Today’s post is offered up by the good people at Joovv, a company devoted to researching and harnessing the science of red light therapy. I’ve gotten to know (and love) their technology over the last year, and my family has, too—especially my daughter and son-in-law. Today I’ve invited Scott Nelson and his team to share some of their research into red light therapy, a topic I’ve written about now and then over the last few years. It’s an area of ancestral health I find fascinating—and one where modern science can help us recreate or even enhance natural ancestral inputs to foster better well-being today. Enjoy—and be sure to check out the giveaway below.
Diet and fitness are the pillars of a healthy life built on ancestral principles. But food, water, and exercise aren’t the only factors that affect your health and function on a day-to-day basis. Natural light is also a major pillar of a healthy, ancestral lifestyle, and unfortunately, many people don’t get nearly enough of it.
You can complement your diligence in the kitchen and your hard work in the gym with the “nutrients” that come from natural light. This post gives an overview of photobiomodulation (aka “red light therapy”), a natural health intervention that’s helping people get the light their bodies need for optimal health and fitness.
The Problem With Modern Light Exposure
Our Ancestors Lived with an Abundance of Natural Light. We Don’t Get Nearly Enough.
One of the biggest differences between our modern lives and those of our ancestors is the amount of time we spend outside and how much natural light we experience every day. Even if you’re eating well on a Paleo or Keto diet and exercising every day, odds are you spend most of your days indoors. In fact, the average American spends more than 90% of their time inside.  That’s not nearly enough natural light for our bodies, and it’s a far cry from our ancestors’ lifestyles.
In the past, people were outdoors every day out of necessity. The human body and our biology evolved in the presence of lots of sunlight, and light is still essential to our health. It helps regulate our sleep cycle, powers our cells and energy production, which allows our bodies to function as they were intended.
To make matters worse, we’re currently faced with a modern light problem as well. All of our overhead lighting, plus the bright blue light from our phones, TVs, and computer screens, is negatively affecting our health. Many of our sleep problems can be traced back to the abundance of bright, artificial light we take in at all hours of the day. 
Similar to how our diets have grown to include more grains and processed foods, and our physical activity has dwindled as we became more sedentary, the negative effects of artificial light combined with a lack of natural light have separated us even further from the roots of good health.
Using Red Light Therapy to Get the Natural Light You Need
Jobs, school, busy schedules, and changing seasons prevent many of us from getting outside every day, even if we want to. That’s where red light therapy comes into play: it’s a natural, noninvasive health intervention you can use in your home to get a full day’s worth of natural light, even if you can’t get out in the sun.
Light therapy is a non-invasive, convenient treatment that powers your cellular function with concentrated, natural light. This natural light stimulates the mitochondria in your cells, which helps you produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used by your body for muscle and skin healing, pain relief, and clearer skin. We’ll get into detailed health benefits later, but check out Joovv’s learn library now if you want to dig in now.
Many people are still in the dark when it comes to red light therapy. There’s a lot to know and a lot of misleading information out there. Let’s explore what red light therapy is, how it works, and how it can help maximize your health and Paleo goals.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
A quality red light therapy device—like a Joovv— delivers concentrated wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light directly to your skin and cells. All you really have to do is sit or stand in front of the light for a few minutes every day. In other words, red light therapy is very easy to do, but it produces some pretty incredible health results that have been demonstrated across hundreds of peer-reviewed clinical studies.
On top of ATP production, red light therapy increases circulation and reduces oxidative stress associated with cell injury and things like muscle fatigue, joint pain, and inflammation. A treatment only takes 10-15 minutes with a professional-grade device. Because red light therapy is natural and non-invasive, there are virtually no side effects or risks either.
Red light therapy is backed up by a large base of clinical research, originally driven by NASA’s involvement in the 1990s. After that, red light therapy devices could only be found in expensive and exclusive spas. With advancements in LED technology, combined with more awareness of the therapy, there are now many light therapy devices on the market. We’ll break down some of the most important factors to consider in a light therapy device towards the end of this post.
Natural Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy
The benefits of red light therapy are backed up by a large base of clinical research. Here are some of the most studied and well-documented health benefits, complete with links to the published and peer-reviewed studies:
More Restful Sleep and a Healthy Circadian Rhythm with Red Light Therapy
Light exposure is one of the biggest factors in our sleep quality, and it also has a major impact on our sleep cycles, a.k.a. our Circadian Rhythm. Our bodies and brains take cues from the light we’re receiving at any given time. For example, when we get way too much bright, artificial light in the evenings, our bodies get the signal that it’s time to be awake. 
Light therapy helps your body produce more natural melatonin, unlike artificial blue light, which hinders your body’s melatonin production. Many people will take supplements and sleep aids to boost melatonin, but it’s much healthier and more effective for your body to make its own melatonin. 
For a full overview of how red light therapy helps you sleep, check out this post.
Improving Physical Performance and Muscle Recovery with Natural Light
Muscle cells require a lot of energy, and show significant improvements with natural light treatments. In study after study, red light therapy has been found to enhance physical performance when paired with exercise.  That’s a big reason why so many pro athletes and personal trainers have incorporated red light therapy systems into their training facilities.
Red light therapy improves speed, strength, and endurance for women and men, and people at every level of fitness. [8,9] Researchers looking at red light’s effects specifically on middle-aged and older women of all fitness levels saw the same performance enhancing qualities.  And after an intense workout, red light therapy reduces post-exercise muscle fatigue and has also been found to help people recover more quickly after exertion. [11,12]
It only makes sense that when you give your body and muscles the fuel they need, they’re going to perform better, and heal and recover faster. Check out this article for a rundown of all the ways red light therapy enhances physical performance and muscle recovery.
