Infrared Light Interacts Spectacularly with the Human Body
I use it every day in the hot bed my dad engineered
So, I was thinking about infrared waves this morning while wondering, not for the first time, about all of the things the human eye can’t see—like x-rays, gamma-rays, and radio waves. Most waves we’re aware of are harmless to us, while some, such as radiofrequency radiation, create illnesses like cancer. But, I wondered, how many waves outside of our visual spectrum are beneficial?
Seeing as I was laying in my dad’s hotbed at the time — more on that later — which bathes me in infrared light, I wondered how deep its benefits go. Turns out, pretty deep.
First, I’m not sure if you know, but my dad passed away from cancer pretty unexpectedly a little over a year ago. He’d been diagnosed five years prior but had essentially been in remission for the last three. We were extremely close. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better dad, and I’m so thankful for the time we had together.
At the time of his diagnosis, I was a licensed massage therapist specializing in Ayurveda and worked in an Ayurvedic-based spa. If you don’t know, Ayurveda is a natural system of medicine that dates back thousands of years ago in India. It’s a bit too intricate to explain here, but I’ll explain more about it on Monday in Curious Life.
Anyway, long story short, Dad was heavily into alternative medicines, and although Mom made him agree to western-medicine to treat his cancer, he didn’t stop looking for (and trying) natural methods. At one point, my bosses allowed me to perform a swedana — a sort of detox treatment using steam — on him at the spa before opening, every day for two weeks. Afterward, he engineered his own version of the treatment at home. Here’s a pic, but please forgive the mess!
Our family has dubbed it the hotbed, essentially it’s an infrared sauna. The hotbed uses infrared light instead of steam as we used for the swedana. You lay down on the table and the top lowers over you — not your head though— so your entire body is bathed in infrared light. Although his contraption has an option to exclude your head, it’s not necessary.
What are Infrared Waves?
Our vision allows us to see only part of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum, including colors ranging from violet ( the shortest wavelength in our visual spectrum) to red (the longest waves of color.) Still, there are all kinds of waves our eyes aren’t capable of seeing, or can’t see easily. But infrared waves are unique. To begin with, according to Live Science, “All objects in the universe emit some level of IR radiation, but two of the most obvious sources are the sun and fire.”
Like colors, infrared waves come in a spectrum ranging from the waves emitted from your television remote which produces no heat, to your microwave which heats quickly.
Until the last decade, experts believed infrared waves were beyond the human spectrum of vision because the wavelength is longer and has less energy than those in our visual range. Then it was discovered in 2014 that we actually can see infrared waves… kinda… in specific conditions… involving infrared lasers.
Although we may not see them easily, our bodies feel infrared waves as heat, and in some cases, it’s really good for us. In fact, there’s what’s known as Red Light Therapy (RLT) involving red and infrared light for healing the body. Red is a unique color. Not only is it the only color in our visual spectrum that doesn’t cause our eyes to dilate, but its light is similar in wavelength to infrared waves.
When infrared light is exposed to our bodies, mitochondria — the part of our cells responsible for producing energy — soak up them up, creating more energy. It’s generally believed that this process helps cells heal themselves and makes them healthier. This stimulates healing elsewhere in muscle tissue and skin.
Benefits of Infrared Waves
I wasn’t kidding when I said infrared waves can be really good for us. The way infrared waves inspire our mitochondria leads to phenomenal health benefits within both our bodies and, more recently discovered, our brains. But before I get into that, I want to ensure you understand the magnitude of this situation.
Mitochondria might not seem like a big deal because of how small they are — at least that was my opinion before I took an interest in science — but the truth is, they’re hugely important and create a massive impact on how our bodies function.
Consider this, there are between 1000 to 2000 mitochondria within each liver cell, totaling about a fifth cell volume. So, although they may be small, there’s a bajillion of them in our bodies, and as I’m sure you’ve learned, there’s a definite power in numbers.
Infrared and Our Bodies
There are several positive ripple effects when infrared waves excite mitochondria. For instance, one of the first things to happen is increased circulation due to increased oxygen levels. More oxygen and increased circulation mean blood brings more nutrients and oxygen to skin, bones, muscles, organs, brains, and joints faster. This allows infrared waves to help heal muscular injuries, helps our bodies detox on a cellular level and reduces pain and inflammation throughout the body.
Not to mention loads of benefits for our skin, specifically. Studies find that infrared waves improve wrinkles and skin textures by increasing collagen and elastic contents.
Brain Funtion and Demensia
In the fall of 2021, researchers published a pilot study showing that exposing the human brain to infrared waves— for six minutes, twice a day, using infrared waves measured at 1068 nanometres wavelengths, for four weeks — boosted mental capabilities in healthy participants.
Durham University reports,
The researchers found a signiﬁcant improvement in performance in motor function (finger tapping) memory performance (mathematical processing, a type of working memory), delayed memory and brain processing speed, in healthy people who had received PBM-T compared to those in the control placebo group. Participants reported no adverse effects caused by the treatment.
The coolest part is that similar results occur when this treatment is applied to people living with dementia. Within weeks of the treatment for women and men dealing with mild to moderate dementia, there were significant positive effects including benefits with memory similar to the pilot study.
I’m sorry, this newsletter went a little longer than usual, but can you blame me? How cool are infrared waves? I knew it was good for us based on the amount of research my dad did to create his hotbed. Though I’m glad I decided to investigate further. The benefits of infrared waves seem to continually grow as we learn more about them.
I love dad’s hotbed and use it almost every day while I meditate. I especially love it during the winter when it’s cold and gross outside like it is right now. The best part is there’s basically no downside or danger, other than the potential damage to our eyes when looked at directly.
Sometimes I find it fun to look around me and imagine how many waves and particles there are hidden from my view. We focus so much on what we can see with our own eyes. But it seems as though there’s so much going on around us outside of our limited view. What would our world look like if we could see everything? How many more waves exist that we haven’t discovered yet?
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