You’ve heard all about red light therapy, right?
Maybe you’ve heard that near-infrared and red light therapy can help you with inflammation, collagen production, and skin health in general.
Or maybe you’ve heard red light improves recovery, sleep, and cognition
Can red light therapy do our taxes, too?
If you’re wondering how to separate the hype from reality, this is definitely the show for you.
As you know, I can be highly skeptical of new tech that promises the moon. But it’s also important in this wacky world of health to have an open mind and be willing to experiment. And I have to say, I am fascinated and intrigued by light therapy.
In a recent Ask Me Anything, you asked about saunas, red light therapy, near and infrared. Are they worth it?
The folks at Joovv were generous enough to send us a unit to try, and I’ve experimented with several more devices since. I was surprised and impressed by how quickly I noticed improved recovery after my hill runs at elevation (which usually kick my a$$ the next day).
Today we’re here with Scott Nelson, one of the cofounders of Joovv, and the host of Medsider Radio, a top-ranked medical device podcast.
On today’s show, we’re chatting about:
- Why Olympic and pro athletes are turning to red light therapy
- The difference between the sauna and the steam room
- The link between light therapy and improved cognitive function
- How photobiomodulation helps stimulate cell regeneration
- And tons more…
Let’s go hang out with Scott.
Scott Nelson: How To Boost Recovery with Red Light Therapy
Abel: Alright folks, Scott Nelson is the co-founder of Joovv. They were kind enough to send over a device to try before this interview, so I could at least experientially know a little bit of what I’m talking about here.
But prior to co-founding Joovv, Scott spent his professional career in leadership positions with some of the largest medical device companies in the world.
In his spare time, Scott is also the host of Medsider Radio, a top ranked medical device podcast.
Scott, thank you so much for joining us, man.
Abel, nice to be on the show. I’m really looking forward to the conversation.
Abel: Yeah, well and thank you for sending over the device because prior to that, I had tried infrared therapy and light therapy just a little bit.
My mom, who’s a holistic nurse practitioner and author, got really into it and honestly, it was the first time that I’d really had the full-body experience.
After the first time, my wife and I have done it pretty much every day for at least 10 minutes or so.
And it’s amazing—the physiological change that you feel when you’re standing in front of those, maybe not right away, but after a few minutes—there’s a whole lot of stuff that starts happening.
For most of the people who are listening, they might not have tried it either, let’s just give an overview of what’s happening here.
Sure. We’ll start at a high level, but certainly can go deeper as the conversation unfolds. But what we’re talking about is light therapy.
That’s how it’s often referred to in the public media, but it’s actually a subspecialty of medicine.
In the world of academia, it’s referred to as photobiomodulation or PBM, for short.
Some people that have used this type of therapy actually call it LLLT or Low-level laser light therapy.
And so, whatever acronym you use, I think the most important point is just to understand that specific wavelengths of light, red and the near infrared, have a unique mechanism of action.
They impact our biology in a very unique way that helps our cells throughout all of our body, produce more ATP energy.
And that core mechanism of action enables ourselves to basically function better, produce more energy, it leads to a whole host of benefits, and they’re really wide ranging.
Everything from better looking skin through increased collagen production, faster muscle recovery, increased peak athletic performance, if you’re a fitness enthusiast, body contouring or weight loss, actually, enhanced cognitive function, reduced joint pain inflammation.
It almost begins to sound a little bit like a late night QVC commercial, but the cool thing about light therapy or photobiomodulation is all of those benefits that I just rattled off, are all supported by published peer reviewed clinical literature.
In fact, there’s over 3000 published manuscripts in various journals on the science and the benefits of light therapy.
Definitely supported by a ton of research, and there’s a whole host of benefits that you can experience by using this type of stuff on a daily basis.
Abel: I’m curious from our body’s perspective, what are our bodies thinking when they experience something like this?
Is this like, “Am I standing next to the sun right now?” Or where did this even come from?
Yeah, you’ve got it. And I think that leads almost to a little bit of a higher level conversation around just the impact that light has on our bodies.
And I’m sure most of your listeners have come up to speed, maybe, on the negative impact that excess blue light can have.
Abel: Right. We’ve talked a lot about that.
Yeah, especially at night and during the evenings as the sun sets.
Well, blue light, bright blue light or white light, acts as a signal to our circadian rhythm.
Our bodies begin to think that it’s day time sun that we should be awake. When in reality, we should be going into more of a parasympathetic state and beginning to prepare for bed.
