Matt Maruca is the founder of Ra Optics and the creator of The Light Diet.
Amazingly, Matt is just 20 years old, but his depth of knowledge when it comes to optimal human health is astounding.
In this feature-length interview, he explains how his own personal struggles with gut issues, allergies and migraines sent him down a path of researching the importance of safe exposure to sunlight for optimal human health.
More specifically, Matt’s work and research focuses on the importance of optimal mitochondrial health.
In the fascinating interview, Matt gives us a bit of a background about his personal story, and explains why it’s so important that we optimise our mitochondria, which are also know as the ‘engines’ of our cells.
He also explains why he thinks that getting safe exposure to sunlight on our skin and into our eyes is so crucial to human health.
It was a really great chat and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
Editor's note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet or exercise routine, or trying a new supplement.
Matt, thanks for taking the time to speak to Human Window. You’re the founder of Ra Optics and the creator of The Light Diet. You’ve got a really interesting story about how your own personal path of suffering led you to explore the benefits of sunlight. Could you give us a brief synopsis of how you got to this point and summarize your transformation?
Absolutely. First of all, it’s great to talk! So, when I was 14 years old – actually even further back – I was always adventurous. I didn’t have this thing that people develop where life is viewed as like a challenge and a burden. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to do different things and wanted to be remember when I died. I wanted to do something impactful with my life. By the time I was 14, I was in high school and having really bad acne breakouts. That was actually something that triggered me to make a jump.
I began a diet called the Paleo Diet because of the connections I found between that and skin health and the gut. The issues I had been dealing with which I usually state as the main cause of my move into the health world were basically daily chronic migraines, gut issues and bad pollen and dust allergies. So matter where I went, indoors or outdoors, winter or summer, I was blowing my nose. It was really unpleasant. When I began the Paleo Diet, those three primary issues that I had come to assume were totally out of my control and genetic, actually started improving tremendously, just from changing my diet. That was a really big eye-opener for me.
I learnt about Epigenetics and I realized, wow, I can heal my body. So I started asking, where does it go from here? I came to a point where I hit a brick wall with the diet focus. It was more like a quicksand that I had stepped into, because the more I struggled, the deeper I went. I was eating a pretty healthy and clean Paleo diet, but I was starting to have reactions to different foods. My pollen allergies, gut issues and headaches were mostly solved, but then I would eat certain foods and start to have reactions that I was never having before. It could be because I was more sensitive but the reactions were becoming substantial and my energy was swinging. Basically, I was in what felt like a deeper hole than when I started because I thought I figured things out.
Thankfully, I learned about Dr Jack Kruse, who is a neurosurgeon from the United States who has been blogging for the last 10-15 years about how light and mitochondria are the primary factors in our modern disease epidemic. It stuck me as interesting because he was writing different perspectives on why someone might be craving carbohydrates and sugars when trying to go onto a fat burning diet.
And the answer wasn’t about lack of self control, which I was constantly beating myself up for. Rather it was living in an environment with too many non-native electromagnetic fields. So whether it be artificial light that disrupts our circadian rhythm and our sleep and damages our metabolism that way, or Wifi, Bluetooth signals that alter the calcium channels in ourselves and affect countless other pathways causing a lot of damage. This was something I’d never even considered before, but it made sense to me. So I tried getting the sunrises to set my circadian rhythm, blocking Blue Light at night, starting to eat more seafood as my dietary focus because of the impacts of seafood. So basically started eating more seafood to mitigate the risks.
And in the end, I just started feeling a lot better than I did before. It was like, wow. And more than anything it made sense. It was the first explanation that I came across where it explained really why, for example, so many people could thrive on a Vegan diet or a vegetarian diet. Not that most people do, but at least there’s a good number who do pretty well on this kind of diet, which the Paleo Diet community considers to be the worst thing ever and yes, from my experience more than not, vegetarians and vegans are very unhealthy and skinny and pale and have mental illness and this is well known even within their communities, that it’s not necessarily a healthy diet. However, at the same time I have a friend who’s from Russia, who’s been practicing ayurveda his whole life and he’s a raw vegan and he is quite literally the most physically fit and mentally sharp and clear person that I’ve ever met.
So clearly it’s not all about the food that we’re consuming. There’s another factor. This was the first time I ever understood what that other factor was. And it explained modern diseases that the common thread in all modern diseases is that the Mitochondria, whether it’s in the brain, the heart, the pancreas, whatever disease, you know, all these monochronic diseases have mitochondrial dysfunction basically.
So if it’s heart disease, it’s in the heart. If it’s Alzheimer’s, it’s in the brain. If it’s autism, it’s in the brain. If it’s certain cancers, it’s in those tissues. So it was just like, wow. And it wasn’t about the food, it was about light and how that affects these systems. So that’s sort of what was like, Ooh, I’ve got to share this information. I’ve got to learn more and apply it and I’m still applying it. I haven’t by any means figured all of these things out, but it’s really coming together in a really interesting way with ayurveda, and all these other things that link together western science and this perspective in particular.
