#302 The Benefits of Infrared Light Therapy After Breast Cancer

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On this Tuesday Terrain Talk Episode, we’ll explore the amazing benefits of infrared light. 

I’ll share how this safe, non-invasive therapy supports our overall wellness and what the evidence is pointing to when it comes to its use in cancer therapies and seasonal effective disorder. 

I’ll share my own experience with infrared light therapy and give you resources to investigate to see if this is something that would benefits your metabolic health and your healthy lifestyle. 

Check it out now.  

Referred to in this episode: 

Better Than Before Breast Cancer Life Coaching Membership 

90 Days of Wellness 

Becoming You 2.0 

Metabolic health practitioners 

Studies on infrared therapy and cancer 

Treatment of triple negative breast cancer by near infrared light triggered mild-temperature photothermal therapy combined with oxygen-independent cytotoxic free radicals 

Clearlight Infrared Saunas 

Infrared Product reviews 

Infrared Lamp Reviews 


Read the full transcript here:

Laura Lummer 0:00
Hey friends. Before we jump into this episode, I just want to let you know that because of some exciting changes coming up in 2024, two of my standalone programs are going to be retired from the standalone category and they're gonna live inside my better than before breast cancer membership. So of course those people who've already purchased the programs will have lifetime access. But if you always wanted to join 90 days of wellness and just haven't pulled the trigger, or you've always wanted to explore becoming you 2.0 And take the first steps to recreating the life you want to live after breast cancer, now's the time to do it. These programs will be accessible on their own until January 15 2024. After that they'll only live inside the better than before breast cancer membership. So click on the links you'll find where you listen to this podcast, or go to my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com and click on coaching and programs to grab one of these very valuable programs while you can. Alright, let's get into the show. You're listening to better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm a breast cancer thriver. In this podcast, I will give you the skills and the insights and the tools to move past the emotional and physical trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. If you're looking for a way to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer, you've come to the right place. Let's get started.

