Fit Bits: Light Medicine for Your Health

1/4/2008 - By: Bill Oberding

This month's subject is a little out of the norm even for me, as we are going to explore the effects of light on the human body, particularly at the cellular level. These effects have a profound reaction on our health and welfare and we will discuss some of the interesting facets of this cutting edge technology this month. Being a techie, I personally found this technology very interesting as I deal with lasers, L.E.D.'s (light emitting diodes), solar index factors, etc , etc. in my job and as an amateur radio operator. So let's get to it. New and exciting research in light therapy provides doctors an alternative to prescribing drugs or even surgery in some cases. This cutting edge technology called "Light Therapy" explores the possibility that beams of light seem to repair heart tissue after a heart attack, to L.E.D.'s that remedy the side effects of cancer treatment. L.E.D.'s seem to be the choice over laser technology because tissue is not damaged, does not get hot and it is pain free. According to Dr. Harry Whelan, professor of neurology, at the Medical College at Wisconsin, light apparently works on human tissue at the cellular level by transferring energy to the mitochondria, helping the body repair itself. The secret to the many ways that light can be used in medicine and keep us healthy, lies in the varying wavelengths of the color in light. So let's explorer some of these colors of light, their wavelengths, and how they effect us. 

NEAR INFRARED LIGHT: This is long wavelength light and invisible to the human eye but has the capability to penetrate deeply into human tissue. So this light therapy has the most potential for treating the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Animal lab testing has been successful in correcting blindness by stimulating retinal cells. Infrared light has also proven to help reduce the severity of heart attack damage with tissue repair. 

RED LIGHT: Which is not as penetrating as infrared, does seem to heal flesh wounds more quickly and removes precancerous skin cells without scaring. Red light also has the ability to reverse the aging process by smoothing out wrinkled skin. Red light therapy has an anti-inflammatory effect as well. 

BLUE LIGHT: We as human beings have toiled as outdoor creatures for as long as we have been on this earth. That is probably why we have a positive reaction to blue light. Besides its use as an antibacterial agent, blue light has the ability to reset our biological clock. Recent studies have produced results that indicate blue light boxes are more effective than full spectrum sunlight boxes in fighting seasonal disorders, commonly known as the winter blues. Studies at Harvard Medical School and the Lighting Research Center have concluded that a dose of blue light can increase alertness and help fight insomnia. 

ULTRAVIOLET LIGHT: Ultraviolet light is just below violet on the spectrum, and is a short wavelength light source. At this level this type of light is primarily used to keep viruses and bacteria from reproducing. There is currently a research experiment being conducted at a Manhattan office building were the air is filtered through an ultraviolet treatment system and returned to the offices. This research is being conducted by the Lighting Research Center and will have results in the near future. So go out and soak up some blue or ultraviolet light for a more alert, invigorating and healthier you, while the scientists are working their magic with near infrared and red light to make our world a better and healthier place to live.

Until next time this is your fitness coach Bill Oberding reminding you to exercise, eat a balanced diet, maintain a positive attitude and be fit for life.


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