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October, 2015

This Halloween, Let Your Natural Killers Loose: Laugh!

by Larry

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, including laughter, meditation, and yoga, have been found to boost the levels of so-called killer cells, white blood cells that attack foreign agents which may be adverse to the health of our bodies. Concerning the first mentioned option, humor remedies, in a variety of studies involving groups of people otherwise matched for health-related factors who, to cite one example among several, watched or did not watch videos that engendered mirthful laughter in the audience members, in contrast to control groups that instead watched only tourism videos, the folks who spent their video time watching things they found to be funny were found to have significantly more immune system killer cells during and for awhile after watching the amusing films than was the case for the control group individuals. Other studies as well over a number of years have shown such results: we feel better and are in fact healthier and better able to ward off the negative health effects of stress or more effectively handle diseases such as cancer when we find release in laughter.

The enhanced immune system benefits of hilarity are not well understood. For instance, why biologically is it that we laugh? How does laughter result in the production of more natural killer cells? We do not know. It just is the case. Yet it has been found that folks treated with laughter therapy are up to 15 times more efficient than normal at toxic elimination.

We have probably all heard that it is efficacious to health to keep a light and happy spirit and that, by contrast, being blue is hardly a prescription for staying out of the hospital. Here, though, is some objective evidence that, for whatever reason, seeing the ludicrousness, silliness, or ridiculousness of the situations in which we sometimes find ourselves can help keep the doctor away.

I believe it was Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) who said that humans are the only sort of creatures that laugh...or need to (except of course it was funny when he said it).

So, whether we watch others being funny or practice comic routines ourselves via wry humor, satire, puns, stand-up routines, jokes, parodies, silly punch lines, spoofs, black humor, or more outlandish forms of comedy, the advice for good self-care appears clear: let us keep up the giggles, guffaws, and belly laughter. This sort of activity and breathing are among the best ways we can stay healthy, happy, and alive!


Modulation of Neuroimmune Parameters During Laughter. Lee S. Berk, et al, in Alternative Therapies; March, 2001, Vol. 7, no. 2, pages 62-76;

Stress Relief from Laughter? It's No Joke. Mayo Clinic Staff in mayo clinic. org: Healthy Lifestyle - Stress Management; July 23, 2013.

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