Well, the reality of that conversation is that light and different wavelengths of light just impact our biology in different ways, like macronutrients.
We all understand that proteins, carbs, and fats, our bodies metabolize those different macronutrients in different ways and at different times of the day.
Lights, it’s a very similar analogy in that blue light can be good in terms of resetting our circadian rhythm in the morning with the natural sunrise but can be negative if we’re exposed to it as the sun sets.
It’s just, it impacts our biology.
The same thing with red and near infrared light, which is present in daytime sun all the time, and the harsh truth is that we really don’t get enough of that healthy red and infrared light during the day.
In fact, there’s a pretty well known stat that Americans now spend 93% of their time indoors.
Abel: Isn’t that crazy?
Away from natural sunlight. And I know you’re in Colorado, you probably get maybe outside of the snow front that comes through in the winter, you get a decent amount of sun.
Abel: Yeah. I do.
Well, that’s not the case for most of us, not just in America, but throughout the world.
And whether you live in a climate that doesn’t get a lot of sun or whether or not, we all have busy jobs, we’re inside most of the time.
And so, that stat, if you think about it, is pretty alarming.
And before starting Joovv and beginning to understand the impact that light has on our health, I was in the same boat, commuting to a corporate job, and I was probably inside away from natural sunlight 95% of the time.
And so, that’s such a drastically different lifestyle than even 150, 200 years ago and our biological systems just haven’t adapted or evolved that fast.
I think that the bigger story I’m trying to tell is that natural light is really important, especially specific wavelengths of light.
And it’s just hard to get those healthy wavelengths of light on a consistent basis, and that’s where a light therapy device comes into play.
It’s similar to supplementing your diet with a multivitamin or some sort of other supplement.
It’s a good way to supplement your light diet.
I’m using air quotes for the listeners here, your “light diet.”
It’s just by being exposed to these healthy wavelengths of light on a consistent basis.
Abel: But at the same time, where a lot of people are coming from is the whole tanning bed thing.
So when man starts fiddling with machine, it’s like, “Are tanning beds good for us?” A lot of body builders did it for a while.
So, let’s differentiate what we’re talking about here, because it’s not like all light is the same.
Right, exactly. And that’s the important point I think, to remember, is that these wavelengths of light, it’s best just to view them within the context of macronutrients.
They’re not all the same. Our bodies respond to them differently. Like a tanning bed that delivers mostly UV light.
And some UV light can be good, in terms of helping our bodies produce more vitamin D.
Our bodies respond to that type of wavelength of light, and in turn, produce vitamin D.
But there’s also some downsides to UV light, too, especially excess exposure to UV light, which can cause burning, as all of us know.
So, our bodies respond to UV light in various ways. With the proper amount, UV light can help our bodies produce more vitamin D.
But with excess UV light, our bodies can burn, our skin can burn, which is an inflammatory response to an excess amount of that type of light.
Well, with red and near infrared light, which we’re talking about. Just different kinds of light. Kind of like proteins versus carbs.
It’s just a different type of light, but there’s really no downsides at all to red and near infrared light.
It’s hard to get too much of it. There’s not really any sort of negative ramifications, in terms of burning your skin or anything like that.
It’s really like almost the equivalent of drinking healthy water.
It’s hard to overdo it. You really, really got to overdo it if you’re drinking too much water. The same kind of concept applies to red and near infrared light.
Abel: Yeah. So let’s go a little deeper. What is happening to the body, a little more specifically?
Yeah, so these wavelengths of light that I keep talking about, red and near infrared light, they fall within a very narrow spectrum.
So the light spectrum is actually really broad. You’ve got visible light. You’ve got infrared light, which I think most of us have probably heard about at some point in our lives.
But infrared light, specifically, is actually really broad. It’s anywhere from about 1000 nanometers to 20,000 nanometers.
So it’s like, almost like the distance of a football field, so to speak. So it’s a really broad range.
And so what we’re talking about here is near infrared.
So, it’s actually a very narrow spectrum within the infrared kind of window, so to speak, and then visible red light.
And these two wavelengths of light, red and near infrared light, have a unique ability to help our cells produce more energy.
And there’s a whole cascade of events that happen during cellular respiration that basically help our cells to function more.
One of the core actions that we’re kind of talking about is giving our cells the ability to produce more adenosine triphosphate.
And because of that, it’s almost like tuning up the engine of a car, at the mitochondrial level.
