As humans we all like to look into how to live better and longer from time to time, so I thought it would be great to look into this great topic in today’s episode. And even if you don’t want to know how to live longer, this is still a fascinating podcast episode looking at how our biology at the cellular level impacts our behaviour.
Today’s episode has been sponsored by Biological Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
And as always nothing on this podcast is ever any sort of official or medical advice.
How Does Autophagy affect our behaviour?
In terms of biological psychology, it is rather rare for us to focus on what happens at the cellar level and how our cells affect us. However, there is a process called Autophagy that does affect our behaviour and this is just critical for us to look at now.
Due to Autophagy is the process that our cells use to get rid of all the “rubbish” inside them by releasing them or letting the “rubbish” degrade. The things that our cells get rid of include things like proteins, organelles and debris that are no longer effective or efficient to have in the cell, so it is packaged up and effectively kicked out.
In terms of behaviour and our wellbeing, Autophagy does not only dictate how well we can live our lives but it might also dictate how long we live for. As a result this is a key physiological mechanism that has been conserved throughout human evolution for the sole purpose of allowing our species to thrive.
Therefore, when our Autophagy mechanisms are dysfunctional or overwhelmed, our cells are unable to perform at their peak, and this can result in a person to age more rapidly or get a disease. Especially, as the process of Autophagy also includes other biological processes. Including lipography, this is the breakdown of lipids (fats) by lysosomal organelles, mitophagy the removal of our damaged mitochondria which is critical for respiration, and aggrephagy, this clears out other cellular proteins as well as debris, amongst other biological processes.
And what makes this really interesting to psychologists is that most neurodegenerative conditions. For instance, Parkinson’s disease and certain forms of dementia are associated with the increase and build-up of both pathologic as well as misfolded proteins. Therefore, if someone has ineffective Autophagy and their cells are not being cleared out properly then this can have serious negative consequences.
However, whilst these mechanisms are not fully understood, there are a number of different factors involved here. As well as regardless scientists know that the regulation of a person’s Autophagy can be affected by our environment, nutrient status, lifestyle and our own internal and external stressors.
And to sum up, the simple reason why this is important to all of us to understand is because optimising our Autophagy could be a way to decrease our own likelihood of dementia.
5 Ways How Can You Optimise Your Autophagy
Avoid Oils, Diary, Sugar, Processed Foods and Saturated Fats
I won’t lie and pretend that this is easy to do in the slightest, but I think this point is more about trying to cut down where we can. Due to these foods are pro-inflammatory and these can burden our mitochondria resulting in an impairment to their function and their role in Autophagy.
When I first read this I was still concerned that it was going to be part of some crazy starvation diet. Yet the restriction of calories by using intermittent fasting increases Autophagy, and I must admit that the benefits of intermittent fasting are well researched too.
Additionally, studies have showed that caloric restriction is associated with an upregulation of Autophagy in the brain, liver, fat as well as muscles, and it’s associated with a longer healthier lifespan as well. The reasoning behind this is believed to be because of an increase in the availability of precursors and substrates for other essential biochemical reactions.
For Autophagy, exercise has a lot of great benefits because doing regular aerobic exercise helps to improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to our cells by increasing blood flow to our vital organs. As well as it improves the transportation of packaged and degraded inflammatory metabolites and waste by-products. Basically, the things that Autophagy is trying to remove from the body.
Getting outdoors is definitely something we’re covered a fair bit on the podcast before and now we add something else to the list of benefits it has. Due to exposure to nature has been repeatedly showed to upregulate Autophagy and decrease inflammatory mediators in the body. Like interleukins and prostaglandins.
This is definitely a critical factor that I left til last and this is probably the factor I’ve heard the most about.
Therefore, restorative sleep and Autophagy work by both Autophagy and our glymphatic system are highly active when we’re asleep. Both of them work in synergy to improve the functioning and health of our brain, and I know I’ve said it before and it is something I am personally trying to work on more, but we do need to respect the circadian nature of our bodies and brains, as this does help to improve the quality of our sleep for a range of reasons I’ve mentioned on different podcast episodes and in my dementia psychology book. But this does require motivation as well as dedication.
Something I must admit I sort of lack at times.
However, to sum it up, getting a better night sleep is helpful for our cells to get rid of all the rubbish and debris in them, which can have long term health benefits.
Biological Psychology Conclusion
I know that this podcast episode was definitely different from what we normally cover on the podcast, but I truly believe that this is a good thing. It is good to change things up from time to time and it is always great for all of us to take a step outside of mainstream clinical psychology and the other things we normally cover.
As well as I think the nice thing about episodes like this is that they do contain unofficial tips and little pieces of information that we can take away straight away. Like you could be listening to this and decide that from this point onwards you want to try to improve your sleep. Which is rather funny because as I write this it’s past 9 pm at night and I’m yawing so I’ll be off to bed very soon.
So just because this is different, it doesn’t mean it isn’t something we should look at and possibly learn from to improve our own lives.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s biological psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Biological Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day.
Biological Psychology and Clinical Psychology Reference
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