Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 6/20/21
Who should care about cells? Everybody! Your body is made up of tens of trillions of cells – those numbers have 13 or more zeroes in them! Cellular health is directly connected to the overall health and wellness of your body and mind.
How Long do Cells Live?
Your every day actions will positively or negatively impact the health and future of your cells. The good news is that every day matters and that you can start today! Cells live various lifetimes ranging from:
- 5 days for a cell in the stomach lining to
- 2 weeks for an outer layer skin cell to
- 120 days for a red blood cell to
- your entire lifetime for your heart cells and the neurons in your cerebral cortex (brain!).
The constant turnover of cells all over the body results in your outer layer of skin being recycled every two weeks, your liver being completely replaced every year and a half, the bones of your skeleton being all “brand new” every decade or so. It helps to keep in mind that ideally your “new liver” is healthier than your “old liver” and all you need to do it encourage greater cellular health.
Our bodies start aging in our mid twenties! Aging happens on a cellular level and grows from there. The aging process can be slow and gentle when wellness becomes a high priority to your daily life. If you want to feel better not older and live longer with great heath then taking care of your cells just became a top priority.
Meeting the Needs of a Human Cell
Cells need certain nutrients and conditions in order to be healthy and fully functional:
- Oxygen – Breathing provides this critical resource. Yoga, Pilates, Fascial Release, and meditation all encourage better oxygenation through your breath.
- Energy – glucose comes from the food you eat and your body’s fat storage (hopefully!) – ditch the inflammatory sugar and eat for health!
- Minerals in balanced amounts – electrolytes, iron, and more create optimal function for all cell types – minerals and vitamins come from whole foods grown organically with wellness in mind
- Hydration – drink water, with minerals, in the right amount for you
- Toxin-free environment – at home, at work, within your body, and on the Earth – environmental wellness actions keep you toxin free
- Healthy, abundant mitochondria – the power generators inside of every cell and communicators about cell health, without these you die
- Waste removal – ew, cellular trash needs to go!
- Sodium and potassium in balance – so your cells don’t implode or explode – less processed food and more vegetables makes a difference here – try fresh raw vegetable juices and LMNT electrolytes
- Defense system – no invaders please! Immune and lymph systems to the rescue!
- Structural components – amino acids from proteins provide the building blocks to make cell parts
- Permeable outer membranes – cell walls made from lipids need to be strong but still allow the right things to pass right through
When cells die, they are replaced by newer cells that we hope function better. This constant cellular renewal means that we benefit greatly from providing optimal cell conditions throughout our lifetime – not just when we are growing children.
End of Life for a Cell
A cell can not live forever. Sometimes a cell is damaged. Sometimes it just lives longer than designed. A cell can only replicate itself (reproduce) a certain number of times before it chooses between a small number of end of life paths:
- Autophagy – partial cell rebirth where certain parts of the cell are renewed as a response to stressors such as nutrient and oxygen deprivation. Autophagy can help reduce the effects of aging but too much results in cell death. Ridding the body of toxins, removing mutated cells parts, eliminating infections and bacteria, and reducing inflammation are all the jobs of autophagy.
- Apoptosis – cell suicide which is carefully controlled, programmed in advance, and allows full recycling of all cell components in order to support and maintain the organism (you!). Cells must die at the same rate as they are created or you grow! This orderly death to a cell happens all over the body and is nature’s way of keeping you in optimal condition.
- Necrosis – injury driven cell death which involves the cell bursting and spewing their contents creating a localized inflammatory response. Your immune and lymphatic systems must deal with and clean up from your injury on a cellular level which requires time and energy.
- Senescence – cell purgatory where the cell goes on standby mode, it neither replicates itself nor dies. Once a cell enters a state of senescence it is irreversible. Abnormal growth, oxidative stress, aging (shortened telomeres), environmental factors, and internal factors can all send a cell into senescence. These cells require energy but are pro-inflammatory in nature. They are particularly common in your skin and your adipose tissue (fat cells). Your immune system has to search throughout the body for these senescence cells and call in Natural Killer cells to break up the senescence cells for removal. Some senescence cells are normal. Chronic elevated numbers are a constant problem that your body would prefer to not have to deal with.