The engine of your car engine, the engine of your cells, your mitochondria, are just fine-tuned when exposed to this type of light.
They’re functioning better, they’re functioning more efficiently, etcetera.
So that’s kind of the core mechanism of action at play.
But there’s also this cascade that I kind of referred to, where you get enhanced gene transcription, you get a shift in redox state at the cellular level.
Those are just kind of two of the byproducts, in essence. By stimulating the mitochondria of your cells, you get this very healthy downstream of reactions.
And because of that kind of core foundational mechanism of action, that’s why you get such a wide variety of benefits. Because we have cells throughout our entire body, really, outside of our blood cells.
Mitochondria exist everywhere in our bodies, and so that’s why this concept of delivering these healthy wavelengths of light to your entire body, not just through a targeted target device, is actually really beneficial for overall health.
Light Therapy for Muscle Recovery
Abel: Yeah. And one of the things I noticed wasn’t just kind of like a subtle well-being, which was one of the things.
It was after one of my first runs after the ice melted on the roads, and it’s hilly here, and I went for five or six miles. And my calves were screaming.
When you’re getting back into shape and doing rough stuff like that, you can pay for it sometimes.
And so I was paying for it a little bit and kind of expecting to. But I think I did maybe 10 or 20 minutes, and it was almost instantaneously better.
The aching went away, the tightness, everything just seemed like it loosened up a little bit. And then by the next morning, I was really surprised.
I was expecting to be super sore, but I wasn’t. I was still somewhat sore. It didn’t cure everything, but I was really shocked by the difference when used for recovery.
Yeah, that’s probably one of the areas, like muscle recovery and then maybe acute joint pain, where people seem to respond the fastest.
So if you’re dealing with a sore elbow or a sore knee that maybe you tweaked, or if you’re a fitness enthusiast or even a professional athlete, that you know how your body is supposed to respond after that type of workout and you’re like,
“Okay, wow. I’m sore, but not nearly as sore as I am usually.”
And those are probably the two areas that we see customers respond to the fast.
Even kind of on that note, with professional athletes, we do have a lot of different pro-athletes using our full body devices now, and it’s that very thing.
They’re so in tune with their bodies and how they typically respond after a certain type of training, and by exposing their entire body to these healthy wavelengths of light, red and near infrared, their muscles just recover that much faster.
So, it’s those two areas, and then sleep.
Sleep is another big category that a lot of people report back pretty instantaneous benefits by using this type of therapy on a consistent basis.
And most of those people they’re wearing Oura Rings or they’re using The Withings sleep pad device, or even the Whoop Band, and they can see, like, “Yes. My REM and my deep sleep are better when I use this type of therapy, even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day.”
Abel: It’s really funny, because you can probably imagine, I’m sent stuff all the time, and there’s just so many things to try in the world of health and fitness.
And it is so rare that I actually find something I’m just like, “Wow. This works. This seems to work. That’s amazing.”
But that must be a really exciting thing to kind of have and share with all these athletes and other people for the first time.
Because I would imagine, these athletes, they’ve probably tried way more stuff than I have.
Abel: So what is their response, usually? Can you share any stories about that?
The first response is usually pretty cynical. They’re introduced to it from maybe their trainer or someone else kind of in their network.
And they’re like, “What? I stand in front of this light and I’m supposed to get better or recover faster? That seems bogus.”
And that, to me is very understandable because I’ve spent my entire career in traditional Western med tech, with arterial stents and balloons and atherectomy catheters.
Quote unquote, real kind of medical stuff. And so, when I was first introduced to this type of therapy, I was super skeptical.
But if you do just a little bit of research. Even if it’s something just on PubMed. There’s loads and loads of studies that support this type of therapy.
And then if you just give it a try on a consistent basis, there’s no doubt you’ll begin to notice benefits.
If it’s in the kind of the fitness arena with faster muscle recovery, whether it’s just with tracking sleep, benefits like better skin health to the increased collagen production, those benefits tend to take a little bit longer to see.
Some of that’s because we look at ourselves in the mirror every day, so it’s just harder to notice those subtle benefits.
But there are two kind of different reactions that we often see, first, skepticism.
Then most people will give it a shot and they’re like, “Wow. This feels better. I notice it feels very soothing.”
Whether they do it in the morning or evening. And then after consistent uses, it’s like, “I’m sold. This is part of my daily routine.”
And so, that’s kind of the typical kind of path that most people follow.
