In recent years, red light therapy has gained popularity as a staple wellness protocol for improved weight loss, auto-immune support, increased collagen production, muscle recovery, and even hormone balance.
But what is red light therapy exactly, and why should you consider adding it to your wellness routine?
Today, we’re going to learn why red light therapy is the “nutrient” your body is missing!
What is Red Light Therapy
Light exists on the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths that are beneficial to our health and wavelengths that are hazardous like x-rays, ultraviolet rays from the sun, and gamma rays from radioactive decay.
Depending on the wavelength, the body reacts to light in a myriad of ways, sometimes in some very positive ways.
Wavelengths that are in the mid-600 nm and low 800 nm range are now known to have extreme therapeutic benefits due to their ability to pass through human and animal tissue.
Believe it or not, our bodies actually “eat” light by exciting the chromosomes within our mitochondria which stimulates the production of ATP – the chemical responsible for energy!
This reaction to red light induces transcription factors that are responsible for healthy protein synthesis, muscle recovery, tissue repair, collagen production, tissue oxygenation, liver regeneration, inflammatory mediation, and much much more.
But benefits are only experienced within very specific wavelengths within red light and near-infrared light – generally within the 660-670 nm and 830-850 nm range.
Red light therapy, aka photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy, uses these specific wavelengths to do everything from supporting healthy thyroid function to healing wounds.
Below, you can see the wavelengths for each color of light except for near-infrared light which cannot be seen by the naked eye.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work
Just like plants convert sunlight into chemical energy known as photosynthesis, the human body has the ability to metabolize red and near-infrared light into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the energy of life that is responsible for restoring, repairing, maintaining, and energizing the body.
Without ATP, we die. In fact, we can’t even survive a few seconds without it. That’s how important it is.
The production of ATP depends on a specific enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase which helps create ATP by binding oxygen and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and hydrogen to form NADH – the hydrogen ions needed to complete ATP synthesis.
Why am I telling you all this science-y stuff?
Because in modern-day life, we face more stress than ever before which makes us more prone to injury, illness, and burnout. Our cells react to this stress by producing nitric oxide. And guess what nitric oxide does?
It “steals” cytochrome c oxidase by binding to it and preventing it from turning into ATP.
Without sufficient ATP, the body’s ability to produce healthy collagen, balance hormones, metabolize fat, and other important functions greatly diminish.
That’s when we start to feel burnt out, stressed, and get sick more often.
Where does red light therapy fit into this?
Red light actually breaks the bond between nitric oxide and cytochrome c oxidase so that it’s free to be turned into ATP.
More ATP means healthier skin, better muscle recovery, improved fat loss, and a ton of other health benefits!
With this boost of ATP production (up to a 200% increase!), our bodies are able to experience improved health on a cellular level.
What Are Some of The Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Some of the more science-y reasons red light therapy benefits our health include:
• An increase in Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) – impaired function of this important enzyme is known to increase the risk for hypertension, diabetes, obesity, migraine, erectile dysfunction, and preeclampsia.
• Decreases inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase (iNOS) – an enzyme responsible for mediating inflammation in the body and stress-induced insulin resistance.
• Increases superoxide dismutase (SOD) – a vital antioxidant
• Decreases cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) – an enzyme that causes inflammation and pain. NSAIDs are conventional medicines known to inhibit COX-2, yet red light therapy can do this without the side effects!
Some of my personal favorite benefits of red light therapy include:
I have subclinical hyperthyroidism that I would like to keep from turning into full-blown Graves’ Disease. In order to help me do that, I use red light therapy to keep my thyroid in balance.
If you’re not convinced, check out the studies below about red light and its effect on auto-immune conditions.
As early as the 1990s, red light therapy has been used as an alternative to more invasive treatments for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis due to the anti-inflammatory and vasodilating action of red light. This effect is proven to reduce joint stiffness and pain while also improving mobility.
You can check out the study here.
In regards to autoimmune hypothyroidism, red light therapy, specifically near-infrared light at a wavelength of 830 nm, has been shown to greatly reduce or eliminate the need for levothyroxine after 30 days of treatment for up to 9 months. Likewise, thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) are significantly reduced.
More recently, a 6-year follow-up study was completed that showed how red light therapy benefits persisted over time without any safety risks.
