Ted’s essays

Ask your doctor if autophagy is right for you


I would be very surprised to find a pharma-prescription-writer who knew anything about autophagy, let alone about what a healing powerhouse it is. That would be a fun exercise to try out if you know something about it yourself.

I have not eaten anything this year – I am completing my 10th day of a fast I hope to pursue for another 10 days. All motivated by autophagy and its almost amazing ability to enable our bodies to heal themselves – even curing things you did not know were out of whack.

I was inspired by the impressively swollen lymph nodes in my neck. I resigned myself in November to undertake a fast, but decided I was going to have a particularly hard time fasting in December, so I tried intermittent fasting for the month without getting the results I wanted. Looking at the fasting phases chart, you can see many benefits in the first 18 hours, but it is 24 hours and beyond that really bring the troops to bear on whatever ails you.

The lymph nodes job is to fight invaders. Moderate swelling means they are working. Too much means they are overworked. Pharma may have a pill for that, but unlikely to be the right weapon for fighting an unknown enemy. Autophagy knows the enemy even if we don’t. Give her a chance and she’s likely to win.

Autophagy is a natural, self-preservation mechanism whereby the body removes damaged or dysfunctional parts of a cell and recycles other parts toward cellular repair. It is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.

“Auto” means self and “phagy” means eat. So the literal meaning of autophagy is “self-eating.” It’s also referred to as “self-devouring.” While that may sound like something you never want to happen to your body, it’s actually beneficial to your overall health.

This is because autophagy is an evolutionary self-preservation mechanism through which the body can remove the dysfunctional cells and recycle parts of them toward cellular repair and cleaning. The purpose of autophagy is to remove debris and self-regulate back to optimal smooth function.

It is recycling and cleaning at the same time, just like hitting a reset button to your body. Plus, it promotes survival and adaptation as a response to various stressors and toxins accumulated in our cells.

Though somewhat smaller, my lymph nodes are still dramatically swollen. I must stay the course for a while longer. I visualize my cell repair and cleanup troops patrolling my body and choosing their battles in some nature-guided, tactically-prioritized order. I’m fine with that. They know their jobs. I don’t.

I also think about the other defensive and healing tools the body has. Most of them fought against by the usual suspects. Drugs fighting against fever and coughs take up rows of shelf space in big pharma stores. Neither of those natural healing modes should be suppressed. In each of my fasts exceeding 4 days, a fever joined the fray. I embraced the reinforcements, bundled up and did whatever they suggested.

The body has few mechanisms for carting the dead and wounded off the battlefield: phlegm, mucus, urine, feces (including loose-to-runny stool) and perspiration. Of course Pharma stands ready to handicap your troops … apparently ever eager to take the sides of your enemies.

I skip all that. Accepting nature’s wisdom, I cough out whatever my team wants coughed out. I can sense changes as the internal battle rages and notice signs that my side is winning. Sadly, for now, food must remain a fond memory and something to look forward to when the indicators allow me to declare Victory. That is my active role in this.

A certain $200 billion dollar per year (and rising rapidly) industry definitely does not want anybody spreading rumors that cancer cannot survive a fast… so I won’t do that. You will have to find that knowledge somewhere else. Though I assure you fasting would be the only treatment choice for me … without dramatic side effects and sell-your-home expenditures.

Speaking of expenses, of all the choices costing modest to great out-of-pocket expenses, none come close to the less-than-zero cost of a fast. My 20 day grocery bill is NADA.

A couple of interesting notes on longer-term fasting.
1) It takes three days for the big guns to fully deploy. Every day after that your body is in the super-power healing mode. Extend that period as much as you can.
2) Intermittent fasting with a 6-hour or less “eating window” has quite a few benefits listed in most literature on the topic. One I will add to those is that I feel it is great preparation for an extended full-on water fast.

It takes a week or more to reprogram you biological clock (circadian rhythm) to quit demanding certain accustomed mealtimes. In graceful steps you can cut out lunches, then later, breakfasts. Transitioning to an intermittent fasting regimen prepares you physically and psychologically for a full fast should you decide that is useful.

If you want more on the subject, I have produced a bunch and published here: https://www.bitterrootbugle.com/?s=fast

By the way, for those who consider fasting as the ultimate weight loss program, the bathroom scale says I am down 15 pounds in 10 days, the bathroom mirror says I still have plenty of fat reserves to operate on and experience says I will regain about 4 pounds when I refill my digestive tract.

My wife is proud of me and impressed I could hold out this long. She tried in the beginning of this month, but couldn’t get over the 24 hour mark. We have discussed it and come up with a plan to go intermittent when I resume breaking bread with her. As I really love her breakfasts, I figure weekend breakfasts won’t spoil my biological clock into expecting breakfast. Then both of us will more easily transition into a 7 day fast once a quarter.

That should go a long ways towards maintaining our health and vitality… so it says somewhere in the small print.

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Thank you, Ted Dunlap