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Podcast 415: Red and Infra-Red Light Therapy
The BodyGuard is a device that harnesses red and near-red light, using therapy known as photobiomodulation.
It restores immunity, energy and helps fight viruses.
- Increased exercise performance and recovery
- Reduced inflammation and pain
- Boosted immunity
- Faster healing
- Improved sleep quality
- Increased testosterone
- Improved skin health.
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MARTIN: Hi, everyone! This is Martin Pytela for Life Enthusiast Podcast, and with me today is Charlie Shupp. Charlie is from a company known as Speed of Light, and we are going to be talking about light, and healing your body with light. Charlie, welcome!
CHARLES: Thank you! Thanks for having me!
MARTIN: Should we call it Speed of Light, or should we give it a different name?
CHARLES: Speed of Light is correct. And a specific product that we are going to talk about is called The Bodyguard.
MARTIN: The Bodyguard, yes! Light is one of those incredibly important things when it comes to human health. There are people who live on light alone, watching the photons come through their eyes and so on, I think we are not going to be that sophisticated, but there is a whole lot to be said about light entering the human body, right?
CHARLES: Yes, there is. We are not that much different from plants!
MARTIN: Right! There is something called a chromophore in every cell, right?
CHARLES: Yes, there is. Those chromophores and the mitochondria in each one of your cells has a photoreceptor on each one of them, and there are specific wavelengths that are absorbed by chromophores. But what is also extremely important is that there is a photo window, so only certain wavelengths can enter past your skin, and can reach the target for recovery.
MARTIN: So you guys have done some research about that, huh?
CHARLES: We have been in R&D for this product and development of our photobiomodulation technology for a little more than five years. It started kind of as a family competition where we wanted to start to use science and engineering to try and figure out how we can perform better and beat other family members in some endurance races that we would host every year.
MARTIN: That’s fantastic! Actually, talk about that a little, you found out that you can strap this thing on a person while they are working hard or putting out energy, right?
CHARLES: Yeah. That has been the driver for the startup of this product. A whole driver for our company has been to try and find an everyday product that people can wear and gain the benefits of light therapy without having to go outside naked at sunrise and sunset every day.
MARTIN: I totally appreciate the fact that you’re pursuing the peak performance, which of course I’d love to talk about. People who are healthy and want to do even better, but I suspect that the same technology will also work on people who are at the margins of health-seeking improvement.
CHARLES: Yes. I think that is really what The Bodyguard is specifically designed for. We designed the product to be something that can target some of the extremely important areas of your body, which are some of your ancillary breathing muscles, your lower back, lung tissue, things that have super important critical functions in your body. And the pivot that we made away from the peak performance specific product to The Bodyguard was in response to what we had seen from both people going on ventilators, getting massive amounts of lung damage, having oxygenation problems, and we saw some of those things, and the doctors that are in our team and in our group were experiencing it firsthand. So we said: “Hey, we know that this product does an amazing job to drive oxygenated hemoglobin in your body, it does an amazing job to release nitric oxide from the ATP cycle. So we set out to make a product that we thought could have an impact, it could help not only the peak performance athletes but people who are struggling with just basic health issues.”
MARTIN: So give me some examples, on the performance side of things, what sort of improvements do these people get?
CHARLES: That is a very difficult question to answer. However, we are doing everything we can to try and have definitive answers and conduct studies that are specifically correlated to performance. There is a massive body of evidence. In fact, I was just reading an article this morning about the IOC investigating photobiomodulation as a performance enhancement tool that they are going to try and regulate. I don’t know how that would work, but there are a number of really well-executed studies that show that you have both longer endurance when you are using these products, and those studies are specifically targeted to pre-exercise treatments. So one of the ways that I kind of think about that is it’s almost a warmup and an optimization for your body, so it helps to drive oxygenation, it helps to vasodilate, it helps to get nitric oxide flowing in the blood. So when the endurance event happens, there are people in a non-peak performance state that get more than a 10% increase in total endurance.
