How handheld cold lasers and red lights can help the microbiome!
As you might know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or know me personally, I’m seriously a health geek. I always look for new ways to help the microbiome, and sometimes those new ways seem to find me! This is one such story, with a hopefully-useful-to-you outcome. Disclosure: yes, I sell labwork (I am a functional practitioner and that’s part of what we do!), and the links below are affiliate links that help me make a tiny bit of money. Please use the links if you’re going to order, as it helps support this blog-thanks!
Last month, while working through a combination of tasks and challenges, I realized that I had a sore tooth, one of those in the back (a molar). Within a couple of days, “sore” had become a sharp throbbing and I didn’t need to check my heart rate monitor during my bicycle ride, because I could feel it quite clearly in my mouth!
A visit to a local dental clinic revealed the issue: though my teeth and gums were mostly good, the dentist said I had lots of gum disease on this one tooth, with erosion of the bone around it. I could even see the hole in the jaw behind the tooth, on the X-rays. She said I needed it extracted, a bone graft, and an implant, and that they needed a few thousand dollars, and I wouldn’t be OK for a several weeks. I did what I normally do, and went home to do some reading!
What I learned is that while some clinics use extraction/graft/implants as a solution, the basic problem remained: the mouth microbiome caused plaque on the tooth, infection, and prevented the gum from re-attaching to the tooth (or the implant). This is apparently a common cause of failure of implants. Other periodontal clinics use a form of laser to kill the bacteria around the tooth, and a different laser to stimulate growth of the gum and bone density, often saving the tooth and restoring gum health too. Want to guess which approach appealed to me??
As part of this learning, I found out that indeed, low level lasers inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and not just in the mouth. The lasers have been used to help animals heal wounds, preventing infections, and have also been shown to improve the human gut microbiome (see reference below).
In 1903, Finsen received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, for treating cutaneous (skin) tuberculosis with UV light, and smallpox with red light. The Mayo Clinic uses bright light therapy to help with Alzheimer’s, and it is in trails for use for Parkinson’s.
Light therapy is now termed PhotoBioModulation, or PBM, because as you know, long words and acronyms are part of an effective healing practice, right? Seriously though, we’ll go with PBM, because it’s easier for me to type right now. The most commonly used PBM is red light and red/near infrared laser. Yes, somewhere between that pesky traffic ticket you got lasered with, and the heat lamp that keeps your french fries hot at the store.
The therapeutic use of PBM has been shown to have many cellular effects, increasing mitochondria and ATP energy, stimulating various parts of cells, and improving nerve function. This means everything from reducing pain to improving brain function. But also, as we’re discussing today, penetrating deeply enough into the body to influence the gut microbiome. You might remember from childhood that the human body is a bit translucent, a fact that made it spooky when your camp counselor shined his flashlight through his hand or into his mouth and cheek! Near infrared light penetrates better than red, so it has a better effect on the microbiome. The study linked below showed a 10,000 fold increase in some beneficial organisms in a mouse study, and increases in Akkermansia mucinophilia, Bifidobacterium, and Faecalibacterium (aka “healthy bugs”) in human lab studies.
It has now been shown that treating the abdomen (and therefore the gut) with PBM can help Parkinson’s by improving the gut microbiome, by using PBM on the abdomen to help improve gut bacteria. I’m certain that many other benefits will come to light soon (sorry couldn’t resist) as researchers shed light on how PBM helps the microbiome.
So how do you even know if your microbiome needs the help? We have tests for that! I have extensively used, and offer, a test called Gut Zoomer 3.0 from Vibrant Wellness Labs. This fantastic test panel is performed on a stool specimen that you mail in, and is a DNA sequencing to identify all of your good and bad bacteria, as well as parasites and pathogens also. Cost for the test is $720 which includes test kit and shipping. You can see a sample report here: https://thesymbiontfactorblog.files.wordpress.com/2022/02/mk-0026-13-gut-zoomer-3.0-sample-report.pdf
-What about the laser? Where can I get one?
There are many less powerful lasers on Amazon, most of which don’t actually even state what their power levels are. Looking at the reviews, it seems many people have found these less expensive models to help with pain and injury healing. I haven’t seen any reporting changes to their microbiome though, which isn’t surprising really as I didn’t know that either even a month ago. I think the more powerful laser stands a better chance of getting deep enough into the belly to have effects on the microbiome, particularly if you’re not very lean. Still, if you’re willing to go with a much longer treatment time, you may be able to get a therapeutic exposure level. Here’s a link to one of the better looking less expensive lasers: https://amzn.to/3hj0kI4
There are also red light devices, which emit the correct light wavelength but aren’t as intense as laser. It is possible, however, to use these for much longer periods of time and still get (probably) similar benefits. There are certainly many people who have gotten great results from red light devices, though it isn’t exactly what the research I mentioned was using. Here’s a good example: https://amzn.to/3vg3uET
I hope you’ve found this interesting, and maybe even choose to evaluate and help your microbiome! If you’d like more information about me and the services I can provide, please visit my website at: https://neurodoc4u.com/