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The Medicine of the Future Is Light: Recent Research on What Photons Can Tell Us About Health and Disease

April 5, 2017

Do you remember learning about photons in your science classes in high school? If so, the focus was likely on their association with small particles and physics, and you probably did not learn much about how they might relate to human disease.

In case you need a recap: photons are subatomic particles that carry electromagnetic radiation and force. When electrons become excited, they can emit a packet of light, or a photon, which arises from the extra energy, and a lower energy-level electron.

Although photons are most often associated with light, they do exist in all matter, including human cells. As you walk around, you are constantly emitting low levels of these light particles, although they are invisible to the naked eye. How bioluminescent you are might just say something about your health.

Ultraweak Photon Emissions and Human Health and Disease

The photons in animals, plant matter, and human cells are referred to as ultraweak photons, with the radiation activity referred to as ultraweak photon emission (UPE) or biophoton emission. Since the 1960s, scientists have been researching UPEs and their connection to metabolism and disease. It was at this time that technology advanced, so researchers could see these weak emissions. Since then, studies have found connections between higher levels of UPEs and disease, including diabetes.

The body is continually undergoing oxidative reactions that release free radicals and biophoton emissions as byproducts from the changing states of the electrons. Although a certain amount of biophoton emissions is normal, since there are constant reactions in the body releasing free radicals, there are some disease states in which there are more oxygen radicals, meaning there would be higher levels of UPEs.

What does all this mean? Basically, measuring UPE levels is a way to measure oxidative stress, because reactive oxygen species emit most of the biophotons. Oxidative stress is linked to many diseases. Although some oxidative stress is beneficial and plays a biological role, having more than the antioxidant capacity of the body leads to disease. When the antioxidant capacity increases, such as through the addition of key antioxidants including glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E, and CoQ10, UPEs decrease.

Biophoton Emissions and the Brain

UPE levels do not simply reflect the oxidative status of cells; they also might play an important role in neuronal functions. Neurons are highly active cells that constantly undergo oxidative reactions and thereby release ROS and biophotons. Studies have found correlations between neuronal activity and UPE. In fact, there is a direct correlation between the level of UPE and neural activity, most likely demonstrated within the energy metabolism. It would seem that UPE could provide a non-invasive tool for assessing brainwaves and neuronal activity to help determine disease states of the brain.

The Promise–and Difficulty–of Measuring UPE

Scientists largely agree that UPE levels have the potential to be a powerful non-invasive diagnostic tool. They tend to be emitted in quantities that are relatively close to an average value. There are some fluctuations, depending on the person and the part of the body. But if they are higher than average, something is wrong.

The results of studies in associating high levels with a disease state are promising. In one study, the researchers could correctly detect subtypes (based on Traditional Chinese Medicine) of type 2 diabetes even in the early stages of the disease by looking at UPE levels of the study participants. The correlation was largely based on the urine metabolites, demonstrating a connection between metabolomics and UPE. Studies have also shown it as a promising tool in identifying mitochondrial dysfunction and cancer.

However, there are a few limitations and issues that have slowed the adoption of this potential diagnostic tool. The main one? Creating a realistic diagnostic test. Currently, the tests require long exposure, limiting the practical application of the methods available. More studies are also needed to determine the statistical correlation between disease state and normal levels of UPE. Studies are underway to develop tools to overcome these limitations and develop a platform to integrate UPE and metabolomics.

Adaptogens and UPE

UPE levels do not just have to be connected with finding problems; they also can be the target of treatment for a disease. For example, adaptogens, such as Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, and Schisandra chinensis have been associated with improvements in a variety of ailments, including oxidative stress, inflammation, depression, cognitive performance, fatigue, and more. It has been proposed that adaptogens work through affecting several of the stress responses at the molecular level to help regulate homeostasis.

Another potential method of action is that adaptogens influence UPEs. In a pilot experiment, researchers took 30 subjects and randomly placed them into three groups: a control taking a placebo, a group taking a mixture of three adaptogens, and one group taking Rhodiola rosea alone. The UPEs were measured before and after taking the supplements for a week. Compared to the control group, those in the Rhodiola group had a significant decrease in their biophoton emissions. There was also an improvement in levels of fatigue for the group taking Rhodiola. The group taking the mixture of adaptogens did not experience a similar change compared to the control group, so it is possible that Rhodiola has a greater effect in this area than other adaptogens.

The Effect of Meditation on UPE

Meditation has increasingly been studied as a potential treatment for a wide variety of physical and mental ailments. One potential reason for its efficacy? The effect on UPE. A few studies have found that meditation creates shifts in the levels of UPE. One small study looked at five subjects who underwent meditation either sitting or lying down. Prior to the study, one of the subjects exhibited higher UPE levels than the others. For that subject, meditation led to a large decrease in UPE both during and after the meditation session. For the others, there was a smaller decrease. These results might correlate to the capacity for meditation to influence oxidative and anti-oxidative reactions.

Another study found that those with a history of transcendental meditation practice had lower UPE levels than controls. This study reviewed the UPE levels of 20 healthy men with a 10-year history of practicing transcendental meditation and found they were different than those of the control subjects, again supporting the idea that meditation can help control free radicals.

Researchers continue to explore the development of diagnostic tools and treatment options that target biophoton emissions. While we wait for this to become a routine component of healthcare, to be accessed at your fingertips via your cell phone, you can still take some actions now to reduce your oxidative stress levels–and your photonic emissions–for better health.


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