MARTIN: I was hoping you can tell me something about your own experience doing some endurance event or something like that.
CHARLES: Okay, sure! One of the extremely important things for us is that this product actually holds up and can withstand some type of event. We have worn these products in cross country ski events, the American Birkebeiner is a 50-kilometer ski race in Northern Wisconsin, where we have the lights integrated into our ski outfits. We have worn them for an event called the Triple Bypass where we biked 120 miles in one day over three mountain passes, we had the lights with a battery pack, and they survived all of the tests. We have a huge library and museum of prototypes that have not survived the test. We are really excited about the product that we have right now. We are using some specialized materials that we’ve gone through in long R&D test periods. Everything is manufactured in the United States, which we think is amazing, we custom design all of our own circuits, we add all of the highest quality components and highest quality materials that we can add into the product. And that has given us the ability to start to test this under extreme endurance activities.
MARTIN: Yeah. I’m really pleased that you’re keeping the American robots well employed!
MARTIN: It’s kind of neat to know that these days where you can employ the numerically controlled machines, the precision is awesome, the quality is consistent, and you don’t have to rely on imports, you make it right in your backyard, or a barn…
MARTIN: Is it a barn? (laughing)
CHARLES: (laughing) I hope the audio is okay because the manufacturing is right on the other side of this wall! I’m sure we will hear some noise at some point coming through. In terms of the specific targets that I can say that I noticed the big difference is delayed onset muscle soreness, and this is almost like a magic eraser that takes away all the soreness and tiredness, and fatigue after an endurance event, without needing a warmup and stretching and all the rest of the things that more serious athletes have time to do, I’m able to compete in these events but still have the time to do the things I need to do.
MARTIN: Great. So could you talk a bit about all the sciency bits of it? We are dealing with the lights, wavelength, pulse rate, amplitude, there are multiple controllable qualities of it. You guys did a whole lot of research into this, didn’t you?
CHARLES: Yes, we have done a ton of research into this. We’ve done a ton of studies on ourselves. We do have a few IRB (international review board) approvals, we have done studies at the Mayo clinic… If you want to conduct a study on a human being, you need to have it approved by an international review board, so any qualified research institution needs to get a study approved first through the IRB, to make sure that it’s both safe and effective, and have the kind of statistics and outcomes that are required.
MARTIN: So you’ve studied and studied. Can you talk about the details of it?
CHARLES: Yeah, so one of the very key distinctions is the ability to pulse the light. So we use a pulse with modulation, with a microcontroller that we have on our board, we have firmware and software that we’ve written that can control both the pulse, modulation and the frequency at which the light is delivered. That’s kind of akin to any adaptation that happens with the human body. So if you smell a strong smell right away, it’s something that hits you in the face and then your olfactory bulbs start to adjust and that smell is not nearly as strong, so there’s this amazing adaptation.
MARTIN: Right, like when you come into the room where you’ve been cutting onions, you know about it, but then five minutes later, you don’t smell it anymore.
CHARLES: Yes, and then you walk outside and you walk back in and you realize: “Holy cow, it smells like onions in here.”
MARTIN: How does that relate back to the light?
CHARLES: The same thing happens with those photoreceptors that are on each mitochondrion. So if you blast just a single continuous wave of light at those photoreceptors, they will also adapt. And there is another very key scientific understanding that is the biphasic dose-response. So biphasic dose-response is kind of a sweet spot. If you deliver too little energy into the system, then you won’t drive the metabolic reaction. If you drive too much energy into the system, then you also stop the metabolic reaction, because of that adaptation, the receptor stops taking in that light energy.
So the testing that really is extremely important to dial in is finding out that is that biphasic dose-response with the specific device that we have, and what are the parameters that we need to program in order to optimize what the oxygenated hemoglobin levels are with the treatment, optimize what the frequency levels are because that has another big impact in how the photoreceptor can take in that light, and then how do we balance not delivering enough, or over-delivering. I think one of the big misnomers that we have learned in the marketplace so far is that most products put out power comparisons, and they say: “We deliver 450 Watts of power.” And people put out comparisons of a number of Watts to a number of dollars.
