Scott Nelson

Enhance the Health of Your Thyroid Gland with Red and Near Infrared Light Therapy

The thyroid is a tiny endocrine gland in your neck with a huge job: secreting the hormones responsible for metabolism and protein synthesis. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that roughly 20-27 million Americans—5% to 8% of the population—suffer from some type of thyroid disorder. [1] 

This informative article examines the emerging research on red light therapy (also called photobiomodulation) and thyroid function. Clinical studies are in their initial phases, but the first results have been encouraging, especially for light treatments and hypothyroidismhelping people produce more natural thyroid hormone.

Current Thyroid Treatments Leave Patients with Thyroid Disorders Looking for Better Options

Conventional treatments for thyroid conditions include medication, surgery, and radioiodine therapy. In some cases, a person has to take thyroid medication throughout their entire life to manage their hormone levels. For years, the most widely prescribed drug in the United States has been Synthroid (or levothyroxine) [2], which comes with potential side effects like hair loss, abnormal heartbeat, cramps, insomnia, weight loss or gain, vomiting, and many others. [3]

Given the known side effects and dependency issues with traditional treatments like Synthroid, many people with thyroid conditions are looking for natural alternatives. In recent clinical research, red light therapy (including wavelengths of red light, near-infrared light, and infrared light) shows potential to be a natural and effective treatment option for some thyroid conditions and their symptoms.  

Clinical Research Shows Promise for Light Therapy and Hypothyroidism

A team of researchers based in Brazil conducted a 3-year, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 43 patients with a history of levothyroxine intervention for hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (or CAT for chronic autoimmune thyroiditis). This type of thyroiditis is the most common cause of acquired hypothyroidism, so this trial was a nice window into a large population of people with thyroid conditions.

The researchers, based at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School, have published a series of journal articles outlining their findings, which included a 9-month follow up with all patients.

Less need for levothyroxine: After their course of LED light treatments, patients’ need for the common thyroid drug declined, and in some cases went away entirely. The average dose required for the placebo group was nearly three times as high. Most encouraging of all, 47% of participants in the light therapy group no longer needed levothyroxine at all during the entire nine-month follow-up. [4]

Decline in thyroid peroxidase (TPOAb): Study participants showed that light exposure also led to a decline in levels of thyroid peroxidase (TPOAb), which are antibodies indicating an autoimmune problem. [4]

Thyroid vascularity: Using color doppler ultrasounds, researchers found that light therapy treatments led to higher rates of vascularization of the thyroid lobes. [5]

Overall thyroid health: The researchers concluded that light therapy is “effective at improving thyroid function, promoting reduced TPOAb-mediated autoimmunity and increasing thyroid echogenicity in patients with CAT hypothyroidism.” [4]

The same researchers performed a separate pilot study in 2010 with 15 hypothyroidism patients who were taking levothyroxine. The doctors concluded: results indicate that LLLT promotes the improvement of thyroid function, as patients experienced a decreased need for LT4, a reduction in TPOAb levels, and an increase in parenchymal echogenicity.” [6]

More and larger light therapy trials are needed to assess the effect of light therapy treatments on thyroid regulation. These initial Brazilian trials, performed over a number of years across the last decade, are an extremely encouraging start.

Joovv is also actively conducting research on red light therapy and hormone health with clinical partners like Bristlecone Medical. You can see the early results of Joovv and Bristlecone’s studies here, including clinical data for testosterone and female sex hormones. 

Laboratory Research Supports the Positive Results for Red Light Therapy and Thyroid Health

There has also been laboratory research on natural light’s effects on thyroid conditions in mammals. Human thyroid function is similar in rodents and rabbits, so these trials provide insight into biological mechanisms that haven’t been fully studied in humans yet.

A 2015 study published in Photochemistry & Photobiology found that administering light therapy to the thyroid gland of lab rats “revealed improvement in thyroid function, liver function and antioxidant levels, and blood cell count after light therapy.” [7]

Hypothyroidism and healing: People with hypothyroidism can experience problems with the healing of wounds and scars, taking longer than if thyroid levels were normal. [8] Outside of a specific thyroid context, light therapy has been found in numerous clinical trials to speed wound and scar healing. [9] To test light therapy and wound healing in a thyroid context, a recent 2018 study in the Journal of Lasers in Medical Science assessed rats with hypothyroidism. The rats were given skin incisions and treated with various wavelengths of natural light, in conjunction with receiving levothyroxine. Researchers found that the combination improved the elasticity of healing wounds. [8]

You can read more about the wound and scar healing benefits of red light therapy here.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work? 

