Laughter Boosts “Natural Killer Cells” that Fight Disease

Parsippany, NJ–Scientific evidence that laughter can strengthen the immune system dates back to 1985. Senior residents of CareOne joined with Pradep Nair of HomeWell Senior Care to explore the healing benefits of Laughter Yoga.

A study published that year showed that the levels of salivary immunoglobulin A — a immune-system protein that is one of our bodies’ standard defenses against infection — increased after individuals watched a humorous video. Research done in 2003 pointed to an “apparent relationship” between laughter and another component of the immune system, the “natural killer” cells. These cells play an important rule in freeing the body from viruses and tumors so an increase in their activity through laughter could help the body fight diseases.

There are also numerous studies showing that laughter can briefly limit physical pain or discomfort. Norman Cousins, the author of the book “Anatomy of an Illness” (1979), was diagnosed with an extremely painful form of arthritis and was one of the first to document the pain-numbing benefits of humor therapy. He claimed that ten minutes of “genuine belly laughter” allowed him to sleep pain-free for at least two hours. This anesthetic effect of comedy is believed to be related to the fact that our brain releases endorphins when we laugh. These chemicals are known to temporarily relieve pain and produce a feeling of well-being. That is also why laughing feels so good.

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