Ultra Violet – a missing nutrient?
By Sue Pash
Conventional medicine already accepts the therapeutic uses of certain wavelengths of light. One example is the treatment of jaundice in newborn babies. Another is the use of a particular wavelength of red light in conjunction with photosensitive drugs for the treatment of some types of skin cancers. Red and blue light is also used for treating some skin conditions. Infrared is commonly used for rheumatology, muscular and other pain relief. The widespread therapeutic use of sunlight and particularly the ultra violet wavelength however is more controversial. But does ultra violet really deserve it’s reputation as being dangerous, cancer causing, eye damaging and skin aging?
The case for ultra violet
Research has shown that when using quartz as the separator, cellular information signals are able to jump from one cell culture to another. Quartz, unlike glass, allows ultraviolet to pass through it easily. In the particular experiment, when a toxic chemical is added to one cell culture, its quartz-separated neighbour would die a mirror death, an effect not noted when the cultures are separated by glass.
Scientific evidence exists that our cells give off very low emissions of light, believed to be mainly in the ultra violet range. Some research suggests the possibility that these emissions may be part of a cellular light communication system, sometimes called the biophotonic system. Sick cells give off larger amounts of ultraviolet, which can perhaps be likened to a distress signal, which explains how a diseased cell culture separated by quartz can affect a healthy one
The shape and structure of human cells have quartz like similarities, and so the idea that humans both transmit and receive light, including the ultra violet wavelength is no longer so far fetched. It seems we may indeed be “beings of light.”
The ultra violet wavelength may therefore be part of the light system by which we unconsciously receive and transmit information within the body itself and also to the wider environment. Whilst mobile phones and the Internet may make us believe that communication has never been better, by avoiding light, particularly the ultra violet wavelength, we may be inadvertently shutting off a more natural, subtle internal-external communication system.
This may seem a good idea in certain circumstances, like the cell culture behind glass but if true, we also shut ourselves off from that which is healthy, nurturing and some would say our spiritual connectedness with everything else.
Too much or too little?
Apart from being part of a possible cellular communication system, what else do we know about the importance of light and in particular the ultra violet wavelength?
Whilst there is evidence that too much ultra violet light is damaging, could our current obsession with avoiding sunlight and in particular the ultraviolet wavelength completely, be contributing to our health problems? We are poorly adapted to our indoor lifestyles, fluorescent lighting, sunglasses, prescription glasses, contact lenses, tinted windscreens, and sun creams. These lifestyle choices may be leaving us permanently and unconsciously stressed by either low levels of natural light or mal-illumination. The body is able to adapt to light starvation and mal-illumination for a considerable time – sometimes years – before symptoms appear. By then we may not make the connection.
If we accept that we are “beings of light” then apart from our own health issues, what are the affects of maternal light deprivation or mal-illumination on a child’s development in the womb? Can these be contributory factors in the rising rates of autism, hyperactivity and learning difficulties? Colour and light therapies have been developed and are now offered to treat some of these conditions, which suggest this may be a possibility to explore.
Something we know more about is the syndrome known as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder whereby reduced light levels during the winter months can cause a variety of symptoms including depression, fatigue and carbohydrate cravings. Symptoms usually improve as light intensities increase in spring.
For some people however, although symptoms sometimes worsen during the winter months, they do not disappear as light levels improve. The connection to light deprivation may go unnoticed as it doesn’t fit the standard SAD profile. As a former sufferer (mainly due to windowless working conditions and fluorescent lighting) my own term for this is PAD – Permanently Affected Disorder. All year round mal-illumination or light deprivation can cause devastating symptoms, with no seasonal reprieve.
Benefits of Ultraviolet Wavelength Light
Here are some of the known benefits of the ultra violet wavelength. For fuller details see Jacob Liberman’s book Light, Medicine of the Future (see Bibliography below).
- UV light activates the synthesis of Vitamin D, which is required for absorption of other minerals, including calcium.
