Light Exposure and your Health

Healers of all kinds have appreciated the power of light since the beginning of time.

The father of medicine himself, Hippocrates was a great advocate of what is known as heliotherapy, or harnessing the power of the sun to heal ailments or generally improve health. If you doubt the ability light has to impact our health, consider the fact that we are able to create vitamin D from the sun’s rays  (more info on just how important Vitamin D is).

Yet, not many us are aware of the endless list of other effects (good and bad) that we can experience from light exposure – not just from the sun but from all sources. 

Light, Good or Bad?

Not all light is considered equal however.

Some forms of light are restorative and healing, while others are potentially harmful – especially those which we have developed with alongside modern technology. Becoming more aware of the potential pitfalls of unnatural light sources, like how they may be affecting our physiology and our ability to function optimally as human beings, is a prerequisite to developing a plan to manage exposure to them. 

There are a few kinds of light that especially stand out in both research and public awareness.

Red light (of all varieties), and blue light appear to be unique with regards to their ability to impact our health on multiple levels. Understanding these unique forms of light is crucial to harnessing their power, as well as mitigating the damage that blue light can cause. As with many things in the field of health and wellness, there aren’t clear lines of which kind(s) of light are good and which are bad – we must view the evidence from the perspective of scientific research, and temper our subjectively developed opinions with a consideration of ancestral wisdom and experience. It is also important to consider what is practical in our modern lives (as it is nearly impossible to entirely avoid harmful light exposure), and create a plan for reducing the damage it may cause. Understanding how different sources of light in your external environment have the ability to affect your internal environment will allow you to develop a plan to start sleeping better, have more energy, reduce stress, perform better in the gym, and generally live healthier lives more in tune with the natural rhythms our body’s thrive on.

Everyone will respond to light exposure differently, but the major forms we will focus on today have robust evidence to support their general effects on human physiology. 

Blue Light

There is an extremely bright ball of gas at the center of our solar system emitting wavelengths of light throughout the entire spectrum, visible and invisible

This includes the UVB rays that have been vilified somewhat recently (but are also required for the production of vitamin D), blue light which has a stimulatory effect on our brain and body, and the various forms red light which have healing and restorative properties. Concentrations of blue light within the sun’s rays are especially high during times when the sun is highest in the sky (this coincides with when the waking hormone cortisol should be elevated).

We absolutely want to experience blue light exposure from sun, especially during the day in order to help establish and maintain our circadian rhythm, a biological pattern which is essentially at the root of how light can impact our health. Unfortunately, blue light is nearly all we are exposed to now.

Blue light from our smartphones, overhead lighting, laptops, headlights, and almost anything that emits light has the ability to affect our physiology in a fundamental way. Our brains interpret this blue light as a signal that it is daytime, suppressing melatonin production, inhibiting sleep and restorative processes that this hormone and potent antioxidant is responsible for facilitating. By now this fact is relatively common knowledge, but what is likely misunderstood is the severity in which it impacts our health. Suppressing melatonin production within the brain, and therefore disrupting normal sleep patterns has profound implications across the entire body.

Quality sleep is predicated on a rhythmic dance between certain hormones within the body, particularly melatonin and cortisol. These two hormones are fundamentally opposed and having elevated levels of cortisol at inappropriate times can result in an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or simply a disruption of normal sleep cycles. Although far from the only thing that has the ability to disrupt sleep, exposure to blue light is likely our largest offender currently. Widespread awareness of this fact is demonstrated by the increased use of blue-blocking glasses before bed, as well as a general focus in the wellness community on creating a light-environment conducive to sleep. Discussing how to develop a light-environment to promote restful sleep is another discussion entirely, but for now there is another concern that should be addressed.

Increasingly, there is another equally detrimental effect appearing from chronic, artificial blue-light exposure. Constant blue light exposure appears to accelerate what is known as macular degeneration – essentially deterioration of the eye. This is because we are experiencing blue light at much higher concentrations than ever experienced in the history of human beings. Macular degeneration was once thought to only occur as a result of the normal aging process but unfortunately, children are especially susceptible to this damage and rates of this issue occurring within the younger population are skyrocketing. It is safe to say that light affects us in ways that we do not yet fully comprehend. Another excellent example of the almost mysterious effect light can have on the human body are those caused by red, near infrared, and far infrared light.

Red Light

Red Light Therapy

Red and infrared light (both near and far) have profound effects on the human body. These wavelengths of light are all able to fundamentally impact our cellular function, causing downstream effects across the body (more information on red light therapy). They also do not impact sleep negatively because they do not suppress melatonin production – perhaps due to the fact that red light was most abundant in the sun’s rays during sunrise and sunset.

