“Daily opportunities for laughter are important for patients with Diabetes”
Keiko Hayashi, RN, PhD
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan, found that people with type 2 diabetes who laughed at a comedy show after dinner experienced a lower spike in blood sugar following their meal than those who didn’t do something that made them laugh. They believed this positive impact might stem from beneficial changes in immune regulation that prevent damaging inflammation from undermining blood-sugar control. They found that laughter not only decreased blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes, it also decreased the levels of prorenin in the blood (prorenin is involved in the onset of diabetic complications.)
Though they cannot yet explain the laughter-glucose connection, Keiko Hayashi, RN, PhD (the head of that study group) said that laughter affects the neuroendocrine system, which monitors the body’s glucose levels.
The conclusion, as reported in Diabetes Care, was that for patients with diabetes, “daily opportunities for laughter” are important.
Scientists, Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunologist, of Loma Linda University, and Stanley Tan, MD, PhD an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist at Oak Crest Health Research Institute, studied 20 diabetics at high risk for heart disease from high cholesterol and hypertension. They discovered that laughter lowered inflammation, and raised good cholesterol levels among diabetics (1). The scientists divided diabetics into either a laughter group, or a non-laughter group. Both groups of diabetics were given standard blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes treatment with medications. The groups were followed for 12 months.
Diabetics in the laughter group had lower levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, improved HDL (good cholesterol), and decreased markers of inflammation, measureable by blood tests, by the second month of watching self-chosen funny videos. The findings indicated the diabetics in the laughter group had lower stress, and had reduced their risk factors for heart disease from engaging in laughter.
After one year, HDL levels rose by twenty-six percent and C-reactive protein was found to be sixty-six percent lower in the diabetic group who engaged in regular laughter. The control group, who received standard medical therapy, experienced a three percent rise in HDL, and twenty-six percent reductions in C-reactive protein, in comparison, showing that diabetics benefited from laughter.
Diabetics can definitely benefit from laughter, agrees Rashmi Gulati, MD, of Patients Medical in New York City. “Laughter is similar to exercise in that it improves the overall performance of the heart’s muscular function and possibly wards off heart disease,” she says. And besides lowering blood sugar, laughter has more benefits. It stimulates positive emotions and a more positive outlook. Negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and sorrow are known to be factors that elevate the blood glucose level (3). Just having diabetes is stressful. Laughter is a great way to cope and we now know that being able to cope also influences your body’s biochemistry, helping to insure that the chemical messages are working for you, not against you.
How Laughter Yoga and Laughter Wellness can help
Physical inactivity and lack of exercise is related to obesity and rise in sugar levels. Laughter is an exercise which acts on the body and the mind. It has the ability to improve mobility and flexibility. It provides an effective cardio workout and accelerates heart rate faster than other forms of exercise. It provides an effective mid-body and also an aerobic workout that leaves one feeling energized.
One of the functions of insulin is to stimulate hunger. Therefore, higher insulin levels lead to increased hunger and eating. Stress and compulsive eating disorders also add to excessive weight gain and heightened sugar levels. Extended hearty laughter has been proved as a tool to regulate blood sugar as it massages the endocrine glands responsible for glucose production.
Agitation, unexplained irritability, inattention, extreme lethargy, or confusion can all increase sugar levels. Laughter Yoga and Laughter Wellness are the only exercise that impacts positively and directly on body, mind and emotions. Ten minutes of hearty laughter causes the body to release a cocktail of hormones and neuropeptides that could cost thousands of dollars over the counter. This ‘laughter cocktail’ has profound influences.
(1) Berk LS, Tan SA, Fry WF, Napier BJ, Lee JW, Hubbard RW, Lewis JE, Eby WC:Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter. Am J Med Sci 298:390–396, 1989
(2) Berk LS, Tan SA, Napier BJ, Eby WC: Eustress of mirthful laughter modifies natural killer cell activity (Abstract). Clin Res 37:115, 1989
(3) Surwit RS, Schneider MS: Role of stress in the etiology and treatment of diabetes mellitus. Psychosom Med 55:380–393, 1993
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