- UV light lowers blood pressure.
- UV light increases the efficiency of the heart.
- UV light reduces cholesterol.
- UV light assists weight loss.
- UV light is effective in treating psoriasis.
- UV light is effective in treating many other diseases.
- UV light increases the level of sex hormones.
- UV light activates an important skin hormone, solitrol, which works in conjunction with melatonin to control the body’s responses to sunlight and darkness. It has effects on mood, circadian rhythm and seasonal reproduction.
- UV light improves electrocardiogram (ECG) readings and blood profiles of people with atherosclerosis.
Absorption of Ultraviolet Light
In nutrition circles there is a saying about not being what you eat, but what you absorb – and the same applies to light and colour. We take in light through the eyes, which affects the visual cortex from where photocurrents travel to the limbic system, playing a role in emotion, learning and memory, sexual behaviour, perception of smells, and aggression. Photocurrents also appear to affect other parts of the brain, for example the cerebral cortex where it acts as a stimulus to thinking, organising, reasoning and remembering. Light also stimulates the endocrine system via the hypothalamus, pineal and other glands. These are intimately connected with each other and the rest of the body’s systems. What affects one part affects the whole. All our systems require us to “see the light.” However it is not just seeing light, but registering the changes in light that can have a significant effect on our well-being. Bright light, changing light, including changing levels of ultraviolet, and lack of light (darkness) each has a role.
Another of the ways we absorb the different wavelengths that make up sunlight is through the skin. When we consider the surface area of the skin, we have some idea of its importance. Some wavelengths of light penetrate the skin more deeply, particularly red and infrared. Ultra violet is less deeply absorbed and tends to mainly affect the surface area of the skin. The other frequencies of visible light fall in between the two. The fact that ultraviolet is less deeply absorbed does not necessarily mean it is dangerous or less important. Because its effects are so powerful, we may just need a smaller quantity of it than other wavelengths.
Like most poorly adapted species our ancestors would probably have avoided the sun at the hottest part of the day. However on an evolutionary level it appears that we are adapted to regularly absorb small amounts of ultra violet. Roasting in the sun means burning but with regular exposure our skins adapt and our eyes are able to squint, look away or close in response to bright sunlight.
Early human migration from Africa to the colder northern hemisphere resulted in lighter skin colour, skin being covered for warmth, and less light availability due to the shorter summers. However the sun still played an essential part in human life.
In evolutionary terms the human eye and skin has had time to adapt to the ultra violet wavelength (though not the increased levels experienced now for the first time due to depletion of the ozone layer). However we have not had time to adapt to the modern chemicals and toxins we now ingest, breathe in and expose our eyes and skin to, including those in sunscreens. Perhaps we have lost our sense of perspective.
Therapeutic sunbathing or ultra violet treatment seems to go against the current dogma that the sun is dangerous and should be avoided. There are legitimate fears about eye damage, skin cancer and arguments about the increased risks from the sun caused by holes in the ozone layer. However there is an alternative viewpoint which argues that research involving inhumane experiments on animals are basically flawed and their data invalid. It is argued that large “doses” of ultraviolet on restrained, shaved, anaesthetised animals with their eyes forced open would of course result in damaged eyes and skin cancers. However these conditions in no way correspond to the way humans get ultra violet from sunlight naturally.
So are we misinformed and if so why? The sun is clearly more dangerous now than it was 50 years ago but at the same time it is essential to our wellbeing. One reason the case against UV is being overstated may be that the vast arrays of products including sunscreens and cosmetics that protect us from the demon ultra violet rays are very big business. Factors such as increased toxicity and poor diet, both of which affect skin health, are very largely ignored. The advice to improve general diet, particularly avoiding damaged fats and eating adequate protein, avoid toxins and condition the skin with regular amounts of moderate sunshine isn’t likely to keep the cash registers ringing.
