What does Red Light Therapy and Vitamin C Have in Common? An origins story.

Red Light Therapy has many parallels with Vitamin C, the obvious being for the similar benefits such as collagen production and energy. This Vitamin C and photobiomodulation are a powerhouse combo that is commonly touted in the cosmetic and beauty industry. However, I feel their roots are similar all the way back to the beginning.

Humans have evolved to require Vitamin C and sunlight.  Most mammals are able to make their own Vitamin C.  For example, goats are capable of producing 13 grams of Vitamin C daily! Unfortunately, humans have lost their capacity to produce adequate levels of Vitamin C on their own. Obviously humans cannot produce enough light on our own either, so we must always consider “ingesting” light and Vitamin C as required “nutrients.”

During the Age of Exploration between the years 1500 and 1800 it is estimated that scurvy had killed 2 million sailors! Quite the epidemic!  Since the discovery of nutrients and Vitamin C would not come until the 1900s, they could not even conceive that a food-related deficiency or disease was even possible. Currently we are seeing a new epidemic of chronic disease throughout the world. I believe that many people are just becoming aware of the idea that a deficiency in light is possible and a source of problems.

When people are sustaining on an diet of carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods the body will demand more Vitamin C. When not taken to offset these assaults, the symptoms of scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency) will accelerate more rapidly. Similarly, when we live in environments rich in blue lights, bright indoor lighting, improper lighting at night, cell phone screens, computer screens, and lack of sunlight the symptoms of light deficiency will also appear more rapidly. Those unfriendly conditions can be mitigated with the insertion of red light therapy in a person's day.

The symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency start with fatigue, loss of collagen production, and pain. When a patient with scurvy is administered a form of Vitamin C, they will rapidly recover! In the 1800s, this recovery was miraculous, especially due to lack of understanding the mechanism at the time. I believe we are seeing a similar feat here with light therapy; when people are exposed to proper or therapeutic light sources after suffering a deficiency, they can experience a surprising recovery! However, the mechanism of red light therapy has been very well studied, so it should not be so mysterious to us now.

When a person who is already on a well-rounded diet of low-carbohydrates, variety of fruits and vegetables, and moderate proteins starts to supplement Vitamin C, they might not feel an immediate effect. Why? Because they are not correcting a deficiency. The improvements by Vitamin C for this type of person may be more subtle or take longer to notice. Similar to light therapy, people who get adequate sunlight, avoid “bad” light, and already use proper indoor lighting may not experience an immediate benefit from light-therapy. Persistent use of red light therapy may benefit them in more subtle ways or over a longer timeframe.

The Western philosophy that “more is better” does not always apply when supplementing Vitamin C or Red Light Therapy. When taking high doses of oral Vitamin C, the body will not be able to absorb the dose and will evacuate the excess vitamin through the bowels. Similarly, with Red Light Therapy, too high of a dose or intensity and the cells may not be able to absorb the photons adequately for the full benefit.

There are many occurrences when the body is able to absorb higher and more therapeutic doses of Vitamin C. When a person is presented with cold or flu-like symptoms, immune issues, or fatigue – a higher and more therapeutic dose can be effective in combating the issue. Similarly, there appears to be conditions such as pain, recovery, and healing such that the mitochondria in our cells are looking for additional light at therapeutic levels to aid the body in its natural processes. So, having Vitamin C on hand as well as red light therapy devices can be useful biohacking tools when the need arises.

My personal journey with Vitamin C:

As an obese, metabolically-challenged, and fatigued 20-something I was constantly craving oranges. I ate at least one orange a day, along with my poor diet high in carbohydrates, fats, processed foods, and minimal vegetables. My girlfriend (now wife) asked me why I would always stock-up on oranges in the grocery store, and I would sarcastically shout at her “Because I don’t want scurvy!” I now realize that my body was crying for Vitamin C at the time. After I started on the Bulletproof Diet, I cut out most carbs and fruits completely, including my beloved oranges. The Bulletproof Diet did wonders for my energy levels and weight-loss, but I still had general fatigue during the day. When I stocked up on the Bulletproof list of recommended supplements, I started on supplemental Vitamin C. I took 1 gram in the morning and 1 gram in the evenings. This, along with additional vitamins, sea salt, rhodiola, ashwaganda, and following the Bulletproof Diet started to really reverse my fatigue. Today, I still take 1 gram of Vitamin C a day for general upkeep, and more when I feel under the weather. I can draw a similar story with my experience with light therapy - but that would be for another post!

Thanks for reading!

Recommended Reading:

While this blog post does not offer scientific references (yet), the inspiration of this post came from the book The Dorito Effect.

*Disclaimer – the information provided in this article is meant for educational purposes only and are the expression only of the personal opinion of its author. We encourage consulting a certified wellness practitioner if you think Vitamin C or Red Light Therapy would be helpful to your wellness goals.