How our society at large understands, relates to, and uses light has changed drastically over the past forty to sixty years. Largely due to the accelerated discoveries of quantum physics coupled with progressive research into the field of bio-medicine, unprecedented findings on how light interacts with the cells, tissues, and systems of the human body have been revelatory for health, immunity, and longevity.
Photobiomodulation is an excellent example of the very practical means by which light is affecting the field of healthcare and wellness. Certainly the term photobiomodulation (PBM) is quite a mouthful, and its process may appear complex at first glance. In reality, PBM is a process that, once understood and engaged, may offer individuals an opportunity to change cellular function in a wildly impactful way.
The human body is composed of roughly 50 trillion cells, a number greater than what most of us can conceive of. Understanding the organism of the human form as the culmination of a community of cells all with a unique purpose and function lends itself to the ineffable truth that cellular health is overall wellness.
PBM is the process by which red light, near, mid, and far infrared light affect a positive change in the metabolic system of the individual cells. Most learned of photosynthesis in grade school, the process by which sunlight allows plants to transmute light energy into manufactured nourishment. In short, PBM can be considered a similar process to photosynthesis for humans engaged in red and infrared light therapy.
This article will explain the process of PBM, who and what conditions it may help, and how infrared sauna therapy is a means by which to engage PBM.
What Is Photobiomodulation And How Does It Work:
Photobiomodulation is a therapy that uses non-ionizing light, including, but not limited to, the broad ban of red, near, mid, and far infrared light to effect a positive change in the energy centers of mammal cells.
Expert Tip – Non- ionizing light as defined by the United States Department Of Labor is this:
“Non-ionizing radiation is described as a series of energy waves composed of oscillating electric and magnetic fields traveling at the speed of light. Non-ionizing radiation includes the spectrum of ultraviolet (UV), visible light, infrared (IR), microwave (MW), radio frequency (RF), and extremely low frequency (ELF). Lasers commonly operate in the UV, visible, and IR frequencies.” (1)
PBM is not thermal therapy, meaning it relies on the wave patterns of light as they interface with the coding of human cells to positively affect the energy manufacturing centers of the cells. When specific light frequency is applied, in therapeutic doses to diseased or malfunctioning tissues of the body, through the mitochondrial engagement with light, it may be possible to produce resounding healing results to cells, tissues, and entire systems of the body. (2)
When damaged tissues are exposed to red, near, mid, and far infrared light, cellular metabolism is positively induced. This creates a chain response of biological changes to decrease inflammation, pain, and injury. (2)
Specifically it is the cytochrome C complex that lines the inner membrane of the mitochondria (the cell’s energy plant) that responds to the absorption of light. Cytochrome C is involved in the chain of electron transport that is the engine behind metabolic functions of the cell. (2)
Through exposure to the broad ban of red and infrared light, absorption of this wave frequency triggers a remarkable upgrade in mitochondrial activity. ATP (the production of adenosine triphsophate), the molecule involved in energy transmutation in the cell is stimulated. (2) By enhancing nitric oxide production, oxygenation of the intracellular communities is augmented. As described by the authors of ‘Lite Cure’ in their article on PBM:
“Outside the cell, nitric oxide signaling drives vasodilation which improves microcirculation in the damaged tissue, delivering oxygen, vital sugars, proteins, and salts while removing wastes.” (2)
Expert Tip: Vasodilation is the widening of blood cells and is a necessary process to improve circulation at a micro and macro level within the body’s system. It is crucial in treating cases of chronic inflammation, hypertension, as well as improving overall vitality. (3)
The acceleration of the natural healing mechanism of the body may be increased through exposure to the broad ban of red and infrared light as measured in nanometers, this includes: 650 nm – 1200 nm. (3)
Mitochondrial response to light photons emitted from infrared light paneling may dramatically affect energy conversion to increase oxygen levels in the body, improve circulation, and overall cellular health.
From the National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health article on PBM and Transcranial Photobiomodulation:
“In conclusion, the studies reviewed here provide strong evidence for the mechanism of t-PBM (increasing mitochondrial energy production and increasing regional blood flow). The downstream effects of increased ATP production include not only increased cellular energy but also potentially increases in intercellular signaling.” (5)
When the human body is perceived as a community of cells, it makes sense that as individual cell health is improved, so too will the overall vitality of the human organism as a whole.
Photobiomodulation: Who Is It For And What Conditions Are Positively Affected?
