Improving Gut Health with Red Light Therapy

Health Starts in the Gut

Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, proposed that all disease starts in the gut.

Today, we know that Hippocrates’ statement was incomplete. Not ALL disease starts in the gut, but research shows that many metabolic, autoimmune, and cognitive disorders do stem from an unhealthy gut. Our gut bacteria and the quality of our gut lining have a significant impact on our individual health, and so we cannot achieve optimal health without a healthy gut.

The gut, also known as the large intestine, contains trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms. It houses around 60% of your immune system, produces the bulk of neurotransmitters, impacts your metabolism, and contributes to your overall health.

People mistakenly believe that an obvious sign of a healthy gut is when an individual is free from gastrointestinal symptoms, but this is not the case. While digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are common, neurological symptoms are just as common.

Gut issues often bring about neurological symptoms such as brain fog, poor focus, poor memory, anxiety, and depression. This is because the gut and the brain are in constant communication through the gut-brain axis. Therefore, poor gut health can lead to poor brain health. Other bodily functions that are affected by the gut also include the skin, the immune system, one’s blood sugar levels, and mitochondria.

The great thing about gut health is that it responds well to dietary and lifestyle changes. This will work against you if you have a high-processed food diet and are under a lot of stress, but if you make positive changes in your diet, stress levels, and lifestyle, your symptoms will begin to improve. This is because the systems of the body are all interconnected, and restoring balance often needs a holistic approach. The two are inexorably linked: the microbiome directly affects the body, and the body also affects the microbiome.

A Brief Introduction to Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy (RLT), also known as photobiomodulation (PMB) and low-level light therapy (LLLT), is an innovative biohacking technique that uses red and near-infrared (NIR) light to supercharge your cells and, as a result, boost overall health and wellness.

When red and NIR light is absorbed into the skin, it affects the body’s cellular health, improving an individual’s health and longevity from the cellular level.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

Red light therapy uses low-level red wavelengths of light to treat a variety of issues such as skin conditions, insomnia, and hormonal issues. Red and Near-Infrared (NIR) light have been shown to have significant benefits on the body since they are able to penetrate into the skin much deeper.

Once red and NIR wavelengths are absorbed into your body, it essentially stimulates your cells to increase energy production and anti-inflammatory responses. Red light therapy increases the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is used to fuel every bodily function. It also creates hormesis, which is a low-dose temporary metabolic stress that causes both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant responses in our cells. Hormesis creates the same body response as exercise.

As a result, red and NIR light therapy can improve cellular health, boost immunological response, reduce inflammation, and improve cell regeneration.

Red Light Therapy and the Gut-Brain Axis

The gut-brain axis links the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. Red light energy applied to the abdomen area can therefore influence mood and neuropsychological issues by:

  • reducing bowel inflammation and gut spasms
  • stimulating neurotransmitters and hormones in the gut, including serotonin, leptin, and ghrelin
  • modulating the microbiome which is sensitive and responds to light
  • modulating the vagus nerve which plays an important role in stress and social communication
  • increasing blood circulation and reducing blood pressure, which leads to reduced anxiety and brain fog
  • the increasing availability of neurotransmitters that activate the brain’s immune system.

Reducing bowel inflammation and gut spasms

Red light therapy helps improve immune cells, which is crucial for those suffering from autoimmune diseases. Through exposure to red light, the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α is released from the cells, and leukocytes (white blood cells) can enter the body’s tissue to promote healing. In addition, red light therapy aids in activating lymphocytes, which increases the movement of epithelial cells, thus healing wounded areas quickly and increasing cell turnover rates.[1]

Stimulating neurotransmitters both in the gut and the brain

Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers. They are the molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons, or from neurons to muscles.

Studies suggest that exposure to light at night seems to alter neurotrophin and neurotransmitter systems.[2] By mimicking the sun rays and activating the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates our circadian rhythm, red light exposure increases neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin and dopamine making us more positive and energized. Also, since we know that light can affect the microbiome indirectly through the circadian rhythm, it makes sense that light and the gut are connected.