I think a good place to start would be for you to quickly define what Mitochondria are. Because I think a lot of people have heard the word, or maybe remember it from biology class, but perhaps they don’t really understand their function in the human body. Could you give us a brief your definition of what Mitochondria are, how they work, how important they are?
Absolutely. A lot of people know that when life began, the first organisms as to the best of our knowledge were bacteria and archaea – these single celled organisms, they also call them prokaryotes. So basically, for approximately two-and-a-half out of the last four billion years since life first came to be, the archaea and bacteria were the only organisms that covered earth.
What life basically does, and what these primordial organisms did, is take molecules or chemicals in nature that want to react or that could react. And the reaction of these chemicals would be what’s called exothermic, meaning it releases energy. And basically these organisms catalyze that reaction.
We use oxygen that’s present in the air, hydrogen that’s present in organic matter like food that we eat. Anything that’s alive basically is based on hydrogen. So that’s why we can burn them with oxygen and really release a lot of heat. But we use it from food that we can consume. So generally, plants or animals that ate the plants, we react hydrogen and oxygen. And when hydrogen and oxygen bind together, they release, they bind and they’re more ‘satisfied’. And what that does is it releases energy.
That’s just how these things work in physics basically. I’m sure you’re probably familiar with some of this. If you take a banana and put it out in the air, it doesn’t necessarily just react. I mean over time, slowly the outside of the banana oxidizes and it does turn brown. But that’s very slow.
What we do is we input a little bit of energy to break apart the bonds that are holding the hydrogens in place in their current structure and sugars. And then the oxygen reacts with that free hydrogen and it makes water. And then that releases a lot of energy basically.
So that’s what all bacteria did for a long time – not just with hydrogen and oxygen, but with all kinds of different electronic acceptors and donors all across rock gases everywhere in the universe.
I mean, every surface practically on earth is covered in bacteria that we can’t see. A long time ago, like one and a half billion years ago, scientists estimate, one bacteria and one archaea basically made a treaty, you could say, where they decided to come together and one which was the bacteria, which is called an oxidative cyanobacteria, meaning it uses oxygen as its energy source or it’s one of its electron acceptor.
It would provide the energy for this treaty, or you could say alliance, and then the archaea would provide structure. And so basically this bacteria, which previously had its own whole genome, it gave away its genes to the host – and the host would take care of of the structural things, maintaining the genome and so on and so on.
The bacteria would just produce energy. So now you basically have in this cell – and what it’s evolved into… this is what our cells and all complex organisms are made out of today.
You have a cell now where one of these organisms in the cell can focus just on making energy. The other focuses just primarily on structure and function and so on. And so now this reduces a lot of energy waste because instead of, for example, in the average eukaryotic cell today.
For example in our cells, we have about a thousand mitochondria, or these energy-generating bacteria, that came together in this alliance. With a thousand of these, instead of each of them containing and maintaining and repairing and handling an entire genome, they’ve outsourced that to just one main host.
So the amount of energy that’s saved by hundreds or a thousand of these energy generators and not having to deal with all of the energy use for maintaining and expressing the genes in the genome is tremendous.
And that energy savings by concentrating that basically to one per one, basically boss was tremendous. And that energy savings is what allowed life to become what we would call complex.
So for organisms to grow beyond one single cell, to coordinate the structure and function of what would become very complex organisms, so much more complex than single-celled bacteria that we can’t even see with our own eyes, even though we’re made up of trillions and trillions of them.
So anyhow, mitochondria are that energy producer that made the alliance with the structure giver, essentially. And the reason that’s relevant is because what it means is that unlike a single bacteria living on the earth by itself, responsible for everything – for its metabolism, energy generation, everything. We are an alliance of these mitochondria with a structural organism and they provide all of our energy and generate all of our energy – and we can’t live without energy.
So for example, to make the point more clear, if someone were to stop breathing, the reason we breathe, as I mentioned, or at least alluded to, is we react the oxygen that I’m breathing in. For example, with the hydrogen from the fat, from the meat that I ate for breakfast, to make energy to power all of our functions. Stopping breathing, removes the oxygen, removes the electron acceptor, that that basically is part of the reaction from which we generate our energy for life.
Remember, hydrogen and oxygen makes water, releases energy. If we don’t have the option, the reaction stops. And then in the Mitochondria, this is a little deeper, but basically there’s a proton gradient. There’s a gradient where there’s these, and on one side of the membrane, there’s a lot of these protons, these tiny little basic molecules, which some people may know about, some people might not, but it’s just a basic, not molecule, but atom, tons of them on one side of a membrane and fewer on another.
And when we breathe, when we eat, all that that serves to do is push them onto the side, where there are more and we keep doing that. And then they want to go these protons from the side, or there’s more to the side where there’s less, so that we forced them to go through a little channel. And when these protons go through the channel, it’s like electricity, except it’s a positive charge, but it causes this channel to spin really fast. And that’s how we make what we call ATP, which is cellular energy.
