I talk a lot about the importance of getting out into the sunlight. But it’s not just about upping your vitamin D. Sunlight has many other beneficial effects. In fact, new research shows that red, white, and blue lights–all part of the spectrum of sunlight–may help treat a variety of medical problems. From back pain and PMS to epilepsy and halitosis (bad breath).
Let’s first start with the major issue of back pain…
I talk a lot about safe and effective approaches for treating back pain–the most common cause of disability in working Americans.
When treating back pain, like all medical problems, the most sensible approach is to try the least-dangerous, least-expensive treatments first. And reserve the dangerous, expensive treatments as the last resort.
In the case of back pain, surgery should be a last resort. And spinal manual therapy (SMT) should be the first choice for the vast majority of people. It’s really the most effective–and cost-effective–treatment for back pain.
European researchers also use blue light to treat back pain. (Frankly, I’m not surprised the research began in Europe. In these countries, the governments pay for all, and want to avoid expensive, useless surgeries.)
European doctors recently developed an innovative patch that emits a blue light. Doctors place the patch over the area of back pain. The light painlessly penetrates the skin. And it activates metabolic pathways in cells that produce nitric oxide. This potent chemical dilates blood vessels by relaxing the smooth muscle cells that line the blood vessels.
As a result, it increases the amount of blood flow and oxygen in cells. And it helps carry away metabolic byproducts and toxins that cause cell damage. By locally increasing blood flow to painful areas, it also increases the amount of pain-relieving compounds. And it even appears to reduce muscle spasms by relaxing muscle fibers.
Blue light devices are available for purchase in the United States. You can find them on the internet for about $100. I don’t have any personal experience with blue light therapy, but while avoiding injections and surgery, it may be worth a “shot” if you’re dealing with chronic back pain.
Blue light also appears to help treat stubborn stomach ulcers caused by harmful H. pylori bacteria.
In fact, a recent study found that shining a blue light inside the stomach (with an endoscopic device) for less than an hour killed 91 percent of the bacteria. In one test reported by the National Institutes of Health, some patients reduced their H. pylori bacteria by 99 percent.
Light therapy presents a safe treatment option for stomach ulcers. And it doesn’t expose you to the dangers and disruptions of standard antibiotics.
Interestingly, dentists also use blue light to whiten teeth cosmetically. It also kills the bacteria that cause bad breath. And even appears to treat periodontitis. (Periodontitis is a bacterial infection of the gums that can lead to the loss of teeth and bone in the jaw, and dangerous brain abscesses that can be fatal.)
Researchers at the Hebrew University and Hadassah School of Dental Medicine exposed their patients to particular wavelengths of blue light. They discovered that the blue light killed a large percentage of bacteria within seconds.
But as I mentioned above, blue isn’t the only wavelength of light showing impressive benefits. Researchers are also finding great uses for other parts of the visible–and invisible–spectrum of sunlight.
In one recent study, researchers at San Diego State University flashed red light into the eyes of people who were in the middle of a serious migraine attack. Migraines immediately eased in 93 percent of the participants. And 72 percent of the patients said their migraines completely vanished within an hour.
London’s Royal Postgraduate Medical School conducted another recent migraine study using light therapy. They found that Photic Stimulation (pulsed light shone into closed eyes) shortened migraine attacks in all study participants. And up to 55 percent reported an increase in the interval before suffering another migraine attack.
At the same institution, researchers found that Photic Stimulation effectively treated women with pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Women reduced their symptoms by 76 percent on average. They also felt positive “side effects,” such as improved sleep, fewer food cravings, and weight loss.
Other studies explored the benefits of using infrared light. This kind of light is invisible to the naked eye. It also has a longer wavelength than those of visible light. But it is still an important part of the spectrum of light emitted from the sun and carries a lot of heat.
Infrared light appears to help stroke victims with their recovery when exposed within 18 hours after suffering a stroke. Researchers believe the red light may reinvigorate brain cells or accelerate the release of protective antioxidants. One study found that infrared light helped 70 percent of stroke patients.
And finally, a growing body of evidence suggests that light therapy may help people with epilepsy. In the past, many experts believed that flashing red lights would bring on a seizure in someone with epilepsy. But white light appears to help. In fact, in London, which has a lot of cloudy days, a study found that people suffer fewer seizures on sunny compared to overcast days.
Researchers at the University College London are currently planning to use light therapy on epilepsy patients. They plan to shine bright white light emitted by a light box at epilepsy patients for 30 minutes a day for three months.
This potential epilepsy treatment could one day reduce or eliminate the need for dangerous and debilitating drugs now used for this condition.
As we prepare to observe Independence Day, you probably noticed that the colors of lights used in these studies are red, white, and blue– the colors of the American flag. Unfortunately, only one of these studies occurred in the United States. The rest occurred overseas. Far away from the drug-dominated government-industrial-medical complex in the U.S.
The good news is the sun shines just as brightly in (some parts of) Europe as it does in the U.S. And you can get plenty of sunshine this summer, when the sun rises higher in the sky.
So get outside as often as possible this summer. Soak up some red, white, and blue light.
- “Blue light for infectious diseases: Propionibacterium acnes, Helicobacter pylori, and beyond?,” Drug Resist Updat August 2012; 15(4):223-36
- “Taking a light approach to treating acute ischemic stroke patients: Transcranial near-infrared laser therapy translational science,” Annals of Medicine December 2010; 42(8): 576-586
- “Amazing Healing Power of Light,” Newsmax (www.newsmax.com), 10/28/2012