Best Strategies to Promote Brain Autophagy

Brain autophagy is a process whereby the brain regenerates and replaces old and unhealthy brain cells with new and healthier cells. Unfortunately, as you age, there is an increasing risk of brain degeneration.

Leading an unhealthy lifestyle and toxic environmental factors can lead to a decline in brain health and function. The good news is that making some lifestyle changes using natural brain-supporting strategies can help to enhance brain autophagy, support your brain function, and prevent brain degeneration.

In this article, you will learn about the importance of brain health, the process of brain degeneration, the importance of brain autophagy, and the importance of creating resilient brain mitochondria. We will share our top strategies to promote brain autophagy and brain health.

How The Brain Degenerates


Most of your brain cells were formed while you were in your mother’s womb, others developed during infancy. While your brain cells are one of the longest living cells in your body, they may also die due to migration or differentiation, or simply get damaged and take abnormal turns. 

Neurodegenerative or brain degenerative diseases, including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease lead to brain and nerve deterioration over time. Alzheimer’s disease alone affects 5 million people in the United States.

While there is no cure for neurodegenerative disease, early diagnosis and treatment may be highly beneficial and dietary and lifestyle strategies may help to prevent or brain degeneration.

Brain Degeneration Symptoms
Symptoms may include memory loss, confusion, forgetfulness, personality changes, mood changes, anxiety, apathy, agitation, or loss of inhibition depending on the type of brain degeneration you are experiencing. New symptoms can develop and symptoms tend to worsen as the disease progresses. 

What Is Brain Autophagy?



Brain autophagy refers to the process of autophagy in your brain. It allows the removal of old and damaged brain cells and the creation of new and healthy brain cells. Brain autophagy is essential for memory, cognition, and brain health, and may help to reduce brain degeneration. 

The major driver of any autophagy is cellular stress. Your body is seeking balance and homeostasis. When stress, such as nutrient deprivation from fasting or exercise happens, your body needs to prepare for survival. To do this, it breaks down older or damaged cells and cellular organelles to leave room for the creation of new and healthier ones for better energy efficiency.

Your cells contain a number of important components called organelles. When your cells are exposed to stressors, such as nutrient deprivation, they create a double-membrane structure called phagophore. The phagophore is very flexible and able to surround cellular components and deliver them to lysosomes. Lysosomes are unique organelles that are able to degrade particular components by releasing degrading enzymes upon them. 

Neurogenesis and Brain Autophagy

While old research believed that your brain has limited capacity to regenerate, new research suggests that your brain is actually able to create new cells throughout your lifespan and brain regeneration is possible. Your brain creates about 700 new neurons per day in the hippocampus allowing it to maintain its central function.

The science of neurogenesis suggests that certain lifestyle habits can encourage brain regeneration, improve your brain health, and may help to prevent or treat degenerative diseases. Brain autophagy is very important for preventing and slowing brain degeneration and allowing brain regeneration.

Best Strategies To Promote Brain Autophagy



1. Prioritize Restorative Sleep



To promote brain autophagy, it is important that you prioritize restorative sleep. Sleep is essential for rest, repair, and cellular regeneration. This means that sleep allows brain autophagy. I recommend that you go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day to support your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. Avoid food, especially sugar and caffeine, close to bedtime. Choose herbal tea or a glass of water instead.

Turn off your electronics a few hours before bed. Wind down, instead, by reading, playing crossword puzzles, journaling, taking a bath, meditation, and prayer. Make sure that your bedroom is a safe and relaxing environment with a comfortable bed, bedding, pillows, and black-out curtains. Having a salt lamp or diffusing some lavender essential oils may also have some calming benefits.

2. Keep Stress Under Control

Keeping your stress under control is absolutely essential for brain autophagy and brain health. One way to manage stress is to keep a gratitude journal and stop throughout the day to say thanks for the small things. Learn to reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones.

Working with a therapist or life coach or even your minister can help you develop skills to cope with stress better and create positive thinking patterns. Practice journaling, meditation, prayer, and breathing exercises to relax your mind and body. Go on nature walks, dance to your favorite song, try some arts and crafts, watch a funny movie, read an uplifting book, and spend time with uplifting people. 

3. Get Into Ketosis 

Ketosis is a simple and effective way to support brain autophagy. Most people consume a diet that’s high or moderate in carbohydrates, which means that their body relies on glucose (sugar) for energy. However, if your body doesn’t receive enough glucose through diet due to fasting or eating a high-fat ketogenic diet, it has to turn to stored and dietary fat for energy. These fast convert into ketones that enter your mitochondria and convert into energy.

Ketosis supports enhanced autophagy, mitochondrial biogenesis, brain health, and mental sharpness. To achieve ketosis and support brain autophagy, I recommend a combination of the keto diet and intermittent fasting.