So that’s how we convert hydrogen from our food, oxygen from our air into a gradient, which powers the production of ATP, which keeps us alive. So that’s a not very brief summary of what Mitochondria are and why they’re very important.
I think I’ve heard you use the analogy of the Mitochondria being the ‘engines’ of our cells. I guess it’s funny how we do all the stuff with diet, nutrition and exercise, things like that, but we don’t think about actually optimizing the engine itself.
It’s really funny! It’s really interesting that you say that because it’s true and I appreciate that you appreciate the analogy. Because sometimes I don’t quite appreciate how good the analogy is.
But if you consider, for example, trying to improve a car when some dudes who want to have the coolest car or talking about their car, they’re not, for example, saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to going to go get premium. I’m going to get 94 gas, I’m going to get 95 gas. I have 90 gas, so I’m not as cool.’ It’s like, ‘no, I want a Lambo, I want a Maserati, I want a Ferrari, I want a Bugati, I want to have the McLaren.’ You know what I mean? That’s the improvement of the engine. That’s really how much of a discrepancy there is between the diet focus and the mitochondrial focus. So that’s why I’m, I’m fascinated by the potential that stands to explode with where this is right now.
OK, so you found out all this stuff, you’re reading blogs, just doing your own research and stuff. And so what did you start to do? What was the next step in your journey?
So the thing that fascinated me more than anything from Dr Kruse’s research was something called thermogenesis.
So essentially it’s a protocol for going into cold water. And by going into this cold water, it activates skin surface receptors that talk to our brain and basically say, ‘we are cold, start generating heat’. And the way the brain goes back, it signals back to our Mitochondria, these cellular engines, and it says activate uncoupling proteins.
Remember I just described this proton gradient in the engines, more protons on one side of a membrane, fewer on the other side essentially because the Mitochondria is made of one outer membrane, one inner membrane.
So in the space between the two is where there’s a higher concentration of protons. And if there’s not a higher concentration of protons, it means you’re dead, because you have to have the higher concentration of protons to keep the light.
So when we activate these uncoupling proteins, what they do is they poke essentially a hole in this membrane. And if you poked too much of a hole in the membrane, you would essentially die because it would collapse the gradient and then there would be no power. They call it the Proton motive force that keeps this ATPase, this you could say piston almost, in our engine spinning.
So again, when we’re cold, it sort of tricks this program by creating a little hole and allowing these protons to flow through when they’re not quite supposed to. What this does is it tricks the Mitochondria. This is how a mitochondrial researcher described it to me at least – it tricks the Mitochondria into really upping up energy production because it basically starts almost panicking, saying ‘we are dying’ basically.
And so the engine starts, we start massively up-regulating our metabolism tremendously, taking in more, basically burning more of our fat and releasing that energy.
Not as as ATP, but it actually it is just releasing the electrons crossing that membrane. It’s still doing that spinning, but it’s releasing all of that energy as heat because as people probably know, heat is a form of energy. So we can just release this energy into heat. And that keeps us warm. And the reason that’s interesting is because heat is another word for infrared light. And that infrared light has really interesting effects on the water in ourselves. It causes it to turn into this structured fourth phase water that this researcher who will be in London, a Dr Gerald Pollock wrote the whole book about, and that structured water has a much greater capacity to store energy from, for example, the sun.
That’s what the water in our cells is made out of. Wim Hof is the daredevil awesome guy who’s teaching people to go into cold water, turn on their own metabolism and experience these tremendous life giving benefits. It really just goes back to the Mitochondria being activated and creating this massive generation of infrared light inside of ourselves. Kind of like infrared Saunas, but inside of ourselves, all the while cooling ourselves so that everything is running more efficiently. Just like for example, when a cell phone is cold, it can run for a pretty long time. It’s just that when it gets even a little too hot, immediately everyone knows the iPhone says can’t function. I mean, they’re pretty good. They can actually take quite a lot of heat, but it slows down and gets slower.
And it’s the same thing on our proteins that semiconductor and use a electron flows basically when it’s too hot, things don’t flow the way they’re supposed to, but when it’s cold, things move even better oftentimes. So that was the first step. I was like, cold bathing, I can get in ice water, burn my own fat. It sounds like a superpower. So I was fascinated by that.
So how long were you staying in the water?
It was only like 20 minutes, 30 minutes. I mean, of course coming from thinking that that water would kill you, it seemed like a lot, but 20 minutes, 30 minutes. Now I do ice baths, cold baths, ocean, river, swimming in cold water all the time. And once you stay in a few minutes in the furnace turns on, it often feels like you could stay in for an hour. And then you get out and you’re like, oh my gosh, I feel unbelievable. I feel so charged.
So that was really, that was the first thing that really pulled me into this and Dr crutches work in the Mitochondria. I was like, wow, this is epic.
