Connecting with light
Light is a nutrient that plays a significant role in signaling your mitochondria to do things and when to do them. And different light frequencies trigger different signals in your cells. Meditation, deep breathing, neurofeedback – you can improve all of these by strengthening your mitochondria, and mitochondria rely on light.
Let’s look at the most powerful mitochondrial light hacks out there and exactly how you can use them to your body’s advantage.
Sunlight for vitamin D and hormone balance
The best and most efficient accessible energy of all is the sun.
The sun gives you a full spectrum of light – the same light our bodies evolved with, as opposed to the damaging white LEDs and fluorescents in most building, which lack many of the spectrums that contribute to biological function.
Sunlight is the biological signal that triggers vitamin D production in your body. Sunlight not only contributes to the direct formation of vitamin D in your body; it also activates vitamin D by turning it into vitamin D sulfate. So, you can be supplementing with sufficient amounts of synthetic D, but you’re still not getting the full spectrum of benefits because only sunlight can produce vitamin D sulfate. You’ll never overdose on vitamin D from sunlight – you stop producing it when you hit the optimal level. You might get a sunburn, which stings and correlates with skin cancer, but you can easily avoid it by staying in the sun for 10-20 minutes at a time.
Recent research also shows that unexposed skin – skin that rarely sees the sun – carries a higher risk of skin cancer. And wearing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 reduces vitamin D synthesis in the skin by more than 95%.
You also need sunlight to produce cholesterol sulfate from cholesterol Your body uses cholesterol sulfate as a precursor to all your sex hormones. You need sulfate for these reactions as well, and direct sunlight to catalyze these reactions.
Sunlight also contributes to optimal testosterone levels. Testosterone is a major hormone for both men and women. It dictates your muscle tone and body composition, your confidence, and your sex drive.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a signaling molecule in your body that causes vasodilation, or the widening of your blood vessels. You want NO because it prevents heart attacks and improves athletic performance and recovery. Ever heard of beets or beet juice as a pre-workout supplement? The nitrates in beets increase blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, enhancing performance and increasing your endurance. Sunlight also increases NO levels in your body.
Better blood flow means more oxygen and nutrient transport through your body and efficient removal of cellular waste. That’s also how NO lowers your blood pressure and decreases inflammation.
Endorphins and dopamine
Sunlight also helps you relax and destress through the release of endorphins. These hormones can also help reduce pain, support hormone regulation, and even inhibit cancer growth. Sunlight also increases dopamine release and dopamine receptors in our body. This is good news if you suffer from depression or seasonal affective disorder, which suggest low levels of dopamine, and even Parkinson’s disease, where dopamine neurons are damaged. Higher dopamine levels also mean you’ll have more motivation and will be less prone to addictive behaviors.
Get a narrowband UVB light
You can get many of the benefits of natural, full-spectrum sunlight from a sun lamp or tanning bed that is high in UVB waves. UVB (as opposed to other ultraviolet rays) cause less tissue damage and offers more biological benefit. UVB exposure can increase your vitamin D production, decrease inflammation, trigger the production of happy-making neurochemicals like dopamine, and can help get rid of skin issues like psoriasis or acne. UVB has the same power that the sun has to sulfate vitamin D, which you can’t get from supplementation alone. That’s why I recommend using a UVB tanning lamp during the winter if you want to perform at your best and have the most resilience against stress and infection.
Expose your eyes to light
Your eyes also respond to UV light, but in a totally different way. A little bit of sunlight in your eyes increases melanin – the same protein that gives you a tan – and more melanin in the eyes affects all sorts of performance-related markers. It was recently discovered that melanin has the ability to convert water from your cells into free oxygen and extra electrons for your mitochondria! To make melanin, you need two things: sunlight exposure and enough polyphenols in your diet. More melanin may mean faster reaction times, improved thinking ability, and improved light sensitivity.
Avoid junk light
Get rid of your white LEDs and compact fluorescents. Newer artificial light bulbs lack many of the sun’s frequencies that our bodies and brains need. With artificial lights, we’ve eliminated most of the infrared, red, and violet light found in natural sunlight, and we’ve amplified the blue light beyond anything we have evolved to handle – most LEDs and compact fluorescents emit about 5 times the blue light we’re used to.