In a 2010 Russian dissertation, it was found that red light therapy helped 38% of participants reduce their thyroid medication while 17% were able to stop their medication completely.
And lastly, a 2003 dissertation by Viktor Dubovik on post-surgical thyroid patients found that red light therapy reduced the need for thyroid medication by 50-75%.
Pretty impressive, considering most people with thyroid conditions end up having to take levothyroxine their entire lives.
You can check out some studies below:
- Low level laser therapy : A narrative literature review on the efficacy in the treatment of rheumatic orthopaedic conditions
- Assessment of the Effects of Low-Level Laser Therapy on the Thyroid Vascularization of Patients with Autoimmune Hypothyroidism by Color Doppler Ultrasound
- Low-level laser in the treatment of patients with hypothyroidism induced by chronic autoimmune thyroiditis: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial
Red light therapy helps boost immunity because it strongly affects white blood cells. In particular, mast cells will degranulate in the presence of red light which causes cells to release cytokine TNF-α. This pro-inflammatory protein is released from cells and leukocytes which make it easier for white blood cells to infiltrate tissues and encourage healing.
- Human dermal mast cells contain and release tumor necrosis factor alpha, which induces endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule.
Red light also supports the immune system by:
• Dramatically reducing inflammation
• Helping the body fight viruses, inhibiting the growth of tumors, and reducing the development of auto-immune disease
• Improving wound healing by increasing the motility of epithelial cells
• Reversing age-related immune dysfunction
Paired with some good home remedies and plenty of rest and you can kick a cold or flu in no time!
Detox and Circulation Support
Red light therapy stimulates increased lymphatic drainage which helps the body eliminate toxins and cellular waste.
It is also believed that red light helps the body produce more blood-rich capillaries which increase healthy circulation and oxygenation.
One analysis showed an increase in hair follicle activity where hair thickness and density improved with the use of red light therapy.
Improved Skin Elasticity
Red light therapy has been shown to increase the production of basic fibroblast growth factor while also encouraging the production of healthy fibroblasts – the cells responsible for producing collagen and extracellular matrix.
This means that red light has the power to increase collagen production in the skin which can improve skin clarity, tone, texture, and firmness. It can even reduce the appearance of scars and hyperpigmentation while reducing inflammation in the skin – even in acne sufferers.
One study even found that near-infrared light helped reduce psoriasis plaque by 60-100% because it reduces inflammation is speeds up healing.
- Effect of low-power laser irradiation on cell growth and procollagen synthesis of cultured fibroblasts
- Stimulatory effect of 660 nm low level laser energy on hypertrophic scar-derived fibroblasts: possible mechanisms for increase in cell counts
Optimizes Metabolism and Weight Loss
Amazingly, red light therapy can also help us burn more fat and has been proven to do so in countless clinical trials in humans.
One study found that using red light therapy every other day for two weeks showed a combined decrease in waist, hip, and thigh measurements of 2.99 inches.
Another study found that using red light therapy once a week for 6 weeks was shown to reduce waist, hip, thigh, and upper abdomen measurements by a total of 5.4 inches.
In fact, red light is so good at helping the body burn more fat that it is now used to enhance the effects of liposuction and body contouring procedures. It can even reduce cellulite.
How does this work exactly?
Believe it or not, red light actually makes tiny holes in the membranes of fat cells which allows its lipids to essentially leak out and disperse into the interstitial spaces within body tissue.
You can see in the photo below how the fat cells were plump and round before exposure to red light, they seem to deflate after red light therapy treatment.
However, these tiny holes are temporary, so you have to make sure you move your body to help the body remove the “leaked fat”.
You may be thinking “why not just exercise”? but the fact remains that many of us cannot burn fat as sufficiently as we used to, especially if you suffer from thyroid conditions or a reduced metabolic rate that makes losing weight difficult.
Red light therapy makes it possible for those with these conditions to burn fat efficiently again.
In fact, a 2003 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that red light can affect hunger by controlling the hunger-related hormones leptin and ghrelin.
For athletes, red light therapy is an added bonus that helps keep their bodies lean while also preventing muscle fatigue and enhancing skeletal muscle performance.
