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June 26, 2023 7 min read

Did you know that light therapy, specifically red light therapy, can make a difference in your mental and physical well-being? Yep, light therapy is known to be beneficial for your thyroid gland and may even improve your thyroid function. Let's take a look at light therapy devices, where to find them, and how to use them correctly.

Understanding the effects of darkness

Darkness can lead to increased stress hormone cortisol levels, damaged mitochondria, and a decrease in the synthesis of the body's protective anti-aging and anti-stress hormones, such as pregnenolone, progesterone, and DHEA. Consistent exposure to bright light, such as sunlight and light therapy, is essential for counteracting these negative effects.

The science behind different types of light

Visible light falls within wavelengths of 380-700 nm. The protective light falls within the orange to red wavelengths (600-700 nm). These wavelengths are suitable for light therapy and are also part of normal sunlight. Blue and UV light with shorter wavelengths (100-500 nm) are harmful to cellular health, while low energy light with longer wavelengths (700 nm-1000 nm/infrared light) might be without any significant biological effect apart from heating. Sunlight contains a mix of these wavelengths, and though it has potential dangers, such as increases in the risk of skin cancer, it's beneficial overall.

What is red light therapy?

For those seeking a non-invasive and scientifically supported therapeutic approach, red light therapy may offer a promising solution. Also known as low-level laser therapy, this treatment employs low-wavelength red light to stimulate cellular activity and promote overall health.

The core concept of red light therapy revolves around its ability to penetrate the skin and target the cellular mitochondria, which serve as the primary energy-producing structures within cells. By enhancing mitochondrial activity, red light therapy may contribute to improved cellular efficiency and function.

Research into red light therapy has yielded compelling evidence for various therapeutic benefits. One notable outcome is the enhancement of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, which promotes cellular energy. Furthermore, red light therapy has been found to reduce oxidative stress within cells, thereby supporting overall health and preventing cellular damage.

Increased blood circulation is another advantage conferred by red light therapy. Improved blood flow aids in the efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells, thereby supporting the overall healing process. Researchers have also observed enhanced DNA sequencing, which plays a crucial role in preventing genetic mutations and maintaining cellular function, ultimately reducing disease risk.

Individuals suffering from hypothyroidism may find red light therapy to be a valuable complementary treatment option. Preliminary research has indicated potential improvements in thyroid function and reductions in medication requirements.

Is red light and infrared light the same?

Many may wonder if red light and infrared light are the same; however, they are indeed different forms of light therapy. The primary distinction between red light and infrared light lies in their wavelengths and respective positions on the electromagnetic spectrum. Red light is visible and occupies the long end of the visible spectrum, featuring wavelengths ranging from 630 nm to 700 nm. In contrast, infrared light is invisible and resides adjacent to the red light on the electromagnetic spectrum, boasting wavelengths that span from 800 nm to 1 millimeter.

The key differentiation between red and near-infrared light therapy involves the depth of penetration that each type of light can achieve into bodily tissues. Infrared light, with its longer wavelengths, has the potential to penetrate more deeply, providing a unique set of benefits when compared to red light therapy.

Does red light therapy for hypothyroidism really work?

Red light therapy has been increasingly discussed as a potential treatment option for thyroid disorders, particularly in cases of autoimmune hypothyroidism like Hashimoto's disease. Chronic autoimmune thyroiditis occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets thyroid gland tissues, resulting in inflammation and eventual organ failure. Consequently, the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism and a systemic slowdown of body functions.

Standard treatments for hypothyroidism typically involve medications designed to elevate thyroid hormone levels. However, considering the inflammatory basis of autoimmune hypothyroidism, the potential anti-inflammatory effects of red light therapy have sparked interest in its potential benefits for thyroid health.

Currently, few studies have examined the impact of red light therapy on the thyroid gland. A randomized control study involving 43 women investigated the potential effectiveness of red light therapy in treating chronic autoimmune hypothyroidism and subclinical hypothyroidism. Researchers found that low-level laser therapy led to decreased levothyroxine dosages in patients. However, antibody levels remained consistent in both the laser therapy and placebo groups.

Another study focused on 30 women utilizing at-home red light therapy for neck wrinkle reduction. After 16 weeks of treatment, researchers observed no significant changes to parathyroid or thyroid function. Laboratory test results showed no notable differences in TSH, T4, T3, free T4, thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO), and Tg antibodies.

What are the different light therapy devices?

1. Incandescent light therapy lamps

Incandescent light therapy bulbs, like brooding lights (heat lamps) used by farmers for livestock, provide the right red and orange wavelengths (600-700 nm) and can prove beneficial for light therapy. Look for 250 Watts bulbs with a clear front and built-in reflector.

