Let There Be Light - Inside Your Cells
Light plays a more profound role in our lives than just letting us read books in bed and backlighting the latest cat memes. It's also inseparable from our health and wellbeing. From impacting our mood, modulating our immunity, regulating our internal clocks, and helping our skin remain resilient, light has a dramatic impact on how well we live and how long we can enjoy that life. We're going to discuss some foundational and practical ways you can improve your light exposure, as well as your light...generation? Keep reading to learn why even the people with the darkest personalities are made of light...
Circadian Rhythms: Our Internal Body Clock
Our body operates on a circadian rhythm, an internal clock that dictates when we should be alert and awake, and when we should feel tired and sleep. This 'body clock' is significantly influenced by our light environment.
During daylight hours, exposure to light, especially blue light, inhibits the secretion of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland that promotes sleep. This reduction in melatonin levels signals the body to maintain a state of alertness. The presence of light also triggers a cascade of hormonal changes, including the release of cortisol, a hormone that helps regulate energy levels and alertness.
As daylight fades, the decrease in light exposure facilitates the onset of melatonin production, signaling the body to prepare for rest. This gradual increase in melatonin levels in the evening helps promote sleepiness and lower body temperature, preparing the body for sleep.
Besides regulating sleep and wakefulness, circadian rhythms influence a range of other physiological processes. These include variations in body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and the release of other hormones. For instance, the secretion of growth hormone peaks during sleep, playing a central role in tissue growth and repair.
Digestion and metabolism are also modulated by circadian rhythms. Studies indicate that our digestive system is more active during the day, aligning with typical eating patterns and optimizing nutrient absorption and energy use. Metabolic rates fluctuate throughout the day, with impacts on glucose regulation and lipid metabolism.
The synchronization of these rhythms is essential for overall health. Disruption of circadian rhythms, such as through shift work, jet lag, or prolonged exposure to artificial light at night, can lead to a range of health issues. These may include sleep disorders, metabolic dysfunction, and even an increased risk of certain chronic conditions.
Morning Sun Exposure Regulates Circadian Rhythm
Aligning our lifestyle with the natural light of day can significantly enhance our wellbeing. For instance, the morning sun's exposure sets off a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that boost our mood. Those who rise early and spend a minimum of three minutes exposed to the early morning sun can enjoy an array of health benefits, potentially increasing their longevity.
The Healing Power of Infrared Light
Infrared light, constituting approximately 42% of the solar spectrum, plays a significant role in various biological processes. This segment of light, invisible to the naked eye, penetrates deeply into tissues, facilitating a range of physiological responses.
One of the key benefits of infrared light is its ability to stimulate collagen production. Collagen, a vital protein in the human body, is essential for maintaining skin elasticity, joint flexibility, and the integrity of connective tissues. By promoting collagen synthesis, infrared light aids in maintaining skin health and can help reduce the visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles and scars.
In addition to skin health, infrared light has shown promising results in enhancing bone healing and promoting wound repair. Its deep tissue penetration capabilities allow it to reach bones and muscles, potentially accelerating the healing process in fractures and injuries. This property is particularly beneficial in medical therapies aimed at speeding up recovery times for bone and soft tissue injuries.
Infrared light also plays a role in the body's energy dynamics. It interacts with water molecules within cells, influencing mitochondrial function and energy production. Mitochondria, often referred to as the powerhouses of the cell, utilize light to aid in the generation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of the cell. Adequate exposure to natural sunlight, and thus infrared light, is theorized to support optimal mitochondrial function and overall energy levels.
Furthermore, the use of infrared light in therapeutic applications, such as red light therapy, capitalizes on its healing properties. Red light therapy, which predominantly uses near-infrared wavelengths, has gained popularity for its potential to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve skin health.
This form of therapy is non-invasive and is considered a safe and effective adjunct to conventional treatments for a variety of conditions.
Natural Blue Light: A Wake-Up Call
Morning blue light is the alarm clock of nature. This type of light raises our cortisol levels when it hits our pituitary gland, setting our circadian rhythm for the day.
While artificial blue light from screens or LED lights can have detrimental effects on our health, especially later in the evenings, the natural blue light from the sun is beneficial and necessary for our wellbeing.
Light Therapy: Harnessing Light for Healing
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a scientifically backed treatment method that employs specific wavelengths of light to address a range of medical conditions. This therapy leverages the biological effects of light on the body, particularly its influence on circadian rhythms and cellular processes.
Phototherapy is widely recognized for its effectiveness in treating certain skin conditions. It works by reducing inflammation and slowing down the overproduction of skin cells. In cases of neonatal skin yellowing, blue light therapy is employed to facilitate the breakdown of bilirubin, lowering the risk of the condition worsening.
In the realm of sleep and mood balance, light therapy has shown promising results. It is particularly effective in treating seasonal mood issues largely due to its ability to regulate melatonin production and reset the circadian clock. Regular exposure to bright light, especially in the morning, can help alleviate seasonal low moods by mimicking natural sunlight and adjusting the body's internal clock.