And it’s very similar to the path that I kind of followed when first being introduced to light therapy.
A Brief History of Light Therapy
Abel: Yeah. And when was that? How long has this been used as a therapy?
Yeah. So, low level light therapy or low level laser therapy or photobiomodulation, it’s actually been studied for quite some time.
In the late 20th century, so 1950s and beyond, most of the time you had to deliver these type of wavelengths of light through a laser, just because that was really the only type of equipment that you could deliver a precise wavelength of light at the right power to produce a clinically relevant dose of energy.
Well, then you fast forward to the 1990’s, that’s when NASA began to invest or fund some research with the use of LEDs, specifically researching, of course, how can this positively impact our astronauts in space?
And they began to see really positive results with the use of LEDs.
That’s when sort of this space has really begun to expand because LEDs, you can deliver very precise wavelengths of light through LEDs.
They’re a lot less expensive to manufacture versus a laser.
And then you can begin to introduce these wavelengths of light over a much broader treatment area.
So instead of being limited to just like a small little targeted area of your body, you can now deliver these healthy wavelengths of light across a really broad surface area.
And so, kind of if you fast forward into the early 2000’s to date, especially over the last probably five years, there’s a ton of published research and it’s only continuing.
Joovv as a company in partnership with other academic researchers, are beginning to really invest in other sort of therapeutic arenas, and whether or not light therapy has an impact.
So things like gut health, hormone-related categories, testosterone and estrogen-related areas.
So it’s kind of like this cool thing that’s been proven time and time again for these core benefit areas like muscle recovery, and joint pain relief inflammation, etcetera.
But it’s going to be fun to really begin to expand upon that and study the impact that these types of wavelengths of light have in other really important aspects of health too.
Abel: Yeah. And that’s just another thing, I guess, to help explain it a little more or better.
It’s not just light that lands on your skin and it stops. There’s a lot more going on, going through your body and penetrating.
So can we talk about that a little bit?
Abel: Do you have to shine it on all your skin and twirl around in circles, or how does that work?
Yeah. The key to this is just making sure that your skin is exposed to this type of light.
If you’re wearing a shirt or any type of clothing, that is going to block this type of light. So you definitely want skin exposure.
But I think you bring up a really good point, because we talked a little bit about the changes from laser-based devices to LED-based devices.
As technology has evolved in the LED space, if you’re using the right chipsets and you’re using the right drivers, you can actually deliver a lot of power through LEDs.
And what that allows you to do is push that light deeper into the body.
So with red light, most of that energy is absorbed in the superficial layers of your skin, the dermis and epidermis of your skin.
It’s great for skin health and other really superficial tissues.
But near infrared light combined with the right power, actually has the unique ability to penetrate pretty deep into our bodies.
In fact, it can penetrate through bone.
The energy does dissipate as it travels through bone, of course, and that’s why it’s important to use a pretty high power device.
But when you look at the published literature with respect to joint pain relief, inflammation relief, cognitive function, reduced symptoms from brain injuries like TBI, as an example, most of the time, it’s near infrared light that’s being used with high power, and that just showcases the unique ability for near infrared light to penetrate deep into our body.
So I guess what I’m trying to get at is there is a difference between red and near infrared light.
Very similar mechanism of action at the cellular level, but the biggest difference between the two is depth of penetration.
Red light is absorbed more readily in your superficial tissues, whereas near infrared light can penetrate deeper into your bodies.
Abel: And so when people talk about light therapy, a lot of times, historically, they would just be talking about one of those at a time, right?
Correct. And as an example this type of therapy has been used for quite some time in the traditional skin care world with aestheticians and in med spas, and they’ll actually refer to it as LED therapy, ironically enough.
And most of the time, it’s just red light. It’s great for skin health, which aestheticians and med spas are kind of concerned with.
But near infrared light, when you look at published clinical literature, it’s oftentimes near infrared light is used more routinely just because it has a much broader impact because of its ability to penetrate deeper.
And most people that are probably listening to this, like we discussed earlier, are familiar with infrared light within the context of a spa, but that’s even different.
That’s not the same as near infrared light.
A good dry sauna or infrared sauna is oftentimes delivering mid and far infrared.
And going back to our original conversation around our bodies respond to these different wavelengths of light, well mid and far infrared, those wavelengths of light have a unique ability to heat up our body tissues, which is why they’re great for a sauna.
Because a sauna, that’s the whole goal is to induce heat stress.
