Healing Power of Light: Why Viruses Thrive in Winter but Not Summer
Comments by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
The COVID-19 situation has drawn the attention of the world to the subject of “viruses.” What are viruses, how does one treat them, and other such questions are highly controversial with very many different viewpoints.
One fact that seems to be agreed upon by everyone, is that viruses, at least the kind of “influenza” type of viruses that are seasonal, are a problem in the winter months, but not so much during the summer months.
Since daylight hours are extended during the summer, most of the research on this topic has surrounded Vitamin D, a vitamin best obtained from the sun.
But there is much more to this topic of “light,” and its effect on human health, than just Vitamin D.
Given how much attention has been given to the “coronavirus” topic, it is time to look at this issue more closely to see if there are factors during the shorter daylight winter times that can be studied and understood to improve our health during this time, without always looking for a drug or vaccine to cure everything.
So I assigned this topic to Health Impact News independent researcher and writer Crystal Lauer. She took over a month to research the topic.
During that time, President Trump and a team of researchers working with William Bryan in the Science and Technology division of the Department of Homeland Security, announced results of some their own studies within their laboratory looking at the effects of “solar radiation” and its effect on the Coronavirus, which seems to confirm that some of the research presented in this article may apply to COVID-19.
Of course, since this is a preventive measure with no patented drugs involved, the studies were quickly condemned by the medical industry, and an off comment made about disinfectants was what the corporate-sponsored “mainstream” media decided to focus on instead.
While Crystal was hesitant at first to spend so much time researching this topic, being a busy homeschool mother, in the end she reported that based on her research, her family made some big changes to their lifestyles to take better advantage of the healing power of natural light, and as a result she reported:
We found that we all are sleeping better, have much more mental energy and are overall feeling far more relaxed, even in the midst of this pandemic.
The Influence of Natural and Artificial Light on Human Biology
by Crystal Lauer
Health Impact News
The eyes are not only the windows to the soul, but the window through which light influences our biology, and while the radiation absorbed through the eyes is particularly influential on our cells, scientists suggest it is not the only way light, whether thermal or non-native, is able to affect our health.
Human cells, and in general every living thing, are optimized by the sun’s broad full spectrum of solar radiation, which starts with the higher energy UV (ultra-violet) rays beginning in the invisible range, progressing through the visible range and ending with the red-to near-infrared at the far opposite side of the spectrum.
The thermal radiation from sunlight holds the complete variations of wavelengths needed to drive our metabolic processes, balance our endocrine system, power our mitochondria, strengthen and build our bones, produce beneficial levels of the hormones dopamine and melatonin and even help prevent pathogens from damaging our bodies.
The sunlight is also known as a Chronobiologic, signaling to non-vision related receptors in our system, the changes in seasons and environment. Approximately 125 million photoreceptors in your retina are neurons transforming light waves into electrical signals which are sent to the brain.
Morning sunlight, which has the most blue light in it, will increase alertness, improve cognitive function and suppress melatonin, the sleep hormone produced in the pineal gland, when exposure occurs within the first couple hours after rising.
The rays contained in the visible blue and ultraviolet parts of the spectrum, which vary in wavelength from 380 Nanometers to 500 nanometers, are largely responsible for synchronizing your body’s clock, or Circadian rhythm, to the 24-hour solar cycle, with their short highly active waves.
Sunlight Directly or Indirectly Influences Almost Every Process in our Physiology
Extensive studies suggest that mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells, use the near-infrared radiation, which makes up 42 percent of the sun’s light, to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), an organic compound that provides energy to the cell.
By altering the physical properties of the water inside the cell’s membrane, the body’s most prolific chromophore which is a molecule which absorbs light, red- to near-infrared (R-NIR) light turbo-charges chemical reactions which result in cellular energy, while largely down regulating reactive oxygen species(ROS), which are responsible for oxidative stress.
This means that at an atomic level, cellular respiration allows photons in both red- and near-infrared light to excite electrons. Theses electrons break up nitric oxide bonds which compete with oxygen and clear the way for hydrogen ions(H+) to make their way through the process which will eventually lead to them becoming ATP molecules more efficiently.
This influence of red-and-infrared light on the cellular respiration has shown to be beneficial for the reduction of inflammation and pain, to improve muscle and wound recovery and even affect athletic performance for the better.
