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Everyone knows the effects that a good night of sleep or a healthy diet have on the body. However, when people think about the factors that benefit their health, they tend to forget about light. Perhaps the reason for that is because they are not as familiar with all of the red light therapy mechanisms that have amazing effects on your body.
If you have had the chance to try it you already know red light therapy has many benefits, but do you know the science behind it?
Are you asking yourself – how does red light therapy work? To answer that question, we first need to understand what low level laser therapy actually is.
Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is a treatment that uses red and near-infrared light to improve numerous health conditions. This kind of treatment is called photobiomodulation, and it is also known as low level light therapy because the light has a lower energy density than is the case with other kinds of light, for instance, UV light.
NASA developed the treatment. They created light-emitting diodes for their astronauts to use. The technology was originally intended to be used to promote plant growth in an experiment.
The discovery that it could be useful for human health was a happy accident. While using the device, the astronauts found that the lamps also helped them with skin tissue repair.
In the past forty years, low level light therapy devices have become much more sophisticated and effective.
However, lasers are not the only devices that can administer red and near infrared light for therapeutic purposes. Today, your portable red light therapy device can use special LEDs that have very similar effects.
As opposed to lasers, LEDs can be operated by anyone and you don’t need a technician to administer the therapy. With red light LEDs, you can do your red light therapy at home.
The fascinating thing about red and near-infrared light treatment is the fact that there are several distinct mechanisms through which affects the body. What makes it so efficient in treating a whole array of medical conditions is that it works both on the skin surface and on deeper tissues.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a compound which carries energy that the cells need for all of the processes that happen in them. ATP is made in the part of the cell called the mitochondria in a series of metabolic processes.
Poor mitochondrial health can lead to a disruption of ATP production, leaving you with a feeling of fatigue and a lack of energy.
Red light therapy supports the process of ATP production through two mechanisms.
Red light therapy lowers the oxidative stress which happens as a result of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This is good news, because high levels of reactive oxygen species can lead to cell damage and even cell death.
The second of the red light therapy mechanisms through which red light therapy supports mitochondrial health and ATP production is the stimulation of protein in the mitochondria – cytochrome c oxidase. This increases the potential of the mitochondrial membranes and boosts the production of ATP.
How does all this translate into effects you can see? Better mitochondrial health gives you more energy – it’s as simple as that.
Moreover, improved mitochondrial health is often visible in the appearance of your skin. It improves skin health and promotes the process of skin rejuvenation.
ATP production is not the only important process in the mitochondria which red light therapy can support. Mitochondria are also the place where the so-called redox signaling happens. Redox signaling regulates the metabolic processes and the function of the mitochondria. However, this process can easily go wrong when the mitochondria or the cells aren’t healthy.
Red light therapy works on a cellular level to regulate reduction/oxidation signaling.
Exclusion zone (EZ), or structured water is the form of water that occurs in the cells. This water has an altered structure and is charged. This kind of water appears in the mitochondria, and it increases the electrical potential of the mitochondrial membrane.
Red light therapy affects the cell by increasing the EZ zone of water. This allows the water to store and deliver energy, and it also increases the body’s ability to conserve it.
Nitric Oxide is a naturally occuring compound in the skin which, when released into the blood flow, lowers blood pressure and increases blood circulation.
This brings about a number of health benefits. Most notably, it helps in treating rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain and otherwise slow healing wounds by improving blood flow to damaged or diseased tissues.
It is also beneficial for cardio-vascular health and helps with metabolic conditions such as insulin resistance and diabetes.
Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species (ROS), are a tricky thing. They appear in the cell as a result of the metabolic processes in the mitochondria. Big numbers of free radicals cause oxidative stress. When the oxidative stress is too great, the cell suffers damage, and, ultimately, it dies in a process called apoptosis.
However, small numbers of reactive oxygen species are not only useful, but crucial for the functioning of the body. Basal levels of ROS play a part not only in redox signaling, contributing to the processes of cell homeostasis and proliferation, but also in cardio-vascular health and the immune system.
Red light therapy helps keep free radical numbers in the optimal range.
The effects of red light therapy on cellular proliferation were discovered when a scientist noticed its effects on stimulating hair growth and promoting wound healing.
Multiple studies have shown that exposure to light sources of red light increases the proliferation and migration of cells, including stem cells. This speeded up rejuvenation and cell turnover is an important mechanism through which red light therapy supports healing and reduces inflammation.
Red light therapy is one of the two key parts of photodynamic therapy. This treatment relies on red light technology to activate a photosensitizer drug. After the drug is activated using light of a specific wavelength, it triggers a chemical reaction which targets and destroys diseased cells.
This kind of treatment is beneficial for precancerous and cancerous cell growth, as well as for skin conditions such as psoriasis or warts.
One of the major but often overlooked factors in the overall healthy functioning of the body is the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that the pineal gland in the brain secretes in response to darkness.
This hormone regulates not only the circadian cycle, but, subsequently, almost all other hormone-ruled processes in the body.
Red light wavelengths at dusk and dawn stimulate the production of melatonin and help regulate the natural sleep-wake cycle.
However, nowadays most people don’t get enough of red and near infrared light naturally. To make things worse, blue light from the screens we use daily also suppresses the production of melatonin. That can lead to different hormonal imbalances and manifest itself through a whole range of symptoms.
Low level laser light therapy provides the pineal gland with the red light it needs to produce optimal levels of melatonin.
Most laser therapy treatments rely on the process of secondary tissue repair. This means that they actually cause micro damage to the skin, and during the process of healing, the skin produces extra collagen.
Red light therapy does not use any damaging or invasive processes and yet its use leads to significantly improved skin complexion, an improvement in skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis, and less skin roughness.
This is because red light therapy naturally leads to an intradermal collagen density increase and improves blood circulation. Skin health and wound healing are some of the applications of red light therapy with which the results are most easily visible. These kinds of treatments usually have a very high rate of patient satisfaction.
One of the ways through which red light therapy benefits the immune system is through stem cell stimulation. Stem cells have been found to stop viruses and reduce inflammation in the body.
Research has also shown that red light therapy stimulates the immune cells to clump together for better efficiency.
Modern low power laser therapy devices are portable, small, and entirely safe, which makes them perfect to use at home. They expose the patient to red and near infrared light from a light emitting diode.
Red light is visible, while near infrared light is not part of the visible spectrum, but you can feel it as warmth. Numerous clinical studies have shown that this non thermal led light has a stimulating effect on different processes in the body.
You can use the red light therapy device on any part of the body that needs treatment. You can safely use low level LED light every day, with no adverse effects.
This treatment, also known as cold laser therapy or soft laser therapy, does not cause damage to the skin, unlike other light therapies, for instance, intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) or conventional lasers. Also, unlike laser surgery, it is completely non-invasive.
A red light therapy device for home use is a powerful tool in maintaining optimal health and supporting your body and well-being.