The Role of Laughter in Healthy Immunity
Many years ago, there was a story floating around about a woman who cured her cancer with laughter. She rented and watched funny movies and eventually her cancer was gone completely. There is much to be said about a positive attitude and health, but is laughter so powerful to boost immunity to such a degree it could wipe out diseases? True story or urban legend, there is actually a physical mechanism, which connects laughter to healthy immunity.
We have to emphasize the lymphatic system, our body’s way of cleansing out toxins and fighting diseases. We know about blood because, if we are injured, blood comes out. We feel our pulse. This is the way the body transports oxygen to organs and tissue so it will stay alive.
What about Immunity?
Immunity comes from the lymphatic system, or the “other circulatory system.” While the blood has the heart to circulate, the lymphatic system, containing most of the circulating white blood cells, has no method of circulation except movement of the body.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system literally cleans our blood and attacks invaders like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even aberrant cells such as cancerous cells.
When we move, we circulate the lymphatic system. This is why exercise is so important. First, it is important to understand the major organs of the lymphatic system.
We all know about tonsils. Traditional medicine regards the tonsils as vestigial organs, meaning they are not essential to survival. Actually, tonsils are important to survival. Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system and first in line to attack invasive organisms, which could potentially cause illness.
Next is the thymus gland. The thymus is rather large, housing many white blood cells, and it sits adjacent to the heart.
Then you have lymph nodes, which are the cleaning stations for interstitial fluid in the body. Then there are the lymphatic vessels, the veins of the system, then the liver and spleen.
Next, there is a large patch of lymph nodes called Peyer’s patch and it is located over the small intestine. Next, we have the appendix, and finally the bone marrow. The point is the lymphatic system is pervasive and large. We never really think about it until we become sick.
So how does the above relate to laughter and immunity?
It is all about diaphragmatic breathing.
We tend to take shallow breaths, not using our diaphragms. A study performed by Dr. J.W. Shields, MD identified that deep diaphragmatic breathing manifests a sort of vacuum effect in the body and this stimulates lymphatic circulation and cleansing of toxins at 10 to 15 times the normal pace lymphatic fluid would normally flow.
This means this type of breathing is essentially washing the toxins and sickness out of the body. In other words, it is powerfully healing. This type of breathing naturally occurs during laughter.
Immunity Boosting Breathing
There are techniques we can learn to practice this type of deep, cleansing breathing. In fact, such methods are taught in ancient Yoga scriptures and even Buddhist practices. They say, “the breath is the life.”
We tend to think it is the blood, which is the life, but the blood would become toxic if the lymph didn’t work. As it turns out, laughter achieves perfect diaphragmatic breathing, forcing the lymphatic system to flow at up to 15 times its normal rate. That is how laughter is so healing. This is how laughter physiologically stimulates the immune system.
Then there are the other benefits of laughter besides increasing immune power.
Laughter also stimulates the release of “feel good” hormones and neurotransmitters. It may seem confusing, but perhaps a bit of laughter will put you in line.
You release neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine and dopamine when you laugh. This makes you feel good and have a positive attitude, making you more prone to laughter.
Surround yourself with positive, laughter-inducing stimuli and you will have a happier life and a stronger immune system.