Friends! I've found a new biohacking wonder which literally lights up my world, for only better not worse! We're talking near-magical healing and performance power potential with all gain, no pain. Sound too good to be true? I'll let you be the judge...
FOR READERS OF THIS BLOG: If You Order A Joovv With The Link Joovv.com/ifpodcast and use the code IFPODCAST at checkout, you'll receive a free gift!
Ever notice that, when it comes to health and performance, the things that work, are the things that tend to stick? I believe this is because the things that work tend to benefit the health of the body as a whole, rather than tricking it into states of seeming #awesomeness while sneakily robbing it of nutrients or energy. (Oh hey appetite suppressants, soda pop, and addictive drugs!) It's sort of like intermittent fasting (IF), which perhaps works so well because it forces the body into a state of fat burning, detox, and increased resilience, consequently reaping a myriad of health issues across the board.
And there's something else like that. Something else you can see but not touch, yet which touches you on so many levels.
(Which I now get my daily dose of through my treasured new life hack device, the Joovv. But more on that in a bit!)
Mechanism of Action
Specific wavelengths of red and near infrared (NIR) light work on the cellular level to revitalize the body. (Note: I'm going to lump both red and NIR together into the category of "red light," unless specifically noted for a particular wavelength). These wavelengths actually penetrate cells to enhance their mitochondria - the energy production part of the cell - so the cells can create more adenosine triphosphate (aka: ATP), akin to a "currency" of energy. Red light may do this in part by stopping excess nitric oxide produced in cells from binding to an enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase, which is needed for efficient ATP production.
In addition to boosting energy production, red light also modulates blood flow, signaling pathways, and reactive oxygen species, and can even activate stem cells! All of this can help cells grow, repair and regenerate. A key takeaway here is that red light stimulates energy production in the body, while also making it more adept at using energy. This means it doesn't drain you, but replenishes you! Sort of like charging the batteries of your cells, or having unlimited access to #powerups, Mario style! Savvy?
Wavelengths (Red Vs. NIR)
Of course, the specific type of red light is key for all the therapeutic benefits. Most studies show the most potent therapeutic effects with wavelengths ranging from 660-670 nm (visible red light) as well as the deeper reaching near infrared (NIR) wavelengths of 830-850 nm. Interestingly, the wavelengths in between those (from 700 - 720) may have no effects. For treatment, visible red light is often used for surface effects (like creating gorgeous skin), while NIR may reach deeper into the body to address deeper pain-centric issues and such. In fact, a NASA study even found NIR could penetrate 9 inches into the body!
Saunas Vs. Infrared Therapy
When people hear "infrared," they often think "sauna," be it an infrared sauna, or just a traditional heat sauna. While all these have their place in detox and recovery, there are some notable differences. For starters, heat saunas instigate detoxification by heating the body from the outside in, reaching temperatures around 160-210°F - far beyond that of an infrared sauna. Basically, they make you get hot and sweaty, with sweat being the main avenue of detox, as studies do show the body excretes many chemicals through sweat (especially things like BPA from plastic, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury). Infrared saunas, on the other hand, typically use far infrared wavelengths to heat the body from the inside out, utilizing lower temperatures around 104-140°F. While this can work for detoxification, far infrared wavelengths do not boast the amazing therapeutic benefits of near infrared as discussed in this post. Far infrared also may be high in detrimental EMF radiation. Yikes!
On the other hand, red light and near infrared light (which are typically not available as a "sauna") are far more beneficial for the body as a whole, as discussed in the rest of this post! The Joovv red light/NIR devices provide these exact therapeutic wavelengths you need, in the comfort of your own home, with no less-effective sauna session (which typically requires a membership and driving to said location) required!
Where red light therapy really shines - pun intended - is skin health. More like skin radiance. This is because red light activates a number of processes which reduce inflammation, stimulate cell renewal, increase collagen, reduce wrinkles, and even fight acne.
