BioHack Your Mood, Boost Your Brain. Light Therapy is the new “Nootropic”

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While biohackers everywhere are spending hundreds of dollars if not more each year of expensive supplements, smart drugs and cognitive enhancers for executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation - light medicine can be used to achieve the same effect without any complications or side effects sometimes found in some of the more stimulating nootropics on the market.

Did you know that light therapy has been proven to:

  • promote alertness

  • improve attention span

  • improve memory consolidation

  • dramatically decrease depression and anxiety

  • generally improve cognition

When red light is applied to the skull, it penetrates into the brain. Applying the light for just a few minutes to the brain, decreases anxiety and depression. This makes sense as several studies show that depression is linked to abnormal blood flow in the frontal cortex of the brain, and red light and infrared phototherapy increases blood flow and circulation. As the lightwaves stimulate ATP production, also responsible for signaling to the brain to release serotonin and endorphins, our mood elevates and we're provided with a sense of ease and clarity not available to us before. Acting as an all natural anti-depressant without the side effects.

Using light medicine to benefit those suffering from major depression, scientists in 2009 from Harvard University tested the effects of near-infrared light on 10 subjects. Every subject suffered from major long term depression. When the lightwaves were applied directly to the forehead of the patients after 16 minutes, and after just one treatment with near-infrared light, patients experienced highly significant reductions in both depressions and anxiety. The subjects posted better and improved scores after only two weeks of the therapy. By the end of the four-week study, 6 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their depression, and 7 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their anxiety. This has shown that near-infrared therapy can tackle and ease depression and anxiety in just one treatment.

In some studies, researchers have found that brain and cognitive performance benefit greatly from transcranial red and near-infrared light therapy. There have been studies showing enhancement in brain function and neural activity in the older generations but recent studies are coming out now showing that light therapy isn't limited to enhancing brain health of the elderly, but also showing an increase in cognitive function among young adults. 

A suggested routine for cognitive enhancement and mood elevation (increasing dopamine and serotonin in the brain while generally improving mitochondrial function), would be to

  • Apply infrared light waves in the 810 - 880nm range to the frontal cortex and back of the head where the base of your skull meets your neck). ly infrared light waves in the 810 - 880nm range to the frontal cortex and back of the head where the base of your skull meets your neck).

  • Get the right pulse rate. You’ll want a light pulsed at 40hz which has been proven in recent studies at Harvard Medical and Boston University School of Medicine and correlate with gamma oscillations within the brain, activate glial cells which are responsible for clearing unwanted protein deposits, and increasing cognitive processing capability and memory consolidation. We have made out Therapy Wrap to the 40hz pulse rate and 850nm for this reason.

  • Check the power density. Without the right strength, the waves won’t get through the skull and into the brain. At a power of 37 joules per cm2 (such as our clinical strength Therapy Wrap) a 20 minute treatment would have similar effects to those in the groundbreaking studies happening now, which are examined in our book, Light Medicine. Light Medicine details 30 different treatments and recommended times and wavelengths for various conditions.

You can further support light therapy with a healthy lifestyle designed to increase performance and motivation by stimulating your natural dopamine with a modified diet and a few key habits.

Dopamine increases our motivation. This has been demonstrated in numerous studies. In an experiment performed by neuroscientist John Salamone, rats had to choose between two piles of food. One was twice the side of the other, but it required the rats to climb a small fence. Some rats had high levels of dopamine in their bodies, and some had lower levels of dopamine. The rats with the lowest levels of dopamine always opted for the easy way out: the small food pile. The rats with higher levels of dopamine were able to motivate themselves to go for the harder to attain, but bigger food pile.

Beyond applying lightwaves to the brain you can increase your natural dopamine levels through a variety of methods that include:

1. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. When you sleep your body recharges and replenishes itself. Consequently, your dopamine levels rise.

2. Workout. If you do physical activity for 30-60 minutes maintaining a heart rate of 150 or higher, your dopamine levels will also increase.

3. Reach a goal. This one may sound a little like a goal within a goal, or a russian doll takeoff, but consider it for a moment. As you pursue your goal of attaining a healthier lifestyle, each time you hit a benchmark, the pleasure center in your brain will release dopamine. Or in other words, as your willpower recognizes its own strength, you’ll receive physiological rewards that further increase your ability to keep going.

4. Eat foods that contain tyrosine. These foods include:

  • Almonds

  • Avocados

  • Bananas

  • Low-fat dairy (be careful about which dairy you eat — dairy often has high fat concentrations.)

  • Meat and poultry (be careful about which meat and poultry you eat — meat and poultry often contains high fat concentrations.)

5. Eat foods that contain antioxidants. These foods include:

  • Green beans

  • Orange vegetables and fruits

  • Asparagus

  • Broccoli

  • Beats

  • Peppers

  • Oranges

  • Cauliflower

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Nuts and sunflower seeds

  • Carrots

What Wavelength For What?

We get a lot of questions about which wavelengths are resposible for which types of healing or benefits.

Here in a nutshell are the primary difference between the wavelengths used in our wraps and most of the studies and trials happening in the world of light therapy.

850nm and 660nm waves. These have been proven to: stimulate acupuncture points, increase blood circulation and help with antioxidant enzyme release. Phototherapy in this spectrum also promotes muscle relaxation and generally facilitates pain reduction, stimulates fibroblast and collagen production, increases lymphatic drainage, and reduces swelling, inflammation and bruising- bringing relief to athletes, sufferers of arthritis, and those with chronic pain.