When your eyes have to function in unnatural spectrums of light, it stresses (even damages) your mitochondria, slows down your ATP (energy) production, and increases free radical production. This hurts your mental performance big time. Mitochondria communicate with each other so any stress to the mitochondria in your skin or your eyes can affect the mitochondria in your brain, your heart, and everywhere else in your body.
Use red light for pain, inflammation, and skin
Red light is amazing at recharging your mitochondria. Red light can also stimulate DNA and RNA synthesis, activate the lymphatic system and increase blood flow, which is good for carrying waste from the body and repairing damaged tissue. It can even decrease inflammation and swelling, all the way down to deep tissue.
That means more energy, less pain, and things like faster wound healing. Red light donates photons to your mitochondria via molecules called cytochromes, which allows them to make even more ATP for energy. This provides you with steady energy all day and better sleep at night.
Red light also triggers collagen synthesis. More collagen means fewer wrinkles and supple, younger-looking skin.
How to use it: Install red lights in and around your home and use them in the early morning, at night, and therapeutically for an increase in mitochondrial function and collagen production. I have a red light strip installed over my bed that I use at night to do just that.
Even very weak red lights can be powerful when you shine them over an injury. Simply hold the light over the injured area for a couple minutes per day. If you do try something like this over a certain part of your brain, please don’t go over a minute. For collagen synthesis, a couple minutes every day in front of a red light could significantly improve your skin’s tone, texture, redness, and signs of wrinkles and fine lines. Red light may also stimulate hair follicle growth to reverse hair loss and even baldness.
Your day in light
In the morning, you want to tell your body that it’s time to wake up. Brighter lights are best and blue light, in particular, can help shut down melatonin production and raise your energy for the day. Sunlight is always best because of its full spectrum of light and color, but for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter, a normal white light is fine. I turn on a 500-watt halogen light in the morning, mounted above my desk, to tell my body it’s time to wake up.
Halogen lights are the most like natural sunlight, although they’re not full-spectrum. You can also expose yourself to some brighter red lights for a few minutes in the morning for a mitochondrial boost.
During the day
Your body gets confused when you’re inside all day under artificial lighting. Artificial light is a recipe for eye strain, fatigue, and, if you’re under it after sunset, a disrupted circadian rhythm. This is especially true of fluorescent lights, They’re junk lights that offer zero benefit, but they’re hard to avoid in today’s world, To prevent daytime sleepiness and keep your circadian rhythm in sync, go for a walk, take walking meetings, or set up a full-spectrum light or a simple halogen light in your workspace.
This is when you want to block all the blue light you can. Blue light disrupts melatonin production for up to four hours, which will make it a lot hard for you to get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Turn off bright lights before bed
- Stop using compact fluorescent lights (those curly bulbs). They give off unhealthy amounts of blue spectrum and cause eye strain. Switch to amber or red bulbs, which have no blue spectrum
- Wear orange-tinted glasses. Stop staring at bright screens for two-plus hours before bed
How to use it: Get at least 10-20 minutes of pure sunlight (no sunblock) on your bare skin every day. If possible, do this from about 10:30am-3pm when UVB rays are most powerful. Naked is always better. Sunlight on your chest and back will increase testosterone in men 120%. Sunlight on your testicles can increase production 200-400%.
How to use it: The most therapeutic wavelength of narrowband ultraviolet UVB light is 311-313 nanometers. Use a UVB lamp
or UVB-heavy tanning bed for 5-10 minutes, twice per week, to get the same benefits you would from taking a vitamin D supplement, and more. UVA is the wavelength that’s responsible for sunburn and contributes more to signs of skin aging, so you definitely want less, but there are benefits to having access to a full spectrum of light, so a little is OK. You can avoid exposing your face and neck to this light and concentrate it on your body if you’re worried about wrinkles.
How to use it: Go outside in the morning or
mid-afternoon sunlight and look at the sky for a couple of minutes. Do
not look directly at the sun, just the bright sky. If you live in a
place that stays pretty cold and dark in the winter, you can do this
with your narrowband UVB light.
How to use it: Switch all the lights in your house to halogen and incandescent. They aren’t perfect, but they’re better.You white LEDs might be saving a little bit of energy, but they’re junk light.
- Supplement with Eye Armor to screen (pun intended) the inevitable high-energy blue light your eyes are overexposed to
- Supplement with a physiological dose of melatonin to promote a healthy circadian rhythm without elevated levels of melatonin the next morning. Sleep Mode contains 0.3mg (300mcg) of plant-sourced melatonin for this reason.