We know that excessive sunshine can cause elevated levels of free radicals within the body, which are associated with cell damage and premature aging of the skin. However some free radicals are also produced as a result of normal metabolic processes and have a protective role as part of the immune system, so we should not completely avoid the benefits of moderate sunshine. Other poor lifestyle choices are better addressed, particularly smoking and poor diet.
Antioxidants are substances that mop up the free radicals and prevent them from doing damage. The more your lifestyle encourages free radical production, the more antioxidants you need to have in your body. Ideally we would follow a low free radical producing lifestyle, while ensuring a good antioxidant intake. Interestingly the summer fruits and berries are packed with antioxidants – nature’s summer offering to help protect us from excessive summer sunlight.
There is now evidence that some antioxidants respond to light. It comes from the commercial production of an instrument called a “biophotonic scanner”. This device measures antioxidant levels (specifically the caroteinoids) by focusing a specific wavelength of blue light at the palm of the hand. The blue light causes the caroteinoids, which are generally an orange colour, to emit green photons, which the device then counts. Depending on your score, you can then be advised what if any supplements are required. The theory being that if you are deficient in caroteinoids it is likely you are deficient in the full range of antioxidants.
This particular wavelength of blue appears to stimulate the caroteinoids to emit green photons. Perhaps different wavelengths of light stimulate photon emissions from other metabolites and serve as catalysts or information carriers for the different metabolic processes. For example we know that ultra violet on the skin is involved in the synthesis of vitamin D, which in turn is involved in calcium absorption. Countries close to the equator may have fewer problems with diseases such as osteoporosis, even though average calcium intakes are often low. Perhaps light intake may partly account for why some people need much larger intakes of nutrients than others to achieve the same therapeutic result. It certainly would seem to justify the importance of ensuring that we regularly get out into the natural daylight to ensure we get the full range of the sun’s nutrient wavelengths. In the future it may also become routine to give the appropriate wavelength of light along with a specific nutrient to ensure maximum utilisation.
Moderate sunbathing has many of the benefits of exercise. A half hour sunbathe certainly has more appeal to most than the same half hour on the treadmill. However we are also designed to move and moderate exercise and moderate sunshine are better. The benefits of sunshine without the exercise however will be good news to those disabled or with chronic fatigue. With chronic fatigue the sufferer often has some well-meaning person telling them they will feel better if they get some exercise. Another view is that we need to get healthy in order to exercise, not exercise in order to get healthy. Forced activity when you are chronically fatigued only leads to further symptoms of exhaustion, depression and loss of self-esteem. Movement and activity are natural consequences of feeling well.
Ultra Violet Light and Healing
The different wavelengths of the sun were used for healing by ancient civilisations. Colour therapy was and is well known, and there is considerable evidence for the benefits of the ultra violet wavelength. Indeed many conventionally qualified doctors in the early 20th. century used the therapeutic action of the ultra violet and infrared wavelengths in what became known as Actinotherapy.
The word Actinotherapy comes from the Greek word aktin (which means ray) and the word therapia (a healing). Actinotherapy refers to treatment by radiant energy, particularly the ultra violet and infra red rays similar to those in sunshine. The literature from that time gives details of how the therapy was carried out, normally by irradiating certain areas of the body with ultra violet, although infra red was also used. The intensity, duration and quantity of the dose were based on the client’s condition, its severity, and the specifications of the equipment used.
Ultra Violet light was administered in sedative, tonic, stimulative, inflammatory or destructive doses over small or larger areas of the body dependant on the individual circumstances. For a number of very serious conditions it was not uncommon to use the “destructive” dose over diseased tissue to induce severe sunburn and blistering. This forcibly induced an acute inflammation, in an effort to resolve a chronic or life threatening condition. There were cases documented of many who had benefited, including some who would not otherwise have been expected to survive.
