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Cell Regeneration: A Matter of Life and Death

By Ty Bollinger / August 14, 2017 / article

You may have heard it said that the human body completely regenerates itself every 7-10 years – replacing all of the old, worn out cells with brand spanking new ones. Like many popular myths, this one is only partially true. Many systems of the body (but not all of them) indeed function on regenerative cycles that fall within this time span. This means that, for the most part, we really do get entirely new bodies every decade or so… pretty exciting, right?

This important process is called cellular or cell regeneration. It functions as the means by which our bodies stay alive and continue forging on. It helps us to grow and develop in our younger years, and avoid premature aging and death in our older years.

Cell Regeneration Timeline:

How Long It Takes for Body Parts to Regenerate

Cellular regeneration is evident in the fact that, throughout our lives, we get:

  • a new heart every 20 years

  • new bones every decade

  • new hair every 3-6 years

  • new nails every 6-10 months

  • new red blood cells every 4 months

  • a new liver every 5 months

  • a new outer layer of skin every month

  • new lungs every three weeks

  • new taste buds every two weeks

  • new stomach lining every 2-3 days

In a perfect world, these amazing regenerative cycles would keep us all in tip-top, youthful shape forever. But we don’t live in a perfect world: our bodies eventually age, fall apart, and die, as I’m sure you well know.

I realize it’s somewhat of a morbid subject, but it’s the sobering reality that we all face. It’s one that, apart from a concerted effort to stave it off for as long as possible through life-giving diet and lifestyle habits, is going to rear its ugly head sooner or later.

And that’s the kicker: there are ways to help support your cellular system and its regenerative cycles to keep them functioning at their best.

Cell regeneration is something that’s programmed in our DNA. The glitches and abnormalities that keep the cells that are supposed to die, alive (and conversely, that terminate cells that are meant to live), can be corrected with precise intervention.

Apoptosis: When Cell Death Is a Good Thing

Here’s one of the things you need to know about this that most people don’t: Programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis, is a completely normal and necessary function of human life.

There are many billions of cells that make up our bodies, and when we experience an injury, are exposed to toxins, or become stressed, some of these cells end up becoming damaged.

Rather than replicate this damage, these damaged cells will either repair themselves or “commit suicide.” This is in order to protect the rest of the body (including other healthy cells) from assuming their flaws. Apoptosis can also occur in cells that are only needed for a certain length of time; the body cleaning them up after their task at hand is properly completed.

“Cells die either because they are harmful or because it takes less energy to kill them than to maintain them,” says H. Robert Horvitz, an expert on apoptosis from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).2 “[I]t gets rid of cells that are not needed, in the way or potentially dangerous to the rest of the organism.”

One way of thinking about apoptosis is that it’s the body’s way of weeding its own garden.

As new cells are created in response to the intake of nutrients, these cells divide and create even more new cells. This jumpstarts the process of organ regeneration and energy creation – the fruitful “blooms” of the body in all of its glory. Rogue and excess cells also appear, and these “weeds” have to be removed or else they get in the way and cause problems.

Perhaps an even better analogy is clay formation, which Horitz describes like this: