Light exposure may affect menstrual cycles and symptoms through the influence of melatonin secretion. In Kaiyan Medical we have been studying portable devices to relieve menstrual pain using low-level light stimulation. Menstrual pain often afflicts women and girls, but the intensity and impact on quality of life vary widely. A cross-sectioned analytical study found that 84 percent reported menstrual pain which often required medication and even resulted in missing work.
Many women rely on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but of course, some prefer to avoid their undesirable side-effects. Other common menstrual pain management methods, according to the National Institutes of Health, include: applying heat with hot water bottles or heating pads, warm baths, or going to the sauna; special diets and dietary supplements; herbal products and herbal teas for medicinal use; homeopathic medicines; and procedures which target pain stimulus such as acupuncture, acupressure or TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Light therapy devices add another alternative to targeting the pain source with low-level light stimulation applied at acupuncture points.
Light therapy devices improves blood flow and thereby reduces menstrual cramps with via photo-activated modulation of smooth muscle tissue. Usually, the light from the light therapy devices is emitted for a fixed amount of time (from 10 to 20 minutes). The light stimulation reaches the uterus and increases the secretion of nitrous oxide (NO). The NO spreads over the smooth muscle in the uterine cells and under continuous light stimulation produces a phosphate particle called cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). These particles continuously flow out and relax the smooth muscles so they receive oxygen and nutrition.
In the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, subjects using the low-level light therapy showed statistically significant reduction in pain levels after a month and barely any pain after three months. This compares to a placebo group that showed slight pain reduction over time. The study concluded that
“skin adhesive low-level light therapy on acupuncture points might be an effective, simple, and safe non-pharmacological treatment for dysmenorrhoea.”
In this study, a total of 31 women with dysmenorrhoea were enrolled and randomly assigned to either the active or placebo low-level light therapy groups . Of 31 participants, 21 participants received real light therapy, while the remaining 10 participants received placebo one. All participants in the active low-level light therapy group reported either complete pain relief In the active low-level light therapy group, 16 women had successful results during their menstrual cycle, and 5 women had successful results at the second menstrual cycle.
The most interesting thing about this study, is that they conclude that the direct cause of dysmenorrhoea might not be changes in bioactive substances, such as hormone imbalance, a decrease in serotonin levels or excessive prostaglandin production, but the abnormal function of parts of smooth muscles in the uterus secondary to long-term deficient blood supply into smooth muscle tissue caused by disease or stress. This condition can be improved with light therapy.
Our light therapy products can help as well with back pain, skin, depression, sleep cycles, and pets.
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We live in a 24-hour environment, in which light and darkness follow a diurnal pattern. Our circadian pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in the hypothalamus, is entrained to the 24-hour solar day via a pathway from the retina and synchronizes our internal biological rhythms. Once we come to this world, one of the first things we need, is food. Naturally, as mammals(from Latin mamma “breast”), we feed ourselves from the breast. But, Human breast milk is more than a meal — it’s also a clock, providing time-of-day information to infants. The composition of breast milk changes across the day, giving energizing morning milk a different cocktail of ingredients than soothing evening milk. Researchers believe this “chrononutrition” may help program infants’ emerging circadian biology, the internal timekeeper that allows babies to distinguish day from night.
What happens, though, when babies drink milk that does not come directly from the breast but is pumped at different times of the day and stored in advance of feeding? Scientists have rarely considered the potential effects of “mistimed” milk on infants’ development, but the implications are potentially far-reaching.
In the same way, rhythmic variations in ambient illumination impact behaviors such as rest during sleep and activity during wakefulness as well as their underlying biological processes. The availability of artificial light has substantially changed the light environment, especially during the evening and night hours. Phones, laptops, ipads, and more around the babies. This may increase the risk of developing circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders (CRSWD), which are often caused by a misalignment of endogenous circadian rhythms and external light-dark cycles. On the other hand, light can also be used as an effective and non-invasive therapeutic option with little to no side effects, to improve sleep, mood, and general well-being.
The architecture of the circadian system
The central master-clock in mammalian species is a paired structure in the hypothalamus with a volume of just about 0.25 mm3 per nucleus. Within the mammalian SCN, a molecular oscillator keeps the clock oscillating at its normal pace. The basis of this oscillator is two interconnected molecular feedback loops of clock gene expression, a detailed description of which is beyond the scope of this review though.
Successful interaction between body and environment however needs more than just a central clock; it also requires input pathways relaying information about the environment and the body to the SCN to achieve adequate entrainment as well as output pathways communicating timing information to the body to synchronize bodily processes with the circadian phase
Sleep, eating, and energy levels all show circadian rhythms, which means they follow a daily cycle. As any parent who has sleepwalked through a 3 a.m. feeding knows, infants are not born with these rhythms fully set. Instead, their sense of day and night develops over the first weeks and months of life, thanks to cues like sunlight and darkness.