Laura Lummer 1:40
Hey, friends, welcome to episode 302. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And this is our Tuesday terrain talk. Today we're going to talk about a therapy that I love that I use on nearly a daily basis. And I love it because it has health benefits that range from exploring the way that it supports us in healing from cancer, to treating depression, seasonal affective disorder and overall health and improving immunity when we're talking about infrared light and exposure to infrared light. In this episode, I'm going to tell you some of the benefits of infrared light and what it does how it comes into our body. And as a result of that the changes that happen because of our exposure to these light wavelengths, which is absolutely fascinating, I think how they benefit us what they're being used for, and some resources that you can explore, I'm going to give you some links in the show notes for this episode. So that you can look at reviews for infrared light products and see if something suits you and your lifestyle. And what I love about these products is there's everything from a $79 infrared lamp that you can use at home to a $7,000 infrared spa that you can install in your home. So there's a wide spectrum of choices when it comes to products that deliver effective infrared light therapy. And I think that there's pretty much something for every budget. So I have loved that because this is a very accessible form of treatment. Now I use infrared light therapy in the form of a sauna, I have, I'm super lucky that I have this infrared sauna access and in place, it's just literally three minutes from my house. And I do my treatment, four to five days a week depending on my schedule, I try to get in five. And I use a sauna at 140 to 145 degrees. And I stay in it for 30 to 40 minutes when I go in for my treatments. It's absolutely wonderful. And I have a protocol from my naturopathic oncologist that I use when I go into the sauna. And I'll tell you a little bit more. I will tell you a little bit more about that as we get into this episode and why that's important. So to start off, I want to just make a note ahead of time anytime we talk about a therapy that is an alternative therapy or an integrative therapy. I think it's very important to note. And I feel like I have to put this caveat out there that while these benefits are supported by studies, and I'll put links in the show notes to a litany of studies that you can look at when it comes to infrared light and photo dynamic therapy. And there's anecdotal evidence there's research studies, but still more research needs to be done to fully understand the effects and the mechanisms of infrared light therapy. So as with any therapy, you got to use it under the proper guidance, especially if you're dealing with a health condition right? I'm dealing with an active health condition And I do consult my naturopathic oncologist to say, What's the most effective way to use this and make sure that it's a safe way of using it, and that your body is okay using it. Now, I want to point out, it's important, I think that you consult a licensed medical practitioner. But that may not be your standard of care oncologist necessarily, because they may not be trained in alternative therapies or understand infrared light, or hyperbaric oxygen or other therapies that can be used to really support our medications and treatments that we use as we go through cancer therapies, as well as just supporting our overall health and improving our immune system, even if we're not going through active treatment. Okay, so I'll put a list again, I, as I'm saying this out loud, I'll put a link to an amazing resource of practitioners that are all part of and trained in the metabolic approach to cancer. So if you're interested in speaking with a doctor or consulting about some therapy, you can refer to that list as well. Okay, so let's jump into this. Let's talk about infrared light. Now, I'm speaking about it today in the context of infrared therapy, also known as photo bio modulation. So this is basically the interaction of light wavelengths with tissues in our body. So because I don't want to keep saying photo bio modulation, I'm just going to call it PBM. Okay, so PBM usually involves wavelengths that are in the range from 600 to 1000 nanometers, you are probably never going to remember that. But I think it's important to say that's pretty much the therapeutic wavelength of these light waves. And you may look for that information. If you do click on the resource links that I've provided, and you're interested in getting an infrared product for yourself. So those wavelengths are usually in that range 600 to 1000 nanometers. And at these wavelengths, they're really effective in penetrating the skin, and soft and hard tissues of our body. And that's what gives them biological effects. So these wavelengths have cellular effects in that their primary mechanism of action is that they're absorbed by the mitochondria in our body. Now, why is that important? Because this absorption by mitochondria, leads to an increased production of what's called ATP. Remember, back to Science class in high school, ATP is the energy currency of our cells, right? It's that whole Krebs cycle that creates ATP and gives us energy. And it also leads to the modulation of reactive oxygen species are free radicals. And those play a role in our cellular signaling. Now, why is it important? Why do we think about mitochondria? And why do we care if a wavelength can penetrate and change what happens in our mitochondria? Well, that comes back to this cellular theory and the metabolic approach to cancer and the understanding that in a cancer cell, we know that the mitochondria of cancer cells do not work as effectively as the mitochondria of normal cells. So one of the things that an integrative approach and a metabolic approach is looking to do is supporting your body in helping to heal mitochondria, so that new healthy cells are producing other healthy cells with healthy mitochondria. So this is important. Think about this very common experience we have as people who've been diagnosed with cancer. And that's fatigue. Right? I hear this a lot. Of course, I noticed it for me, leading up to both of my diagnosis were increased experience of fatigue, and sometimes really deep fatigue, and kind of a compromised immune system getting sick more and more frequently, those can be pretty common symptoms that we see for people who have cancer, and that involves the functioning of our mitochondria. Also, in addition to so many other things, cancer is just so complex, okay. But because of these biological outcomes because of the enhanced cellular energy, and because of the changes in the way free radicals are managed. This leads to some really cool downstream effects for us. So one of those is increased cell proliferation, anti inflammatory effects, pain