Understanding the Significance
Ancient medical texts are replete with discussions about the importance of obtaining adequate sunlight. For instance, the ancient Ayurvedic physician Charaka, who lived in the sixth century B.C., recommended sunlight as a remedy for various ailments. Throughout history, diverse cultures worldwide have revered the sun as a potent healer, with some even worshiping it.
In 1980, A.J. Lewy and his team published an article in Science that marked the inception of modern phototherapy. Lewy proposed that exposure to bright artificial light, distinct from ordinary indoor lighting, could suppress the secretion of the hormone melatonin. As we will delve into later, melatonin is often referred to as "the chemical expression of darkness" since it is produced during the night and is believed to signal the body that it's time to sleep. Studies have shown that melatonin in animals is secreted at night by the pineal gland under the influence of circadian rhythms. Light rays reaching the retina are converted into nerve impulses, influencing melatonin secretion through connections between the retina and the hypothalamus. The demonstration that light in humans has physiological effects transmitted through the hypothalamus at intensities far higher than those required for vision suggested that light may have other effects on the brain that necessitate high-intensity illumination.
Undoubtedly, the sun plays a vital role in our daily lives. During winter, those who can afford it vacation in the Caribbean. Summertime is synonymous with beach outings, despite the warnings about the potential for skin cancer. We generally feel better after spending time in the sun. Today, most medical professionals and researchers regard the sun as more of a healer than a hazard.
We are aware that a lack of sunlight can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Without sunlight, the human body cannot metabolize vitamin D, potentially resulting in conditions like rickets. Many enzymes, hormones, and vitamins require light for proper functioning. Various forms of light have been found to affect different enzymatic reactions for therapeutic purposes. For example, one of the first assessments conducted on a newborn is to check for jaundice. If jaundice is detected, infants are exposed to blue light to treat the condition. Hence, most of us undergo light therapy without even realizing it.
Professor Mester from Budapest University conducted experiments to investigate the role of light in the cells of animals and humans. He discovered that monochromatic light stimulates DNA to utilize lipoprotein in the area, enhancing cellular function and promoting the production of collagen and elastin.
A study reported in the American Geriatrics Society aimed to understand "the effects of low-power light therapy on pain and disability in elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee." The patients were divided into three groups: one received red light therapy, one received infrared light therapy, and the third received no light therapy. Prior to the light therapy, the pain and disability levels were statistically similar across all three groups. The study found that the red and infrared light therapy groups experienced a pain reduction of over 50%. Significant improvements in functionality were observed in the red and infrared therapy groups, but not in the placebo group. This experiment demonstrated the effectiveness of low-power light therapy in alleviating pain and disability in degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee.
Research conducted in the Soviet Union and biological research in the United States suggest that all living organisms may emit light. Light plays a significant role in synchronizing our circadian rhythms.
In fact, researchers have identified several advantages of regular, moderate exposure to sunlight or sun-like artificial lighting. Such exposure can help alleviate the winter blues and address various forms of depression, reduce the effects of jet lag, shorten abnormally long menstrual cycles, and treat conditions like psoriasis, eating disorders, and some types of insomnia. It may even offer relief for certain symptoms of lupus, a serious autoimmune disease.