A Japanese study suggests that laughter can alleviate allergies such as dermatitis, which causes inflammation of the skin. According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Kimata, H., Journal of the American Medical Association 2001 Feb 14; 285(6):738.), Dr. Hajime Kimata of Unitika Central Hospital, Japan, studied the effects of laughter on patients allergic to dust mites, cedar pollen and cat dander. The patients, 15 women and 11 men, were allergic to house dust mites and took no medication 72 hours before watching the film. After watching the movie, Kimata injected dust mite allergen into the skin of the patients to see if the movie had any effect on the size of their hives. He found a significant reduction in the size of their hives, an effect that lasted for two hours. There was no change in the size or the duration of their hives after the patients watched an 87-minute video featuring weather information.

Dr. Hajime Kimata of Unitika Central Hospital, Japan, says laughter may alleviate allergic symptoms

Dr. Hajime Kimata of Unitika Central Hospital, Japan, says laughter may alleviate allergic symptoms

“There’s more than psychology going on here, there is pyschoneuroimmunology,” says Lee Berk, director of neuroimmunology at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine in California. “The allergic response is what we call the Th2 side of the immune system.

The Th2 side of the immune system produces cytokines, the hormones of the immune system. And what we’ve found over the years when we looked at mirthful laughter and classical stress hormones, that laughter lowers cortisol, which is the body’s powerful steroid, which can shut down the immune system.” “What’s important here is when cortisol increases it shuts down the Th1 side of the immune system and allows the Th2 side to crank up,” Berk explains. “And the Th2 side is responsible for producing IgE antibodies, which are the sign of an allergic response. But laughter down regulates cortisol, which turns on the Th1 side and suppresses the Th2 side. From a mechanistic standpoint, this study makes a lot of sense.”

Kimata was influenced by the author Norman Cousins’ 30-year-old research suggesting that laughter and a positive attitude can help reduce pain. Cousins suffered from a life-threatening joint disease and reported that 10 minutes of laughter helped reduce his pain.

Kimata said exactly how humor might have reduced the welts is not known. But Dr. Margaret Stuber, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California-Los Angeles, said his premise “makes a lot of sense from a scientific standpoint.”

Our Own Viewpoint

Scientific studies have proven that allergies are caused not only by physical allergens but also by a negative state of mind. Though nothing is certain yet, one knows that stress does play a major role in triggering these symptoms and bringing on debilitating physical conditions accompanied by mental upset.

We are subjected to constant (or chronic) stress that results in the continuous release of stress-related substances into the body. Without time to dissipate, the stress ‘cocktail’ can reach toxic concentrations and attack the body, resulting in a wide variety of stress-related illness including respiratory allergies which affect the breathing pattern and can at times lead to severe condition of breathlessness.

Laughter Yoga has a profound positive impact on allergies, with many practitioners reporting complete disappearance of all symptoms of asthma, skin and other allergies. Though not an intervention for countering physical causes of allergies, laughter is a definite tool to remedy stress. It can help in reducing the risk factors by boosting the immune system, encouraging deep breathing and flushing the lungs of stale air and generating a feeling of wellness.

“Oxygenation through deep breathing boosts the immune system and can rid the body of chronic illnesses.” –Dr. Sheldon Hendler, MD, Medical Researcher Cell Oxygenation, Author “The Oxygen Breakthrough”