A high-quality red light therapy device uses medical-grade LEDs to deliver natural wavelengths of light to your skin and cells, without dangerous UV light, excess heat, or artificial blue light. All you have to do is sit or stand near a device for 10-15 minutes a day to charge your body. The more surface area you can cover, the more your cells absorb natural light, and the more full-body benefits you can expect to see with consistent use. 

Red light therapy works by supercharging the mitochondria of your cells to make more ATP (adenosine triphosphate) energy through cellular respiration. You can read more about how red and infrared light therapy works right here.

Health and Fitness Leaders Highly Recommend Red Light Therapy

The founder of Wellness Mama has documented her struggles raising kids and running a business while battling Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Like 20+ million Americans, Katie has had to take a thyroid hormone medication. She tried Joovv light therapy after her husband had hernia surgery, because she read the research on how effective it is for wound healing. Katie was thrilled to see her skin health improve with continual Joovv use, but said she’s most excited about the hormonal benefits she’s experienced in her first year of using full-body light therapy.

Katie says she’s been able to gradually lower her dose of thyroid medication as she continues to use light therapy every day, while experiencing improved thyroiditis symptoms like joint pain and low energy issues. She spoke about her thyroid condition and light therapy on a recent episode of the Wellness Mama podcast if you want to hear more about her journey.

Check out other natural health and wellness leaders who use red light therapy here.

Treating Fibromyalgia and Auto-Immune Issues with Light Therapy

Many people with hypothyroidism end up also being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and they share symptoms, like depression, exhaustion, muscle & joint pain, and “brain fog.” [10] 

Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, aka Paleo Mom, has spoken about her struggles with fibromyalgia and years of dealing with inflammation & joint pain. Dr. Sarah started using a full-body Joovv device for 20 minutes every morning after her workout, and told us it’s been a life-changer. For the first time since she started experiencing symptoms over a decade ago, Dr. Sarah says she hasn’t felt pain in 6+ months, in addition to faster muscle recovery, better sleep and more melatonin, and more collagen production for better skin tone and fewer fine lines

Conclusion: Red Light Therapy Shows Promise for Enhancing Thyroid Function and Overall Hormone Health

Joovv is not registered with the FDA for thyroid treatments, but early research on red light therapy and hypothyroidism has been very promising. More research is underway, like the studies Joovv and Bristlecone are doing to assess the hormone health effects of light energy and other factors like diet and gender. Research in coming years will also hope to examine the effects of red light therapy on hyperthyroidism, and other specific thyroid conditions. 

Learn more about how light therapy can help with joint pain, skin issuessleep problems, and promote other natural health benefits.

Sources and References:

[1] American Thyroid Association. What you need to know about the thyroid.

[2] Brown, Troy. Top 10 Most-Prescribed and Top-Selling Medications. WebMD. May 2015.

[3] Understanding Possible Side Effects.

[4]  Hofling DB, Chavantes MC, et al. Low-level laser in the treatment of patients with hypothyroidism induced by chronic autoimmune thyroiditis: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. May 2013; 28(3): 743-53.

[5]  Hofling DB, Chavantes MC, et al. Assessment of the effects of low-level laser therapy on the thyroid vascularization of patients with autoimmune hypothyroidism by color Doppler ultrasound. ISRN Endocrinology. 2012; 2012:126720.

[6]  Hofling DB, Chavantes MC, et al. Low-level laser therapy in chronic autoimmune thyroiditis: a pilot study. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 2010 Aug; 42(6): 589-96.

[7]  Morcos, N., Omran M., et al. Phototherapeutic Effect of Low-Level Laser on Thyroid Gland of Gamma-Irradiated Rats. Photochemistry and Photobiology. 2015 Jul-Aug; 91(4): 942-51.

[8]  Firouzi A., Fadaei Fathabadi F., et al. The Combined Effects of Levothyroxine and Low Level Laser Therapy on Wound Healing in Hypothyroidism Male Rat Model. 2018 Winter; 9(1): 7-10.

[9]  Emília de Abreu Chaves M, Rodrigues de Araújo A, Piancastelli ACC, and Pinotti M. “Effects of low-power light therapy on wound healing: LASER x LED.” An Bras Dermatol. 2014 Jul-Aug; 89(4): 616–623. 

[10]  Shomon, Mary. Hypothyroidism and Fibromyalgia--What’s the Connection? Verywell Health. May 2018.

Joovv light therapy products are indicated for use in the relief of muscle and joint pain, including arthritis and muscle spasm pain, and increasing of blood circulation, and relaxation of muscles. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to support the safety or effectiveness of Joovv devices, or diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It's not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.

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