So mitochondrial function is part of overall human health. There are thousands or more of mitochondria and every single human cell. It would make sense that we would optimize that function…
Naturally, yeah. Dr Doug Wallace is a researcher from Philadelphia, which happens to be my home city, who is the guy leading the charge from Mitochondria. He’s been researching Mitochondria since 40 years ago, 50 years ago. He’s an old-school researcher. He basically has clearly shown from all of his decades of work that when we are having chronic modern diseases, it isn’t the nuclear genes that are failing to function. It is the mitochondrial genes, the mitochondrial function, essentially. They do have their own genes.
Like I mentioned, when they deleted most of their genes and gave them a lot of them to the main host in this evolutionary alliance, which we call I guess it’s called endosymbiosis by scientists. The Mitochondria still kept a small number of genes that were intricately, intimately related to their energy generation.
For example, if you migrate to a different environment or you change your environment even slightly to change the cells and the nuclear genes is, you could say a bit of a tedious process. It isn’t something that happens very quickly. It happens over long generations, change in the nuclear genome.
However, changes in the mitochondrial genome happen more or less instantaneously granted that we have 100 trillion cells and a thousand mitochondria within each of those cells. The ratio of mitochondrial genome sets to nuclear genome sets is about a thousand to one. Even though the nuclear genome is orders of magnitude larger than that mitochondrial genome.
And the mitochondrial genome only has codes for 13 proteins, if I’m not mistaken. I believe it’s 13 proteins at codes for and several more genes than that. But basically these genes change very quickly. And for example, when people moved to the tops of mountains, the genes that would change more rapidly in response to the lower oxygen levels would be the mitochondrial genes.
But over time, there’s this thing, they call it Mito-nuclear co-evolution, which is, it’s like a crosstalk where the Mitochondria basically affects the nucleus. Basically what happens is when the Mitochondria are working well and our energy generation’s moving smoothly, it keeps the nuclear genome quiet. So basically everything’s running well. Things are good. If the Mitochondria are struggling, energy production is declining. And in which case we’d be generating a lot more free radical signalling and everything, you know, indicating there’s an issue and we need to search for a solution. This also terms on the nuclear genome a lot more based on studies. And this is when we would start to see things linked to things like eventually the development of cancer, but also just basically negative things, ageing and so on over time.
Because we don’t want the nuclear genome to be constantly active creating new genes, new proteins. We want to be able to create proteins and function off of them for a really long time. So to make them work and just repair them, not have to remake them all the time. This is basically part of why Mitochondria are really important. So Dr. Wallace, what he essentially found, is that in these diseases that are occurring today, cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, all Alzheimer’s, autism, auto immune diseases and so on and so forth, anxiety and depression, mental illness and so on. Even again, autism, childhood obesity in young kids, this is mitochondrial dysfunction. For example, if it’s Alzheimer’s, again it’s in the brain. If it’s heart disease, it’s disfunctioning in the in the heart or the cardiovascular system as a whole. There’ve been able to to identify that that’s happening in these tissues.
They haven’t quite dug deep into why it’s happening, at least from their lab. That’s where Dr. Kruse and his forward-thinking perspective has been very enlightening I would say, and the point though is that Dr. Wallace is frustrated with the western establishment. He often cites that the statistic, 98 per cent of the United States budget for healthcare, which is a huge budget, I think it’s billions of dollars. Every year is spent at least hundreds of millions is spent on research grants and everything and 98 per cent is looking at the nuclear genes for the causes of issues. Only two per cent is being spent on mitochondrial genes.
Yet the research is strikingly clear that it’s the dysfunction in the mitochondrial genome and the Mitochondria themselves that is most directly related to these disease phenotypes that are being expressed. The disease states basically that are coming out. So it’s like we’re just wasting money when there’s already evidence showing where the issues are coming from. We should be digging way more into that.
It’s clear that the nuclear genome research hasn’t yielded much since the 70s. I believe it was president Reagan who declared the war on cancer. And again, since then, if not a trillion plus dollars have been spent on this kind of research with very obviously yielding very little fruit cause the, the disease rates are still skyrocketing. So it’s a big, big issue obviously.
So you mentioned how Dr. Jack Kruse was a big influence on yourself. Could you summarize his main outlook on mitochondrial health and health in general?
Totally. Yeah. So basically he put together a couple pieces. In science, it’s like a bunch of researchers are digging trenches, very deep boards, the center of the earth, but none of them are digging tunnels to connect their trenches. So they’re getting lots of information about very specific subjects, but none of them are synthesizing.
And I would say from what I’ve gathered, one of the main reasons of this is that there’s not so much grant money for cross-disciplinary research. It’s mostly like within a discipline, within one journal and so on that grant money is allocated for it. And that’s how scientists make their living. They make, they get grants and they pay themselves a salary. They fund their labs, they do all this stuff, they do their research.
It’s not cheap to do studies, to buy dead animals and all the gear. It’s insanely expensive. Anyhow, Dr Kruse is still somewhat reserved about what he shares publicly because he’s still a practicing neurosurgeon. But the results he gets with his patients are unbelievable just by applying these principles.