Balancing the gut microbiome

A recent study found that red and NIR light can help restore a healthy gut microbiome.[3]

The microbes in the gut are sensitive to light energy and respond to light energy with differences in growth, migration, and proliferation of the different species.

Australian researchers have shown for the first time that laser therapy can be used to alter the population of gut bacteria in mice.[4] The findings, if confirmed in humans, could help in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes.

A study published in The Journal of Photochemistry & Photobiology, B: Biology by Professor Hosen Kiat demonstrate changes in the human gut microbiome following light therapy. Professor Kiat said that “It is quite possible that laser will provide a synergistic effect to the currently available therapeutic maneuvers [to the gut microbiome]… It is a no-brainer if it is useful because it is relatively cheap, it is non-invasive and it has zero side effects.”[5]

Modulating the vagus nerve

The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting the gut and brain. This nerve is responsible for the main organ functions in your body, including the heart, lungs, and digestive system.

Without the proper function of this nerve, your health will be negatively affected. Several things can affect and slow down the activity of the vagus nerve, such as a bad diet, stress, anxiety, lack of movement, and bad posture.

Increasing blood circulation

One of the potential benefits of red light therapy is a significant increase in blood circulation. This indicates issues are receiving more oxygen and other nutrients that are important for healing. At the same time, light helps the body and circulatory system rid themselves of toxic byproducts.[6]

One of the ways this happens is through the release of nitric oxide, which widens the blood vessels and capillaries in the body, and thus, improves circulation.

Nitric oxide is also a messenger molecule that helps stimulate the body’s natural healing process. As a result, nerves get healthier and more regularly fire. Nerves can then transmit feelings again over time. Red Light Therapy improves circulation, promotes healing, and decreases pain by increasing nitric oxide production. Additionally, when nerves repair and sensitivity improves, balance improves.

The increase in blood flow also delivers nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the neurons and other tissues thereby reducing pain. It also helps the body to maintain homeostasis, resulting in optimal functioning.

Although much additional research is needed to fully understand the effects of red light on certain biological functions, like how it affects the gut microbiome, it’s clear that the effectiveness and potential of light therapy are very promising.

Red and NIR light therapy has numerous systemic benefits, whether you are searching for sleep enhancement, muscle building, increased collagen production and anti-aging, or cellular renewal and energy. The best part is that it’s a natural form of therapy that uses one of the most basic forms of energy, which is light.  

How to Use RLT for Gut Health

  • Device to use
    • Our Model 1 Pro is the ideal device to use, because of its size and coverage area. Shop the Model1 Pro and our other RLT devices here.
  • Duration
    • 10 minutes is the optimal duration.
  • Distance
    • We recommend positioning the device 8 inches away from your abdomen.
  • Wavelength:
    • For optimal results, we recommend 850nm (NIR).
Use Case Gut Health by Luminousred

Other tips:

  1. Be consistent and patient. Red light therapy is not a quick fix; it takes time and consistency for your body to heal. 
  2. Choose a high light-energy output LED device. The highest possible total energy output (irradiance) will ensure deep absorption into the tissues.
  3. Don’t try to accelerate results with longer sessions or by moving closer to the device.

Try Red Light Therapy Today!

If you’re interested in trying out red-light therapy, check out our devices.

To get the most out of your red light therapy device, use it on other parts of the body. Browse through the articles on our blog to discover the many whole-body applications for red light therapy.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3288797/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26595278/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30074108/

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6859693/#:~:text=Results%3A%20Recent%20work%20by%20our,been%20demonstrated%20in%20human%20subjects.

[5] https://surfershealth.com.au/news/2021/05/20/groundbreaking-trial-finds-that-infrared-light-therapy-for-parkinsons-disease-reduces-symptoms-and-improves-the-gut-microbiome/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22220935/