- Neurological Health: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS
- Autoimmune Diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Metabolic Conditions, Chronic Inflammation
- Mood Disorders (Depression, Anxiety & Seasonal Affective Disorder)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Cognitive Enhancement For The Healthy Brain
It may seem odd at first glance, that so many seemingly distinct diseases and conditions would be positively affected with a similar light treatment model. From The National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health’s journal on PBM and Brain Health, states the following to answer this query:
“Light in the visible and near-infrared spectrum makes up the major part of solar radiation and is also provided by artificial light sources. Since light is widely present throughout our world, approaches that harness it for the purposes of medical treatment is hardly a new phenomenon. Photobiomodulation (PBM) involves the utilization of light from the visible and near infrared portions of the spectrum at a relatively low power density that is insufficient to heat or burn tissue… Rather, the photons themselves stimulate chemical changes within the cells, provoking biological reactions that benefit the body in a variety of ways – including the triggering of neuroprotective responses, improvements in metabolism, blood flow, and neurogenesis, and decreases in inflammation and oxidative stress.” (6)
The Brain and PBM:
Michael R. Hamblin’s journal published by the National Center For Biotechnology Information describes PBM in the following way:
“Photobiomodulation (PBM) describes the use of red or near-infrared light to stimulate, heal, regenerate, and protect tissue that has either been injured, is degenerating, or else is at risk of dying. One of the organ systems of the human body that is most necessary to life, and whose optimum functioning is most worried about by humankind in general, is the brain.” (3)
Brain health is critical for the well being of the entire body. Neurological conditions have a wide range of expression from dementia, to mood disorders, to simple clouded thinking.
Like other cells of the body, neuro cells also host mitochondria, and the systems of photo reception within brain cells are also activated through exposure to red, near, mid, and infrared light.
As the function of neuroglial cells does differ from other cells, their basic mechanism remains the same as any other cell in the body.
It is for this reason, that a diverse array of brain conditions respond positively to doses of red and infrared light.
Michael R. Hamblin goes on to write in his journal on PBM and brain function the following:
“ A wide variety of processes can occur that can benefit a correspondingly wide range of brain disorders. These processes can be divided into short-term stimulation (ATP, blood flow, lymphatic flow, cerebral oxygenation, less edema). Another group of processes center around neuroprotection (upregulation of anti-apoptotic proteins, less excitotoxicity, more antioxidants, less inflammation). Finally a group of processes that can be grouped under “help the brain to repair itself” (neurotrophins, neurogenesis and synaptogenesis).” (3)
Hormesis is the adaption of systems of the body to external influences to improve biological function. In short, it is possible to train neurological function through exposure to light to improve brain health and cognitive processes.
Therefore, it is through regular exposure to certain wavelengths that a long lasting positive change can occur in the brain.
Originally, it was thought that PBM required the use of lasers to affect change, it is now understood that the broad ban of light emitted by infrared sauna panels is effective in producing metabolic changes in brain cells. (3)
Heightened metabolic function at the level of individual cellular energy conversion positively affects the entire mechanism of tissues, and systems within the body. Improving the quality of metabolic function in brain cells may greatly improve existing conditions within the emotional centers of the brain.
Mood Stability With PBM: An Alternative Treatment For Depression And Anxiety That Is Not Based In Chemistry
With 16.2 % of the American population suffering from Major Depression Disorder (MDD), there is a compelling need to find solutions for mood disorders that do rely on the introduction of chemicals into the body that comes neatly packaged with a heavy dose of intolerable side effects (5).
Dr Paula Askalysky from the Department of Psychiatry at NYU’s Langone School Of Medicine clearly draws attention to the profundity of need to find effective alternative means of treating mood disorders:
“Current treatments for MDD have significant limitations in efficacy and side effect burden. FDA-approved devices for MDD are burdensome (due to repeated in-office procedures) and are most suitable for severely ill subjects. There is a critical need for device-based treatments in MDD that are efficacious, well-tolerated, and easy to use.” (5)
So, does PBM have positive correlative affects on individuals living with depression and other mood related disorders?
Individuals living with depression demonstrate lower levels of mitochondrial function, less ATP, and therefore significantly less NO in the bloodstream. (5) Studies performed on both animals and humans suggest that as mitochondrial activity is stimulated with the use of red and near-infrared light subjects experienced improved stability of mood. (5) The same study described by Dr. Paula Akalosky goes on to describe very compelling results for individuals living with mood disorders after exposure to red and near-infrared light:
“Transcranial photobiomodulation (t-PBM) is a novel form of neuromodulation, based on non-retinal exposure to light at specific wavelengths. t-PBM with near-infrared radiation (NIR) has yielded promising early results for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.5 t-PBM has a low cost, good safety profile, and it is easy to self-administer. Therefore, it has the potential to become widely accessible.”
