Low Level Laser Therapy(LLLT), Photobiomodulation(PBM), Cold Laser.
Three names for one cutting edge therapy.
Why is it that during a healing journey we focus so much on food and supplements? There is always more that can be done. Many things can heal the body outside of those two realms. Earthing and getting Vitamin D and energy from the sun are two examples. But what about getting energy from another light source? That is where LLLT comes in. And it is quickly proving that it isn’t some alternative health practice with no research to back it up. LLLT has literally thousands of research papers documenting its effectiveness. The range of treatments ranges from hair loss, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, mitochondrial health, ALS, Traumatic Brain Injury, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis[R] and more.
What is LLLT?
Low Level Laser Therapy is using red light (600-700nm) and infrared light (780-1100nm) to penetrate deep in the body to stimulate the mitochondria for healing and reduction of inflammation.
Our mitochondria are our cells energy source. They convert most of what we eat to energy and are present in every cell in our body. The cells that require more energy (think heart and brain) may have thousands of mitochondria where as the cells that require less energy, may only have a few. Mitochondrial dysfunction is very common in autism and should especially be considered in kids who regressed. Using LLLT the mitochondria can be healed overtime rather than just supplementing and keeping your fingers crossed that it works. Through the use of transcranial LLLT (tLLLT) mitochondria can begin to heal and cognitive function can begin to increase.
So if you are looking to make progress in cognition, speech or reducing inflammation, laser is the way to go. Actually, laser is good for most people. However, the effects will be more pronounced on an injured brain than in a healthy one.
Many people who practice LLLT say it is the best way to improve cognitive function.
How does it work?
“LLLT supplies the brain with metabolic energy in a way analogous to the conversion of nutrients into metabolic energy, but with light instead of nutrients providing the source for ATP-based metabolic energy.” [R]
While using the “laser” or Light Emitting Diode(LED) the red light penetrates through the skin into the cells. From there the photoreceptors inside the mitochondria absorb the lights photons. The energy from the light is converted into usable ATP. This is very similar to the way chlorophyll in plants absorbs certain wavelengths of sunlight which is then used in all sorts of biochemical processes.
This happens at the Cytochrome C Oxidase (CCO) which is unit IV of the Electron Transport Chain of the mitochondria. This step is responsible for the final reduction of oxygen to water using the electrons generated from glucose metabolism. When the CCO absorbs the light photons this increases its ability to pump H+ ions thus increasing ATP. This process is called “oxidative phosphorylation”.[R]
But LLLT does more than just stimulate ATP production. After all, I did say that many people consider this therapy to be the ultimate way to increase cognition.
The CCO activation has all sorts of positive downstream effects. This is especially true when used on the brain. And the effects are exactly what you want to happen in many of our ASD kids brains.
Benefits of using LLLT in Autism:
- Reduction of Brain Inflammation – This is done by reducing oxidative stress, TNF, IL-1B, Cox 2 & PGE(2) [R]
- Increased Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) – BDNF helps to support and regenerate neurons. It is active in the hippocampus, cortex and basal forebrain, all areas important for learning, memory, and higher thinking.[R]
- Increased Energy – Through increased intracellular ATP production [R]
- Increase in cAMP and ROS [R]
- Decreased Neuron Excitotoxicity (reduced glutamate) [R]
- Increased Lymphatic Drainage [R]
- Increased Cerebral Blood Flow and Oxygenation [R]
- Up regulation of Antioxidants and Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD)[R]
- Formation of new blood vessels [R]
- Cell proliferation [R]
- Seizure Reduction [R] [R2]
The lasers have even been shown to activate stem cells in the bone marrow when used on the legs of mice. The stem cells were then able to migrate through the blood to repair organ defects.[R]
“It has been shown that there is a brief increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced in the mitochondria when they absorb the photons delivered during PBM. The idea is that this burst of ROS may trigger some mitochondrial signaling pathways leading to cytoprotective, anti-oxidant and anti-apoptotic effects in the cells. The Nitric Oxide(NO) that is released by photodissociation acts as a vasodilator as well as a dilator of lymphatic flow. Moreover NO is also a potent signaling molecule and can activate a number of beneficial cellular pathways.”[R]
LLLT functions using a phenomenon called “Hormesis” which means that a low dose of a substance that could otherwise be harmful, is found to be beneficial. This is the same practice as ozone therapy. The slight increase in stress (ROS) results in a net decrease. This is also the same philopshy as exercise. A limited amount is good for you, but overdoing it could cause harm.
So with this in mind, it is important to start VERY low and slow with this. I started a bit too quickly on myself and definitely saw the effects. After using the LED on my forehead for about 5 minutes I was left lethargic and with heavy brain fog. So I tried again a couple days later and covered my whole head for about 1 minute. The next day I was full of energy and thinking very clearly. The effects lasted about 24 hours. Now with regular use, the benefits have started to become constant.
By about 2 weeks of use on myself I noticed the benefits on a more consistent basis.
While using the LED on my son, I noticed the benefits right away. He had significantly more energy at the park. His cognitive function and social skills were markedly better. The following day the effects weren’t as strong. We used the LED again and saw the same improvements the next day but stronger. We have continued to see small daily improvements since beginning the therapy.
It is smart to begin once weekly and ultimately move up to 3x weekly. An injured brain will show improvements quicker than a healthy one. They also require less time with the laser. 5-10 seconds is a good first use time frame when used on the head.
In the future I plan on using the LED on different organs and will update once we have tried them out.
We have had such positive results using photobiomodulation on the whole family. We are using it on major organs as well as on the head. The additional locations we use the light are:
- Both wrists
I also move the might in a downward motion from the top of the head following lymph flow for increased drainage. Following this increased protocol as well as our light enhancing supplement regimen has been amazing. Chase is doing new things daily. Cognitive performance has continued to improve.
I fully expect in the future for LLLT to become an important player in developmental delay recovery. The increased intracellular ATP can assist in warding off the Cell Danger Response(CDR). The laser is both able to heal the mitochondria as well as reestablish the needed ATP volume that is lost during an active CDR. This also makes a good beginning therapy for developmental delays (and other issues) due to the hormesis effect on healing. [R]
“When a nerve cell is using more energy than other cells, or is challenged because of a lack of energy, red light therapy can give it a boost by improving mitochondrial function. Essentially, it recharges the cell’s batteries.” – Glen Jeff
LLLT pairs well with:
Honey – Provides glycogen for brain healing and function, combats oxidative stress, and is neuroprotective.
Earthing – The constant flow of free electrons helps aid the mitochondrial recovery
PQQ – Pyrroloquinoline quinone – stimulates mitochondrial biogeneis
CoQ10 – Aids in mitochondrial function, ATP production and reduces oxidative stress.
Avoiding EMF’s – EMF’s are poison to mitochondria. To heal them, you’ll need to keep EMF exposure to a minimum.
HBOT due to the increase in O2. Some people even bring their LED inside the chamber.
CCTV: At first I was hesitant about using this type of device but Dr. Hamblin, a leading LLLT researcher at Harvard said they were okay to use.
We did remove the glass off of our device, which has worked well. Though I did read that taking the glass off may not be needed.
The CCTV products are a fantastic and low cost way to begin using LLLT. On its own this has been one of our most effective therapies. The extremely low cost of these beginner items is simply an added bonus!