reduction, and enhanced tissue repair and regeneration. So let's talk for a minute about how infrared light actually read dueces pain because I think that's important. We know so common that you hear it. If you're in any kind of Facebook group or you know other people going through breast cancer, you probably hear a lot about aching joints and pain. Well, the way that this infrared light therapy affects our body results in increased blood circulation. So this an infrared light helps to dilate our blood vessels. And that increases the blood flow to areas of our body, it improves circulation, because of more oxygen and nutrients are getting to those painful areas, which then can facilitate healing and reduce pain. Very cool stuff. It stimulates repair and regeneration of tissues. So because it's absorbed in the photoreceptors in our cells, it triggers a series of metabolic events. And a very cool effect of that stimulation of the mitochondria is what I talked about just a minute ago, the enhanced energy production of ourselves, and that leads to faster repair and regeneration of damaged tissues. So it reduces inflammation by decreasing the release of pro inflammatory cytokines proteins in our body, and it increases the production of anti inflammatory cytokines. So this change in the inflammatory response in our body reduces pain and swelling in affected areas, right, wherever we may be experiencing not. So that's super cool. Also, infrared light waves release endorphins. So the heat that's generated by infrared light, can stimulate the release of endorphins in our body, and those are natural painkillers that our body produces. So endorphins can help alleviate pain through their natural analgesic effect super cold, it also decreases nerve sensitivity. So infrared light leads to a decrease in the excitability of our nerve cells. And that can reduce pain signals that are sent to the brain. It reduces muscle spasms and stiffness. And I gotta say, that is absolutely one of the biggest benefits I notice in my own therapy. And if I miss my days, like when I'm traveling, and I miss my days in my infrared sauna, I totally noticed a change in muscle spasms that I'm prone to in my legs, and also stiffness in my body. So it's that deep penetrating warmth that the infrared light gives us that helps to relax muscles, reduce stiffness, and further supports the reduction in pain. Another excellent benefit is that it improves lymphatic drainage. So enhanced blood circulation and tissue heating can promote lymphatic drainage, which helps to reduce edema, and swelling in areas of your body. Some of the ways that infrared light is being used, as far as clinical applications are concerned is in the treatment of wound healing pain management, as we've been talking about muscular skeletal conditions, reduction of inflammation, again, we just talked about treatment of neurological disorders. And it's also used in dermatology for skin rejuvenation to treat skin conditions. And it's also used with seasonal affective disorder. So let me talk about skin conditions for a second, you may have seen these masks that are circulating all around the internet now and they look like kind of this crazy mix between a scrim mask and a robot face. But they're just infrared light. They're little light bulbs inside the mask and they are just applied to the skin. And the different colors have different effects. So these masks can have red light blue light, purple light, green light, and it depends on which light you use depends on what you want. As far as the effect. Are you doing anti aging? Are you treating acne? Are you trying to heal something or reduce scarring of some kind. So it's really fascinating when it comes to the effect that this light has on our skin. But I think it's super important to talk about seasonal affective disorder, especially at this time of year. This podcast is being recorded in December. And I'm thinking about the last couple of days here living in Southern California. The sun is out and it's beautiful, but it's cold, the air is cold. Well, for Californians, it's cold. And so when you go outside, you're all wrapped up. So for those of you who live in actual real cold, where it may be snowing and freezing and below freezing and you really don't even want to go outside. Seasonal Affective Disorder can have a major impact on you. And I stop and think about if you're already going through chemotherapy if you're in active treatment, if you're dealing with a dual diagnosis these are emotionally tremendously impactful Situ patients. So when you combine something like emotional trauma or emotional stress and strain with seasonal affective disorder, that can be really challenging to go through. So having the availability or access to infrared light therapy can really help. So even though it is used in this situation, one of the most commonly recommended light therapies is full spectrum light or blue light for seasonal affective disorder. So again, fascinating how different light is different wavelengths and penetrates different tissues of our skin, and results in different biological effects. How wonderful, safe, non invasive, not painful, no side effects, right, but lots of great biological benefits. So infrared light, and how that's used with seasonal affective disorder is that it mimics natural sunlight. And that's believed to cause chemical changes in the brain that lift our mood and alleviate our symptoms. The standard light therapy for seasonal affective disorder, as I said typically involves exposure to bright white light that contains a significant proportion of blue light. And blue light is particularly effective in regulating our circadian rhythms, which also impacts the production of melatonin. And melatonin affects our sleep and mood. Now, infrared light, on the other hand, doesn't significantly impact our circadian rhythms in the same way that blue light does. But studies do show that infrared light can improve blood circulation, as we've already talked about, which helps reduce symptoms of depression by promoting relaxation and reducing inflammation in the body. It's also used for its calming and warming effects, which can be really beneficial for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder, especially during the dark, cold winter months. So infrared light offers some benefits, even though it's not the standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder. And it shouldn't replace the conventional treatments unless it's recommended by a healthcare professional. But if you're considering getting infrared light for other reasons, it's something that can lend to your overall lifestyle program and help in that area and be non invasive and safe, right. Infrared light therapy is generally considered safe, because it doesn't involve the use of heat to damage tissue like some forms of laser therapy do. But the important attributes of