There were drawbacks to using ultra violet on the skin in this way. Individual tolerance to ultra violet had to be tested before treatment could commence, and the technology of the equipment meant that over time the ultra violet emissions reduced, making dose measurement more difficult. Treatment could be painful, and although the induced sunburn healed, we now know more about free radical damage. Despite salves and lotions, often containing toxic ingredients that were often used after treatment, there are many reports of successful cases. Although Actinotherapy was part of “conventional” medicine, the introduction of the seemingly simpler and more convenient modern antibiotics and drugs eventually caused Actinotherapy to all but fade away, despite its scientific credentials.
Although the use of Actinotherapy was originally often done with large doses of ultraviolet for critically ill and hospitalised cases, these are not the cases complementary therapists will see in their practices. For the average client regular moderate doses of sunlight or individual frequencies may gently stimulate the body’s healing powers rather than risk bullying them to the point of exhaustion or forcing a negative reaction such as sunburn.
A later development of Actinotherapy was the technique often called haemo-irradiation. This is where instead of irradiation of the skin, a small amount of veinous blood is removed, irradiated with ultra violet light and returned to the body. Apparently as a result of the disillusionment with antibiotic resistance and drug side effects, this is again becoming more popular.
Briefly, when a very small amount of blood is withdrawn from the vein it is irradiated with ultra violet light through quartz because, as previously discussed, this frequency is transmitted much more effectively through quartz than glass. It was found that when this blood is reintroduced into a vein, the ultra violet is almost instantly dispersed to all areas of the body, quicker than blood circulation alone can explain. This technique appears to offer the properties of ultra violet using a very small amount of the patient’s own blood without the need for skin damage as in the early Actinotherapy treatments. William Campbell Douglass MD’s book Into the Light (see Bibliography) gives a summary of haemo-irradiation research, and his experience of using the technique. However, haemo-irradiation is not a common practice and finding someone trained or qualified to perform the technique is unlikely to be easy.
We know that the skin is either sensitive to or resistant to large amounts of ultra violet but is there anywhere on the body that allows more to enter the system? In the light of haemo-irradiation perhaps we can consider the veins that are very close to the surface of the skin, for example at the wrists and the back of the knees. When we consider that the human cell has quartz like characteristics, these veins could provide a natural “quartz tube” by which to introduce therapeutic amounts of ultra violet (or indeed any other wavelength), without the infection risks attached to drawing blood.
In evolutionary / survival terms there are risks attached to having parts of some veins so close to the surface of the skin, instead of more deeply inside the body. There must have been an important reason for this, and indeed it may be an important evolutionary “design feature.”
Such is the importance of sunlight that this may be our own haemo-irradiation kit to ensure moderate amounts enter the system, even when the body is tanned as a defence mechanism to avoid overloading the larger surface area of the skin. Whatever their geographical location, our ancestors could have absorbed limited but regular amounts of ultraviolet light in this way, particularly as they were not hampered by our modern clothing conventions or sunscreen use.
The Body’s Intelligence
When we take in nutrients, be it from our food or from light, the body has the remarkable ability to function intelligently with what it is given. Problems can arise if it gets too little or too much in which case it has to
do the best it can in the circumstances. Immediate survival takes priority.
If we injure ourselves, this intelligence normally initiates a response to the injury. It deals with a cut, or initiates the knitting of a broken bone. We can consciously assist by cleaning the cut or setting the bone, but it is the body’s intelligence that signals the natural self-healing processes. The holistic approach to disease is to attempt to stimulate the natural healing process by providing the best conditions for healing to occur.
Holistic Treatment Options
Rather than treating a specific condition with colour and light, the holistic therapist treats the client, not the disease. During any treatment the effort is aimed at encouraging the client’s self-healing processes. Advising on appropriate lifestyle choices between treatments is also important when we are dealing with long term light deprivation or mal-illumination. It is not usually enough to just project a colour or light onto the client in a treatment setting. A once a month or even once a week treatment will not easily overcome long-term light deprivation, and a valuable therapy can be judged poorly if the client isn’t made aware of the issues. Delays in recovery can be avoided and a client can become more positive and active in their own recovery when they are able to make informed lifestyle choices between treatments.