And so, mid and far infrared wavelengths of light are great for that.
But when we’re talking about light therapy and in helping your cells produce more energy, that’s where red and really more specifically, near infrared light is most beneficial.
Abel: What are some other misconceptions that a lot of people are coming with?
Yeah. One of the most common questions is, especially as people are either evaluating the therapy or first using it, is like, “Is it safe to look at?”
Especially if the device incorporates bright red light at a high intensity, it’s very bright as you can probably attest to.
You first turn on a high quality light therapy device, it’s like, “Woah, that’s super bright. Is it safe to look at?” which is a natural question.
But depending on the device. I mean, I can speak to ours.
As part of the FDA registration process, there’s a whole host of tests that you have to do and one of those is photobiological safety testing for your eyes.
And so, that’s one of the reasons with our devices, we don’t include eyewear because it’s not required.
These devices are completely safe to look at. In addition to that, these wavelengths of light are actually very healthy for your eyes.
There’s a lot of peer-reviewed published literature that suggests that they not only help with disease states like macular degeneration, but even just acute enhancements with vision, just overall vision.
And it kind of makes sense when you think about it, like our eyeballs, our retinas, they have cells too.
And by helping the cells and your retina function better or function with more efficiency, it would make sense that you’d see the same type of improvements when it comes to vision and eye health, as well.
So that’s one of the questions that we often get is like “It’s not safe to look at, I’ve got to wear glasses of some type.”
But the reality is it’s actually very, very healthy for vision.
Abel: Yeah. One thing I noticed was exactly what you described. When we first fired the thing up, I’m like, “Ah, am I in a microwave right now?”
But after doing it for a few weeks, it’s like not bright when I look at it. Does that make sense?
Abel: It’s like the brightness is not freaky, it’s not startling.
Abel: It’s actually more relaxing. It’s like my body connected the dots or became less sensitive.
Yes. I think it’s almost like a good way to put it, too. Is your body almost begins to respond and connect the dots.
That sounds maybe a little bit kind of vague, but it’s the same experience with me. When I even first turn it on, I mean, it’s bright, but it’s not really as bright as when you turn it on for the first time.
So what we typically encourage people do is if it’s super bright, just close your eyes for the first part of the treatment.
The rods and cones in your eyes begin to shift and interact with that light, so it becomes easier to get used to and you do kinda become accustomed to it over time as you’ve experienced.
So yeah, it’s actually very healthy for eyes.
This is an interesting kind of side story, but one of the pioneers in heliotherapy or light therapy was a gentleman, his name is John Ott.
He’s really well-known for his work in time-lapse photography and he became aware of light therapy by using time-lapse photography in a school room with kids that are exposed to bright, white light all day long and seeing how they become more fatigued over the course of a day.
And then he began to just implement more natural sunlight into his daily routines, weekly routine, and he noticed significant improvements with chronic pain, chronic joint pain that he always suffered with.
And one of the biggest changes he made is when he’d go to the beach or get exposed to natural sunlight, he’d take off his sunglasses and begin to just receive full spectrum sunlight just through his eyes and that’s when he began to notice some really, really profound changes.
And so, that’s just sort of an anecdotal story.
But if you’re more of like a science nerd and want to get into the science, there’s a fair amount of data that does definitely showcase that these wavelengths of light can be very healthy for vision.
Abel: Yeah, it’s fascinating and it really does something, too, when the light goes off, and then your eyes adjust.
I don’t know how to describe that effect. When your entire perception of color has shifted to the other side.
Yeah. A lot of people will respond. It’s funny when we’ll do a conference or some sort of events and people are using this for the first time, they’re like,
“Did the color change? Are you now shining green light at me now?”
It’s like, “No, no, it’s the same. It’s the same thing. It’s just the rods and cones in your eyes begin to adjust as the therapy’s on, and then again kind of adjusts once it’s off, as well.”
But no, that’s kind of a very healthy kind of thing. It’s very natural.
But I think the important point here is that, it’s really beneficial for your eyes to just be exposed to these types of healthy wavelengths.
So it’s a lot easier with near infrared light because near infrared is invisible to the human eye, so it’s a lot easier just to use near infrared light.
And in fact, my wife will often, when we’re in bed, she’ll often shine one of our little handheld devices just on her forehead. And it doesn’t illuminate the room.
And there’s a fair amount of evidence that showcases near infrared light can help shift sort of that sympathetic state and help relax your body as you prep for bedtime.