red light therapy, in order to be sure it's as effective as a therapy room, we're talking about it in this podcast in terms of a therapy. So some of the things that are important parameters to consider are the wavelength of light that you're getting the power density of the light, the duration, you expose yourself to the light, the timing of the treatment and the sessions. As I said before, my doctor gave me a protocol, how much time I spend in it. And we look at my labs and decide based on what direction my labs are going if the therapies I'm using need any kind of adjustment. So again, it's important to understand, don't just jump into these things and say, Hey, I heard this was good for me, let me go sit in the infrared sauna for an hour. But talk to somebody who knows what they're doing, who can look at what protocol you're already following, if you're being in any kind of treatment whatsoever, so that they can give you the best advice. So one, you don't harm yourself, even though infrared light therapy is considered safe. But you know, if you're gonna go out and spend a bunch of money, even if you're going to spend $75 on a lamp, why get it if it's not effective, so you want to make sure you're getting something that's going to have a benefit for you, right, we don't want to just throw money out the window, and we don't want to invest our time in something that isn't being used in the right way. Okay, so make sure you know that for effective photo bio modulation for infrared light therapy, we have to consider these different parameters. Okay, so in addition to pain relief, wound healing, tissue repair, and improved circulation. Some of the other ways that infrared light benefits us is it is believed to aid in the reduction of blood pressure, because it's very relaxing. Infrared Saunas especially are known for the relaxing effects. The warmth they provide by the infrared light can help to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality. Now another product which I'll talk about in just a second here, for infrared light, and especially we're talking about sleep quality, our infrared blankets, so there are lamps, there are blankets, and there's even portable tents that you can use in your home. So another benefit of infrared light therapy is detoxification, especially in the form of saunas. So when you sit in that sauna, or you wrap in the blanket, or you sit yourself into one of these little sleeping bag, infrared light sleeping bags, the body sweats in it releases toxins. And this process of detoxification also contributes to just our overall wellness. So I said before that I have a protocol. And what's important is that I'm well hydrated, when I go into the sauna, I take something that helps to expand my blood vessels even more dilate the blood vessels while I'm in there. So it's increasing the amount of blood circulation and oxygen circulation, in addition to what I'm getting from the infrared light exposure. But because of this detoxification process, you want to be sure that when you're going through detoxifying your body, you're not just releasing these reactive oxygen species or any other kind of toxins that may be in your tissues, but you're getting them out of your body. And so my naturopathic oncologist has recommended what's called a binder. And binders are a supplement that you take so that when you're releasing toxins, you're eliminating them from your body. Now, the reason why it's important to consult with someone who knows what they're doing, if you're going to use this as a therapy for yourself, not just for overall wellness, well, even for overall wellness, you want to make sure it's effective, right. So I want to talk about some of the ways that infrared light therapy is being used in cancer treatment, and how it's being explored here. It's really cool, because more and more studies are looking at it more and more studies are exploring light therapies to see how effective they are, and the effects that they may have on cancer. But none of them really are looking at it as a primary treatment, most of these methods of applying light therapies are used as adjunctive treatments. So they're in addition to conventional cancer treatment, like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, in my case, I use it as an adjunctive treatment on on chemotherapy. And what I'm doing is it's kind of the idea behind it is to stress out the cancer cell. And so that way, it weakens the cell and the medications that I take through my standard of care and my supplements and all the other lifestyle things I do, then can be more effective at getting the cancer cells out of the body, as well as strengthening my own normal healthy tissues. Okay. So one of the ways that it's being used in cancer treatment is that the body is not only exposed to infrared light, but it's also using what's called a photo sensitizing agent. And these are different drugs. And the drugs vary depending on the type of cancer that's being treated, and the effect that they have when exposed to lights really fascinating stuff. So these photosensitizing agents get injected into the body, and then they become activated when they're exposed to certain types of lights, usually in the infrared spectrum. So when this agent is activated by light, it will produce some kind of oxygen that kills off nearby cells. Super cool, right? So it can be used to target cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells. And isn't that what we want, you know, hard thing about going through IV chemotherapy or any real chemotherapy is that it damages everything in the body. And that's what makes it so hard on us. So it's neat to see more research and energy being put into these types of therapies that may be ridding the body of cancer cells, while they're not damaging our healthy cells at the same time. I love that. So there's also a therapy called hyperthermia therapy in which infrared light can be used to raise the temperature of cancer cells. Here's where I come back to what I said I use this on before, and it raises the temperature of cancer cells to a point where the cells are damaged or destroyed. And this can be done locally, like they can target a tumor or systemically by heating the entire body. And again, hyperthermia is usually not a standalone treatment, but it can make cancer cells more susceptible to radiation and chemotherapy drugs. Very cool. Infrared light is also being used now for imaging and diagnostics. So that's neat, because we're not getting exposed to so much damaging radiation. It can be used in imaging technologies to help detect cancer, and it just offers that advantage of being less harmful than actual x rays. Then there's another therapy called laser induced interstitial thermo therapy. Dang these things are a mouthful. Li T T let's call it li TT This is a minimally invasive method where lasers are used to deliver infrared light directly