In my constant search for anti-ageing hacks, I frequently listen to the Ben Greenfield podcast. For me, he is a reference, a wealth of knowledge, and a constant source of inspiration for my research into the art of living to 100. In one of them, he talks about his daily use of the red light therapy device and all the benefits derived from this relatively new technology. It made sense to me and the idea of using the non-harmful wavelengths of the natural light did intrigue me. So I had to dig a little bit deeper and share it with you.
What is red light therapy?
Red light therapy ( RLT) is a safe and non-invasive way to deliver red low-level wavelengths of light to your skin and cells. A high-quality home device uses medical-grade LEDs to shine natural red and near-infrared light on your body, from the comfort of your home, without the heat and UV rays that can cause damage. Red light therapy is quick and easy: all you have to do is sit or stand in the light for 5 to 15 minutes, ideally every day. This gives the mitochondria in your cells the natural light they need to make the energy that powers your body. Red light therapy has been shown to produce a wide range of natural health benefits, such as inflammation reduction and pain relief, fitness gains, muscle recovery, anti-ageing, improved sleep, weight loss, hair growth stimulation and many more.
How does red light therapy work?
All living things need to make ATP (adenosine triphosphate) cellular energy to function and survive, and nearly all living things rely on natural light to power this process in our cells every day. Red and near-infrared wavelengths of natural light stimulate the mitochondria in our cells. The mitochondria are responsible for taking light, oxygen, and the food we eat and turning it into usable energy for our bodies through the process of cellular respiration. By stimulating the mitochondria using RLT, a cell can make more ATP, and subsequently produce more energy. With more energy, cells can function more efficiently, rejuvenate themselves, and repair damage. The light emitted by RLT penetrates roughly 5 millimetres below the skin’s surface.
It’s not just any red light that delivers optimal health benefits, the best and safest biological response is obtained with two wavelengths of red light in the mid 600 nanometers and the near-infrared in the mid 800 nanometers, explains Michael Hamblin, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. The former, 650 nanometers, is more quickly absorbed by the skin, making it ideal for a more skin deep treatments, while 850-nanometer wavelengths penetrate deeper into your body to help with muscle recovery, joint pain, and full-body health.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy
- Muscle repair, recovery and improved physical performance.
The increased ATP energy production from red light therapy helps your body function more efficiently, with more energy, and better circulation. Red light therapy is used pre or post-workout and is popular in professional sports and the training & fitness world because it’s been proven again and again to enhance physical performance, build muscle, and speed up recovery.
A 2014 study found that the therapeutic technique led to reduced muscle strength loss, less muscle soreness, and fewer range-of-motion impairments for up to four days after exercise. A more recent 2018 study also proved that RLT both before and after exercise reduces knee muscle fatigue.
Natural light enhances activity within the lymph system, which has been shown to reduce swelling and inflammation and to have positive effects on arthritis and joint pain. R
Researchers in Brazil published a study in late 2018 and concluded that: “Results indicate that red light therapy could change the inflammatory course of arthritis, tending to accelerate its resolution through immune cells photobiostimulation.”
RLT also helps in wound healing and there’s no shortage of research to confirm it really does help you heal faster. A 2014 study found red light therapy promoted “increased tissue repair and healing… with added beneficial effects on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and general skin ageing.
- Pain relief
At the core of many of these benefits is RLT’s potential to reduce inflammation and pain. It can improve the range of motion of joints which is a common problem for those who are experiencing arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other forms of joint pains. It helps reduce pain for those who suffer fibromyalgia too.
Researchers have found that RLT exposure can also help reduce pain for osteoarthritis knee pain, meniscus tears, general knee pain, rheumatoid arthritis and back pain. The data on red light therapy for pain relief is so convincing the FDA has approved it as a therapy for treating minor pains and arthritis.
- Anti Aging/ More collagen for the skin is crucial
Red Light Therapy is 100% natural, chemical-free and drug-free medium to combat signs of ageing. Unlike chemical solutions or toners that you apply on your skin, the natural red light used in the LED lamp penetrates the skin to activate cellular activity. Red light therapy has sometimes been labelled as “the next fountain of youth”. “Science shows that red light therapy protects existing collagen and boosts new production,” says Dr Lamb. “Plus it helps with texture, tone, pore size and wrinkles.”
Collagen is a long-chain amino acid and the most abundant protein in the body. It’s responsible for giving the skin its elasticity, hair its strength, and connective tissue its ability to hold everything in place. In fact, collagen protein makes up 30% of the total protein in the body, and 70% of the protein in the skin! While collagen is beneficial to the entire body, it’s most noticeably beneficial to skin rejuvenation.