So yeah, but anyway, kind of circling back to your question, Abel, yeah, that’s one of the most common questions that we get is like, “This is super bright. Is it safe to look at?”
But yeah, the answer with our devices is yes, it’s completely fine.
Abel: And one thing that I really like about it, even though it is exogenous, obviously, it’s outside of the body, is how non-invasive it is compared to so many other things that people try to achieve even just fractions of the same result, whether it be recovery or anti-inflammatory benefits or whatever.
People are taking all sorts of drugs, trying all sorts of things, whereas you can use light to actually change your outcomes.
It is. It sounds so funny. And that’s one of the other common questions as simple as it is, is like,
“Do I really just shine this on myself for 10 minutes, that’s it?”
And it’s like, “Well yeah, as simple as that is, that’s really what it comes down to, is get pretty close to the device and let it shine on your body for about 10 minutes.”
But it’s just amazing, and I think that just the simplicity of this, the non-invasive, to your point, and the nature of light therapy and the simplicity of it causes people to kind of question it.
“Does it work?”
This seems kind of silly, and it kind of goes back to our earlier discussion around skepticism. But the cool thing is, is like this is in my career in kind of traditional med-tech and this kind of, I guess, falls into that umbrella a little bit.
I’ve never seen a therapy that’s supported by this amount of clinical research.
So, there’s a certain aspect that you kinda have to believe in the science.
But if you do give it a shot and start using it on a consistent basis, I’m not going to guarantee anything, per se, but I think there’s probably a strong chance that you’ll see some some pretty noticeable benefits with consistent use.
Abel: But it’s not like one of those health things that’s been underground for a long time, and all these companies have been just rallying against it and all that.
It’s more just like, it seems to me at least, a meeting of technology and kind of the right timing for people to be ready for it. Does that sound right?
Yeah totally. A lot of the research does date back to the mid-20th century.
In fact, if you even go back further than that, it was fairly common place in the late 19th century, early 20th century, for even hospitals to wheel patients out into the natural sunlight. And they did that for the purposes of heliotherapy.
In fact, we’re even starting to see a trend within even hospitals to date that are beginning to incorporate more healthy different types of light inside a hospital.
Abel: Thank God.
Other than bright white or bright blue light, right?
Yeah. Exactly. Why is this taking so long to get to this point?
But I think it’s just kind of beginning to understand that light plays an important role in our health, and it really shouldn’t be under-appreciated.
Ideally everyone can spend just more time in natural sunlight like I am right now, but that’s just hard to do.
It’s kind of like making the comparison or drawing the parallel that it’s easy for everyone just to adopt a Paleo kind of diet, or an ancestral type of diet.
Well, yeah, that’s a great first step. But some people need to kind of get there. Baby steps to get there, know what I mean?
And so a lot of people just can’t go spend 30 minutes a day in natural sunlight, they just don’t have the type of lifestyle that affords it.
And that’s why supplementing your lifestyle with healthy wavelengths of light is kind of an important point that most people just kind of under-appreciate.
What is Your Light Threshold?
Abel: Is there a threshold that you pass?
Because I’m trying to figure out, we have a small light that we’ve had for a little while and I know you have some smaller units. You sent us one of the larger ones, and you’ve got a giant six panel one.
Abel: So, how does that all work with the body?
Yeah, yeah, that’s another common question that comes up is like, how long do I use it? At what distance?
This can get really complicated, in essence, it’s a physics related conversation, but I think the important point to note is that coverage and power are probably two critical factors to any type of light therapy device.
We’ll start with the first one, coverage. Like the size of the device is basically the treatment area.
And what I mean by that is for those listening, you’re not going to maybe get this analogy the best, but I’m holding an iPhone in front of me right now.
If I hold the iPhone at 2 feet away from my hand, my hand is still being illuminated by the light, there’s no doubt, but the energy dose that actually reaches my hand is so low that you’d really have to use a light therapy device for a really long period of time for my hand, in that example, to receive any sort of clinically relevant dose of energy.
Distance and coverage area are really important, and really the reality is that standing at really anything beyond about 12 inches from a light therapy device, the dosage really that actually reaches your body drops off dramatically.
And so I think the moral of the story here is you’ve got to be pretty close to a light therapy device to receive a clinically relevant dose of energy in a short amount of time.
We’ve seen some various images online, where someone’s got a light therapy device, and they’re standing 3 or 4 feet away and they’re thinking, “Oh, it’s covering my whole body.”