MARTIN: That’s a lot like me saying: “I will deliver to you a load of oranges and I’ll dump it in your yard.”
CHARLES: Yeah. More power is not better. You need to have smart power and smart delivery of the light in order to optimize what that reaction is going to be.
MARTIN: Yeah, this is important. And I’m so impressed by you guys, this is hard-earned knowledge, right?
CHARLES: Yes, it is very hard-earned knowledge, and we are lucky that we have the benefit of the team members that we have. We have an MD, Ph.D. radiologist, who really understands how photons and waves enter the body. We have a dermatologist who specializes in light delivery and uses it in his practice every day for anything from cancer treatment to a whole bunch of different skin conditions. We have an exercise physiology family practice doctor, who is amazing at synthesizing what the power delivery pieces are and running the tests for the biphasic dose-response curve. And then we also have a computer and electrical engineer that allows us to design, build, test, and study what those different parameters are, and how we make a decision to deliver the best type of light energy into your body.
MARTIN: Great! So the results on the back end of this one could expect would be inflammation down, endurance up, pain down, joy up…?
CHARLES: Those are some pretty big buckets!
MARTIN: Right, like the enjoyment of life, or you mentioned the skin… Do you have the product nearby that you could just hold up and show our viewers? So this probably isn’t easily put on your face, right? Like this works best when wrapped around your back or chest.
CHARLES: (showing the product on the screen) Yeah, this product is specifically targeted to larger areas of your body. It works around your chest, it works around your back, it works around the leg, around the thigh… it can be kind of wrapped and applied to really any part of your body. What we found is that when this is applied to the low back and targets the ancillary breathing muscles around your lungs, you can drive kind of one of the highest reactions in your body for just overall oxygenated hemoglobin levels, nitric oxide release, those are kind of the two targets that we really honed in on with this specific product. It is not the very best one for carpal tunnel syndrome or an ankle injury, but in terms of targeting larger areas of your body, it is perfect.
MARTIN: But I could visualize laying my forearm onto this.
CHARLES: Yes, you can do that, that is the setup that I typically have any time I sit at my desk. I always have the device right on my desk, and after a few hours of Zoom meetings all day long and typing on the computer, I start to get a crick in my shoulder, so I put the Bodyguard inside of my shirt and it automatically cycles, it is 15 minutes on, and 30 minutes off. When we run our oxygenated hemoglobin studies, when we have done exhaled nitric oxide studies, we found that it takes about seven and a half minutes to hit peak oxygenation, and our light stays on for another seven minutes, and that curve remains elevated for about 30 minutes after treatment stops. There are a lot of factors that go into it. You can deflect that curve by drinking cold water or eating food and diverting blood flow back to the digestive system. But if you’re just at your desk and you’re not doing anything else, after 30 minutes is when that dropout starts to happen, so the device cycles back on for another 15 minutes. And what we found is that you can keep that oxygenation curve and with it recovery happening in your body consistently with that cycle.
MARTIN: Does this need to be directly against your skin?
CHARLES: Yes. And that’s why we designed this product the way that we have designed it. There is a layer of foam that holds the diodes just about 1/16 of an inch away from your skin, and there is an inverse square of dropoff. So if you are one foot away, you have an inverse square of light power that’s coming out of your panel to what can be absorbed by your body, and that’s a complicated equation. I don’t think that people are crunching inverse squares in their head if they’re using something that is not directly against their skin.
MARTIN: You can say that it drops off dramatically with distance.
CHARLES: Yes, it drops off dramatically. We have a laboratory-grade light meter that we test all of our devices on. We program the devices, test them after being programmed to make sure that the dose of delivery is exactly as we had specified.
MARTIN: Is the device easy to clean?