As we age, our skin loses collagen production and elasticity, which provide that smooth, full, firm feeling of youth. Red light, however, has been shown to significantly increase collagen production in the skin. In fact, many cosmetic anti-aging treatments work by actually damaging the skin in order to force it to regrow and create more collagen. (Think: chemical pills, dermabrasion, etc.) This often comes - unsurprisingly - with side effects, including inflammation, brain, and even scarring. Now that doesn't sound like what you shelled out all that hard-earned money for, huh?
Red light therapy, however, can prompt a similar cell turnover and collagen response, without actually destroying the skin's epidermis, and with no side effects! In fact, it makes the skin healthier in the process! Win win! In a 2005 study of 600 patients, half of which received LED treatment, 90% reported a "softening of skin texture and a reduction in roughness and fine lines.
Red light has actually been shown to combat skin damage from UV exposure. So whether you're a sun goddess, tanning booth queen, or maybe just taking some meds which make you sensitive to the sun, red light has got ya covered!
Growing up, I had terrible acne. It was the bane of my existence, feebly controlled by Proactive and birth control until Acutane seemingly saved the day on the outside (though did who knows what on the inside!) If only I had known about light therapy back then! Ya see, acne is often caused by one or more of 4 main mechanisms: follicular hyperconification, hormonally ramped-up oil production in the skin, bacteria (specifically some nebulous guys called propionibacterium acnes), as well as inflammation. Red light has been shown to directly address the hormonal effects of the skin to reduce oil production, while also seriously calming inflammation. As for the bacteria, specific wave lengths of blue light have been shown to wipe them out, so red + blue for the win!
If you're a fan of burning fat with minimal effort, please raise your hand! While it may seem too good to be true in a #late-night-infomercial type way, red light can actually increase fat burning with minimal (more like no) conscious effort on your part! While the specific mechanisms are debated, red light may break apart fat cells and make their membranes more porous, so they release their fatty acids for use by the body. Since fat cells can often be quite jealous in releasing their fat stores, this can be an epic way to boost your fat burning power! Of course, you'll then need to burn off those released fatty acids, but some decent intermittent fasting or casual life exercise (Oh hey walking, dancing, errands, and vacuuming!) can easily do that! (And a gym session could really do that!) Of course, even that may not be required, as discussed in the studies below.
Red light may also create metabolic changes which cause fat cells to actually undergo apoptosis, or cell death! And some studies even find fat loss without any apparent change in the fat cells' cellular membranes, insinuating there are likely other mechanisms by which red light stimulates fat burning as well.
Since red light can specifically target fat cells, it can even be used for body contouring and targeted fat reduction. Just consider these studies:
- A 2002 study of 12 patients found that applying red light with a wave length of 635 nm for 6 minutes released almost all of the fat from the targeted fat cells!
- A 2009 study on 67 patients undergoing treatment with a 635 nm light for two weeks, found the patients lost an average of 3.51 inches in their hips, waist, and thighs. This was without any changes in diet or exercise!
- A 2012 double-blind, controlled, randomized study found that spot treating upper arm fat (which used to be my personal "fixation") with 635 nm light, made a significant and progressive effect in reducing fat, compared to not using it. Aka: Red light may keep working better the more you use it!
But wait, there's more! Red light therapy also may help regulate appetite by controlling the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin! So not only may it combat existing fat stores, it may also make you less likely to replace said fat stores, if you get my drift!
Why stop at fat loss? As it turns out, red light can benefits muscle as well! Studies have shown red light therapy can actually increase muscle size and strength, discourage muscle fatigue after workouts, and even make muscles perform better. Red light can stimulate energy production in the muscles (which are insanely rich in mitochondria), and encourage the production of antioxidants which combat oxidative stress. Red light also encourages something called "heat proteins" which discourage cellular stress, inflammation, and damage. And as a final note, red and NIR light therapy has been shown to increase production of testosterone. Here are just a few of the studies:
- A 2015 study of 30 healthy males found adding red light therapy to knee exercises significantly enhanced muscle thickness and force.
- A 2011 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial of 10 healthy male volleyball players compared treatment with red and infrared light (660 and 830 nm) to a placebo on their biceps before exercise. Those treated with the red and infrared light exhibited greater average force during the exercise, and didn't fatigue as quickly.
- A 2014 rodent study found that 904 pulsed infrared light therapy significantly reduced atrophy, fibrosis, and inflammatory markers in skeletal muscle.
