Phototherapy to Reduce Stress & Boost Immunity
Stress is a part of life.
I’m sure you’ve had a time in your life that was stressful, say an intense deadline for a project. And as soon as you finished your project, you immediately got sick!
It's a universal truth that we’re more prone to illness when life is crazy busy.
But, we often don’t think of our kids as being stressed until they get a little older and into their teens. However, stress can even affect babies. I can’t think of a more stressful event than being born!
Stress isn’t all bad.
It can help us perform better, increases our focus, and gets us through tough times.
But, repeated high-stress events and/or low-grade chronic stress can lower our immunity. Prolonged stress can also create chronic inflammation, which eventually leads to chronic illness.
School and social stresses are huge for kids - even young kids.
The pressure to perform or fit in can cause daily anxiety, which keeps the sympathetic or “flight or fight” part of our nervous system stuck “on” most of the time. This causes difficulties with behavior, eating, digesting, learning, and sleeping. It makes children more prone to catching colds and flu!
Illness is also a stressor on our bodies that activates our sympathetic nervous system and should naturally turn “off” when the illness is over.
But, for some kids, the stress response doesn’t turn “off” as it should. Managing stress is vital when it comes to supporting healthy immunity.
The KEY player for turning off the stress response is your vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is poetically referred to as the “wandering nerve.” Two thick stems starting in your brain diverge into multiple branches that weave their way down the neck into the body connecting with the lungs, heart, and most major organs before finally into reaching the lower bowels in the abdomen.
You know your vagus nerve is balanced when you have a slight increase in your heart rate when you inhale and a decrease in your heart rate when you exhale. Take your pulse and check it out.
The vagus nerve facilitates the mind-body connection and it’s the cabling behind the “heart’s emotions” and “gut instincts”.
The vagus nerve is an amazing network that has the capacity to regulate our immune system by directly interfacing with our immune cells. It also ends the body’s fight-or-flight response once the trigger for the stress has passed.
There is also evidence that the vagus nerve plays a crucial role in combating inflammation, which Chinese Medicine refers to as ‘heat’.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), heat, or inflammation, is viewed as a major cause of imbalances that will eventually lead to illness. In the Western medical paradigm, science is now increasingly aligning to this ancient view that unregulated inflammation is hugely destructive and appears to be at the root of many major illnesses.
So quintessential to managing our stress response, anxiety and immune function is being able to activate this calming nervous pathway of the parasympathetic system.
Vagus nerve regulation does the following:
- Slows the heart rate
- Calms the mind
- Oxygenates the blood
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relaxes tense muscles
The vagus nerve can be activated in a number of ways including cold water emersion, deep and slow breathing, meditation, exercise, laughter, massage, singing, humming, chanting and gargling as well as supplements including probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids.
Researchers are studying vagus nerve stimulation as a potential treatment for a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, depression, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, bipolar disorder, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease.
Phototherapy acupoint stimulation offers an easy, safe, effective alternatives to invasive procedures.
The science of phototherapy, which has been around for about 100 years, uses light to improve the health of the body. Modern forms of phototherapy, such as Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), which helps reduce pain, inflammation, and wrinkles in the skin, are very well understood scientifically.
How Phototherapy Patches Work
Your body emits heat in the form of infrared light.
Lifewave patches are designed to trap this infrared light when placed on the body, which causes them to reflect particular wavelengths of light. This process stimulates specific acupoints on the skin that signal the body to produce unique biochemical and physiological changes to restore balance in the body.
Vagal Regulation at Home
When it comes to vagal regulation, advances in modern research allow us to combine the best of ancient wisdom with modern technology, helping us to achieve vagal nerve regulation. Daily vagal hygiene is integral to this process, which is why we recommend Lifewave phototherapy patches.
One of our favorite patches to use for this purpose is the Aeon patch. The Aeon patch reflects particular wavelengths of light, which decrease inflammation and increase antioxidant production in the body. You can simply place the Aeon patch on the back of the neck, below the 7th cervical vertebrae as shown in the photo.
To restore the vagus nerve balance and improve brain balance, sleep, digestion, and emotional issues, it is recommended to place the Aeon Lifewave® patch behind the right ear. This is close to the acupoint Triple Energizer 17 and corresponds to the location of the vagus nerve beside the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle.
Another great option is using the SP 6 Complete patch, which has been found to balance the hypothalamus and helps regulates the HPA axis – vital to supporting healthy hormone and stress response as well as adrenal function. Simply apply the SP 6 Complete Lifewave® patch behind the left ear or on the leg at either the left Stomach 36 or left Spleen 6 acupoints to help maximize the regulating effect on the vagus nerve.
When you or your child are under stress or are experiencing anxiety, adding in vagal nerve regulation through phototherapy patches is an easy, set-it-and-forget-it way you can help restore the body back to balance and activate a normal healing response.
Also, be sure to check out our post on how to boost glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, naturally with phototherapy.
Learn How to Use Phototherapy at Home
If you’re curious about how to incorporate phototherapy patching in your medicine cabinet, be sure to join our free AcuPatching Community and take our phototherapy mini-courses. It’s FREE to all parents and will quickly get you up to speed so you can support the health and well being of your family safely and naturally.
About the Authors
Dr. Suzy McCleary (TCM)
Suzy McCleary is a qualified Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, registered as both an Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Herbalist. Now a mother of two small children, Suzy first became interested in helping more children because of her experience as a former paediatric nurse working in intensive care in a number of specialised children’s hospitals around the world including the Boston Children’s Hospital in the USA and the world recognised Royal Children’s Hospital, in Australia.
With 12 years of clinical nursing experience and over 14 years of experience in private practice as a doctor of Chinese Medicine, Suzy continues to stay up to date incorporating ancient wisdom with modern times. Further studies include becoming a registered GAPS Practitioner, Functional Nutritionist, Shonishin Practitioner as well as completing Baby Shiatsu training. Suzy is currently preparing to sit her final exams for the Childhood Neurodevelopmental Disorders Course founded with the principles of developmental functional neurology.
As well as private practice Suzy runs an online program for new parents, known as the Barefoot Parenting Blueprint. Designed to empower new parents to take the care of their children back into their own hands and help them create connections that will last a lifetime. It provides valuable information and educational resources on everything from baby massage and acupressure techniques to help relieve common everyday health concerns, information on gut health for both mum and baby, demonstrates the importance of movement and nurturing touch as well as highlight the role of the outdoor environment. You can access it below on the following link: https://barefootparenting.com.au
In addition, Suzy has created a program to support families struggling with behavioral, developmental and health issues including skin complaints, lung, and digestive issues. To access the “Function to Flourish” private facebook page click on the link below:
Robin Ray Green, L.Ac., MTCM
Robin Ray Green is a mother of two boys, a licensed acupuncturist, and herbalist and a leading expert in the field of pediatric acupuncture. She's been treating kids in her private practice for over 15 years.
She was inspired to work with kids after she helped her son overcome a severe case of eczema that Western medicine was unable to treat. She saw the need for practical and accessible pediatric training and founded the Center for Acupuncture Pediatrics in 2013. She provides live and online pediatric acupuncture training and mentoring to thousands of acupuncturists and holistic practitioners worldwide.
A published Hay House author, Robin’s book, Heal Your Child from the Inside Out: The 5-Element Way to Nurturing Healthy, Happy Kids, was released in 2016 and has helped thousands of children around the world. It is available online and in most bookstores.
Her popular kid’s health blog for parents, now at robinraygreen.com, has over 1 million visitors annually and she runs a directory to connect parents to pediatric acupuncture specialists at www.kidsloveacupunture.com.