketone levels in your body. By raising ketone levels, autophagy will be triggered sooner.

Due to these properties of MCT oil, together with the multiple health benefits, it is another way to boost the benefits that autophagy will give you.

How often should autophagy take place?

As with all things in life, just because something is good for you it doesn’t always follow that even more of it will be even better for you.

You don’t want to be in autophagy all the time because that would prevent growth and repair of your body.

Your body can do the cleaning work of autophagy or it can put its energy to growth and repair.

It can’t do both at the same time. Too much autophagy may lead to muscle wasting and dysfunctional cell death, which is why you want to balance autophagy against growth.

Holding on to lean muscle is good for your health, and a necessity.

For this reason, you need to stimulate protein synthesis and induce mechano overload on the muscles, both of which raise mTOR and inhibit autophagy.

So, you need enough autophagy but not too much. As with all things, moderation is the key.

The take home message

Autophagy is an amazing and natural process that sets in motion the destruction of damaged cells or proteins and pathogens.

It is a process that has evolved with us, and will occur naturally throughout our lives although there is a tendency for the rate to slow down as we age.

Due to the modern lifestyle of grazing and rarely if ever going without food for more than 12 hours at a time, this process is taking place less often than it used to.

If we are older, have been eating too often, or are short on exercise we will need to make some changes if we want our bodies to experience all the health benefits of autophagy.

Diet, exercise (especially intensive forms of exercise) exposure to heat or cold and intermittent fasting can all trigger autophagy.

Many studies now support the idea that by combining two or more of these interventions dramatically increases both the speed of entering and the strength of autophagy.

This has multiple implications for our health and our future health. Autophagy causes a decrease in inflammation that has been linked to many diseases.

Autophagy can also help with skin problems autophagy for loose skin.

There is now much evidence that links being in autophagy often enough to longevity.

There is certainly more than enough reason to make sure that this is a process that is happening the optimal amount of times if we want to live a long and healthy life.



4 thoughts on “How to induce autophagy”

  1. Hi,
    I really enjoyed your article and learned so much. I had never heard of autophagy before let alone what I needed to do to kick start it. Ironically enough I was just reading up on the Keto Diet and after reading this your post now know that it will help to induce autophagy. In your post you mention that as we age autophagy slows down so we have to be more proactive to kick start it. At what age does it start to slow down? I’m 42, is this something that I should now be more conscious about?

    Great article, thanks for the great read


    • Hi Tracy,

      Thanks for your comments, it’s always good to get feedback.

      I’m not aware of any study that gives a set age range for the slowing down of autophagy, beyond there being a consensus that as our cells age this process naturally occurs less often.

      In my opinion, at 42 this probably isn’t anything you need to be too concerned with at this stage. However, as I mentioned in the article, autophagy is not happening enough for most people due to the modern carb heavy diet and pattern of eating.

      It’s not possible for me to say if this is true in your case as it would depend on your diet and lifestyle and the amount of exercise you take.

      Unless you are taking care of all of these factors, the chances are that you would benefit from increasing the amount of time you spend in autophagy.

      Take a look around the site and discover more about the factors that add up to a healthy lifestyle. You will then be able to decide what changes to make for your own health goals.

      All the best,


      All the best,

  2. Really great and informative article, Judy.
    I usually fast once a year for one month and I can’t really express how amazing feeling it is after that month.
    very light and healthy especially if I watch my food intake and exercise regularly. Just wanted to share my thoughts on this.
    Awesome article, thanks for that.

    • Hi Adel,

      Thank you very much for your kind words.

      It sounds like you’re already enjoying all the benefits that fasting and autophagy can bring.

      It’s always good to hear from someone who knows first hand how great you can feel when doing this.

      All the best,



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