Babies vary: Some show predictable circadian fluctuations in hormones linked with alertness, sleep, and appetite, and can sleep for long stretches shortly after birth, whereas others seem to have their daily rhythms upside-down for months. Delays in the development of circadian biology can increase the risk of colic and lead to growth and feeding problems.
Breast milk may help program infant circadian rhythms, helping to explain why some parents of newborns enjoy long full nights of sleep, whereas others struggle to get their infants on a schedule.
Breast milk changes dramatically over the course of the day. For example, levels of cortisol — a hormone that promotes alertness — are three times higher in morning milk than in evening milk. Melatonin, which promotes sleep and digestion, can barely be detected in daytime milk, but rises in the evening and peaks around midnight.
Night milk also contains higher levels of certain DNA building blocks which help promote healthy sleep. Day milk, by contrast, has more activity-promoting amino acids than night milk. Iron in milk peaks at around noon; vitamin E peaks in the evening. Minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium, and sodium are all highest in the morning.
Daytime milk may pack a special immune punch. Among mothers who provided researchers with milk samples across the first month postpartum, immune components — including key antibodies and white blood cells — looked higher in day milk compared to night milk. Another study found higher levels of a component important for immune system communication in day milk compared to night milk.
While it’s clear that milk changes over the course of the day, scientists know little about what this means for infant health. Researchers do know that the hormones and immune components in breast milk are passed along to infants and that infants are starting to develop and refine their own circadian rhythms during the first months of life. It’s plausible that the chronosignals in breast milk would help to shape infants’ own circadian biology. Differences in infant feeding patterns might help explain why there’s such variability in the development of these daily rhythms from one infant to another.
Fundamentals of light
To understand the effects of light on human physiology, it is important to understand light. Briefly, light is radiation in a specific range of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The spectrum of daylight, which is light from the sun filtered by the atmosphere is relatively broadband in its distribution. The availability of daylight depends on geographical location and season. In the timeframe of human evolution, it is a rather recent development that light can be available during all times of day through artificial light. Artificial light allows for illuminating indoor and outdoor spaces. It comes in many forms, e.g. incandescent, fluorescent, or light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.
While light generated by these technologies may all appear “white”, the underlying spectra are rather different.
The reason why many different types of spectra might have the same appearance lies in the retina. Critically, different spectra, even if they create the same visual impression, may vary in their chronobiological effects on the circadian clock.
Recently, the Commission International de l’Eclairage (CIE), the international standard body for quantities related to light, issued a new standard containing a reference framework for quantifying the effects of light on non-visual functions.
Effects of LED light on the circadian clock
Two effects of light have been interrogated extensively in human circadian and sleep research: (1) the acute suppression of melatonin in response to light exposure and (2) the ability of light exposure to shift circadian phase.
The system mediating melatonin suppression has a spectral sensitivity that is broadly consistent with the spectral sensitivity of melanopsin. Similarly, the spectral sensitivity of circadian phase-shifting shows its maximal effect near the peak spectral sensitivity of melanopsin.
The effects of light on the phase of the circadian clock depend on the timing of light exposure. This is formally summarised in the phase response curve (PRC), which describes the amount of phase shift (in minutes and hours) achieved by exposure of light at a given circadian phase. Roughly speaking, the effect of morning light is that it advances the clock, while evening and night light delays the clock.
Both melatonin suppression and circadian phase shifts are modulated by the “photic history”, i.e. the amount of light seen during the day. The long-term adaptive influences of the “spectral diet” in the real world remain an important area of investigation.
Effects of light on sleep
The human sleep-wake cycle, which is periods of sleep during the night and wakefulness during the day, is one of the most prominent examples of a circadian behavioral pattern, especially for babies. It results from the interaction between two factors: the circadian drive for wakefulness and the homeostatic sleep pressure. The activity of the circadian pacemaker is aligned to counteract the increasing sleep pressure resulting from sustained wakefulness during the daytime. Likewise, the nocturnal increase in circadian sleep tendency counteracts the decrease in sleep propensity resulting from accumulated sleep thereby supporting a consolidated phase of nocturnal sleep.
Breast milk, artificial lighting, smartphones, and visual display units
In addition to natural daylight, babies are nowadays also exposed to a considerable amount of artificial light. This is particularly the case in the evening hours, i.e. when the circadian system is most sensitive to light-induced phase delays. Thereby, light therapy is more efficient to delay the timing of the circadian clock and thus sleep.