With age, the outer layer of the skin ( epidermis) becomes thinner and loses its elasticity and that’s when wrinkles and skin sagging starts appearing.
Red light therapy restores more healthy cellular function, stimulating the production of collagen.
The skin-clearing secret lies in RLT’s anti-inflammatory effects, and the reduction of naturally produced oil and bacterial levels in your skin.
Because Red light therapy can help speed up the skin’s ability to heal, it can be used to address numerous problems including the following:
- Acne reduction. Although Red Light is not used to kill acne-causing bacteria, it will help reduce the inflammation brought about by acne. Red and Infrared lights penetrate the skin at different levels and power up the cells to repair the skin from within.
- Bites. Because of the red light’s ability to speed up healing, bite wounds or punctures to the skin will be healed faster because of increased blood flow to the area.
- Minor Burns. Red Light Therapy does not give off heat so it will not add to the damage that burns cause. However, it will increase the blood supply to the area so that our body’s natural defences and repair mechanism will be able to get to work faster.
- Cuts, Scrapes and Wound Care. Increasing blood flow to the area will help speed up the body’s ability to repair itself naturally.
- Dry Skin and Psoriasis. The Red Light penetrates the thickened skin and powers up the skin cells. Once more, because of the increased blood flow to the surface of the skin that is being treated, more nutrients and oxygen-rich blood are delivered to that area. This will stimulate rehydration to the treated area.
- Scars and Stretch marks. Stretch marks are brought about by saggy skin either from weight loss or ageing. Collagen depletion from the body results in having loose, stretchy and saggy skin. Red light therapy helps stimulate collagen production thus preventing further development of stretch marks.
- Sun Damage. Red light uses UV-free LED bulbs to safely and effectively deliver red light therapy. The red light wavelength spurs cellular activity to help reverse sun damage. It can lighten age spots.
- Wrinkles. As we age our collagen production reduces and wrinkles start to creep up on our face (or neck). Red light therapy helps boost collagen and fibroblasts production to help correct these signs of ageing.
- Healthier sleep
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone your body produces to regulate the sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is made by your body’s pineal gland. When the sun goes down and it gets dark, the pineal is “turned on” and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs at around 9 pm. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel more and more sleepy.
Exposure to artificial light after dark inhibits the body’s ability to release melatonin, increasing the time it takes you to fall asleep. If you use a high-quality red light therapy device during the day, it’s been clinically shown to increase your natural melatonin output, which helps you get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Red light therapy helps lose weight
Although it sounds impossible to lose weight by just shining red lights on fatty areas of the body, it is backed by science. Red Light makes it easier for people to lose weight because it causes fat cells to dump their contents, therefore the body can easily discard it.
When red light is used on fat tissues, it causes the fats to break down. Fats are then converted to carbon dioxide which we remove from our body through urinating, defecating and exhaling. In other words, red light therapy helps the body wash away fat cells.
A 2012 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that light can affect hunger levels, which could help prevent the buildup of extra fat before it even begins and helps control levels of the hunger-related hormones leptin and ghrelin.
So the use of RLT and changes in your lifestyle could be a sustainable and long term strategy to maintain your ideal weight.
- Red light therapy stimulates hair growth
The most common type of hair growth therapy is by laser lights. Well, the right kind of red light wavelength is enough to stimulate hair follicles too. Wavelengths between 630-670 nanometers are most effective in being absorbed and cause a natural biological reaction to stimulate hair growth.
Success in regrowing hair also relies on how early the treatment is started. The earlier that it is done, the better the results. Now, if the hair follicle has actually died, it cannot absorb the visible red light.
Red light hair loss therapies are recommended for individuals who have temporary hair loss due to issues such as medication side effects, stress, surgery, or other hair loss conditions, such as male pattern baldness or menopause.
It takes about 2 to 3 months to see significant results in red light therapy for hair regrow. Be patient and do not forget to do your treatments daily for best results.
Red light therapy is proven to have many anti-ageing benefits, such as improving your skin tone and texture, reducing inflammation, and helping all the cells exposed to better function. There is no magic behind it, just pure science and research, it will not give you superhuman powers, nor will it completely rejuvenate you to your 20’s. I would still classify it as a very important bio-hack that will help your overall cellular activity, and increase your longevity with no harmful side effects. It definitely has my full attention and I think I will be investing in one of those devices very soon. Until then, I will enjoy the natural light that is totally free, and if taken in moderation is equally beneficial.
Take care my friends, until next week for more news on” The art of living to 100″.
Smart Living To 100.
DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.