Essentially what I gathered from reading his work, which is a series of blogs which would be research papers. There’s all this red tape and if you buck conventional theories, you’re often apt to be ignored or even shunned and so on, discredited and whatnot. But anyway, basically he puts together how Mitochondria do all these amazing things. And of course, yes, they’re linked to diseases. One of the key things, the way we repair mitochondrial function is with Melatonin.
This hormone of ours, it’s created from an amino acid tryptophan and turns out based on the work of researchers way back in the 1900s. There’s a modern researcher named Dr. Alexander Wunsch in Germany who sort of reiterating these ideas. But basically in order to take something like tryptophan and turn it into Serotonin and then it’s turned into Melatonin or, for example, tyrosine and turn it into dopamine or for example, cholesterol.
And then it’s turned into other precursor molecules before being turned into vitamin D. This all requires ultraviolet light from the sun, which is strong enough to break apart the chemical bonds in these Aminos, in these, I guess precursor amino acids so that they can then be catalysed, I guess you could say into their subsequent molecules and hormones and whatnot within our body.
I’ve only begun to put the pieces together like this in the last few months cause it didn’t quite make sense to me. But literally if you lay in the sun like I have been, it’s literally irradiating via my eyes and my skin. And I’ll explain a little more how it’s irradiating my bloodstream, the light it’s going in. For example, in the eye, it goes directly through the eye.
And this is a fallacy in the ophthalmology practice, that UV light doesn’t penetrate through the lens of the eye, which isn’t true. And for example, Dr. Kruse does a simple hack with a UV flashlight, a UVA flashlight that looks like a black light party bulb.
If it’s white, those are UVA bulbs. So if you shine one of those directly into someone’s eye, you can actually see it. If you shine it on someone’s eye and you stand behind the person, you’re shining it and look, you can see the reflection of the UV light off the person’s retina. So it basically just goes to obliterate the theory in ophthalmology, which, which most people wouldn’t even know anyway.
But just to be clear, it is, it is one of the dogmas that stands that be like doesn’t pass through the eye. It’s not true through the Lens. We actually do get UV light through the eye, through the lens and basically, this light infrared UV, it’s slowed down in our eye, UV by vitreous Collagen.
So it’s a really interesting fact that all of the blood in our body is pumped through our eyes every two hours. It’s fascinating, but all of the blood in the body is circulating everywhere. So I mean you could probably say the same about the heart. I think all of the blood in the body is pumped through the heart within two hours or even your most, remote artery or capillary.
The blood is moving through there, but particularly the eyes. What this means is that all the light that’s coming in is literally irradiating all of our bloodstreams.
The cool thing is that in the blood, not only does the water itself hold light energy, just like we talked about with the fourth phase of water, this can hold light energy, infrared and ultraviolet in particular, but there’s pigments on our red blood cells.
The reason why they appear to be red when exposed to oxygen is because these pigments absorb infrared and ultraviolet light frequencies and then funnel them to the Mitochondria. And the Mitochondria receive these life frequencies and basically it powers our mitochondria.
One way that the light effects us directly through the eye, into our bloodstream. These light absorbing pigments are proteins. Same thing when a red blood cell brings the the light along with oxygen that we breathe again. That’s what red blood cells do. Of course, they bring it to the Mitochondria where again, the oxygen is used for this one part of energy generation we described the light to is donated to the Mitochondria and it turns out what the research shows is that UV light, it actually creates, it stimulates, the synthesis of a molecule called nitric oxide, which one would think to be toxic because it lowers the function of cytochrome c Oxidase, which is one of the electron funnels on the chain in our Mitochondria.
On that, that middle membrane where protons are being pumped, what happens is really when we eat food, it donates the hydrogen and then there’s the oxygen that goes to the other end of this chain. So the food, we break it down through all these cycles just so it’s hydrogen. You know, you eat a banana. It’s not just hydrogen, it’s carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and water. We break it down just to get the hydrogen, donate that to this chain. And then the hydrogen donates its electrons and the electrons are pulled across a series of molecules that basically suck the energy from the electron. So they go and really energize and at the end they go in, it gets bound to oxygen with much less energy. But every single time that the electrons hop from one donor to one acceptor, that energy is used to pump protons across that membrane. That’s really how it works in a little more detail.
UV light releases this chemical nitric oxide, which actually slows down the processes that are happening, of cytochrome c Oxidase, which again, we would think it would be a bad thing. But what it turns out is that with the infrared portion of the sun that comes to our Mitochondria, we’re able to generate ATP with no food input. So basically there’s the system.
There’s a system where we get UV light from the sun, although the nitric oxide that it stimulates might seem at first sight to be negative because it’s down-regulating our energy production. The infrared light has been shown to actually allow us to generate energy with no food electrons required. So it’s really cool.
