Laughter is a very complex and amazing physiologic process. Throughout the ages it’s known to have a positive impact on health.
During the late seventies, over thirty years ago, Norman Cousins shared his amazing healing experience using laughter to treat his autoimmune disorder. Laughter is a highly complex process. His ground-breaking work, as a layperson diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, documented his use of laughter in treating himself — with medical approval and oversight — into remission. He published his personal research results in the New England Journal of Medicine and is considered one of the original architects of mind-body medicine.
Did you know that laughter can stimulate your appetite, just as exercise does? That’s what the most recent research conducted by Dr. Lee S. Berk, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunology researcher at Loma Linda University’s Schools of Allied Health (SAHP) and Medicine, and director of the molecular research lab at SAHP, Loma Linda, CA, and Dr. Stanley Tan reported at the annual Experimental Biology meeting, recently held in Anaheim, Calif.
These two researchers have studied our response to laughter and have determined that it helps to improve numerous bodily functions. They were the first to document the impact laughter has in reducing stress hormone levels such as epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and cortisol, which reduces stress. It also positively effects our immune system, through strengthening its ability to respond to infections. Laughter enhances antibody production and the activation of key cells that protect the body, such as T-cells and Natural Killer cells, in destroying cancerous cells.
Dr. Berk’s most recent research has found that in the same vein as exercise, laughing can boost the appetite, a finding that could help people eat more when they’re sick or depressed, a researcher says.
“The value of the research is that it may provide those who are health-care providers with new insights and understandings and thus further potential options for patients who cannot use physical activity to normalize or enhance their appetite,” Dr. Lee S. Berk, a preventive care specialist and psycho-neuro-immunology researcher at Loma Linda University’s Schools of Allied Health and Medicine in California said in a news release from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Dr. Berk has previously researched laughter and believe that “Laughercise” — their term for repetitive “mirthful laughter” — boosts the immune system.
Fourteen volunteers watched either distressing or funny videos during a three week period. The purpose was to evaluate the effects mirthful laughter and stress have on changing the important hormones that regulate appetite. During the course of the study, each participant watched a 20 minute video that was either disturbing (stressful) or humorous. The participants waited one week after watching the first video, then viewed the other one.
They watched from a 20 minute clip from a selection of comedy films and stand up comedic performances, which gave them the option of choosing the form of comedy most appealing to their particular taste.
For a distressing video clip, the researchers had the volunteer subjects watch the tense first 20 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan. This highly emotional video clip is known to distress viewers substantially and equally.
Their blood pressure was measured, and blood samples were obtained before and after watching the videos. Two hormones that are involved in regulating the appetite, leptin and ghrelin, were measured.
Comparing the before and after viewing hormone levels, the researchers found that there was no change in the blood levels, when watching the distressing hormone.
But in comparison, watching the funny videos caused changes in the blood pressure and the hormone levels. The level of ghrelin increased, while leptin decreased, similar to the acute effect moderate exercise has that’s linked to appetite increase.
Dr. Berk acknowledges, “I am more amazed by the interrelatedness of laughter and body responses with the more evidence and knowledge we collect. It’s fascinating that positive emotions resulting from behaviors such as music playing or singing, and now mirthful laughter, translate into so many types of [biological] mechanism optimizations. As the old biblical wisdom states, it may indeed be true that laughter is a good medicine.
“We are finally starting to realize that our everyday behaviors and emotions are modulating our bodies in many ways.”
Source: Science Daily News