Another Way the Natural Spectrum of Light Provides Health Benefits is Through its Influence on the Immune System
By now most people are aware of the importance of Vitamin D, an ancient signaling molecule which allows the human body to cope with the increased absorption from UVB rays as the seasons change and the solar radiation in the UV range becomes more abundant.
Sunlight is efficient in producing Vitamin D, being reliant on the number of photons from the sun’s rays which are able to penetrate the skin. The increase in clothes, body fat, the use of sunscreen and our overall fear of the sun has led to epidemic levels of clinically low Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) circulating in the blood of the average individual, with numbers increasing only slightly in the summer months and falling again over the winter.
It is estimated that over a billion individuals worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D, making it a major medical health problem globally.
Part of the problem lies in the reduced exposure to adequate UVB, which is often unavailable in many regions, except for a noticeably short amount of the year. Other complications which limit exposure to Vitamin D producing solar light is overcrowded cities and polluted skies, which block the necessary UVB rays needed to create Vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin.
The fat-soluble essential vitamin, 25 hydroxyvitamin D, is necessary for proper bone mineralization, support of most metabolic functions, neuromuscular health and immune modulation.
This increase in Vitamin D production is supposed to be, in part, responsible for the decrease in viral illnesses during the summer months when the sun’s solar rays are more intense, and more people spend time outdoors in less clothes.
So, while uncoupled from the more prolific red-and-infrared spectrum of full solar radiation, high-energy short-wave UV can easily become damaging to the human body, but its overall benefits to the health of our organism is inarguable when used responsibly.
So why, over the past century, has much of the messaging concerning the sun revolved around the dangers of excessive sun exposure and not its benefits?
The effects of UVA radiation which penetrates deep into the skin tissue can, when used inappropriately, can lead to cancer indirectly through the production of harmful molecules like ROS ( reactive oxygen species) that deleteriously affect DNA or through the more direct damage done to DNA broken by UVB radiation, which is more commonly known to be responsible for sunburns, the breakdown of collagen, skin aging and the heightened risk of skin cancers.
But, while the WHO (World Health Organization) has declared the Sun, or more specifically ‘solar radiation,’ to be a group 1 carcinogen, they also acknowledge that lack of sun exposure is responsible for far more death and disease overall. Evidence strongly suggests that adequate amounts of Vitamin D3 are unable to be gotten though dietary means, leaving responsible exposure to the sun the best way to increase needed Vitamin D stores.
Still, with the prolific warnings to avoid the dangers of the sun screaming at us from bottles of sunscreen and lotions, commercials, medical websites and posters for more than half a century, it’s no wonder we eventually stopped questioning the message and, in large part, accepted the idea that nature was attempting to kill us through her thermal light.
Eventually many of us went inside our tightly-constructed homes, flipped on our cost-efficient LEDs, turned on our televisions, scrolled through our smart devices and avoided the obvious hazards which lurked just outside, happily safe from the sun and bathed in the comforting blue glow of technology.
But not all light is created equal, and some scientists are now worried at the amount of time people spend exposed to non-thermal light sources.
Appearances can be deceiving and while we perceive the combination of the colored light waves in the solar spectrum to be a white light, it’s really a combination of distinct colored light waves with varying lengths containing energy in the visible spectrum that scientists say ranges from 380 Nanometers at the blue end to approximately 780 nanometers at the red end.
“Blue” light, which makes up approximately one third of the visible light spectrum, is a short high-energy visible (HEV) wave.
It is also the predominate light wave represented in light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs. Because they are highly efficient to the tune of decreasing energy requirements as much as 95 percent when compared to the older incandescent thermal light bulbs, LEDs have largely replaced their inefficient counterparts.
This single change to our indoor environments may be far more disruptive than proponents could have appreciated.
While the heat from the old incandescent and halogen bulbs was an infrared that bestowed beneficial health effects and balanced the spectrum of light, the new LED bulbs are a non-native EMF radiation source which some photo biologists are warning can lead to age-related macular degeneration, through damage to photoreceptor cells and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Because blue light exposure causes overproduction of ROS resulting in oxidative stress, the damage done by excessive exposure to these lights would also necessitate increased regenerative light exposure from the red- and near-infrared spectrum to balance it out, however, little red and no near-infrared is found in the LED spectrum.