Further, not only does exposure to red and infrared light stoke mitochondrial activity to improve oxygenation of the blood, it also stimulates neurotransmitter activity to increase serotonin uptake. Serotonin is necessary for mood stability, but also is the precursor to melatonin. Regulating sleep is a fundamental building block that leads toward more stable moods. (6)
It may be possible that the simple exposure to the red and infrared light spectrum in monitored quantities could produce compelling results on mood for a minimal cost, and without the sometimes devastating side effects of more traditional pharmaceutical treatments.
The Goldilocks Of Light:
Can Photobiomodulation Be Activated With Broad Band Red and Infrared Light As Found In Saunas? Or Is The Use Of Therapeutic Lasers Necessary To Stoke The Chain Reaction Of PBM?
All photobiological responses depend upon absorption photoreceptor molecules. (7) For light to positively affect biology it needs to be administered in a dosage that is both impactful, but not too intense so as to erode health.
Typically PBM is associated with laser treatments, however, this is not the only available therapeutic modality to induce the cascade cellular metabolic changes necessary to positively alter cellular function. (7) In fact, the marriage of red light therapy as found in chromotherapy coupled with near, mid, and far broadband light may be just the recipe to induce PBM.
The journal, ‘Biological Effects and Medical Applications of Infrared Radiation’, authored by Shang-Ru Tsai, PHD and Michael R. Hamblin PHD, describes in intricate detail how and why the dose of light as available in infrared saunas, without raising temperatures too high positively impacts cellular function:
“A form of light therapy that utilizes non-ionizing forms of light sources, including lasers, LEDs, and broadband light, in the visible and infrared spectrum. It is a nonthermal process involving endogenous chromophores eliciting photophysical (i.e., linear and nonlinear) and photochemical events at various biological scales. This process results in beneficial therapeutic outcomes including but not limited to the alleviation of pain or inflammation, immunomodulation, and promotion of wound healing and tissue regeneration.” as defined in Anders et al. . It is now agreed that “PBM therapy” is a more accurate and specific term for the therapeutic application of low-level light compared with “LLLT”. (7)
It is now absolutely feasible to induce PBM from home with either an infrared sauna for your home, or a light panel that combines red light with near infrared light. Many conditions, ranging from mood disorders, to neurological, to autoimmune can be treated on your own time, and from home.
To benefit from the effects of PBM it is not necessary to be in a clinic with laser practitioners, but rather it is now possible to engage this method of photobiology from home.
Broad band infrared light coupled with color light therapy that uses the visible frequency of ‘red’ is relatively accessible. This is exciting news in terms of optimizing health, wellness, and even longevity.
Whether individuals are looking to optimize health, both of the body and brain, or are in the midst of a health crisis, there is compelling evidence that PBM can potentially heighten cellular function to induce positive overall transformation of the physical body.
A Compelling Therapeutic Model For Individuals For Whom Heat Therapy Is Prohibitive: Photobiomodulation Does Not Rely On Elevated Temperatures:
Certain health issues prohibit individuals from engaging in heat therapy, but because PBM is a light based non thermal therapy, it becomes a viable option for individuals in the midst of a health crisis. Whether a panel of red and near-infrared light is used or an infrared sauna, there is no need to increase temperatures to reap all the benefits of this spectrum of light.
Mere exposure to the frequency of red and infrared light wavelengths will stoke the absorption of photons to produce powerful cellular metabolic change.
Without adding chemical compounds to the body through pharmaceutical drugs, PBM augments the natural function of cellular activity to produce positive results. This is excellent for individuals looking for a natural means by which to improve health and find remission from specific conditions.
Where To Find Photobiomodulation Devices? And How Is It Administered?
Infrared saunas that come equipped with near infrared light and medical grade color light therapy is a comfortable way to soak up the appropriate light frequencies to induce PBM. Remember, the temperature can be kept low during PBM sessions as this process is not dependent on heat.
Red light and near infrared light panels are also a convenient and simple option. A simple two foot by one foot device that can plug into any home outlet is another great way to access appropriate light frequencies. This means that while at home or the office as you go about your normal routine you can benefit from just by having the lights turned on.
Photobiomodulation is an impactful, easy to use mechanism to improve the metabolic function of individual cells. The cumulative effect of increasing cellular health may ultimately render the entire physical body into states of radiant well being.