4. Intermittent Fasting



Intermittent fasting is a fantastic way to improve brain autophagy. It is a form of fasting that rotates between not eating (fasting) and eating (feasting) over a period of time. Fasting normally involves no food for the fasting period, only calorie-free liquids, including water and herbal tea. 

I only recommend extended fasting to those who are experienced with and do well on more advanced intermittent fasting protocols. You may also try an extended partial fast, such as a green juice or bone broth fast first, to prepare for a water fast. 

Intermittent fasting has many benefits, including cellular repair, autophagy, immune regulation, inflammation levels, and insulin sensitivity. It also helps to lower the risk of neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. ( 1 )

5. Consume Nutrient-Dense Foods



If you want to achieve brain autophagy and support your brain health, make sure that you consume an anti-inflammatory, brain-supporting diet abundant in nutrient-dense foods. Remove all inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, gluten, refined oils, deep-fried and processed foods, conventional dairy, grain-fed meat and eggs, soda and sugary drinks, and foods that you are sensitive to.

Instead, load up on greens, such as spinach, kale, and chards, vegetables, such as cucumber, celery, and asparagus, low glycemic index fruits, such as lemon, lime, and berries, herbs and spices, including turmeric, ginger, and basil, healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and organic butter and ghee, and clean protein, including grass-fed meat, free-range poultry and eggs, and wild-caught fish.

6. Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is critical for brain autophagy and brain health. Regular exercise and movement may help to reduce chronic inflammation, decrease stress, uplift your mood, improve memory and learning, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. I recommend that you exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes 5 times a week and stay active throughout the day. Aim for a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength and resistance training, and low-impact exercise.

There are many forms of exercise that you can do without leaving your house. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is great for a mix of cardio and strength work. You may use Zumba or dance videos, try jumping jacks, or get an indoor mini trampoline for cardio.

Try bodyweight exercises, TRX, or kettlebells for strength training. Yoga, pilates, and barre are great low impact exercises that also tone and strengthen. Stay active by stretching regularly, dancing to your favorite song, playing with your kids or pets, gardening, dancing, or if you can, going for a walk outside.

7. Heat Therapy



To support brain autophagy, you may want to consider heat therapy. The stress of the heat urges your body to destroy old and damaged cells and create new and healthy cells through the process of autophagy. Heat shock proteins (HSP) are a group of proteins that your cells produce as a response to exposure to stressful conditions they encounter.

They play an important role in your body’s cellular repair system. They may help to stabilize new proteins and refold damaged proteins. Saunas, UV light therapy, taking hot healing baths, or using a heating pad on sore muscles may be forms of heat therapy.

8. Cold Therapy 

Along with heat therapy, I recommend that you consider cold therapy as well for increased brain autophagy. In this case, the stress from the cold leads to autophagy, the removal of old and damaged cells and the creation of new and healthy cells. Cold shock proteins or cold shock domain (CSD) is a protein domain of about 70 amino acids.

Cold shock proteins may help your cells to survive under stressful conditions. While heat shock proteins help your cells to survive conditions warmer than optimal, cold shock proteins help survival in lower than optimal temperature. Cold therapy methods include cryotherapy chambers, jumping into a cold pool, or taking a cold shower.

I recommend combining hot and cold therapy. You may want to sit in a sauna then take a cold shower or jump into the pool. An even simpler way is finishing up your warm shower with a cold shower.

9. Herbs That Enhance Brain Autophagy 

To enhance brain autophagy and protect your brain cells, I recommend autophagy-enhancing herbs, including matcha green tea, ginger, turmeric, resveratrol, citrus bergamot, oregano, sage, rosemary, and quercetin.

10. Red Light Therapy



Red light therapy (RLT) is a powerful therapeutic technique that may improve brain autophagy. IT has been used for a variety of therapeutic purposes in alternative healing, including wounds, scars, skin issues, inflammation, pain, sleep, and hair growth. It increases cellular energy and antioxidant activity in your body.


Red light therapy (RLT) is a treatment that exposes you to low levels of red or near-infrared light. Infrared light is a type of energy your eyes can’t see, but your body can feel as heat. Red light is similar to infrared, but you can see it.

Red light therapy is also called low-level laser therapy (LLLT), low-power laser therapy (LPLT), and photobiomodulation (PBM).

With red light therapy, you expose your skin to a lamp, device, or laser with a red light. A part of your cells called mitochondria, sometimes called the “power generators” of your cells, soak it up and make more energy. Some experts think this helps cells repair themselves and become healthier. This spurs healing in skin and muscle tissue.

Red light therapy uses very low levels of heat and doesn’t hurt or burn the skin. It’s not the same type of light used in tanning booths, and it doesn’t expose your skin to damaging UV rays.

11. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy



Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a method that not only supports brain autophagy but has countless health benefits. It has been shown to raise tissue oxygen levels, support new blood vessel growth, increase your body’s defense system, increase stem cells, reduce swelling, and support optimal health.



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