Literally, we can live off of sunlight. Not completely. One of the ways that we became more complex as an organism than just the basic photosynthetic bacteria – all complex life on earth lives on sunlight. So we could basically take tons of concentrated sunlight. It takes a whole season of sunlight to grow one banana. You can eat that in one meal. That provides a huge dose of energy. So the key thing for everyone to get is, I’m not saying that we can only live on sunlight, although I do believe it could be possible. There are monks who have been reported to do so. But I can’t say for sure that it is possible.
However, just because food provides us with more fuel to drive our basic energy generation doesn’t mean we eliminated all of the functions that we’re dependent on. Sunlight.
Like I described the UV light being used to break apart molecules so that they could then be catalyzed into certain hormones, neurotransmitters and so on.
Again, the most known of which is vitamin D – and there’s study after study after study about it. But studies continue to come out that show that Vitamin D supplementation does nothing for the body, nothing beneficial. So it’s absurd to think that just because you take the molecule [it will have an effect].
I would probably describe sunlight by two factors. One is the charging and making molecules part and so on. But also there’s the timing function of light, which basically drives everything.
Can you explain the difference between sunlight in our eyes and on our skin?
Sunlight comes right through the eye. Even if you close your eyes and lay in the sun, you’re still getting a lot of infrared light. You want to have your eyes open in the early morning hours when you’re looking at the sun as it rises. And then when you’re just going about your day, of course your eyes are going to be open so you don’t really have to worry about it.
The eyes are sort of the sensor by which the rest of the body adjusts. We’ll get into that. But never wear sunglasses, contacts, glasses to the extent possible. If you have contacts, remove them, wear glasses of course, and take them off when you’re outdoors as much as possible. Even if the eyelids are shut still letting the light just hit the face.
So now for the skin, there’s this molecule again, nitric oxide, which is in our blood vessels and whatnot. And so UV light liberates it. And what it does is it causes our blood vessels in addition to what it does in the Mitochondria downregulating cytochrome c oxidase to slow down that part of the Mitochondria.
And then the energy is generated just by the infrared and red light primarily. It also causes our blood vessels to expand – Vasodilation, it’s called. So basically the blood vessels, Vasodilate in response to the UV light hitting our skin. And then essentially what’s happening is these capillaries are coming very close to the surface, very, very close to the surface. So literally because UV light, because it is very energetic, our skin is designed to only allow a small amount in, in a very controlled fashion. UV light is very important for health. One of the key factors for health, and it’s been demonized, falsely, wrongly.
So that’s basically the gist. There are certain details that I might have slightly off, but this is the general research. People can go and look at Dr. Alexander Wunsch’s work. My job, let’s say, is to bring this to people in a more digestible fashion.
So you did mention that the UV light has been kind of demonized. I think it’s important to point out that while being in the sun is great, getting burnt is good.
No, getting burnt isn’t a great idea.
I was the palest white kid I ever met. I was so pale so my skin didn’t work at all. So even when I did go in the sun, I would just burn.
Being pale in the winter is OK because in the winter in place like UK, Norway, Germany, pretty much anywhere north of of the Mediterranean basin in Europe, at least Russia, it’s going to be cold and cloudy for the winter and rainy most of the winter, same where I’m from, from Philadelphia, the East, northeast of the United States is pretty much the same as northern Europe.
Don’t burn, go in and then go out again the next day, five, 10, 15 minutes. And if you want to, do it like the heliotherapists did in the early 1900s in Switzerland.
They would, I mean this is extreme and if you’re really sick and really pale, but they would roll them on beds into the sun, on their south-facing balconies on the sides of mountains. And their feet would be in the sun for five minutes. Then they’re out the next day – feet for five minutes and thighs for five minutes and then out. So their feet got 10 minutes and then their thighs had only five minutes. Then they would do the upper leg, five minutes and then the lower leg would be getting 10 minutes and 15 minutes. So they would put the whole thing in and then take it back gradually step by step.
Basically it was really slow and gradual. That’s the safest way to build up the solar exposure. Just don’t burn and start building it up each day.
But also it’s critical to be getting up in the morning to watch the sunrise so that you have the proper function of the circadian rhythm so that all of the hormones in the body are running properly.
So that the creation of Melatonin, which happens in their late morning hours with near-ultraviolet light, it’s a signalled for properly.
The other part of the Circadian Rhythm optimization is wearing blue blocking glasses or just not using any artificial lights or screens at night. People have flux, Iris and the red shift on their phone. That’s not good enough cause the software is don’t filter out all the blue light. That’s why having a physical filter on the eye is critical if you are gonna do this. And that’s why I started a blue blocking glasses company to make them look good cause there was nothing that made them look good at the time.
Go out when it’s first light or just at least open your window and ideally find a spot where you can watch the sunrise from over the horizon and get that stimulus into the eye. Again like we said, slowly build up your solar exposure.
Eat seafood, drink spring water. Seafood contains omega-3 fatty acids, which we actually put into our skin and our eyes, which is the key fat that allows us to assimilate light. And this is all the evidence that I’ve come across indicates the molecule that allowed the human brain to evolve from apes.
