The Growing Older, Living Younger Project

Cellular Detox – essential house cleaning

Apr 3, 2021 | 2021 April A to Z Challenge

I have always been a bit bemused by those who promote colon cleansing or detoxing unless it’s for a valid indication like bowel preparation for a colonoscopy. After all detoxing is what your colon does for you when you poop, cleansing your gut of undigested fibre, sugars, fats and peptides, gut bacteria, mucus, and bile from the liver.  

And speaking of bile, it is important in the detoxifying functions of the liver.  Apart from the many well established metabolic, storage, and synthetic  activities of the liver, it gets rid of toxic agents. For example, It helps clear old red blood cells, by converting heme from hemoglobin into bilirubin. and excreting it in bile. But there is no established evidence that your liver benefits from itself being detoxified by specific ‘liver cleanses’. The best way to ‘cleanse’ your liver, is to avoid substances that damage liver cells like excessive alcohol,  acetominophen, certain viruses or the excessive deposits that cause fatty liver. 

In contrast, cell purification and detoxification at the cellular level is an essential process that happens naturally and is known as autophagy. Think of it as housecleaning, like getting rid of kitchen waste so you can make fresh clean food. Our cells are in a constant cycle of new cell formation and cell death. Some cells are short lived.  Intestinal mucosa cells live about 5 days, while red blood cells last about 3 months.  

Within a living cell, worn out components must be removed or they can accumulate and damage the cell. They get packaged into  tiny vesicles, and taken up into a lysome which contains enzymes that break down the components into bits that can be recycled.  

The 2016 Nobel Prize winner, Dr.. Ohsumi won for working out the processes of autophagy in yeast cells and showing that these same processes are how we humans detox our cells. Autphagy happens at night when we sleep and our bodies are in the fasting state. 

Yet another way in which adequate sleep is important to our healthy aging. With increasing age, expression of our “housekeeping” genes for cell maintenance, repair and recycling changes. Couple that with changes in the quality and length of our sleep – and our cellular detox may become less efficient.

To ensure that my cells’ natural purification processes are working optimally even if I have a less than optimal sleep, I take a plant=based supplement each night before bedtime.

If you want to learn more about how autophagy help your healthy aging leave a comment below or feel free to email me directly at askdrgill@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. Is autophagy only associated with sleep? Why does it happen at night?

    • That’s a great question. No it does not only happen during sleep. Cellular repair, maintenance and recycling is an ongoing process in all our cells. Autophagy helps preserve cells under stress conditions like lack of nutrients or oxygen and so fasting, with changes in insulin/growth factors is one factor that ramps up autophagy.The longer the fasting period the greater the cellular stress but cellular detox and clearing of abnormal proteins happens during sleep.

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