2. LED light therapy lamps

As an alternative to incandescent light therapy, you can use LED (light-emitting diode) light therapy lamps. They consume less energy and don't get as hot as other alternatives. In fact, central to the effectiveness of red light therapy is the use of LEDs. LEDs facilitate deeper penetration of the red light wavelengths, enabling more precise targeting of subcutaneous structures, such as the mitochondria. This specificity contributes to the therapy's potential for providing tangible therapeutic benefits compared to other forms of light treatment.

There are several shops offering light therapy lamps with different combinations of wavelengths (ensuring they provide the curative red light wavelengths of 600-700 nm).

3. Sunlight

Sunlight not only brightens our day but also offers a natural form of light therapy. It contains feel-good orange and red wavelengths (600-700 nm) that positively impact our overall health. While the sun does emit the shorter UV and blue light wavelengths (100-500 nm) that can potentially harm our cells and mitochondria, the benefits of its red and orange wavelengths help counterbalance any risks.

Age can affect how efficiently our skin synthesizes vitamin D from the sun's UV rays. As we grow older, this process declines, making it even more important to consider taking vitamin D supplements. Soaking up enough sunlight is great for your hormones and well-being. Just remember, nobody wants a sunburn! Always use sunscreen, and make sure you choose one without harmful chemicals. Plus, try to enjoy the gentler rays of the afternoon sun and avoid the intense midday heat. Sunlight is your friend -- just remember to practice moderation and sensible timing to make the most of this natural light therapy.

Is red light therapy safe for thyroid?

In general, red light therapy appears to be safe when used correctly, and it is typically not associated with any adverse side effects. However, it is essential to address specific safety concerns while utilizing this therapy to optimize the outcome of the treatment.

Limited long-term studies

Despite the generally safe nature of red light therapy, it is crucial to acknowledge that long-term studies on the safety and efficacy of this therapy are limited. The majority of present research focuses on the short-term outcomes of medical treatments or cosmetic procedures. As a result, the safety profile of red light therapy over an extended period remains relatively unclear. However, scientific knowledge in this area is continually evolving as research progresses, and future studies may provide clearer insights into the long-term safety of red light therapy.

How to use light therapy for thyroid correctly

When undergoing light therapy, ensure maximum skin exposure to the light and aim for several hours per day to reap the full benefits. Even half an hour per day can be helpful if you're short on time. Intermediate exposure throughout the day is advantageous, especially just before bedtime, as exposure to the right wavelengths of light can help counteract cortisol that naturally rises during nighttime darkness. Avoid extended exposure to harmful wavelengths, like UV light, to minimize any risks associated with light therapy.

One of the primary safety concerns regarding red light therapy pertains to eye protection. Eye damage may occur if the eyes are not adequately shielded during treatment sessions due to the intensity of the light used. To mitigate this risk, it is vital to wear appropriate protective eyewear while undergoing red light therapy, and practitioners should closely monitor the treatment process, ensuring adherence to safety guidelines.

Don't forget your thyroid hormone replacement therapy

Although light therapy, including red and near-infrared light therapy, may provide some benefits in certain situations, it is crucial to remember that it should not be viewed as a substitute for hormone replacement therapy. Many individuals with thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism induced by thyroid nodules or autoimmune disease, require hormone replacement therapy to maintain optimal well-being and bodily function.

The standard medication for hypothyroidism is levothyroxine, which is the synthetic version of the thyroid hormone T4 (thyroxine). However, natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) is a preferred hormone replacement therapy option for many individuals. NDT is derived from porcine sources and contains a full spectrum of thyroid hormones, which can effectively address imbalances in thyroid function. NDT is available in both medication and supplement forms. The most popular NDT medications in the US are Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid. However, you can also buy desiccated thyroid online, in the form of a supplement. One great option is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online.

The importance of hormone replacement therapy, particularly NDT, cannot be overstated for those dealing with thyroid disorders. When the pituitary gland detects low levels of thyroid hormones, it releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to signal the thyroid gland to produce more hormones. In cases where thyroid function is impaired, hormone replacement therapy, such as NDT, is necessary to maintain the appropriate balance of thyroid hormones in the body.

Conclusion: Light therapy might offer some benefits

All in all, light therapy provides a practical solution for addressing the negative effects of darkness and gloomy weather on our mental and physical well-being. By understanding the science behind different types of light and selecting appropriate light therapy devices, you can improve your overall health and well-being. Remember to use light therapy correctly in terms of exposure and timing to achieve the best results.

However, while light therapy may offer some benefits in certain situations, it should not replace hormone replacement therapy for individuals with thyroid disorders. Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) hormone replacement therapy, such as the NDT supplement VitaliThy, is a preferred option for many individuals, offering a comprehensive solution to address thyroid hormone imbalances effectively. Always consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate course of treatment for your specific needs and ensure optimal thyroid health.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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