So step one, sunrises. Step two, is living outdoors, essentially, during the day. Step three, you want to be eating seafood and step four, drinking clean spring water.
So basically drink good bottled water or spring water from a spring if you can get it. Don’t drink municipal tap water because it has chemicals like chlorine and fluoride which reduces the body’s ability to basically store sunlight.
Bathing in cold water is critical. It’s like, like we said in the beginning of way to kickstart the metabolism’s kickstart, fat burning and basically they just get everything in the body running better.
Anyone who tries taking like even a five, 10, 15, 20 minute cold bath a day, whether it’s in a river, a lake and ocean or your own bathtub, you will feel amazing after doing it and want to probably do it every morning. I think morning’s best cause it just starts the day off well, but people can do at anytime of the day.
But like if you’re by the beach, then getting down and getting in the water for sunrise for like an hour or half hour or whatever is awesome. Just floating around, swimming around watching sunrise, being in the sun and then going and having your breakfast is a great, great win.
So step six is to avoid manmade electromagnetic radiation. So basically Bluetooth, Wifi, and all of this stuff is very risky and we could do a whole podcast on that alone.
Basically, the research indicates that it is a tremendous problem for biology.
And the last step I suggest is that people cultivate their inner light. And what that means is that you’re going to get all this light coming in, but if you don’t cultivate it in a way that basically makes you into the kind of person you want to be, then it’s, it’s not necessarily gonna do you any good.
I found that consistently I can get tons of sunlight and feel pretty good, but if I’m not living my life the way I want to. If I’m doing things against what feels right for me for whatever reason, cause of I think someone else thinks I should do this or that, or if I’m not taking time to really and allow myself to relax and enjoy, I guess the fruits of, of the universe, you could say, then it doesn’t feel like these things are, are worth it. You know? It’s spending time with family, like this is what makes all of this stuff worthwhile from what I’ve come to find. It’s, it’s, there’s little things, it sounds like a cliche, but when you get down to it… I spent a lot of time on my own, the last two years traveling, working on business and I realized like, yes, being on one’s own is very great for, for solitude, self-improvement thinking. But really the most beautiful times I find are when we can share things with people or when we’re doing things we love. So you know that that’s critical. If you don’t have some passion, something that gives you a reason why, then it’s not going to be as interesting to follow the light diet.
One of the one things it would be cool to drill down on briefly is the negative effects of blue light and an indoor indoor lifestyle. I think another thing is that it’s important to emphasize that glass filters out a lot of frequencies of light. So even though you might be indoors and getting plenty of light, it’s not the same as being outside.
No, it’s not. It’s nowhere near as bad as using artificial lighting because sunlight from glass, at least it doesn’t have a flicker effect. It doesn’t have a totally distorted spectrum, but still glass usually filters a lot of the red and infrared, which are the more healing portions and leaves a lot of the more blue light, which is also necessary for tons of hormonal functions signalling for our circadian rhythm and whatnot.
But when unbalanced by red, it’s gonna create a lot more, I guess you could say oxidative damage, stress, cortisol, release, stress hormone, no Bueno basically. So you really do not want to be behind glass if you can avoid it. Just crack the windows, open the windows, let the light in. I mean, it’s easier in Croatia than it would be in Norway in the winter.
Get out and be in the light at least like an hour or two walking or just doing something every day. If I lived in a cold place, I would take minimum one-hour walk outdoors every day. There’s a study that actually showed that out of like some, I think it was 30 or whatever participants, maybe even more, who took one-hour walk every day who had seasonal effective disorder. It had like 99% success rate in, in eliminating their seasonal effective disorder. Just a one-hour walk outdoors, even under a cloudy grey skies. The point is the light’s still there. You just have to go out and get it. And if you’re active, like our ancestors would’ve been moving. It’s really not hard to be out in the cold, especially once you improve your mitochondrial function.
It is always optimal to be outdoors where you can.
What about when you’re awake before the sunrise in the winter?
In the winter you pretty much can’t avoid getting up before the sunrise, particularly in Europe.
Don’t use artificial light [before sunrise]. Just let the light wake you up naturally. As soon as the light started coming up, I took my blue blockers off or at least put them on my nose. So looking at screen, the light was still coming through the blue blockers, but up the top of my eyes I was getting all the sunlight from the morning waking up.
Now if you’re set on keeping the job, then I would say you need daytime blue blockers. And I would recommend, if you’re working on a really harsh lighting, I would even wear a nighttime blue blockers all day long because of how harsh that light is.
It’s then key to get the sunrise and go outside periodically when other people go out for their cigarette breaks, which they inevitably do. You can go out for a sun break.
So that’s the probably the best is get up, get the sunrise before work. Thankfully, work doesn’t start until nine usually. So you can get two hours of light. If it’s the winter you’re in in a tough spot. But take ice baths, get on as many vacations as you can and to sunny your places and that’s probably the best tips. Eat lots of seafood. You have the weekend, spend all day outdoors in the sun, hiking, fishing, biking, running with your shirt off, whatever you like, you know, as long as it’s outside.