Well, I mean maybe it looks to be that way, but the energy that’s actually reaching your body is so drastically low that there’s no really therapeutic effect at all that’s happening.
And so that’s what I mean the size of the device is almost like a direct, it’s almost like a direct one-to-one correlation between the size of the device and the area of your body that it actually is treating.
If that makes sense?
So that’s why the full-body device that you have, it’s literally like head to toe, right?
It’s 6 feet tall and about 2 feet wide or so, something like that.
And that’s basically about the treatment area is the size of the device.
And then kind of the second part to that story and they’re somewhat interrelated is power and the power that’s delivered from the device.
So we’re not talking about watts that the device consumes.
Everyone’s used to shopping for a light bulb at a home improvement store and you see 60 watts or whatever.
We’re not talking about the wattage or the power the device consumes, we’re actually talking about the power that’s delivered from the device that actually reaches your body.
And so that’s kind of hard to explain in a conversation like that, but maybe we’ll provide a link for people that want to learn more about this topic in the show notes.
But what I’m trying to say is you want a light therapy device that delivers a pretty solid amount of power and you need to be pretty close to the device to receive a clinically relevant dose of energy.
And that’s why when it comes to our products, specifically, we generally recommend about 3 to 6 inches or so from the device for about 10 minutes, and based on kind of our dosage calculations, that’s a pretty good amount of energy for most people for general kind of overall wellness.
Now, if you’re trying to treat something specific like a sore joint or if you’re a high performance athlete and you want to treat your muscles, that’s a little bit different where you could go a little bit longer.
Instead of 10 minutes, maybe go 15 minutes, and instead of going for a lot longer, 30-45 minutes, you actually probably want to do just multiple sessions per day, instead of going for one long period of time.
And I think that’s sort of more in line, almost, with giving your cells a little bit of a rest, because there’s only so much energy that they can take in in a given period of time.
And if you go longer, it’s not necessarily that there’s going to be negative downstream ramifications, it’s just more a law of diminishing returns.
So basically, if you’re using one of our devices at the recommended treatment distance of about 3 to 6 inches, after about 20 minutes in that specific treatment area, there’s really not a lot of added benefits beyond that.
It’s better just to kind of stop, and then maybe give yourself a couple of hours, and then do it again a little bit later in the day, if that makes sense.
Abel: Yeah. Okay, so you’re out in the sun right now, too. So how do you balance light therapy with just the natural light that’s out there?
Yeah, that’s a great question.
And the first step that we recommend for anyone if you’re new to this topic of how light impacts your health and that it’s actually pretty relevant to optimizing your health, whether you’re trying to treat something specifically or just trying to fine tune your body, the first step we recommend is just try to get more natural sunlight on a daily basis.
You don’t have to take off your clothes, just kind of just get more natural sunlight on a daily basis. That’s step number one.
I would argue that if you’re getting an hour of natural sunlight and you’re in a decent latitude. If you’re in a northern climate, it may be a little bit different.
But I’m in Southern California, if I’m out in the sun and most of my body is exposed for about an hour, I’m getting probably close to 1 million joules of energy, believe it or not, in that hour.
That’s a lot of energy. That’s enough light for most people to kind of really begin to see a lot of benefits.
But most people aren’t going to spend an hour, myself included, most people aren’t going to spend an hour in the sun.
I personally don’t have the schedule that affords that.
Abel: Especially with skin exposure, it’s not really appropriate to strip down at work and be like, “Sun time, guys!”
Yeah, exactly. It’s like if you’re not used to that, excess UV light exposure can be sort of damaging.
Yeah, and then to your point, I’ve got neighbors, I think most people that are listening to this discussion have neighbors.
They’re probably not going to think that’s too cool for you to kind of strip down and get full spectrum sunlight during the day.
And so that’s why, for me personally, if I go to the beach on a Saturday with the kids and I get some nice sun exposure, I probably don’t need to do light therapy that day.
But every other day, when I’m not outside for a prolonged period of time, it’s just a good, healthy thing to do for 10 minutes of the day.
So I do one of our larger full-body systems, on top of a vibration plate, and I just do some breath work for 10 minutes.
That’s a really nice kind of way to kind of reset my body for the day, and then I’m also getting a ton of healthy light, not too dissimilar to taking a nice high-quality multivitamin or something like that.
It’s kind of a very similar concept.