635nm waves. What Nushape has done is build on the research of Rodrigo Neira, M.D. and Clara Ortiz-Neira, M.D. In 2001 they demonstrated that a 635nm laser that was held 6 to 8 inches from the skin could emulsify deep fat (6cm) and break up the appearance of scar tissue. These 635nm waves have recently been approved for "circumferential inch loss" by the FDA (or "slimming" as a result of releasing toxins from fat cells).

Specifically the difference between 660 and 850 waves would be the 660nm range is the best option for surface healing- superficial scar tissue, burns, cosmetic issues, skin conditions, and other non-structural issues. Because some of the energy in this wavelength is transferred in the blood stream (but not hemoglobin), this wavelength can also be used to treat more complex problem where the exact treatment location might be unknown. The energy can flow through the body and interact with damaged cells in many parts of the body operating more like a vitamin that goes where it needs to go. This wavelength is also best for treating the lymph system and acupuncture points. Whereas studies show near-infrared wavelengths in the 850 nm or 880 nm range penetrate deeper through skin and bone for relief of chronic pain. As with red light therapy, near infrared light therapy does not mask the symptoms of pain, it encourages the healing of the actual cause of the pain.  Once absorbed, the light energy kicks off a whole series of metabolic events, stimulating the body’s natural processes on a cellular level. There is an increase in blood flow, allowing the parts of the body to receive the oxygen and nutrients they need in order to function more effectively. Regeneration is stimulated. Inflammation and pain are reduced.  In many cases, after a course of treatment with infrared light, the pain is gone for good. For more, check out our book “Light Medicine” by Jessica Charles.

Lift Like a Girl: The Importance of Strength Training for Women

Women bear children, hold families together, and do emotional gymnastics, so why is it that so many women feel uncomfortable in a weight room? We’re strong emotionally, but we should be physically strong too.

Weight training prepares women to face obstacles that range from physical health threats, to mental instability. Here are the undeniable reasons every woman should start strength training.

Prevent osteoporosis

Roughly 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Eight million of them are women. Women are especially at risk of developing osteoporosis because we have thinner bones than men. Before menopause, women’s estrogen production protects our bones from losing mass. However when our estrogen production slows as we age, we become especially vulnerable to losses in bone density.

Women who do light strength training help prevent bone loss later in life. Lifting kills two birds with one stone because it helps women sculpt their physique while increasing our bone density. Studies show that women who lift weights, and do weight-bearing aerobics in their early adult life prevent the onset of osteoporosis later in life.  Adding light therapy to your routine in the right wavelengths and power density also has been proven to increase bone density.

Reduce risk of back pain, arthritis, and diabetes

Strengthening stomach and back muscles also improve women’s health in older age. A recent study conducted over the span of 12 years showed that increasing strength in the lower back muscles reduced lower back pain for 80% of participants.

Lifting and strength training increases joint stability and connective tissues, which helps prevent arthritis.

Strength training also boosts cardiovascular health, including lowering bad cholesterol. If done twice a week, it can reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease.

Finally, four weeks of strength training increases glucose use in the body (versus conversion to fat) by 23%. The long-term result of increased glucose utilization, is a reduced risk of diabetes.

Light therapy in 660 and 850nm waves has also been proven to ease sore muscle, improve back pain, and decrease inflammation and pain from arthritis. When paired together, results are magnified.

Cut belly fat

Recent studies at Harvard and the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania confirmed that weight training twice a week prevented the increase of belly fat. Arguably, the studies also suggest that weight training is more effective in keeping stomach fat at bay than aerobic exercise.

Aerobic weight and strength training increases lean muscle mass. Lean muscle increases the body’s metabolism, which means that calories are burned while a muscular body is at rest. In other words, women who strength train shed fat faster than women who don’t.

Gain strength without bulk

Although it’s counterintuitive, putting on muscle mass decreases a woman’s physical size. When most of us think of weight lifting, we imagine a rippled adonis. However, in reality, it is difficult for a woman to grow large muscles. Women who do, make a conscious effort to bulk up by training extensively and taking protein supplements.

When typical women strength train, their muscles initially develop as lean fibers while their size overall shrinks. Who doesn’t want to look smaller? Get to a weight room, right now!

Increase energy and fight depression

Initially, when anyone takes on a new workout routine, feeling tired is common. But eventually, as their conditioning increases, they have more energy throughout the day than people who are sedentary.

Better endurance means less emotional swings, and more sustained confidence. A Harvard study demonstrated that over 10 weeks of strength training, women experienced brighter moods. Overall, participants in the study experienced a decrease in clinical depression.

Boosting Your Results With Light Therapy

When you combine red light with exercise, you get even more energy, the advantage of increased fat loss, and increased muscle size and endurance, so you can spring back from the pain and strain of an intense workout faster, and push your workouts further. One study—from the European Journal of Applied Physiology—compared muscle growth and strength between two groups of athletes—one using light therapy combined with exercise, the other using exercise alone. Researchers demonstrated that muscle thickness and strength were significantly improved (by over 50%!) in those who used light therapy with their workouts. These results were measured clearly by the use of ultrasound imaging and isokinetic dynamometry.

Mitochondria is abundant in muscle cells- skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and smooth muscle- and essential in fulfilling the high energy demands during a workout and recovery. Our therapy wrap was designed using the same wavelengths proven to improve muscle size and recovery after a workout, increase energy levels and mood, and improve weight loss results.