PAIN AND INFLAMMATION
A myriad of trials have shown red light can be quite epic in combating all types of pain and inflammation, including those from acute injuries, as well as chronic degenerative disease. This may be due to a number of mechanisms, including:
- Down-regulating the body's inflammatory response, which is often the actual mechanism behind the feelings of pain in the first place, like in arthritis or morning stiffness. (One study found red light therapy relieved pain in arthritic patients by 70%!)
- Red light can increase blood flow and circulation, so the body receives the nutrients and oxygen it needs for growth and repair.
- Stimulate tissue repair and healing, including that of nerve cells!
- Modulate wound healing by influencing mast cells (involved in histamine and allergic responses), macrophages (which basically swallow foreign invaders in our body so our immune system can wipe them out), neutrophils (first responder immune cells in infection), and more!
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Feel like your immune system is on the #strugglebus? While a good diet can do wonders in that area, red light can also help things out! Studies have shown that red light may specifically influence important components of our immune system, including the aforementioned macrophages, as well as lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and cytokines (substances secreted by the immune system). And while red light therapy has been shown to actually combat some viral infections directly (like herpes), it also may instigate a broader healing approach in supercharging the body's immune response to viruses in the first place. Think of it like your mom, instead of cleaning up a mess, teaching you how to clean up the mess!
Red light therapy has also been shown to improve blood lipid profiles, suggesting its beneficial effects on overall health in general, as well as stimulate circulation, and deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells - all vital stuff for pristine health!
A primary reason I originally jumped on the red light train was after reading about its effects on the thyroid. (For more on the thyroid, check out my post How To Fix Your Thyroid And Find Your Life.) Since red light therapy can promote healing of the body's organs and tissues, the following studies are not so surprising:
- A 2013 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 43 patients received either 10 sessions of 830 nm red light therapy, or 10 sessions of a placebo. Many of those who received the actual red light required much less thyroid medication afterwords, implying their thyroid function had significantly improved!
- A 2010 study looked at the effects of 830 nm light therapy in 15 patients with autoimmune thyroid problems. All the patients, after the therapy, reduced their thyroid meds, and almost half of the patients were completely off their T4 meds at a 9 month follow-up!
"Detox" is a vague, oft' mis and overused word. That said, it's a very real thing! (Check out my post Why You’re (Maybe) Detoxing All Wrong for more on that!) Indeed, a major carrot for my intermittent fasting adoration has been its support of the body's natural detoxification processes. That said, having been recently diagnosed with heavy metal toxicity (a topic for another day!), I've been fascinated by red light therapy for enhanced detoxification support in the body.
For starters, red light therapy has been shown to enhance the body's lymph system. The lymph system is a vast network of fluid channels throughout the body filled with infection-fighting substances which work to clear toxins and wastes. You want a properly flowing and adequate lymph system. Red light has been shown to up-regulate the lymph system, thereby helping to support proper detoxification. And while the lymph system typically requires physical movement for stimulation (which is why things like physical exercise, rebounders, massage, and vibration plates are great for stimulating lymph and your immune system!), studies have shown that red light can pump up circulation in the body, aiding the lymph system and helping get rid of toxins.
Red light can also boost the heart rate, and encourage sweating. And as it turns out, sweat is a pretty effective means for eliminating heavy metals, including mercury and cadmium. One study notably found that sweat from endurance rather than brief intense exercise was more effective for excreting metals via sweat. While this is totally just me extrapolating from this, it makes me think that long term, consistent detox may be the key here - which is something red light is perfect for!
THINGS IN THE MIND
When I turn on my Joovv, I always get hit with this instant zen feeling. For reals. And it's not all in my head! (Well, it is, but that's the point!).
Studies have postulated that NIR may enhance mood and actually be an effective treatment for depressive mood disorders! For example, a 2015 double-blind, randomized study looked at the effects of 6 NIR sessions in 4 patients with at least moderate depression (who did not take antidepressants during the study), and found their depression scores decreased after using the red light, with a 50% treatment remission rate. To talk super casually about the whole matter, you know how calming and soothing the red morning and evening light is? Yeah. That.
