Author Julie Casper, L. Ac., is a hTMA clinician and educator, she works with patients across the U.S. and internationally. In addition, she supports health professionals who are interested in adding clinical hTMA to their practice. Contact: healthelite.org
Update: 22 August 2017
Author: Julie Casper, L. Ac.
The sun emits nearly half of its total energy in the near infrared (NIR) spectrum. We are biologically hard wired to use near infrared energy, much like sunlight is needed to produce vitamin D. It is now understood that the human body is partially photosynthetic 1 2 3. Our bodies require electromagnetic energy from sunlight to survive — and thrive.
Near infrared (NIR) light has dozens of biological effects on the body. The near infrared wavelength radiation penetrates into the body and has a direct effect on cellular structure. NIR can kill parasites and resolve infection. An important thing to understand about the near infrared spectrum is that human biology has evolved over millions of years receiving it and growing with it. Getting adequate NIR is essential for health.
This graph illustrates where near-infrared radiation appears on the electromagnetic spectrum and the distinction in wavelength between near, medium, and far infrared.
This graph illustrates the composition of solar radiation. Nearly half of sunlight arrives as invisible near-infrared radiation.
The main body of research on near infrared light therapy was done by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA research has found that the NIR electromagnetic frequency band of energy penetrates deeply into the body and has a very specific effect on the cells due to our body's natural response to specific near infrared wavelengths. Inside the mitochondria of every cell are receptors that respond to these near infrared wavelengths. The light triggers an increase in cell metabolism, protein synthesis (including collagen), and anti-oxidant activity. It reduces inflammation and pain. Overall, the light triggers growth and regeneration of the cells. 4
In many cells, microtubules form radial tracks from the nucleus to the cell periphery. These tracks are thought to make up a kind of ‘intracellular nervous system’ for communication information in both directions. For example, cells are often attracted to light. When exposed to a source of infrared light, cultured CV1 cells respond by sending our pseudopods, which enable them to crawl toward the light source. The cell's infrared sensor, the centrosome, is situated on the nuclear membrane, far from the incipient pseudopod. Communication between these sites is evidently necessary. As the cell receives the stimulus, the microtubules that interconnect these sites undergo physicochemical change. Hence, some information apparently propagates along the microtubule, enabling the cell to crawl in the proper direction. Gerald H. Pollack, Ph.D., — Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life
The importance of sunlight, and near infrared light, for healthy cell function is scientifically well understood. Until recently, we spent most of our time outdoors. We evolved with the sun shining on our skin. Our cellular function is designed around receiving this input. Infrared light therapy can help compensate for our NIR-deficient modern indoor lifestyles.
Dr. Len Saputo, explaining near infrared light (NIR) therapy.
Depending on an individual's hTMA, sweating may be contraindicated (even dangerous). A 2011 study published in the Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology, explores the effects of toxic mineral elements accumulated within the human body, and the natural methods of excretion.
Toxic elements were found to differing degrees in each of blood, urine, and sweat. Serum levels for most metals and metalloids were comparable with those found in other studies in the scientific literature. Many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat. Presumably stored in tissues, some toxic elements readily identified in the perspiration of some participants were not found in their serum. Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of many toxic elements from the human body.6
Also, researchers made the observation that, "Biomonitoring for toxic elements through blood and/or urine testing may underestimate the total body burden of such toxicants. Sweat analysis should be considered as an additional method for monitoring bioaccumulation of toxic elements in humans." There is a body of evidence-based science regarding sauna therapy and physiology, and the therapeutic benefits of infrared sauna radiation and human health.8
NIR safety is an important consideration. For example, excessive sweating and tissue heating is contraindicated for a fast metabolizer with low copper so NIR should be avoided. However, many NIR benefits can still be realized without having to sweat. Please consult a qualified practitioner with concerns or questions.
Sweating can drain vital electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium. If your levels of these minerals are low NIR use should be limited to non-sweating applications. Please consult a qualified practitioner with any concerns or questions.
Using NIR to induce sweating for detoxification is commonly called infrared sauna therapy. Sauna therapy has been used by many cultures for thousands of years as a safe and powerful method for eliminating toxins and improving health 7. Saunas are pleasant, relaxing and effective for detoxification. Infrared sauna rooms are available in near infrared, far infrared and full spectrum infrared. Here are some commercial examples:
If you don't want to build a sauna room, you can purchase a multi-light stand (like the one pictured here) and set it up in a small bathroom or closet. You can stand in front of the light and rotate as desired for 20 - 40 minutes (depending on how long it takes for you to work up a good sweat). Sweating is a good detoxification practice, and with infrared, you get the added benefits described above.
Single-light NIR therapy can help speed healing by improving circulation, and oxygenation and hydration of the tissue it is affecting. NIR also treats viral and bacterial infections. The following symptoms and conditions can benefit from NIR therapy.
NIR therapy to relieve pain, including joint and back pain, sore or strained muscles, soft tissue injuries, sports injuries, neuropathy.
NIR therapy for skin conditions including rashes, acne, boils, nail fungus and other skin problems.
NIR therapy for viral and bacterial infections, including stomach flu.
You don't have to spend a lot or purchase expensive commercial products to set up a NIR sauna. Depending on how handy you are, you can build or purchase a simple stand, or several stands, to hold the light fixture(s). Your local hardware or farm supply store will usually carry clamp-on fixtures and 250 watt red heat lamps. There are many brands of heat lamps available with similar spectrums. Better lamps are made by GE, Sylvania and Philips. GE bulbs have a built in reflector and a wider beam-spread than most brands. These bulbs may cost a little more, but can be worth it. Other brands have more of a spotlight effect which tends to focus too intensely and be too hot to be comfortable.
For single-light NIR thearpy purposes you can easily assemble a portable light and stand unit inexpensively. Purchase a clamp-on light fixture and securely attach it to a common microphone stand with a boom. Be sure the light fixture is safely attached with a strap or fastener of your choice (ask your hardware store assistant for secure attachment options).
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