So that’s probably the best way I would think about kind of that topic of natural sunlight versus supplementing your lifestyle with the light therapy devices, is if you’re super healthy and you’re eating a really high-quality ancestral kind of Paleo diet, theoretically, you probably don’t need a supplement, maybe.
But if you’re not able to do that all the time, you may need to supplement your diet with the multi-vitamin.
So kind of very similar sort of analogy when it comes to light.
Where to Find Scott Nelson
Abel: Yeah, that makes sense. I can’t believe it, this has gone by so fast. We’re almost out of time. But before we go, could you please tell folks what you’re working on and also a little bit more about where to find you guys?
If you Google red light therapy or Joovv light therapy, you’ll find us, as well. But that’s probably the best place to start.
And I would recommend going to two places on our site. One is if you’re a science nerd like myself, go to the “Learn” page.
There’s a whole host of really well-sourced, long-form articles on various topics when it comes to light therapy. So, everything from muscle recovery to joint pain, inflammation, there are tons of articles there.
If you want to stay high-level and just kind of get an idea of what people are saying about our devices, we post all of the reviews to our “Reviews” page.
It’s pretty easy to find on our website, and you can see what people have to say in their own words.
So those are probably the two areas that I direct people to, that are interested in kind of learning a little bit more about light therapy.
So, if you just do a search for red light therapy or Joovv, you’ll find us there as well.
Abel: Awesome. Well Scott, this is fascinating, fascinating stuff. It seems so promising. You must be psyched.
Yeah, I know. It’s fun to be part of something that’s supported by so much science, and it’s kind of cool to introduce people to the impact that light has on our health for the first time, you know what I mean?
So yeah, it’s fun to be a part of it.
Abel: Right on. Well, thanks so much, Scott. Really appreciate it.
Awesome. Thanks Abel. I enjoyed the conversation.
Before You Go…
Here’s a quick review for the podcast that came in on Stitcher from Emily. She says:
“I’ve been listening to Abel’s podcast for years and love his practical advice and topical discussions with health and wellness experts.
Instead of telling you what to do, Abel is on the health and wellness journey with you, sharing his day-to-day realities and struggles along the way.
Plus, he gives perspective on extreme health trends like Keto, and goes beyond health and wellness to dive into topics like how to be productive and accomplish your creative goals.
All in all, he is someone you feel that you can instantly trust and relate to.” – Emily
Emily, thank you so much for this sincere review.
It’s interesting, what you said here about, he gives perspective on extreme health trends like keto.
So keto, as we all know, is taking over the world and everyone’s into it and supporting it, and all of that.
But at this point, as we all know, there is no silver bullet. There is no perfect way of eating forever. This is always going to be a moving target.
It’s important that we all keep this in perspective. And I think it’s really important to try to bring the pendulum back to the other side from time to time.
So I need your help to do that.
When you’re out there voting with your fork or your dollar, for example, and you see products labeled “keto” that have sugar, making them not keto, don’t buy those. Right?
All trends, it seems, will eventually be abused in this crazy world we live in. People can abuse all of these words, and that’s usually what happens with any trend that may have good intentions or even good therapies behind it.
Also, it is very important, Emily, as you bring up, to work on your creative goals.
Because as you get your health, you realize that health is freedom. But even more specifically and accurately I think, when your health is taken away, you realize that your freedom is gone.
So once you have the freedom of your health and you’re feeling energetic, and you’re feeling good again, you shed that excess weight and all the rest of it.
All of a sudden, you do have this excess energy, and the question becomes, “What do you do with it?”
I know a lot of healers who listen to this show—doctors, nurses, chiropractors, and so many others—but also, many creatives and people who are out there in the film and entertainment industries, and music industries also listen to this show.
And I think it’s really important that we try to integrate and share our knowledge. Because it’s not about just being healthier and having a six-pack, or any of these superficial results.
It’s about being a whole person who’s balanced and living a spiritually enriched and fulfilling life. I think that’s the ultimate goal.
So anyway, Emily, I really appreciate you writing in.
If you are out there and you have gotten results or maybe you’re struggling and you have a question, please drop me a line.
Now, here’s some exciting news.
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So to all of you out there who have supported this kind of different and off-the-wall projects, I just wanted to say, I really appreciate your support.
And to all of the creatives out there, in some ways it’s better than ever, but also, it’s harder than ever. We need to band together and help support each other.
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What did you think of this interview with Scott Nelson? Drop a comment below to let us know if you’ve tried red light therapy, or other types of light therapy, and what you’ve found.