For the last time, forget juice cleanses and detox diets. They’re fluffy nonsense words. While there’s probably nothing wrong with drinking your weight in liquid kale, it won’t flush out toxins any faster than if you were eating, you know, actual food.
The good news: There’s a little-known way your body does cleanse itself, and it’s a process that you can control.
All you need to do is practice a little self-cannibalism. What? Yes, you can actually train your body to eat itself—and believe it or not, you want it to.
It’s a natural process called autophagy (literally “self-eating”), and it’s the body’s system of cleaning house: Your cells create membranes that hunt out scraps of dead, diseased, or worn-out cells; gobble them up; strip ’em for parts; and use the resulting molecules for energy or to make new cell parts.
“Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program,” says Colin Champ, M.D., a board-certified radiation oncologist, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and author of Misguided Medicine. “Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes.”
There’s also evidence that the process plays a hand in controlling inflammation and immunity. And when scientists engineer rats that are incapable of autophagy, they’re fatter, sleepier, and have higher cholesterol a…