Red Light Therapy for Joint Pain and Inflammation
Light therapy has a natural anti-inflammatory effect.  Natural light treatments increase circulation and helps clear out the swelling that keeps us feeling sluggish. This anti-inflammatory effect is what helps people recover from surgery while reducing their pain.  Reducing inflammation has a big effect on joints and pain too. Researchers have also found red light therapy to be a helpful natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, hand osteoarthritis, and knee osteoarthritis. [15,16,17]
Better Cognitive Function with Natural Light
The most important muscle of all—your brain—also performs better when your body is exposed to healthy, natural light. In one of the first human studies to test cognitive performance and red light therapy, researchers found the light treatments improved reactions times, increased memory, and boosted positive moods.  Light therapy has even been found to help treat Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia symptoms in some very encouraging preliminary research. [19,20]
Check out this article to learn more about red light therapy’s positive effect on brain health and cognitive functions.
More Collagen and Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin with Natural Light
Collagen is essential to your physical function. Red and near infrared light has been found to naturally increase collagen production, which is critical for skin health too.  Thanks to the collagen increasing properties of light therapy, treatments have been found to reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well as other signs of aging, leading to all-around clearer, younger-looking skin.  Researchers have found specifically that light therapy is beneficial in helping children recover from scars and helping middle-aged women look younger. [23,24]
These collagen and skin benefits are why you’re seeing more skincare professionals like estheticians and dermatologists offer red light therapy treatments in their practices. Here’s an informational article you can check out to get the full picture on the rejuvenating benefits of red light therapy.
What to Look For in a Red Light Therapy Device
There are numerous red light therapy options out there. So where do you start? What should you look for in a red light therapy device? The basics are size & coverage, power, and design quality. Let’s look at these major factors to help you pick the best device for your health needs.
Bigger Devices for More Coverage
The most important and simplest thing to remember when it comes to red light therapy devices is that bigger is better. Medical professionals and independent diagnostic testing labs agree that bigger devices that offer full-body coverage are more effective than smaller devices that only treat targeted areas.
A larger coverage area translates to more of your body that is able to take in the energy in natural light. And the more your body can take in, the more your cells can use that energy and the more positive health effects you’re going to see. Don’t fall for a cheap, small device that advertises big power and benefits.
With a larger device, you’re getting more total light energy, which takes irradiance and surface area coverage into account. Harvard Medical School photomedicine researcher Dr. Michael Hamblin, a member of Joovv’s scientific advisory board, explains why total delivered energy is needed:
“Total light energy is the most accurate and comprehensive way to measure the power of light therapy devices and treatments,” says Dr. Hamblin. “If you only account for irradiance—versus how much total energy a device delivers—you miss the larger picture of how light therapy positively benefits the person using it.”*
Power Matters, and So Does Independent Verification
Beyond size, the main spec you’ll want to look for is total energy, or how much clinical power the device can deliver to your skin and cells. One issue you might run into with power stats is how easy it is for a company to throw out a big number without much behind it. You’re going to see a lot of red light therapy companies make claims about the power of their devices. One quick way to see through their claims is to make sure they have had these power specs verified by an independent testing lab.
Joovv contracted ITL (Independent Testing Laboratory) to conduct a series of radiometry tests on our devices and the devices are other light therapy brands to verify the claims made by different companies. Those independent results showed that Joovv offered the most powerful light therapy available.
So many of the small and cheap devices you’ll find haven’t been tested independently. There’s no way to know if the numbers they throw around are valid or not. What’s worse is that a lot of these devices aren’t registered with the FDA either, nor do they follow GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), which makes sure products are up to the industry-regulated quality standards.
Design Quality and Versatility
There are a wide variety of red light therapy devices on the market right now. Some look like space-age showerheads, some look like orbs you hold in your hands and move around your body. There are even some that you wear like a belt or a shirt.
Most companies offer a single device that is meant to be your only purchase, a one-and-done approach that amounts to “you get what you get.” Joovv’s patented modular design is unique in the light therapy world, and allows you to start with a smaller device and build it into a larger one over time by adding more lights for more power and coverage, as needed. Joovv’s devices work together and can pair up to form larger, full-body systems like the pros use.
Joovv is known for its larger, full-body devices, but we also make a portable handheld model called the Joovv Go that’s ideal for clinical-grade light therapy away from home.
Better Health and Fitness with Red Light Therapy
Our ancestors thrived on lots of natural light, and our bodies are still designed to function that way. We’ve gotten away from these principles and surrounded ourselves with unhealthy artificial light almost 24/7. With red light therapy, it’s possible to still get the natural light your body needs every day, in the comfort of your home.
Red light therapy is backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed, clinical studies and analyses that show significant improvements in sleep quality, skin health, muscle performance and recovery, joint pain relief, inflammation relief, and improved cognitive function. A common theme across these studies is that natural light treatments from a medical-grade device like a Joovv have virtually no side effects or risks.
If you’re looking for a natural health intervention that fits the paleo or keto lifestyle, consider getting more natural light every day with a quality light therapy device.
Now, For the Giveaway…
Intrigued? Interested to learn more or give it a go? Why not enter to win a Joovv device?
I’ll be choosing two random winners to receive a Joovv Go, plus $100 in Primal Kitchen® products.
The winners will be announced and contacted via direct message on Instagram on October 22, 2019. Good luck, folks!
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