Understanding the Importance of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy has been part of my daily wellness toolkit for many years now. It started over a decade ago when the arthritis was at its worst and I’d use a red lamp over the affected joints. I also used it to try and minimise the effects I felt of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Years later, and arthritis-free, my husband and I upgraded to a stronger lamp, and would lie on our acupressure mats with our red light on us most nights. Following that, we upgraded even further and now have a full body panel in our healing room.
More recently, however, I’ve learnt a heap more about the essential benefits of red light therapy, so I’m using it for more than just pain (obviously don’t need that as much as I used to, thankfully!) and SAD. I’m also now using it for collagen boosting (hello wrinkle treatment!), immune boosting by increasing mitochondrial function and so much more that I’m going to go into here.
Why Do We Need Red Light Therapy?
Let’s think about us as humans, as evolutionary beings with complex physiology.
In the wave form, light is prior to matter, and all living things – including humans – live in accordance with the sun. And yet we get so little natural light and way more artificial blue light due to the way we live our lives predominantly indoors and via screens.
Think about it like this: you are a walking solar panel! Your body has photo receptors covering its entirety. The optic nerves in the eyes carry pictures in the form of light to the brain – and yet we get too much artificial blue light that damages these incredible optic nerves that allow us to see the world.
From an evolutionary perspective, we evolved to only see red light after sunset (firelight), and though we are hundreds of years past that, our physiology still responds to that need. So when we expose ourselves to less of that and more artificial blue light – from screens and LED lighting – our bodies (and our sleep!) suffer as this drives cortisol up and melatonin down.
For this reason we should be minimising blue light after dark by reducing screen time and using blue light blocking glasses and lightbulbs (both can be purchased at Block Blue Light using code LAUREN10 for 10% discount).
But on a cellular level, we also need to help the body get more of the red light it needs to thrive, as firstly we’re getting way less these days than our ancestors did, and secondly, our mitochondrial health decreases with age.
What is Red Therapy Light?
Red light therapy is also known by other names such as photobiomodulation (PBM), low level light therapy (LLLT), biostimulation, photonic stimulation or light box therapy. It works by using different wavelengths of light to treat the body in different ways. The most effective wavelengths of red light that biohackers and studies alike are reporting, seem to be between the ranges of 630-670 and 810-880.
How is it Working?
The wavelengths of red light create a biochemical effect in our cells that go on to increase mitochondrial function, this then improves ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production in the body. Being that ATP is the source of energy for EVERY cell in the body, and it decreases with every year of our lives, increased production as we get older makes a huge difference to our wellness and visible ageing.
Red light therapy penetrates about 8-10mm into the skin, meaning it reaches blood vessels, lymph pathways, nerves and hair follicles.
What is Red Light Therapy NOT?
Photobiomodulation is not a sauna. It is not there to make you sweat or make you hotter. It is there to increase energy to the cells so your mitochondrial function improves, making you healthier in every aspect. Essentially, PBM “feeds” the cells of the body at a cellular level.
The History of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy was used in the early 1900s to treat Smallpox and Lupus; in 1903 Dr Niels Ryberg actually won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his successful treatment of these diseases – even then, it was known that autoimmune conditions need an intra-cellular approach.
As is often the case with cheap and effective treatments that anyone can access themselves, the benefits of red light therapy have been kept quiet and not used in mainstream medical treatment in the US and Europe, however Russia and have published hundreds of studies on the benefits of red light therapy, and many countries in Asia and South America also use this treatment as standard.
Some Health Concerns Red Light Therapy Help With:
Builds collagen in the skin to smooth out the skin and reduce wrinkles
Helps decrease inflammation
Activates lymphatic system to aid detoxification
Can treat rosacea, acne, psoriasis and eczema
Aids hair growth
A great treatment for scars and stretch marks
Stimulates wound healing
Can treat cold sores
Improved thyroid function
Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, Colitis and others
How does it do some of these things?
When I used to use red light for the arthritis, I didn’t really have an understanding of how it was working, other than the fact that it felt nice and maybe it was a bit like being in the sun! But what’s actually happening is that the red light is penetrating the epidermal and dermal skin layers, increasing circulation to help form new capillaries, and increasing collagen. What it’s doing is encouraging the body to produce more of its own collagen – genius! So, while topical collagen creams in my opinion are a useless marketing ploy for skincare companies, red light is enabling this at a cellular level, which isn’t just great news for your skin, but for inflammation and pain too, which is why it used to help the arthritis. (Taking collagen internally alongside red light therapy can really help, and I do this myself. Some collagen recommendations below.
Something my community and I have noticed since having Covid, is a lot of hair loss. Why is this virus causing hair loss? I have my own opinions on that, but I’ll refrain from going into that on this blog post. Either way, vaccinated or unvaccinated, it is happening and people around the world have reported it. It seems, however, after numerous studies using red light therapy to reverse balding, that it actually works. So, if you’ve suffered hair loss, it’s worth giving red light therapy a go as a first resort.
Faster & More Effective Wound Healing:
We have something in our skin called fibroblasts and they synthesise collagen, but the older we get, the less we can synthesise. When we have less, healing of body tissue becomes harder and harder, which is why older people find it very hard to recover from falls. Photobiomodulation increases our capacity to synthesise more fibroblasts which increases circulation for faster wound healing. It has even been known to help scar tissue and other damage caused by cancer treatments. Other wound healing it has been used for with success includes dental treatment, sores, burns and to prevent recurrent cold sores.
Because red light therapy increases ATP production throughout the body down to the very mitochondria that control this, it can help us not only build stronger immune systems, but can also help us recover from illnesses more quickly. Because it stimulates the lymphatic system, it also aids detoxification. For extra detox support try using this extremely potent binder from Quicksilver Scientific that I have found to be unbelievably effective, discount code below.
In a study published in the journal of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, it was found that 60-100% of skin plaques were improved using red light therapy. This is because of the collagen and ATP stimulating benefits of red light therapy and can therefore be a promising treatment for skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema and even psoriasis.
How to Use Red Light Therapy at Home for Long-Term Benefits
I used to use my nifty little red lamp as mentioned above, for years. It was great. But there are more advanced options now than when I bought mine about 18 years ago.
You can get full red light panels that treat your whole body at one time – this is what we now have at home and it’s wonderful as it stays in one place and we go there to have a treatment (usually 3-4 times a week).
If you travel a lot, however, having a portable system is much more beneficial. Firstly, you can target specific areas as and when needed (wound healing, hair loss, facial skin etc). And it also means you can take it with you wherever you go – which, when travelling, I now think is essential!
My recommendation is this portable red light panel from Block Blue Light (use code LAUREN10 for 10% discount).
Other options I’ve researched and heard great things about (but haven’t tried myself) are the FlexBeam and Sauna Space Photon Light.
Happy red lighting!
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