CHARLES: It is very easy, this is an EVA foam, a closed-cell cross-linked foam, that is naturally antimicrobial, so nothing can really stay on the surface, and it can be fully sanitized. You can wipe it down with any mild soap and sponge, you can use a wet wipe, a sanitizing wipe with alcohol and if you want you can clean it with alcohol.
MARTIN: Great! Okay, can you talk a bit about your company itself? A bit of history, a bit of glory, whatever.
CHARLES: Yeah, so like I’d mentioned, we had been in R&D for a very long time, and it has been kind of like a side passion product project for the majority of our team. We have the doctors that are involved, medical advisors, we have some intellectual property that we filed that’s around exactly how the dose delivery happens, and I said: “Hey, if we want to do something other than just go to the hospital and test this thing and then compete against each other, we have to make this a real company.” So I used my manufacturing equipment and experience. My background is in architecture, but I find more joy in creating products that are going to help people and impact people. It’s amazing how complex a product like this can be compared to a building. You think that creating a whole building and the architecture and all of the things that need to happen is complicated, but the human body and the stresses that someone can put on a device are unbelievable. And I think that was one of the reasons for our very long R&D timeline, we needed to know that our circuit, our device, and what we were going to build wasn’t going to break. We are located in our manufacturing facility in St. Paul, Minnesota, so it is all made with love in Minnesota.
MARTIN: So you don’t have all the distractions of a beach and the mountains.
CHARLES: Yes, that’s right, that’s exactly right. We have ice and snow for the majority of the year, so we might as well work.
MARTIN: That’s great! Have you sold many of these yet?
CHARLES: We just launched this product at the very end of December in 2020, and we just launched our website. We are finding wholesalers and retailers, and we are selling the product primarily through our website. We’ve started to get a little bit more traction, and we are learning more and more every day about what people are looking for in a photobiomodulation product, and we try to differentiate ourselves from the ‘more power is better’ marketplace that I think is kind of prevalent right now.
MARTIN: So I guess we can expect developments over time!
CHARLES: Yes, for sure! Do you want to see a couple real quick just to see where we’re headed?
MARTIN: Yes, for sure!
CHARLES: Yeah, so this is a sneak peek prototype. (showing prototypes on the screen) So we know that we need to be able to use this product in a whole bunch of different applications. Pain doesn’t just happen around your low back and lungs. We have new smaller prototypes you will be able to use on smaller parts of the body. It works extremely well for the wrist, ankles, shoulders… with this product, you would be able to wear multiple versions of this, you could have one on each hamstring or one on your shoulder, you can have multiple multiple devices running at the same time. This is where we have the diode array, and the backside is just the foam I mentioned earlier.
MARTIN: Great. I also wanted to say that I’m impressed just how competitively you have priced the product. This is a sophisticated device, way beyond what that ordinary deck of LED lights from China will do, right?
CHARLES: Yes. To go back to the company question, the way that we’ve done that is to stay as lean as we possibly can, and be as efficient as we possibly can, so we can deliver value in our product. We really believe in the quality of the product, the quality of the components that go into the product, and the science backing what we are making.
MARTIN: I love that about you, it’s the humbleness and the grounded-ness. I guess that’s the good old cold weather American spirit.
CHARLES: Yeah, I guess that’s what happens when you’re in Minnesota.
MARTIN: Yup. That’s great. Awesome. I love it. So to sum it all up: The inflammation brings five problems – redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function. When you bring light to it, and when you improve the mitochondrial function, you reverse all of this.
CHARLES: That was a great description.
MARTIN: So just remember: if it hurts, if it’s swollen, or if it’s just not functioning as it should, this light will help. Thank you very much, Charlie. Are you the CEO?
CHARLES: I am the CEO, yes.
MARTIN: Charlie Schupp, the CEO of Speed of Light! My name is Martin Pytela from Life Enthusiast, we are restoring vitality to you and to the planet. You can reach me at www.life-enthusiast.com. Thank you.
Note: the information provided are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your medical professional(s) if you are dealing with a specific medical issue.