Photobiomodulation for Long COVID

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    In this video, Dr. Seheult of MedCram explores the use of photobiomodulation in the treatment of long COVID. Dr. Seheult believes that sunlight may be a beneficial modality for treating it. He notes that the NIH has poured $1 billion dollars into long COVID research and doesn’t have much to show for it. 

    He shows a graph that shows what the top 10 causes of death in 2017 were prior to the pandemic. It shows that a number of different chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease all have a rhythm associated with them that has to do with sunlight. All of the disease deaths seem to peak in the winter time when the sun is at its lowest point, and likewise deaths decrease in the summertime when the sun is at the highest in the northern hemisphere. It is flipped in the southern hemisphere with June to July, which is the wintertime in the southern hemisphere, having the most deaths and the least in the summertime in December. 

    How does sunshine affect our metabolism?

    MedCram has discussed how sunshine can affect our metabolism. There was a study we had reviewed in the past that showed how sunlight can improve our metabolic health. It showed that overall the more sun exposure in the last 7 days prior to getting bloodwork, the better the metabolic panel was. 

    What is photobiomodulation?

    Photobiomodulation is the term used when subjects in a lab are given photons. Another way of doing this easily is to go outside; however, in these experiments, these are done in a very controlled method. This study found that photobiomodulation (shining light on the subjects in this case in the visible spectrum of red and into the infrared light) the bad IL-6 cytokines  that for COVID we are trying to block pharmacologically, the ratios of IL-6 to IL-10 improved. In other words, a person exposed to the photobiomodulation had much lower IL-6 to IL-10 ratios even after just 2 days of these treatments. For COVID-19 treatments, we have medications that we have used to try and decrease IL-6 as we know it is a major cytokine that does damage in a cytokine storm. MedCram had discussed previously in this video how Infrared light improves COVID outcomes. MedCram has talked about this before that sunlight can affect outcomes in COVID. COVID infections are an oxidative stress issue and we know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein interacts with the ACE2 receptor and the ACE2 is a balancing enzyme that balances between the pro-oxidant angiotensin II and the antioxidant angiotensin 1-7. When cells get infected with SARS-CoV-2,  the ACE2 enzyme gets knocked out and there becomes an imbalance in the oxidative stress. This is what causes such complications. If we could somehow prevent this, then we might be able to decrease the bad outcomes with COVID-19 infections. It turns out that near infrared light penetrating into the skin can actually improve some of those outcomes. 

    Can sunlight help long COVID symptoms?

    So what is the case for treatment of long COVID with sunlight? This paper starts the conversation. It was published in September 2021. It discusses a case of COVID-encephalopathy imaged with flare MRI and treated with near infrared light or radiation.  This patient had been diagnosed with COVID-19 with encephalopathy accompanied by dysautonomia. He underwent NIR light therapy for eight sessions with a focused wavelength of 1064 nm. The following MRI sequences showed a normal brain meaning that the patient’s cognitive dysfunction was not the result of atrophy. His post intervention testing showed improvements in his memory recall, executive function, planning and attention compared to baseline testing.  Another study published in the Journal of Biophotonics  was using light aimed at the brain (transcranial) or whole body to see if there were improvements in the COVID-19 brain fog. This was a randomized control study comparing whole body photobiomodulation to transcranial photobiomodulation.  The results showed that there really was no significant difference between the two modalities. It appeared you could get the same benefit by doing whole body treatment versus just the brain itself. It was noted that the improvement was seen at the end of the experiment (4 weeks) meaning it took time and changes for the improvements to occur. 

    Near infrared radiation can penetrate very deeply into the body as evidenced by this study.  If you look at all of the cells in the body the majority of the cells are reachable by near infrared radiation. Even in the brain, sunlight can penetrate through the skull and due to the way the sulci are arranged they can trap the near infrared radiation and penetrate down into the deep crevices. Near infrared light penetrates even deeper than visible light. Going outside is beneficial as most plants and trees reflect near infrared light. In our culture in the U.S. we spend less than 7% of our time outdoors. The windows now in new buildings do not allow near infrared light to penetrate and the lightbulbs we use now are LED which also do not reflect any near infrared light. 

    This study was using ultraviolet A radiation as a surrogate for COVID-19 deaths and what they found was that people who lived in the higher regions of the U.S. England and Italy had higher covid-19 death rates than those who lived in the southern portions.The study concluded that the effect of sun exposure appeared to be independent of a vitamin D pathway.

    So what to do?

    So what is Dr. Seheult doing with his patients that have been diagnosed with long -COVID?  After doing an extensive work up and if nothing else is found, then he recommends getting 1 hour a day of sunlight. This does not need to be direct sunlight and individuals may cover up if sensitive to sun. It is best to do it in nature  and be surrounded by green.  Do not look directly at the sun, always wear a hat and do intermittent fasting if possible. 

     

    LINKS / REFERENCES:

    The NIH has poured $1 billion into long Covid research — with little to show for it (STAT) | https://www.statnews.com/2023/04/20/l…

    Debunking the False Claim That COVID Death Counts Are Inflated (Scientific American) | https://www.scientificamerican.com/ar…

    Associations of Outdoor Temperature, Bright Sunlight, and Cardiometabolic Traits in Two European Population-Based Cohorts (JCEM) | https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article…

    Photobiomodulation Improves Serum Cytokine Response in Mild to Moderate COVID-19: The First Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled, Pilot Study (Frontiers) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

    A case of COVID-encephalopathy imaged with fMRI and treated with near infrared light (Brain Stimulation) | https://www.brainstimjrnl.com/article…

    Use of either transcranial or whole-body photobiomodulation treatments improves COVID-19 brain fog (Journal of Biophotonics) | https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/f…

    Light spectrum in nanometer (ResearchGate) | https://www.researchgate.net/figure/F…

    Melatonin and the Optics of the Human Body (Melatonin Research) | https://www.melatonin-research.net/in…

    Ultraviolet A radiation and COVID-19 deaths in the USAwith replication studies in England and Italy (BJD) | https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/e…

    Sunlight: Optimize Health and Immunity (MedCram) |    • Sunlight: Optimize Health and Immunit…   

    The Case for Sunlight in COVID 19 Patients: Oxidative Stress (MedCram) |    • The Case for Sunlight in COVID 19 Pat…  

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