Articles >> Laugh disease away

You may be familiar with the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine”. It so happens, there may be a lot of truth to such a statement. At California’s Loma Linda University Medical Centre, Lee Berk, assistant research professor, and Stanley Tan, Endocrinologist, are paving the way to understanding the physiology of merriment. We now know that there are two types of stress: good stress and bad stress. Laughter is a form of good stress.

Research on stress has shown that bad stress suppresses your immune system. Drs. Tan and Berk wanted to find out if a form of good stress, or laughter, would boost immunity. They studied groups of average adults and found that the immune system got a boost out of laughter. Subjects faced a solid hour of induced merriment from videos of comedians, while a control group sat quietly out of earshot. These doctors took blood samples at 10-minute intervals before, during and after the laughter workout.

They found that humour and exercise trigger similar physiological processes. Like conditioned athletes, the laughter group showed increases in the good hormones, such as endorphins and neurotransmitters and decreased levels of the stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

When you laugh, the following physiological changes take place in your body, which in turn promote healing:

  • Muscle relaxation-

    When you laugh using your stomach muscles, other body muscles tend to relax simultaneously. This helps relieve muscular stress.

  • Reduction of stress hormones-

    Laughter reduces blood concentrations of at least four stress hormones, namely cortisol, dopamine, epinephrine and growth hormone.

  • Immune system enhancement-

    Studies show that laughing strengthens the immune system by various mechanisms, including the activation of disease-fighters, such as T cells, natural killer cells, immunoglobulins and interferon. Claims have been made that laughter therapy can help cancer patients recover faster, but the facts are inconclusive.

  • Cardiac exercise-

    A good belly laugh stimulates the stomach muscles and helps increase the heart rate.

  • Pain reduction-

    Besides helping you forget about aches and pains, laughter causes the body to produce endorphins, nature’s painkillers.

Laughter is free, fun and has no side effects. It grows as it goes, and you can give away all you want and still be left with some! Look at the lighter side of life and have a laugh.

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