Laughteris Medicine

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What effects do laughing, crying, kissing, cuddling, and sex have on immune function and allergic responses?

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Laughter as Medicine

The study I explored about how listening to Mozart can reduce allergic reactions reminded me of a similar study on humor. Take a bunch of people with dust mite allergies half watched Charlie Chaplin; half watched the weather channel. Then injected them with dust mite poop and the allergic response was significantly reduced after viewing the humorous video for a matter of hours, suggesting that the induction of laughter may play some role in alleviating allergic diseases.

But might it suppress our immune system too much? No, have people watch a comedian for an hour and their natural killer cell activity goes up, compared to watching nothing, And their white blood count goes up, the number of immune cells in their bloodstream, the level of immune-boosting interferon goes up and stays up the next day, and the same with antibody production.

Pumping out more antibodies because yesterday you saw some video. So humor seems to offer the best of both worlds at preventing the over reactive allergic response while boosting immune protection. But, you actually have to laugh.The more you laugh, the better your natural killer cell activity gets, but exposure to a humorous video alone did not significantly affect immune function. Those that didn’t laugh—maybe because it was a Bill Cosby video, did not benefit, reinforcing that it is not the funny video that improved immune function, but our laughter in response.

Because of the role of natural killer cells play in viral illness and various types of cancer, the ability to significantly increase our activity in a brief period of time using a noninvasive method could be clinically important the next time you have a cold or cancer. Laughter, like music or healthy food, offers potential benefits without any risk... or almost any risk. You’ve heard of side-splitting laughter? 67-year old woman attending laughter therapy sessions and evidently rapture led to rupture. Thankfully you can’t actually laugh your head off, but you can laugh until you wet yourself, called giggle incontinence in the medical literature— actually quite common in women and no laughing matter.

So next time you’re in the theater should you choose the comedy over a tear-jerker given the benefits of humor? Not necessarily. If you take people with a latex allergy and have them watch a weather video versus a heart-warming drama, viewing the weather information video did not cause emotion with tears, (I should hope not!) and it failed to modulate allergic responses. The tear-jerker, however, successfully reduced the allergic response but only in those whose tears were actually jerked. So to improve allergies laughing works, crying works.I laughed I cried; it was better than cats—especially if you have a cat allergy.

Anything else you can do? Kissing! There’s actually a whole science of kissing, which sounds a pleasant enough college major until you realize it’s about all the diseases you can get. But if you take people with seasonal pollen allergies or dust mite allergies and have them kiss someone in a room for 30 minutes, they have a significant reduction in their allergic reactions, for both the pollen and the dust mites, whereas if you just have them hug for a half-hour instead - no benefit.Bottomline, kissing significantly reduced allergic responses in patients with both allergic rhinitis runny nose; itchy eyes or allergic dermatitis, like a rash. Collectively, these findings indicate that the direct action of love may be beneficial, though evidently cuddling wasn’t quite direct enough. With all the side-effects of antihistamine allergy drugs you’d think it would be easy to get people to sign up for the study, but this was done in Japan where, evidently, they do not kiss habitually.The follow-up study, which found similar benefit for an action of love that was even more direct, was also performed by researchers for whom English may not be their primary language as evidenced by their speculation about females having more, “organisms”...