Your immune system is essential to sustaining good health. We’re all constantly bombarded with viruses, bacteria and other antigens that may seriously damage or even kill us. This threat is present every day of our lives, so anything we do to bolster the effectiveness of the system is obviously important. But can your sense of humor make your immune system stronger?
It’s long been recognized that chronic stress weakens the immune system, which makes you vulnerable to illness-although short-term, intense stress may boost the immune system. If you end up always stressed out by your work, a fiscal crisis, deteriorating health, an unsatisfactory marriage or some other persisting personal problem, your chances of coming down with some type of health problem growth.
One of the first indications of a solution to the mystery of how one’s mental or psychological state might influence health came from studies of animals demonstrating that the immune system might actually be conditioned to react to something which would normally don’t have any impact whatsoever on its functioning.
In a now classic study, rats were given a medication proven to suppress the functioning of the immune system. The (at the time) commonly used sweetener saccharine was put in the animals’ drinking water and introduced concurrently with the drug, resulting in the expected suppression of their immune system. After a time period after the cessation of drug-plus-saccharine, the animals’ immune systems completely recovered. At that stage, the saccharine alone has been introduced.
Amazingly, the immune system was suppressed, just as it was by the drug. A clear conditioning impact had happened. After only being paired with the medication from the animals’ experience, the saccharine obtained the capacity to suppress the immune system-an impact which never happens in the absence of such prior pairing. This and other similar findings clearly demonstrated that the performance of a fundamental health-sustaining mechanism such as the immune system could be influenced by our experience and expectations-including, possibly, our emotions.
Good to know
By the early 1980s, researchers started to study the effect of comedy and laughter on the immune system. The best evidence that comedy boosts the immune system comes from studies where immune system steps are taken before and after a specific humorous event-usually a comedy movie. Taken as a whole, this study points to some broadly-based immunoenhancement effect. As of 2010, over 40 studies have shown this immune-bolstering effect.
The research has demonstrated that numerous unique elements of the immune system are bolstered by comedy and laughter, such as Natural Killer (NK) cells, immunoglobulin A (IgA), IgG and IgM, T-cells and B cells. Most studies, however, have concentrated on NK cells and IgA. IgA helps protect you against upper respiratory problems, like colds and influenza. NK cells find tumor cells and destroy them by releasing a toxic substance. They also battle the most recent cold- and flu-generating viruses and other foreign organisms. They are another component of the body’s first line of defense and may attack foreign organisms even if they have never seen them before. This is an extraordinary finding.
Protective NK cells
The simple act of seeing your favourite comedy series is enough to get increased amounts of those protective NK cells circulating in your body. The amount of free radicals within the body has received a lot of attention recently, since they’ve been implicated in quicker aging, inflammation, cancer and other pathological conditions. Antioxidant vitamins have become very popular due to their presumed ability to decrease the amount of free radicals within the body.
It’s usually believed that anything which will help reduce free radicals in the body is important in regards to sustaining health in the long term. Amazingly, Japanese researchers have recently proven that watching a comedy video even raises the free radical scavenging capacity in human saliva. While researchers continue to enhance their comprehension of the specific facets of your immune system which are strengthened by comedy and laughter, we could feel confident in treating this advantage to health as being well established.
The pain reduction effect of laughter and humor is also now well established. As is the case with pain, researchers still don’t know if this boosting of the immune system occurs due to the physical act of bliss or the mental/emotional experience of comedy itself. This is a really tough issue to sort out in doing the study. So while you might find some “experts” on humor and health attributing the immunoenhancement effect to comedy, and others attributing it to laughter, you can be certain they are guessing. The research just does not tell us one way or another. From your viewpoint, of course, this probably does not matter.
The main thing is that you understand that in the event you seek out comedy on a daily basis, or actively use your sense of humor in everyday life, you’ll be supporting your health and wellbeing.
Finally, it ought to be noted that there is considerable evidence your immune system is quite responsive to your everyday mood. IgA levels and NK cell activity, by way of instance, are raised on days when you are in a fantastic mood and lowered in your”down” days. In future articles, we will see this mood-enhancing effect is one key mechanism behind comedy’s power to encourage health and wellness. Humor raises our spirits, creates a momentary experience of joy and happiness and-in the process-leaves us at a positive, more positive mood. An elevated immune system only comes along for the ride.