at the tumor, so that heat generated by the light can destroy cancer cells. This is usually used for tumors that are hard to reach or difficult to treat with conventional methods. Let's talk about how this would relate to breast cancer. So photodynamic therapy has been explored as a potential treatment for breast cancer. But it isn't yet a standard treatment for this type of cancer. It's more commonly used with tissues that are easier to access, like skin cancers, head and neck cancers, and localized cancer. So it's still being researched. As far as breast cancer is concerned. There's ongoing research for it. And it's actually looking promising lots of studies have seen promising animal studies and animal tests. But when it comes to breast cancer treatment, sometimes those tumors are deeper into the body. So they're thinking that photodynamic therapy can be particularly beneficial or applicable to tumors that are palpable, that are more superficial, especially if they're doing the type of therapy that requires a photosensitizing agent. So that light needs to be able to get deep enough into activate that agent. And again, since breast tumors can be really deep seated, getting that light to penetrate deeply enough can be difficult. But there are clinical trials and research studies that are continuing to look at this and trying to determine the efficacy, the safety and the best practices for using photodynamic therapy in breast cancer treatment. I even have a link in the show notes here because it's particularly interesting for people who have triple negative breast cancer. As we know, many of the treatments that we get in breast cancer are more effective for hormone positive breast cancer. So photodynamic therapy in infrared light is something that's have a lot of interest for potentially beneficial outcomes for people who have triple negative breast cancer. So I did link to some study information in the show notes in this episode, if you find yourself in that position, and you want to read a little bit more about it. So let's talk about some resources. How do you get access to infrared light for therapeutic purposes, if this is something that you're interested in? Well, Infrared Saunas are one. So Infrared Saunas are something you can buy and put in your home, they have single person saunas, they have portable saunas that look like little tents, and they literally pop up sort of cheer inside of them, or you can sit inside of them on the floor. And then you can fold them up and slide them back onto your bed. They can be fully constructed in a garage, there are indoor ones, there are outdoor ones. And you can also access them now in lots of gyms. And the one that I go to is a lady who does like body contouring, which is another benefit of infrared light. So she uses these mechanisms, she uses these machines to do body contouring, and she has an infrared light sauna there. So I just did some research looking for something that for me, it had to be close by. And it had to be in the route that I do early in the morning, right? Because you sweat your butt off, if you're gonna go to infrared sauna, bring some water and be prepared to sweat because that's part of the process, right? We're increasing the core temperature, trying to stress out cancer cells trying to improve immunity, reduce inflammation, all the stuff we talked about, so you're gonna sweat your blood off. So for me, I needed to find something that was in between where I go to yoga where I go to spin class where I walk on the beach and my home something that was here, I don't want to spend 20 minutes driving 20 minutes driving back. And I considered putting one installing one in my home. Because honestly, if you make a monthly payment to go to a place five days a week like I do to use the sauna, in about eight to 10 months you will paid for a sauna to be in your home. And most of the places I look at that sell saunas, you can they have payment plans for them and they can make they make it very easy for you to buy one if you want to buy and install one in your house. But for me because I live in a condominium, these saunas needed to have their proprietary source they needed to have their own breaker installed and it was a big construction project and I would add to get HOA approval and all that and I said oh my god, forget it. I just go down the street here because I was lucky enough to find a really convenient local place. So infrared saunas. Again, I'll put a link in the show notes. So if you're interested in purchasing one for your home that's anywhere from the portable foldout client that are relatively inexpensive, to the more expensive, fully constructed. They're quite lovely actually or even for one that you want to put outside on your patio. So there are some lovely options there. Or as I said, you may be able to find a club, a spa, a gym or a Wellness Center, even chiropractor particular offices that were closed by me had infrared saunas. So do some research and see what's affordable and reasonable for you. Physical therapy clinics oftentimes will have an infrared sauna in there. So you might check in those because they are so good for pain relief, improving circulation, and eating and tissue repair. So sometimes these clinics will have them available as well. And then the other devices, so there's lots of infrared light therapy products is really fascinating. So there's pads you can sit on, there's reps, there's blankets, there's these things that look like sleeping bags, there's the portable tents and there's infrared lamps. So do your research, see what works for you for your lifestyle for your budget, because like any other integrative therapy or alternative or complementary therapy, you want to be consistent in this therapy. If you want to get the physical benefits, you don't want to just do it once a week or once a month, you really do have to be pretty consistent with it. Okay, so I hope this helps you. And I would love to hear if you use an infrared sauna or if you're going to try one or you do try one. Find me on Facebook and tell me what you think send me a DM I love to hear about this stuff. You can find me on Facebook as the breast cancer recovery coach, same thing on Instagram. And to dig even deeper into every aspect of supporting yourself and supporting your body's ability to heal your emotional wellness or physical wellness come and join me in the better than before breast cancer life coaching membership, where we work on all of this stuff and how we get past all the junk that's in our head that stops us from doing the things that are really good for us. All right friends. I'll talk to you again soon. Until then take care

Speaker 1 31:49
put your courage to the test laid all your doubts your mind is clearer than before your heart is wanting more your futures Give it all you know you've been waiting on


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