Sunlight peaking through clouds in sky

Role of light in health and healing

By Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND

Natural Sunlight affects sleep cycles, mood, energy, blood pressure and the immune system. We need just the right amount.  Too much sunlight can damage skin, and increase risk of skin cancer. 

Sunlight:   Vitamin D, Blood Pressure, Mood and Cognitive Function

Sunlight UVB skin exposure promotes the change of cholesterol to vitamin DRegardless of whether it comes from sun, food (fatty fish, fish liver oils, beef liver, and egg yolks) or supplement, vitamin D is essential for a strong immune system and generally good health. Low levels are linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease, intestinal permeability and solid organ cancers. Supplementation with oral vitamin D is not adequate to reduce disease. Additionally, vitamin D is not solely responsible for all proposed health benefits of sunshine. Nitric oxide (NO) is also made when the skin is exposed to UVB, which is involved in arterial vasodilation, and ultimately reduces blood pressure and improves blood flow. This together with light exposure’s improved regulation of sleep and circadian rhythm helps support mood, emotional regulation and cognitive function.

Artificial Light Therapy

White Light

Bright or white light (BLT) therapy in the intensity range of 2500-10,000 lux helps improve mood and activity levels. Even 20 minutes a day can help prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder or the “Winter Blues”. Over exposure can make you feel edgy, like you’ve had one to many cups of coffee. Bright light therapy is an effective treatment for boosting endorphins, serotonin and reduces symptoms of bipolar depression. BLT showed a lower risk of manic switches (2.3%) than antidepressants (15%–40%).

Blue Light

Responsible for about 44% of solar radiation, and our general illumination, blue light is experienced from light bulbs, televisions and smartphones. Blue light cues human circadian rhythms and suppresses melatonin, reason why it helps prevent the “post lunch dip” in energy and also why it is a good idea to avoid tablets and screens at least an hour before bed, or wear the blue light blocking glasses. Blue light accelerates the relaxation process after stress in comparison with conventional white lighting.

Red Light Therapy

Red or near infrared light therapy is also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation. It enhances mitochondrial ATP (energy) production, cell signaling, growth factor synthesis, reduces oxidative stress, activates stem cells and increases blood flow; which all promote healing.  In dermatology, LLLT has beneficial effects on wrinkles, acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and healing of burns. LLLT can reduce UV damage both as a treatment and as a preventative.  You might use an infrared sauna to help promote healing at home. I use an infrared therapy lamp to help mobile the tissues beneath the skin to accelerate the effects of acupuncture. In pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo, LLLT can increase pigmentation by stimulating melanocyte proliferation and reduce depigmentation by inhibiting autoimmunity.

Inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and acne can also be managed. Fibers impregnated with FIR emitting ceramic nanoparticles and woven into fabrics, are being used as garments and wraps to generate FIR radiation, and attain health benefits from its effects including gloves for arthritis and Raynaud’s, wraps to reduces cellulite and pain, increase blood flow.

Let there be light.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended for individual medical advice.