If you’re doing a nine to five – just by getting more sun on the weekend, morning sun, afternoon sun, midday sun, break for your lunch break, taking ice baths, eating seafood, you’ll be able to make tremendous improvements.
I’m still sensitive. I still have lots of improvement to make. The point is that it’s just the constant, gradual improvements that make the big difference.
I mean, I lay down, I hit the pillow, I tell you, and I am out in a second. I sleep so well and I’m just like, oh my gosh, my body is tingling with warmth. That’s from my experience. I know that’s what I need to do. So I’m literally here for two weeks, crushing time in Croatia and then just going to London to speak and then I’m out. I’m going right to the tropics.
So let’s talk a bit about Ra Optics. How long have you been running it? What frames do you offer? What’s special about your lenses?
Epic. I started it two years ago because there were no glasses on the market that both blocked all the right frequencies and looked good.
There were some that blocked the right frequencies like safety goggles and so on that had certain technical specs. But they didn’t look something like something I’d wear at a high school party, which was a time that I was getting into this.
There were other companies that have more stylish frames. Like Swanwick is another brand out there – but they don’t block even all the blue frequencies cause I think they’re a little more concerned about aesthetics. So I decided to create this. We offer night lenses, which block everything up to 550 nanometers, which is the range.
Blue goes up to about 500 nanometers wavelength. Then there’s green light which goes into a 550nm to 570nm. These wavelengths also disrupt our sleep, but much less so than blue because they’re less energetic.
550nm is blocking the most amount of the energetic wavelengths while still allowing for enough light to be transmitted where you can use them for general purposes.
I can’t advocate that people drive with them on. The day lenses we offer then are more of a clear line, so they’re more multipurpose for people who don’t want to have a colored Lens, they want to start sort of start off with something a little more basic. Basically that just reduces the, the most harmful spike of blue light by approximately 50%.
So, it depends on which light you’re basically exposed to. But at 455nm, you have 50 per cent reduction of that harmful range of light. And again, because it’s a certain pigment with an absorption spectrum, it varies with the different wavelengths, but that’s about what it’s doing for you.
The white light has a lot more blue, is more energetic, and it disrupts the circadian rhythm a lot more.
We have just a few frame styles, but I have picked them carefully. They’re unisex so that they basically meet very different archetypes of people.
It’s a lot of fun. And for me it’s like a way to be able to provide something that’s actually from my testing, trying and everything to best product on the market and also able to basically allow me to continue this research, I guess you could say and dive into what I’m passionate about more and more and more, work on more speaking gigs, a book potentially things like that. So it’s, it’s a huge double double win in my book.
Awesome. This is a question I’m asking everyone that I’m interviewing – if you could go back knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I mean that’s still two years, still a large portion of my life. I would say just keep doing what you’re doing and probably just do a little bit more of what you want to do. And not what you think others think you should do.
And that’s basically it. That’s what I’m at right now. I’ll probably have a lot more profound things to say to my 20-year-old self in 10 years. But we’ll see.
My final question to wrap things up is what do you see for the future? Because if we’re going to build an environment that actually supports optimal human health, it’s going to require a lot of change. So what kind of world do you see like in the next 10, 20, 30 years?
Interesting question. It’s very, really good question. I feel like I’m not even suited to speak on this subject because I’m not a politician or something, but actually I can just give my ideas.
I have a better understanding of life than most, at least I think, from a chemical perspective, which doesn’t necessarily mean too much. But basically it seems to me, the way that the world works, we’re, we’re in a ‘high’ right now, you know, the economy’s doing pretty well in general, you know, so on and so on. I would guess that in the next 10, 20 years there will be like some recession or some low period. It seems like that’s pretty inevitable. I think the research is clear on sunlight, you know, of course we could provide enough energy for the whole planet with just a little bit of what the sun shines on the earth in one day for an entire year.
And in regards to the light diet, I think in five years this stuff, the sun, will be fully well-known about by everyone. Basically. I’d say five years. I was thinking 10 before, but five it will be very mainstream, at least within the health world. And I think within 10 it will be largely because I’m going to make this happen as much as I can.
I think it’d be pretty common knowledge that it’s not bad. It’s actually really good for us, although there will still be plenty of, just like with the mainstream food and pharmaceutical industry, they still have the stronghold today. But I think there’ll be enough people knowing that it’s not an issue, that the people who want to help themselves will be able to, you know, cause there’ll be more public knowledge. That’s sort of the best outcome I see coming.
So just finally, where’s the best place for somebody to keep in touch with you, what you’re up to, and just stay up to date with what you’re doing?
I’d say for now, I don’t do much online, but I would say @thelightdiet on Instagram. So I just have the light diet and I haven’t been posting much lately, but I’ll be posting in the future. And the @Ra_Optics Instagram is great.