Or consider Alzheimers - a deteriorating disease categorized by the buildup of synaptic plaque in the brain. One study found that NIR light therapy significantly affected synapses in the brain, making them more resilient to denegerative processes associated with Alzheimers, and also increased mitochondrial potential. The study concluded that NIR might be a "a viable treatment for AD." Seeing as how I was recently diagnosed with the 2 main factors Dale Bresden (author of The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline) notes launch terrible assaults on the brain (Oh hey heavy metal toxicity and Lyme disease!), I'm thinking red light therapy will maintain its treasured status in my life.
When we discussed red light on The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, Joovv co-founder Scott Nelson said his favorite benefit of red light therapy was its effects on sleep quality. And it's so true! Red light involves the type of calming wavelengths naturally present in the rising and setting sun, and using a Joovv device in the morning or evening can help regulate your circadian rhythm, prepping you for better sleep quality. It also may influence your body's production of the sleep hormone melatonin! In a 2012 Chinese study, 20 athletes received a half hour of either red light or placebo therapy every night for 2 weeks. Those who received the red light therapy experienced improved sleep quality, and the study concluded that red light could be a "noninvasive therapy to prevent sleep disorders after training."
MY RED LIGHT EXPERIENCE
When it comes to red light, I've totally #beentheredonethat and am #stilldoingit. When red light first peaked my interest about two years ago, I initially ordered some TheraBulbs on Amazon to experiment. While I saw many benefits, the set-up is a bit bulky, and I worried about the metal component (which I could smell) of the rigging system. I've also used a hand held FaceFx red light device on my skin (won it on a talk show!), but its treatment area is quite small and a major fail for multitasking (unless you're watching TV I suppose), since you have to physically hold it. I even ordered a multiple of tiny diodes with resolutions of making a DIY red light hat for hair growth. (Yeah... that's still on the to-do list. I know nothing about #sautering.)
Then I stopped using red light for a spiel when I moved back to LA. When I decided to start it up again when my skin started getting a little finicky, I bemoaned every stopping! I tried a far infrared sauna (the Cocoon) and LED device (Cellulma) at my gym, and while they have their place in my life, I still have to notably drive to them, ya know? (Plus, there's all the issues discussed in the "Sauna" section above.)
When I discovered the Joovv devices after hearing about them on Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Podcast, I'd been around the red light district (You know what I mean!) and it was this magical moment of illuminated incandescence. I did some mental calculating of the cost/benefit of the investment in health, scrutinized the money-back guarantee policy, and decided to order one with baited breath.
Have I regretted it?
Not one bit.
I got the Joovv mini and its stand, reminiscent to me of an Apple product. (Perhaps for its svelt, simple composition?) If you get the mini, definitely get the stand, which allows you to set up the Joovv easily wherever you fancy, and tilt it to the perfect level.
Since using the Joovv, my life has actually changed quite a bit. At the expense of sounding sensational, turning it on in the morning and evening instantly cuts through my fears and worries. (And I haven't even hooked it up yet with my Amazon Echo, which I do notably refer to as "Computer" rather than "Alexa." #StarTrek) The Joovv also seems to help me sleep better. But my favorite benefit? The anti-aging, inflammation-reducing, smoothing skin benefits are insane. Just unreal! I've also also noticed significant hair growth, including my eyebrows! Basically, my little baby Joovv is near and dear to my heart, although I sort of wish I had just bit the bullet and bought one of the larger devices from the get-go, since I do now plan on upgrading in the future. Yes, it is that amazing!
Anyways, if you're interested in even one of the many benefits of red light therapy, I cannot recommend enough that you try out a Joovv. (Of course, you'll get all the other benefits thrown in!) Plus they've got a 100% money back guarantee, so you've got nothing to lose. Not gonna lie, I had full intentions of returning it myself if it wasn't spectacular. #strugglingactress. Of course, you'd now have to pry my Joovv from my illuminated fingers.
FOR READERS OF THIS BLOG: If You Order A Joovv With The Link Joovv.com/ifpodcast and use the code IFPODCAST at checkout, you'll receive a free gift!!