Red light also enhances the growth of healthy muscle tissue. In one study, it was found that muscle thickness and strength were significantly improved by over 50% in those who used red light therapy compared to those who didn’t when combined with exercise.
You can check out more studies on red light and weight loss below:
- Low-Level Laser Therapy for Fat Layer Reduction: A Comprehensive Review
- A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial evaluating the ability of low-level laser therapy to improve the appearance of cellulite
- A Six-week Low-level Laser Therapy Protocol is Effective for Reducing Waist, Hip, Thigh, and Upper Abdomen Circumference
There have been many studies on the positive effect of red light (640-670 nm) and near-infrared light (830-850 nm) on lower back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia-related pain, joint pain, and more.
In each study I’ve read, when a painful area of the body is exposed to a combination of red and near-infrared light for 20 minutes twice or more per week, the amount of pain experienced is greatly reduced if not eliminated.
For those of us who workout, red light therapy helps to dramatically reduce post-workout muscle soreness by reducing inflammation and healing our muscles and connective tissues more quickly.
You can check out some of the studies here:
- Low-level laser therapy as a treatment for chronic pain
- Low-level laser therapy to treat fibromyalgia
- Efficacy of low power laser therapy and exercise on pain and functions in chronic low back pain
- Efficacy of low-level laser therapy in the management of neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo or active-treatment controlled trials
My Favorite Red Light Therapy Device – The Joovv
So, all of these benefits sound great, but where do you get a red light therapy device that used the right red and near-infrared wavelengths?
That’s where Joovv comes in.
In order for red light therapy to work properly, you need to have the right wavelengths, dosage, pulse, and power density to reach the best possible therapeutic benefits, and Joovv is the only consumer product that ticks all the boxes.
It delivers clinical benefits (at 4-6 Joules/cm2 of energy from the red lights) within a matter of minutes and used the scientifically proven wavelengths of 660 nm and 850 nm for the maximum skin-beautifying benefits and deep tissue repair effects.
This makes Joovv the leading red light therapy provider that delivers clinical results.
I have been using my Joovv since mid-May, and I absolutely love it!
The improved sleep, higher energy levels (after about 2 weeks of consistent use), and better muscle recovery after exercise are just a few of the reasons I enjoy using my Joovv on an almost daily basis.
My skin feels healthier and experiences far fewer acne breakouts and my bruises heal so much faster too!
I also find that I react to stressful situations better than I used to which is a huge plus as well.
Overall, I’m excited about the improvements I’ve been experiencing.
I use the largest version of the old model (which you can see in the photo above) with both red and near-infrared light, but Joovv just came out with their new models just a couple weeks ago that has built-in Bluetooth control with Alexa support, a new modular design that allows you to connect multiple Joovv lights together, and newer FDA-approved LEDs that deliver even more intense light for increased therapeutic benefit.
You can check out the new Joovv HERE.
Why Get the Joovv Instead of Getting Professional Red Light Therapy Treatments?
There are a number of spas, dermatologists, and other clinicians who offer professional red light therapy treatments.
The downside is that even if your doctor refers you for professional treatment, insurance companies may not cover the cost of your sessions.
A single session at a spa for example costs between $50-100, often more.
I decided to go with Joovv so that I could enjoy the therapeutic benefits of red light therapy at any time in the comfort of my own home.
With over 50,000 hours of operation power, I could use the Joovv 24 hours a day for 5.7 YEARS straight before I would need a new one.
The average session for gaining therapeutic benefits from the Joovv light is about 5-20 minutes. That’s a minimum of almost 150,000 twenty-minute sessions for the cost of one Joovv. Which, when you think of the cost in comparison to multiple $50-100 professional visits, is ridiculously cheap.
How to Use the Joovv Red Light Therapy Device
For optimal results, sit or stand, without clothing, 6 inches away from the Joovv light while exposing the area you wish to treat. The minimum time required for treatment is 10 minutes per treatment area which will result in a clinically proven dose of red, near-infrared, or a combination of both depending on which Joovv light you get.
Use the Joovv every day, or at least 5 days per week for best results.
For treating chronic conditions, you can use the Joovv light 3x per day for a more therapeutic treatment. This can be especially helpful for healing wounds, strains, sprains, chronic pain, inflammation, etc.
Have you ever used red light therapy? Please share your experience in the comments below!
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