Even thou, mothers can label their milk with the time it was pumped and coordinate infant feedings to offer morning milk in the morning, afternoon milk in the afternoon, and night milk at night, they keep the constant use of visual units around the baby. The use for the babies is not different, entertainment as well
So, which one is better?
Is always about finding the balance. Rather than only use one of the methods, the responsible practice of light therapy and adequate alimentation of your newborn should be combined to get on track the circadian system
Researcher fighting breast cancer with light therapy
"Metastatic breast cancer can be a devastating diagnosis with high rates of relapse and death, and there are currently no effective therapies,"
Nalinikanth Kotagiri, MD, Ph.D. says.
"Despite newer treatments, many patients still succumb to the disease. Major limitations include acquired resistance to therapies and serious side effects from treatment. Due to the widespread location of breast cancer cells, particularly in the bone marrow, which harbors the tumor cells as well as vital stem cells, the risk of toxicity is even higher with conventional therapies. Therefore, new therapeutic strategies that selectively destroy tumor cells, increase treatment efficacy, prevent relapse and reduce side effects by sparing the healthy stem cells are necessary."
This is why Nalinikanth Kotagiri, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor in the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy and a cluster hire for the Cincinnati Cancer Center, is hoping to study ways ultraviolet light can activate light-sensitive drugs to treat this invasive breast cancer and provide that light at the end of the tunnel patients yearn for.
Kotagiri has been awarded the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Breakthrough Award—over $600,000 for three years—to try to do just that. His project will focus on light-mediated therapies, which could activate light-sensitive drugs to target only the cancerous cells.
"Therapies such as photodynamic therapy (PDT), involving light and a photosensitizing chemical substance, which used in conjunction with molecular oxygen can cause cell death, offer a high degree of control that is effectively used to manage cancer in early to advanced stages," he says. "It operates on a simple principle where a light-sensitive drug, which is otherwise nontoxic, introduced into certain tissues can cause cell death when activated by light. Despite the promise of PDT, it can't penetrate tissue deeply so its use is limited. Also, current light-sensitive drugs require oxygen to be effective, but many tumors, including breast tumors, have pockets of low oxygen or grow in regions where oxygen is either low or absent, which could prevent effective application of PDT in cancer treatment."
However, Kotagiri says recent work in the lab has led his team to a "two-pronged approach" in addressing these issues.
"We've been using ultraviolet (UV) light from radionuclides (radioactive nuclide or atom), which are already used to image tumors and tissues, and tried to solve oxygen dependence by using metal-based light-sensitive drugs for depth- and oxygen-independent PDT," he says. "By replacing the external light source, such as lasers and lamps, with light from radionuclides as an 'internal' light source, we've been able to better control therapy in the body.
"This could mean more effective therapies with minimal toxicity to vital organs and tissues. Since radionuclides are used in imaging and locating tumors, we can now simultaneously image and treat breast cancer metastasis using the same radionuclide."
Using animal models, researchers in Kotagiri's lab will test whether radionuclide light activation of tumor targeting, light-sensitive drugs will destroy metastatic cancer cells—including those that are resistant to traditional therapies.
"Since how we're killing the cells is not dependent on a certain molecular pathway, the technology could be applicable to treat a wide variety of breast cancers," he adds. "This has the potential to be a common image-guided treatment strategy to treat patients in early as well as advanced stages of the disease, and because of the safety of this treatment strategy, it could be effectively used alongside other treatments, like chemotherapy and immunotherapy, without the risk of additional side effects.
"This could tremendously benefit patients, as it could potentially improve therapeutic outcomes in addition to setting a precedent to tailor other FDA-approved light-sensitive drugs as radionuclide activated therapies, expanding the scope and range of the diseases these drugs currently treat. If proven beneficial, this treatment could be ready for a patient population in 5 to 10 years, since all the materials involved have already been used in humans—this could be an exciting breakthrough."
Clinical Trial - The Effects of Light Therapy to Treat Cancer-related Side Effects
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04418856
Besides what Kotagiri said, severe fatigue, depression, sleep problems and cognitive impairment are the most commonly reported side effects of cancer treatment. These aversive side effects are hypothesized to be related to the disruption of circadian rhythms associated with cancer and its treatment. Exposure to Bright White Light (BWL) has been found to synchronize the circadian activity rhythms but research with cancer patients has been scarce. Therefore, the proposed randomized control trial (RCT) will test if systematic light exposure (sLE) will minimize overall levels of cancer-related fatigue (CRF), depression, sleep problems and cognitive impairment among breast cancer patients undergoing breast cancer treatment (i.e., surgery, chemotherapy). SLE incorporates the delivery of harmless UV-protected BWL or Dim White Light (DWL - standard comparison in light studies) delivered to patients by using special glasses for 30 minutes each morning, during their treatment.