Blue light exposure in the evening, which is common in the average household across the planet, is also responsible for suppressing melatonin production and increasing cortisol, ultimately confusing the biological day and night cycle, your circadian clock.
Melatonin is more than just the hormone instigated by your ganglion cells in your retina and produced in the pineal gland to help you sleep at night.
It is also a free radical scavenger, an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory and a circadian modulator, among other thing.
Exposure to artificial light sources after the sun has set is linked to a variety of disorders and pathologies including breast cancer, neurological, psychiatric and metabolic disorders.
Researchers have even found that circadian disruption may cause structural changes to the brain, affect moods, decrease neurogenesis, cause impairments in learning and memory and even increase depression.
Interestingly, while white and blue light had a marked negative effect on the hippocampal region of the brain, red light had very little effect, making it a non-threatening light source.
According to Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a respected expert in the field of photobiology, clear incandescent bulbs are preferred for indoor lighting over the newer LEDs as they have a color rendering index equivalent to the sun’s, which is 100, and a color temperature that rarely exceeds 3000 kelvin(k).
By comparison, the sun is at 5,500 kelvin at its center, and natural light is approximately 2700 kelvin, LEDs on the other hand can run as high as 6,500 kelvin, without the thermal component, making them higher in color temperature than the sun, yet deceivingly clear and inviting.
The influence of light over our biology is unquestionable, yet the study into the extent and depth of that influence is still in its infancy.
Humans have adapted and thrived since the beginning of humanity beneath the watchful rays of the sun. Ancestrally we rose with the dawn and we slept when darkness fell, our only light, that of the moon, the stars and perhaps a glowing fire.
With fire lights CRI of 100 and a color temperature of 1900, this glow doesn’t affect the natural rise and fall of melatonin, and thus our biological clocks were set by the native rhythms of full spectrum light and the changing seasons which we were intimately connected to all year-round.
Modern life has given us undeniable advantages and innovations, but in the midst of this lies an unfortunate loss, with the severing of our connection to the natural rhythms and while we may be unconscious of the impact of this loss, our cells and our physiology are definitely not.
While this branch of science necessitates mature solutions such as blackout curtains, street lights whose design points its light towards the night sky to prevent leakage of light, LEDs which adjust their wavelength to mimic the progression of the daylight and shift into red after dark, and even glasses that use amber lenses to block the more harmful blue rays from indoor lighting and electronics, will more and more be used to negate damage being done through our constant exposure to light pollution?
For now, perhaps the easiest and best place to start with resetting your circadian clock and increasing your mitochondria’s ATP potential is to get out in the early morning sun for a good half hour to an hour, put your feet on the ground around noon and step out into the rays of the UVB rich light and let your body absorb and create plenty of Vitamin D, and then when night falls, put on your blue blocking glasses or eat by candle light and read a book rather than stare at an electronic blue back-lit device.
How Our Family has Benefited from Changes in our Routine
While researching this subject, I found myself compelled to make rather large changes in my daily routine, and that of my children.
Understandably, they were not terribly excited when I woke them up at dark o’clock to witness the sun’s triumphant return. But with bare feet pressed into the earth beneath their deck chairs, they silently watched the sun peek through the trees and eventually reveal herself completely.
The birds who arrived for their morning worms were as confused as the children by our presence in the yard and watched us suspiciously from the branches above.
But an odd thing happened over the course of the first week, we became addicted to this early morning rise and setting an alarm soon became unnecessary. After a few days, the birds and the squirrels showed up to greet us each morning and became so bold as to practically pull up a chair next to us.
I made it a point to do the majority of my work and the children’s work outside in the yard or on our porch in order to be exposed to natural light for the majority of the day, and we also decided to eat by candlelight each night and use red light before bed to help prevent the suppression of our natural melatonin wherever possible.
As a result, we found that we all are sleeping better, have much more mental energy and are overall feeling far more relaxed, even in the midst of this pandemic.
Perhaps, the most life-changing thing you can do right now, given the circumstances, would be to go outside and reset your internal clock, soak up (responsibly) some UVB and infrared rays to boost your immune system and turn off your LEDs after the sun goes down.
About the Author
Crystal Lauer a freelance writer, researcher and homeschool mom of seven living in Louisiana.
Comment on this article at Health Impact News
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