Additionally, light therapy is being explored for its potential benefits in managing sleep-wake abnormalities and certain neurodegenerative concerns. Studies suggest that controlled light exposure can help realign circadian rhythms disrupted by conditions like age-related cognitive decline and a loss of motor control, potentially improving sleep quality and nerve function.
The use of light therapy extends to treating certain types of sleep disturbances. For individuals experiencing circadian rhythm sleep disorders, strategically timed light exposure can help synchronize their internal biological clocks with the desired sleep-wake schedule, improving sleep quality and duration.
Understanding Biophotons and Their Role in Our Health
Biophotons, or light particles generated within our bodies, are a vital part of our physiological functions. Yes, each of your cells is generating and emitting light, and not just in a woo-woo new age sort of way, either. Contrary to the vibrant colors emitted by bioluminescent organisms like fireflies or the neon lights of Las Vegas, biophotons are invisible to the naked eye.
These ultra-weak light emissions are often associated with metabolic activities that generate free radicals, facilitating communication within and between cells. Remember, free radicals aren't necessarily bad, they're just a byproduct of reactions, but the fallout from too many free radicals can be damaging to DNA, cells, and tissues, so accounting for free radicals by consuming plenty of antioxidants is a smart longevity plan.
While the understanding of biophotons is still in the early stages, curious and pioneering researchers are working to gain greater insight on on the role biophotons can play in health and longevity, whether we want more or less of them, how they change over a lifetime, and what changes their creation and radiance.
Biophotons: The Body's Natural Light Source
Biophotons are a product of our body's metabolic processes, making them common to virtually all living beings. These light particles are constantly radiated from the body's surface, but they're so minute that special photon counters are necessary to detect them. It isn't exactly a new discovery, since some of the studies linked below date back to 2005, but it doesn't get as much attention (or grant funding).
Research indicates that stress to the skin, like exposure to ultraviolet radiation or cigarette smoke, increases biophoton emissions. Conversely, topical application of solutions rich in antioxidants or ascorbic acid decreases such luminous radiation.
Various studies have shown that practices like meditation can decrease the emission of biophotons from the body, possibly due to the reduction of free radicals in meditating individuals.
It's tempting to jump to conclusions about "harmful" things either forcing the body to make more biophotons, or that these light particles are a healing reaction to some kind of stress or injury, but we don't quite know the mechanism yet, so let's stay curious and uncertain.
Biophotons and Cellular Communication
Biophotons play a crucial role in the communication and control processes within and between cells, which are necessary to maintain homeostasis. This non-chemical, non-contact cell-to-cell communication is a cornerstone of modern biofield theory.
The discovery of these interactions led to the postulation of electromagnetic interactions as a method of communication and control between cells. This idea of action at a distance, introduced in physics over 150 years ago by Maxwell's electromagnetic equations, has now permeated biophysics, presenting possibilities and problems in living systems that are more challenging to locate and measure.
The science of light and its impact on our health and longevity is a rapidly evolving field. As we continue to illuminate into the mysteries of biophotons and their role in our bodies, we're discovering new ways to harness light's power for our wellbeing. From improving our mood to locking in our circadian rhythms, the potential benefits of light exposure are immense and worth exploring further.
Lifestyle changes, such as getting adequate exposure to natural light, can have a significant impact on how well and how long we live, and throwing in some breathwork and meditation couldn't hurt either. So, rise with the sun and let the light guide you.
- Blume C, Garbazza C, Spitschan M. Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood. Somnologie. 2019;23(3):147. doi:10.1007/s11818-019-00215-x
- Yamanaka Y. Basic concepts and unique features of human circadian rhythms: implications for human health. Nutrition Reviews. 2020;78(Supplement_3):91-96. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuaa072
- Rastogi A, Pospísil P. Spontaneous ultraweak photon emission imaging of oxidative metabolic processes in human skin: effect of molecular oxygen and antioxidant defense system. JBO. 2011;16(9):096005. doi:10.1117/1.3616135
- Van Wijk EPA, Ackerman J, Van Wijk R. Effect of meditation on ultraweak photon emission from hands and forehead. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2005;12(2):107-112. doi:10.1159/000084028
- Scholkmann F, Fels D, Cifra M. Non-chemical and non-contact cell-to-cell communication: a short review. Am J Transl Res. 2013;5(6):586-593. Accessed November 24, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3786266/
- Segers A, Depoortere I. Circadian clocks in the digestive system. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021;18(4):239-251. doi:10.1038/s41575-020-00401-5
- Barolet D, Christiaens F, Hamblin MR. Infrared and skin: Friend or foe. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. 2016;155:78-85. doi:10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2015.12.014
- Pinheiro ALB, Martinez Gerbi ME, Carneiro Ponzi EA, et al. Infrared laser light further improves bone healing when associated with bone morphogenetic proteins and guided bone regeneration: an in vivo study in a rodent model. Photomed Laser Surg. 2008;26(2):167-174. doi:10.1089/pho.2007.2027
- Wang D, Kuzma ML, Tan X, et al. Phototherapy and optical waveguides for the treatment of infection. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2021;179:114036. doi:10.1016/j.addr.2021.114036