Before any treatment can commence, it is important to know how effectively the client is currently able to absorb light through both the eyes and the skin. Factors such as any over sensitivity to light to the eyes, and skin tolerance to sunlight are two examples
If a therapist uses iridology, it can give useful information as to whether the skin is functioning properly as an organ of absorption and elimination – including light and colour. A heavy scurf rim may indicate that skin functioning needs to be addressed. This could for example be by using naturopathic treatments such as skin brushing and hydrotherapy. Attention to diet and particularly the nutrients that support good skin health are appropriate. Any conditioning of the skin using therapeutic sunbathing needs to be gradual to avoid negative responses such as burning. Light or specific wavelengths of colour directed at the superficial veins can be useful whilst poor skin functioning is addressed.
If the self-healing mechanisms can be stimulated, it may not necessarily be in the way or the order a client expects. This also needs to be carefully explained to a client prior to any treatment. It also emphasises the importance of a full case history, with all the current presenting symptoms noted, even if they are not what the client is currently concerned with.
For example one client (who had been checked by his doctor) came for light therapy treatment for poor circulation to the lower legs, which was affecting his skin quite badly. He was afraid that, at nearly 80 years old, if the skin on his legs were injured or developed any sores it would not heal. Winter was fast approaching so therapeutic sunbathing was not appropriate at that time, so light and colour therapy was started. However
his body “used” the wavelengths given to heal a wart on his chest first. Adding full spectrum treatment and additional small amounts of certain frequencies of light onto the superficial veins improved both his varicose veins and his arthritis.
The improvement to the skin on his lower legs was slower, but having improved the conditions of his veins, gradually the skin on his lower legs started to look normal as oxygen started to reach the tissues more efficiently.
During this time we discussed lifestyle choices that would assist his healing processes. In his particular case it was appropriate that he bought his own therapy light to continue his treatments at home. He tried to spend some time outside in natural light without his glasses whenever the weather allowed. As spring arrived he began to spend time outside, relaxing in the sunshine. He says that for many years he had enjoyed moderate sunbathing because he had felt it had done him good. Since finally taking notice of the scares about cancer and sunlight his health had very slowly deteriorated, but he had not made the connection.
This client was already eating well and taking supplements, and his deteriorating health was put down to his advancing years. By giving him the information on the potential benefits of moderate sunshine together with the safety considerations he is able to make additional informed choices about his health, thereby giving him another tool
If light starvation or mal-illumination is recognised this can be addressed by light and colour therapy that includes attention to the ultra violet wavelength.
However just as important are changes to the lighting we live and work under. Lifestyle changes that include ensuring we can safely include sufficient natural light through the eyes and on the skin are vital. If we also ensure we are breathing correctly, that we drink plenty of clean water, get some fresh air, rest, relax and eat nutritiously we can do a lot to improve poor health. As health improves, we can move and exercise when or if possible.
Eating nutritiously includes avoiding “junk” food, and ensuring sufficient protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fibre, fruit and vegetables for vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Sun-ripened fruits and vegetables will contain more of the sun’s wavelengths, including ultraviolet, than produce grown under cover or picked too early and artificially ripened. A wide range of these will give us wavelengths of colour naturally packaged with the antioxidants and enzymes that help protect us from sun damage.
Advances in our understanding of the metabolic effects of light and all the different wavelengths of light, including ultra violet, will hopefully one day be fully accepted by conventional medicine. In the meantime, perhaps its time to make friends with the sun again – but gently does it!
Day Light Robbery – Dr. Damien Downing
Into the Light – William Campbell Douglas MD
Modern Actinotherapy – Raymond H. Beckett BA
Light, Medicine of the Future – Jacob Liberman, OD PhD
Vibrational Medicine for the 21st Century – Richard Gerber MD
The Therapists’ Network Website: http://www.therapynetworkonline.co.uk