Overall, red light has predominantly healing properties, when compared to blue light. The same reasons we are exposed to inappropriately high amounts of blue light (e.g. the average American spends 93% of their time indoors), are why we are not exposed to adequate amounts of the various forms of red light. We are seeing the anecdotal evidence of the potential benefits red light therapy pile up while being increasingly corroborated by peer-reviewed research. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to dramatically improve your light exposure in your home that will have major downstream effects on your health.

Shaping your light environment

Human beings undoubtedly experienced light rhythmically. We did not have overhead lighting or even flashlights until relatively recently – when the sun went down so did we.

Short of exclusively using fire or candle light for illumination in your home, there are quite a few things you can do to limit your exposure to the disruptive blue light that seems ubiquitous in 2020.

  • Because it is likely unrealistic to ask the average person to avoid looking at all screens and devices hours before bed, we suggest that you get yourself a good pair of blue blocking glasses that have been tested to verify their effectiveness. 
  • Make sure to reduce overhead lighting as much as possible for at least a few hours before bed – utilize dimmers, candles, or even a salt lamp instead.
  • During the day, get enough exposure to the sun to anchor your circadian clock in the correct rhythm.
  • Also, consider using a red light therapy device, which are becoming extremely popular due to their ability to provide us with this nourishing and restorative form of light that we are often missing out on.

There are many more reasons to become aware of and begin managing your light exposure, but perhaps most important is its effect on sleep. Getting enough quality sleep is always a top priority for our wellness clients and should be at the foundation of any health and fitness pursuit.

Once you have been in the health and wellness space for long enough, you will begin to notice that many of the tools and strategies developed to improve health are really nothing new. They are, more often than not, designed to replace elements of our ancestral existence that we no longer experience. Sauna, red light exposure, intermittent fasting, and even exercise are all simply replacing aspects of everyday life that are no longer experienced due to modern technological, societal, and cultural advancements. Some things belong at the top of your priorities list if you hope to optimize your body and mind and understanding proper light exposure is one of them.

Platelet Rich Plasma

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a perfect example of a much needed advancement in the way that we go about treating chronic pain and dysfunction – although the procedure may sound like something created by a mad scientist. Luckily, PRP is, in fact, a real form of regenerative medicine with real science, and real world anecdotal evidence to support its use.

When you begin to analyze the mechanisms by which PRP can facilitate the healing of various tissues, it is easy to see why drawing blood, spinning it in a centrifuge, and reinjecting some of the constituents back into injured tissue may just be able to create monumental changes in the healing process for individuals suffering from osteoarthritis, tendonitis, sexual dysfunction, and more.

Understanding the details of how exactly PRP can provide a multitude of healing benefits is the key to appreciating just how much potential it has for helping individuals actually heal – unlike the current standard of care for similar degenerative diseases and dysfunction. Entirely unique from the traditional allopathic approach, PRP therapy can enable the body to heal at the level of the injury, rather than just suppressing symptoms.

How Does PRP Work?

In order to understand just how PRP works, we must describe what exactly the platelets and plasma that it harnesses the power of are.

As we’ve already mentioned, PRP is a form of regenerative medicine that uses injections of concentrated platelets from the patient’s own body to accelerate the healing of various tissues – primarily tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints, although it is commonly used for the healing of many other kinds of tissue.

In order to enlist the patient’s own healing systems, blood is first drawn from the patient and placed in a centrifuge. Here it is spun in order to separate the blood it into its constituent parts and isolate the plasma, or the clear, extracellular fluid that comes from blood. Plasma serves as a medium for transporting all manner of proteins, growth factors, and much more.  Once separated from the rest of the blood, the plasma, now containing a supraphysiological (way more than normal) concentration of platelets, is re-injected back into the target tissue. This procedure is often performed with the assistance of an ultrasound in order to guide injections to the appropriate area. Re-injecting plasma containing high concentrations of platelets has been found to significantly enhance the healing process – for one obvious reason: platelets are like little healing superheroes.

What Do Platelets Do?

Under normal conditions, platelets are activated upon injury to the wall of a blood vessels – this injury signals to platelets in the surrounding area to get to work at creating a clot in order to stop the bleeding.

But besides simply clotting blood and healing tissue, platelets are involved in vasoconstriction, the immune response, the inflammatory response, angiogenesis (blood vessel formation), and tissue regeneration. You may be wondering why boosting platelet concentrations to supraphysiological (higher than would occur naturally) can also boost the healing process. This is because of the wide array growth factors that platelets contain. Right now, within us we have platelets circulating are system which function to store growth factors like PGDF, EGF, TGF- ?1, VEGF, FGF, HGF, IGF-1, and the list goes on. Each of these unique growth factors are released when platelets begin to break down and they are collectively responsible for stimulating cellular regeneration, the activation of stem cells, and they ultimately drive the healing process. Overall, platelets contain over 800 proteins and molecules including cytokines, chemokines, membrane proteins, metabolites, messenger molecules, and soluble proteins,  All of which play some role in the body.

