Why Do My Oxygen Levels Decrease After Infrared Light Therapy?

Recently I received an interesting question from one of our customers. He asked:

 

My oxygen saturation decreases after NIR-A near infrared light therapy. As a general question – is this typical?

 

This was a fascinating question, so I was glad I had a little time to investigate.

 

Note that none of us here at RubyLux (including me, the owner) are doctors and what follows is the speculation of a layperson. It is no substitute for professional medical advice. We always recommend asking a qualified medical professional for advice about your individual circumstances.

I could find no studies on why blood oxygen levels would change after exposure to near infrared light. In general, research studies say tissue oxygen levels increase after near infrared light therapy, so on the surface, this man’s oxygen saturation decreasing sounds odd.

 

However, looking at the process that turns oxygen into carbon dioxide in the body, it makes sense that infrared light exposure would temporarily decrease oxygen saturation levels in the blood. The reason is that a large amount of the oxygen in the blood will have transferred to the cells to be used all at one time. At the same time, carbon dioxide will be taken up to be transported out.

 

How Does Near Infrared Light Therapy Work? What Does It Have to Do with Oxygen?

 

One way near infrared light therapy is believed to work is by making cells produce more energy, or ATP. The cells then take the energy and immediately use it for whatever they deem most important, such as repairing damage, producing substances the body requires and removing waste products. In this way, near infrared light therapy and near infrared saunas help the body heal and regenerate itself.

 

The cell’s process of making ATP (or, energy) is known as cellular respiration. Oxygen is usually the rate-limiting factor. Oxygen is needed to take up excess electrons resulting from the process (so oxygen is referred to as an electron acceptor or oxidizing agent). When it takes on electrons from the ATP-making process, it becomes carbon dioxide and is carried out of the body through the lungs.

 

What you may be seeing in your lowered blood oxygenation levels could be the result of your cells turning over a large amount of oxygen at one time. Near infrared light therapy works surprisingly quickly, so within minutes you could find your blood has transferred a larger-than-usual amount of oxygen to your cells, they use it to remove the excess electrons from making ATP and your blood picks up the resulting carbon dioxide to carry it out of your body.

 

You should find that your oxygen saturation goes back to normal fairly quickly. You should also feel physically better after near infrared light therapy- never worse. If you see your oxygen saturation does not go back to normal easily or you notice you aren’t feeling a physical improvement after using the light, I would be very interested to hear about it. I would also recommend discontinuing use of the light if either of those situations occur, just to be on the safe side.