Cellular Health, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s
When cells mutate and continue reproducing, the future often brings a diagnosis of cancer. A cancerous cell has opted out of both apoptosis and senescence (due to a gene mutation or an epigenetic activation). Cancer then grows without submitting to the checks and balances that the body should be enforcing. You might be interested to read my post about Understanding Cancer and How to be a Horrible Cancer Host via your Wellness Lifestyle.
Cancer metastasis occurs when the cancerous cell growth expands to cells in different parts of the body. Since the prognosis of someone whose cancer is metastasizing goes down, understanding how to encourage proper cell death is important! Many cancer researchers have cell senescence as a goal – stopping the cancer from growth and bad things from happening. Clearly it would be much better for the body if the cancer was eliminated early on or prevented to begin with!
Autophagy is linked to healthy, long lasting cells because of its ability to replace the damaged components of a cell and have it continue to work well. When a cell stops working well, the body tries to keep itself safe by reducing operation of that cell. In your brain, this results in certain parts of the brain no longer working at full capacity. – like the memory centers that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s experience. Autophagy is an important component to the prevention of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
7 Lifestyle Tips for Cellular Health
Ways to Stimulate Autophagy
- Exercise is a benefical stressor that provides challenge to the organs in charge of your metabolism – the liver, pancreas, muscles, and adipose tissue (fat) – the challenge of physical exercise encourages the cells to step up their game and get better at what they do. Move your body daily to get healthier starting on the cellular level!
- Intermittent Fasting is simply eating all your daily food over a shorter time window so you have a long time window (12-18 hours) without food to process. Intermittent Fasting is a beneficial stressor that stimulates the body to make changes to the efficiency of the body’s inner workings in order to stay alive longer. Intermittent fasting works best when customized to your body and is different for men and women. For assistance uncovering your personal best Intermittent Fasting plan, talk with Zoa for your Functional Wellness Roadmap.
- When you sleep for long enough, you give your body and mind time to accomplish autophagy. Fragmented sleep disturbs the body’s detox and house cleaning processes. When you have a strong circadian rhythm, your sleep comes more often in one long uninterrupted window which facilitates autophagy. Having trouble with your sleep? Meditation and relaxing yoga often help relax and settle you enough to fall asleep and stay asleep!
- Eat less sugar and more healthy fats to shift your main energy source. Most bodies do best when they are metabolically flexible – making use of both fats and carbohydrates – whichever is available at the time. When you eat a lower carb and higher fat diet, you encourage your body’s ability to use both fuel sources. As you make these changes, some cells starve (fat!) and other cells thrive (brain!).
- Red Light Therapy provides a boost to your mitchondria so they can make more energy and reduce your body’s oxidative stress level which ages your cells. Mitochondria also initiate apoptosis so healthy mitochondria can better direct when a cell should properly die. With so many other wonderful benefits of Red Light Therapy, autophagy of your skin and fat cells is just the start!
- Enjoy a Protein Mini-Fast once a week by limiting your protein intake to 15-25 g on that day to encourage your body to recycle its proteins and amino acids. The liver will clean house in order to provide what your body needs when you do not eat it! Don’t worry, work with Zoa to uncover the best way to add a protein mini-fast to your wellness routine.
- Vitamin D, more than just a vitamin, can actually initiate autophagy in compromised cells and in certain intruder cells like viruses. High vitamin D levels enhance the body’s ability to fight breast cancer and certain viral infections particularly when the illness involves stopping the body’s natural autophagy processes as part of its battle tactics. Fight back with an optimal Vitamin D level! Testing your Vitamin D level at home or at a blood draw center empowers you to test your current levels, shift your supplementation level (I recommend Thorne D3/K2 drops, Liposomal D3/K2, or Life Extension D3 and Mega K2), and to recheck them quarterly as you reach for optimal cell health.