As we age blood platelet levels remain relatively stable until we pass the age of around 60, at which point levels begin declining and their ability to heal declines as well – suggesting that PRP may be an effective anti-aging treatment. By now there should be little doubt as to whether or not injecting plasma with high concentrations of platelets has the potential to aid in the healing process. At least mechanistically, it makes sense – we are simply concentrating growth factors to enhance our own body’s ability to heal. But does scientific research back up this notion? Well, the answer is: it depends. 

What Does the Research Say?

Although a quick PubMed search for “platelet rich plasma” yields over 10,000 research articles, finding well-controlled, quality studies is another task entirely.

Unsurprisingly, the effectiveness of PRP can be highly varied depending upon the targeted tissue(s). Although PRP has been around in some form since the 1970s, it still appears to be considered a somewhat fringe procedure in the public eye – admittedly, more randomized controlled trials are required before PRP becomes a more mainstream intervention.

However, this is quite likely to happen due to the fact that musculoskeletal injuries are so common. In fact, the WHO states that musculoskeletal injuries are the most common cause of long-term pain and disability around the world, affecting hundreds of millions of people. Currently, the standard of care for chronic musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction involves the use of corticosteroids.  Although effective at relieving pain, at least in the short-term, corticosteroids offer no actual healing properties – they simply suppress the symptoms.

Recently, a meta-analysis concluded that PRP was favorable to other interventions like hyaluronic acid (HA) injections and corticosteroids for osteoarthritis treatment. Fortunately, PRP reduces the need for pain management or anti-inflammatory medications, and it is largely considered to be side-effect free because the plasma usually comes from your own body.

Currently there is abundant empirical evidence supporting the use of PRP for issues such as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and osteoarthritis of the knee, as well as moderate evidence for patellar tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis – from there the research evidence dwindles a bit.

This lack of conclusive evidence is likely due to the lack of standardization within research. There are many protocols that are utilized for administering PRP therapy, ranging from a single shot once daily, all the way to three shots weekly – taking place over the course of weeks to months. In order for more rigorous trials to be able to elucidate some of the mystery around PRP, more standardization of protocols is absolutely required.

While there are many other common uses of PRP such as arthritis in the hip, rotator cuff tendon problems, ACL repair, Achilles tendon issues, and sprains, these currently lack sufficient evidence to fully support their use. However, this does not entirely negate PRP therapy for these purposes. In fact, some of the more widespread applications of PRP have little or no actual scientific research behind them, yet.

Two majorly overlapping fields in the health and wellness space are sexual health and anti-aging. Many of the interventions that PRP enables are exactly what someone looking to improve their sex life or slow down the hands of time might be interested in.  PRP is often utilized for the regrowth of hair, rejuvenation of skin, and quite popularly the improvement of sexual function.  When platelet-rich plasma is injected into the genitals, the healing of blood vessels and other structures is enhanced – thus enhancing sexual function overall (do a quick google P shot/O shot). With an overwhelming percentage of the population suffering from some sort of sexual dysfunction (an estimated 43% of women/30% of men), and musculoskeletal pain (see WHO figure above), it is likely that more and more people will turn to PRP as an alternative treatment for these issues.

Where to Get PRP Injections

It is important that you receive your PRP injections under the supervision of an experienced practitioner. This alternative treatment is not for everyone though, and some people will definitely respond much better than others to the protocol – although it is important to note that there have been virtually no adverse events ever reported from PRP injections.

Speaking with a professional will allow you to further determine whether or not PRP is a viable option for you and your particular issue(s). Although the current research does not fully verify PRP as an effective treatment for all conditions, the mechanisms by which it may improve the healing process are quite straightforward and effective. Additionally, the conditions for which PRP has abundant research evidence are quite possibly only the tip of the iceberg in terms of it’s potential benefits. Overall, it is up to you to determine whether or not you will give PRP a try. Because PRP is a more affordable option than utilizing stem cell injections, and due to the fact it has little or no possibility of side effects, it should likely be considered as a first step in the management of degenerative joint diseases, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, and more.

Alternatives to PRP

For the purpose of healing tissues in the body, there are only a few options available that show promise. Two of the more prominent alternatives to PRP injections for healing are the peptides TB-500 and BPC-157 (body protection compound). TB-500 is understood to have significant anti-inflammation properties, which could make it an extremely useful compound if used correctly. Unfortunately, TB-500 isn’t easy to come by, and is only in the testing stages with very few doctors that would prescribe it for human use. BPC-157 is a better known compound, and clients can buy BPC-157 injections from certain telehealth providers online as well as some local anti-aging clinics. BPC-157 doesn’t seem to have the same kind of anti-inflammation properties of TB-500, however, it has proven to have some profound effects on rapid healing of body tissues.

