To eat oneself is the plain meaning of autophagy. It is our body’s way of cleaning itself out. It is the way by which our body removes dead or degenerate cells that have lost their optimal functionality. This way the body can regenerate itself. It literally eats itself and in the process recycles the amino acids or proteins in a form of reincarnation, and it happens over and over again. Our body recycles itself because it is an efficient thing to do. It is the act of repeated incarnation. The process by which our body heals itself by tearing itself down and rebuilding with its own flesh through the process of granulation. A wound healing in the grandest sense of the word.
The human intestinal tract is an amazing ecosystem. A habitat for that which makes up much of our humanity. It is inhabited by diverse and complex colonies of synergistic micro-organisms that not only call us home but are also absolutely necessary for our overall health and wellbeing. We may be an individual in a sense but we are likely better understood as a host of a grand buffet of bacterial components spanning a diverse spectrum of individual players both commensal and pathogenic depending on the situation they find themselves in. It’s one big dinner table in there and there is a lot of diversity in its many different guests.
The lining of our intestinal tract which is also known as our intestinal epithelium interface interacts directly with this houseful of guests and acts as a barrier or first line of defense against bad players that might be interested in finding their way into our tissues. This lining of our intestinal tract has a number of mechanisms by which it protects us against micro-organisms that might want to attach themselves or even make their way into our vascular system. One of these mechanisms by which this is accomplished is mucus. A mucosal lining that has antimicrobial properties that can limit bacterial interaction with the host’s intestinal surface.
So important is this barrier our body even goes so far as to produce its own anti-microbial compounds by which to keep some of these bad players at play. One I find fascinating that our body generates on its own is lectin. A compound that is also a plant defense mechanism that we humans need to be careful of. We don’t want to be consuming too much of this compound as it is found in fresh produce as it will interfere with proper digestion, metabolism, and assimilation of nutrients. We refer to this dietary form of lectin as an anti-nutrient because it interferes with the absorption of nutrients like zinc, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. As you can see, we are not so different from the plants that live around us. We have common interests.
As you can see our intestinal lining plays a very important role in the maintenance of our overall health and wellbeing. Just another reason to be extremely diligent in the foods we choose to put in our mouth. Our intestines are not only our interface with the outside world but are also a banquet table and a battlefield. On one side is the outside world where the food we put in our mouth passes through for consumption by the trillions of micro-organisms that inhabit the passage, on the other our inside world(vascular), bathed in blood that leads directly into our liver through our portal vein for further processing and filtration before the blood that circulates through our intestinal lining enters back into general circulation.
And if everything is functioning as Mother Nature intended that whole internal environment will be continually recycled and reincarnated over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, for a complete lifetime. What does our ingesting and assimilation will eventually be ingested in this continual process we call autophagy in which our extremely conservative body eats itself to rebuild itself for the betterment of life, not only within this creature we call us, but to benefit the greater outer world we call home. Mother Earth.