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MB #048: Illumination of Red Light

mission briefing Feb 11, 2024

Read Time: ~4 Minutes

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Hey there,

Today, I'm diving into why you should explore red light therapy, and also how you can do it without having to sell a kidney to afford a red light machine. Why should you care? Because the benefits are too good to ignore—think better skin, faster muscle recovery, and less of those nagging aches and pains.

Unfortunately, red light is not as widespread as it should be. First of all, it sounds a bit sci-fi. Also, the cost of professional treatments can make your wallet weep, and sifting through the tech jargon feels like decoding alien messages.

Good news—I'm here to break it down for you, making it as simple as flipping a switch.

Step 1: Understanding Red Light Therapy

First up, know what you're dealing with. Red light therapy uses low-wavelength red light to penetrate the skin, giving your cells a kind of 'energy snack' to help them rejuvenate and repair. No, it's not a magic bullet, but it's backed by science to help with a variety of issues. Here are some studies and details that prove its worth:

  1. Skin Health and Wrinkle Reduction: A study published in the Journal of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery found that participants who used red light therapy experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling, along with collagen density increase and smoothness of the skin.
  2. Muscle Recovery: Research in the Journal of Athletic Training showed that red light therapy can reduce muscle fatigue and accelerate recovery post-exercise. Athletes reported less soreness and faster recovery times.
  3. Joint Pain and Inflammation: A systematic review in Lasers in Medical Science highlighted that red light therapy helps reduce pain and inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, showcasing its potential for managing chronic conditions.
  4. Mitochondrial health: Red light has been increasingly recognized for its benefits on mitochondrial health. Mitochondria are often referred to as the "power plants of the cell" because they produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of the cell. Here's how red light therapy can benefit mitochondrial health:
    1. Enhances ATP Production: Red light therapy can increase the activity of the mitochondria, leading to an increase in ATP production. This is primarily due to the absorption of red and near-infrared light by cytochrome c oxidase (CCO), a component of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. By stimulating CCO, red light therapy enhances the mitochondrial respiration process, thereby boosting ATP synthesis. This increased energy production can improve cellular function and support healing and regeneration.
    2. Reduces Oxidative Stress: Oxidative stress occurs when there's an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body's ability to counteract their harmful effects with antioxidants. Red light therapy has been shown to increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes, which helps reduce oxidative stress levels within cells. This reduction in oxidative stress can protect mitochondrial DNA and proteins from damage, supporting mitochondrial integrity and function.
    3. Improves Cell Survival and Reduces Apoptosis: By enhancing ATP production and reducing oxidative stress, red light therapy can improve cell survival and reduce apoptosis (programmed cell death). This is particularly beneficial for tissue repair and regeneration, as it ensures that cells have enough energy and are less likely to undergo stress-induced apoptosis.
    4. Enhances Cellular Metabolism: The stimulation of mitochondria can lead to enhanced cellular metabolism, as cells are better equipped with the energy needed to perform their functions. This can lead to improved performance in various bodily processes, from muscle repair and growth to improved skin health and wound healing. The improvement on mitochondrial health can also improve metabolic flexibility which is just an increase in your ability to optimally switch back and forth between glycogen (stored carbs) and fatty acids (fat) easily, as the fuel source in the cell.

Step 2: Timing Is Important 

The when is just as crucial as the how. Morning or evening? Well, it depends on your routine and what you're treating. Morning sessions can boost cellular energy giving you longer lasting energy, making it a great start to the day. Evening sessions, however, can also aid in relaxing and help with sleep. Experiment to see what works best for you.

The mistake? Believing more is always better. It's not. Overdoing it won't speed up results; it might actually backfire. Stick to the recommended duration and frequency based on the goals of your treatment.

Step 3: Budget-friendly Options

You don't need the big, fancy machines. Start with something small like a handheld device or even red light bulbs. Use it on your skin, targeting areas that need some TLC, or for overall wellbeing, just bask in its glow for about 10-20 minutes a day.

Also, don't overlook the power of sunlight. While not a direct replacement, certain wavelengths of sunlight, especially during the early morning and late afternoon, include red and near-infrared light that mimics those used in red light therapy.

This natural spectrum can provide similar benefits for cellular health and energy production, offering a free and accessible way to harness some of the healing and rejuvenating effects of red light therapy without specialized equipment. 

Lastly, nighttime fire pits are another way to get a small dose of red light. The warm glow of a fire predominantly consists of red and near-infrared wavelengths, similar to those used in red light therapy. While the intensity and specific wavelength distribution will differ from manufactured red light therapy devices, nonetheless, the natural light from a fire does include red wavelengths that can contribute to the calming and restorative ambiance often experienced around a campfire or fireplace.

This is one of many reasons I prefer guys' nights to happen around the fire pit. 

So there you have it—your no-nonsense guide to red light therapy and its benefits.

Forging Strength & Refining Soul,

Chris