Cryo T-Shock / Cryolipolysis – Does it Work?

What is Cryolipolysis T-Shock?

Cryo T-Shock is a non-invasive cryolipolysis procedure the reports to utilize alternating heat and extreme cold exposure to reduce targeted fat deposits and improve cellulite by killing fat cells. Recent research calls this alleged mechanism into question however, as the expected rise of inflammatory molecules in the blood was not observed.

From start to finish the Cryo T-Shock procedure takes roughly 30 minutes and it is reported to be relatively painless, with some individuals actually claiming it to be rather soothing.

Does Cryolipolysis T-Shock Really Work?

As you might expect, in order to see changes in body composition, consistent and frequent procedures are required – some studies performed cryolipolyis as frequently as 3 days in a row in order to see “signficant weight loss” of around 1 pound. It is important to note that one of the lead researchers on this study showing favorable effects from cryolipolysis is also the medical director of a facility that provides the procedure.

Typical cryolipolysis protocols aimed at creating body composition changes recommend receiving the treatement every 2 weeks – not congruent with favorable research which utilized much more frequent procedures.

Due to cryolipolysis being a relatively new procedure, an optimal approach has not yet been determined. Research has suggested cryolipolysis to be a seemingly effective means of modestly reducing specfic fat cells in a highly-localized manner.

Another important note to be aware of is that these procedures are recommended as a supplementary tool to an effective nutrition and exercise strategy. Therefore, it is likely impossible to parse out which fat loss effects are owed to cryolipolysis procedures and which are owed to the fundamentally proven and effective fat loss strategy of eating responsibly and staying active.

What are the Side Effects of Cryo T-Shock?

Cryolipolysis has been shown to be a relatively side effect free treatment for modestly reducing body fat in highly-specific regions of the body. Side effects that have been reported include increased urination, local erythema, swelling, pain, and, more rarely, paradoxical adipose hyperplasia or the growth of new fat cells – a phenomenom typically only observed in extreme dieting scenarios.

Individuals experiencing kidney disease, those on dialysis, are pregnant, have severe diabetes, are currently undergoing chemotherapy, and several other populations are not recommended to undergo a cryolipolyis procedure.

Cryo T-Shock Reviews

Reviews of Cryo T-Shock procedures are generally positive, although acute patient satisfaction surveys following cryoliploysis research are notably unreliable in this case due to a lack of standardization.

Where Can I Get Cryo T-Shock?

Cryo T-shock or cryolipolysis is often available at “wellness” clinics or facilities specializing in fat loss.

Are there any studies supporting Cryolipolysis T-Shock?

There are many invididual studies and multiple systematic reviews suggesting that some protocols utilizing cryoliploysis are effective at reducing body fat and cellulite. There is an incongruence however, with the methods used in research and the actual practical application of these tools.

Considering the fact that actual mechanism for creating fat loss with cryolipolysis has yet to be fully determined, and an optimal protocol not yet agreed upon, it is likely a good idea to approach fat loss and body composition changes with a more fundamental strategy including conscious dietary restraint of some kind coupled with a sound exercise regimen.

Cryo Facials – Do they work?

What are Cryo Facials?

Cryo facials are a non-invasive cosmetic procedure utilizing a machine-operated device which pumps liquid nitrogen onto the face. The procedure lasts about 2-3 minutes and the goal is to give the skin a more youthful and vibrant appearance.

What Does a Cryo Facial Do?

Due to the extreme cold experienced during a cryo facial, your blood vessels will contract and your pores will close. Once the procedure is over and your skin returns to a normal temperature, these same blood vessels will then dilate – resulting in a temporarily improved appearance.

Does Cryo Facial Really Work?

Cryo facials are reported to improve the look of skin and make your skin feel tighter. Currently, there is no empirical research to verify this claim. Unfortunately, nearly all information available on cryo facials (and cryotherapy as a whole) has been provided by sources whose motivation is questionable at best.

How Long Does a Cryo Facial Last?

As with anything, individual results experienced from cryo facials will vary greatly – but you can expect to need to return to receive the treatment at least every 3-5 weeks to maintain results. Although results are immediate, they have not been found to create actually lasting changes.

What are some alternatives to Cryo Facials?

If your goal is to permanently improve the appearance of your skin at a fundamental level, cryo facials should be near the end of your list. Instead, consider red light therapy which has the ability to stimulate collagen and elastin production at a cellular level and has been consistently proven to improve the appearance and health of skin and many other tissues.

Tri-Cities - Serving Kennewick, Richland, Pasco, and surrounding areas.