Can you really laugh away your allergies?


The saying goes that laughter is the best medicine of all. Well, according to new research, humour really does have healing powers.

A Japanese study suggests that laughter can alleviate allergies such as dermatitis, which causes inflammation of the skin.

Several other pieces of research have claimed that laughter can relieve back pain and rheumatoid arthritis.

Now researcher Dr Hajime Kimata, from Unitika Central Hospital in Kyoto Prefecture, has added weight to these theories.

Dr Kimata induced allergic responses on the skin of 26 patients by exposing them to dust mites, cedar pollen and cat hair.

They were then observed as they watched Charlie Chaplin's classic comedy Modern Times.

The participants' skin welts were measured before and after the video. All displayed a significant reduction in their allergic responses after watching the 87-minute video. And the effects lasted for up to four hours.

The same procedure was then repeated, but with a video featuring weather information. The non-humourous footage produced no effect on the group's allergic responses.

The findings appear in a research letter published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

'These results suggest that the induction of laughter may play some role in alleviating allergic diseases,' said Dr Kimata.

Exactly how humour might have reduced the welts is not yet known.

But Dr Margaret Stuber, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the research made sense from a scientific point of view.

She said a growing body of research suggests that stress undermines the disease-fighting immune system. Easing stress, which laughter can do, might then have a positive effect.

However another US researcher, Dr Philip S Norman of John Hopkins University of Medicine in Baltimore, was sceptical about the findings.

He said that while he does not doubt laughter can make people feel better, he is not sure it has anything to do with the allergic reaction.

Dr Kimata was influenced by the author Norman Cousins' 30-year-old research suggesting that laughter and a positive attitude can help reduce back pain.

Mr Cousins suffered from a life-threatening joint disease and reported that 10 minutes of laughter helped reduce his pain. In his book, Anatomy of Illness, Mr Cook writes that five minutes of laughter can cause a 53 per cent increase in the disease-fighting ability of blood.

A previous Japanese study reported that exposure to a 60-minute traditional Japanese comedy called rakugo reduced pain in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.

Early in the 1990s, British stress-consultant Robert Holden set up a laughter clinic aimed at reducing anxiety. It proved so popular that he now trains major employers and NHS professionals on how to introduce a little life-enhancing laughter into the workplace. He has also written a number of books on laughter and the pursuit of happiness.

For more information about Mr Holden contact The Happiness Project on: 01865 244414.