This is a guest article by Anna Iversen – a CEO and founder of Fjor, a company building the world’s first red light booth where the benefits of full-body red light treatment can truly be maximized
Seeing the light
When both my parents were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other I was scared. I didn’t know much about the disease and was too afraid to research it. During the emotional year, I spent looking after them just the word ‘cancer’ felt daunting. I was terrified and believed I was powerless to prevent it affecting those I loved.
In the week before my mother’s death (she was the last to go), I stumbled upon a book fittingly called Tripping over the Truth by Travis Christofferson, an American science writer. I can’t recall how I came across the book, or why I dared open it. But once I began reading, everything changed.
I lost my fear and started devouring every conceivable book and a research paper on cancer and degenerative conditions that I could find.
On reflection, what I discovered was certainly not ground-breaking. A disease does not just descend on us due to “bad genes” or “bad luck”. We as individuals create, through our diet, environment, and the lifestyle choices that we make, the terrain in our bodies, either leading us on a path to optimal health or chronic disease or anything in-between these two extremes. This realization gave me a profound feeling of empowerment.
I needed to spread the word and make as many people around me realize that we can, and should, look after our health and wellbeing. There is no reason whatsoever for us to accept aches and pains just because we have reached a certain age or have been living with them for as long as we can remember. This triggered me to give up my 20-year career as a City lawyer and launch Fjor, a health and wellbeing company that combines nutrition, exercise, good sleep and stress mediation with modern health technologies like light therapy.
Leveraging my previous career I see my role as a facilitator, someone that raises awareness and brings the cutting-edge science and technologies to a broader audience. It is all very well and good that we biohackers are fully immersed in this field, but we need ordinary people on the street to also become enlightened!
It is this passion for new technologies and finding ways in which to make them known and accessible to a broader audience that led me to take an active part in the 2018 Biohacker Summit in Stockholm.
I am such a keen advocate for using light to achieve excellent health that I have designed a prototype red light therapy booth with the objective to bring it to the wider public. My aim is to make it affordable and available so that it becomes as commonplace in people’s lives as going to the gym – with a lot less effort involved!
What are the benefits of red light therapy?
See video of Anna Iversen’s presentation:
Photobiomodulation (PBM), a term that was coined in the 1980s, is now the preferred term used to describe red and near infrared (NIR) light therapy, increasingly replacing the term Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). It involves exposing cells or tissue to low levels of red and near NIR light, and is referred to as “low level” or “cold laser” because the energy density levels of the light used are low compared to surgical lasers and do not involve the heating of tissue. The shift in terminology from LLLT to PBM reflects that less expensive non-coherent light-emitting diodes (LEDs), emitting light over a wider range of wavelengths, provide similar results to a coherent monochromatic laser.
The therapy has been around for over fifty years, having been discovered in 1967 by Endre Mester at the Semmelweis Medical University in Hungary where he observed an increased rate of hair growth and improved wound healing in lab rats.
PBM is now being used therapeutically to reduce inflammation, the symptoms of chronic joint disorders, symptoms of neurological disorders and pain. In addition, it has shown to be effective in healing wounds, deeper tissues and nerves. PBM can also be used to increase muscle performance and several studies in athletes show improvements in muscle performance and reduction in post-exercise muscle damage.
The wavelengths of light used for PBM are in the 600-1070 nm range as tissue penetration is maximized within this range. Wavelengths in the range 600–700 nm (red light) are used to treat superficial tissue and has been shown to enhance the appearance of the skin, increasing blood flow and speeding up the regeneration process. Red light can reduce scarring and treat skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Longer wavelengths in the range 780–950 nm (NIR), which penetrate further, is used to treat deeper-seated tissues, helping reduce inflammation and joint problems like arthritis, rheumatism, and musculoskeletal disorders. Wavelengths in the range in-between these two “therapeutic windows” have so far been found to have limited biochemical activity and are therefore not commonly used.
Photobiomodulation is now making significant progress in obtaining the recognition it deserves from the medical establishment, scientific literature, and the media. The Journal of Biophotonics, a peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to research on the interactions between light and biological material, has been existing since 2008.
This positive development is due to a series of factors, perhaps the biggest advancement was made as a result of the progress achieved in understanding the effect of PBM at a molecular, cellular and tissue-based level. The work of Tiina Karu’s in Russia is of fundamental importance as it identified cytochrome c oxidase, a protein within the mitochondria (the power plants of our cells), as receptors of light and it introduced the concept of “retrograde mitochondrial signalling” to explain how a single relatively brief exposure to light could have effects on an organism lasting several hours, even days or weeks.
The effects of PBM is photochemical, similar to photosynthesis in plants. With the correct intensity and exposure times, red and near-infrared light reduces oxidative stress and increases the mitochondria’s production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is achieved when the light is absorbed by cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondria. In normal conditions, when cells are under stress, the mitochondria produce nitric oxide (NO). NO is a signaling molecule, which displaces oxygen from cytochrome c oxidase, and reduces ATP. This can lead to an overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) resulting in oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to inflammation and accelerated cell death. PBM allows oxygen back in, restoring ATP production and reducing oxidative stress. When normal mitochondrial function and cell metabolism is restored, improved health and wellbeing ensues.
Why light therapy booths?
My idea for light therapy booths came about last autumn while thinking about how best to incorporate the treatment into the range of health technologies I offer my clients.
Fjor’s London office is based inside a building mostly made of glass. Given light therapy is best administered with as few clothes on as possible, this was not the ideal setting.
I began looking at the private booths that people were using to make phone calls. My first thought was to use one of these but then I realized the benefits of designing a new unique light therapy booth that could be planted in a variety of settings and be easily accessed by anyone anywhere.
I designed my booth with scalability in mind and within a few months, my prototype was ready. The idea is that the finished product can be placed in any space where there is access to some level of security and maintenance capability. It is relatively cheap to produce and doesn’t require a huge investment from the service provider. It uses very little space and only needs maintenance on a level with a vending machine. Thus, it can be installed in office blocks, university atriums, gyms, health spas, shopping centers, railway stations and airports (what a great pick me up after a tiring and health-crippling flight).
Future developments of Fjor includes designing an app can be used for locating a red light booth, booking and paying for sessions, unlocking it and reporting any problems that may arise.
Bringing it to light
Like other delegates at the 2018 Biohackers Summit in Stockholm, I am driven by a passion to raise awareness of the importance of light.
Fake foods, pesticides, environmental pollutants, sedentary lifestyles, little time spent outside, stress, insufficient quality sleep and our modern approach to light contribute to chronic diseases.
What so many people haven’t yet fully understood is that light is, in fact, an essential nutrient. By spending most of our time inside with little access to natural light from the sun, while also exposing ourselves to the harmful blue light emitting from TVs, computers, tablets and smartphone screens, we are damaging our bodies, in particular, our mitochondria, in a profound way.
According to our mitochondria, modern life is well and truly rubbish, contributing to the emergence of so much chronic disease. Flipping the coin to the other side, by embracing and promoting the science and technology that is emerging, modern life can offer health and longevity at a level that has never been experienced before.
We live in exciting times where we can merge science and technology to achieve optimum health. Anything that helps do this deserves to be brought into the limelight. If we do not take action soon, our generation, and worse still, that of our children, will suffer serious health consequences. Together we can reverse the negative trend and raise a new generation that will not suffer the serious health consequences we are experiencing now, who will be living long and fulfilling lives free of crippling disease.