LAUGHTER really is the best medicine
February 28, 1999 – The Sunday Mirror
And now scientists have the evidence to prove it. By SHARON COLLINS Health Correspondent
The benefits of stating calm and positive when ill have been known for years. But scientists have now been able to monitor the chemical changes in our brain caused by our feelings and emotions.
Professor David Warburton, founder of ARISE, Associates for Research Into the Science of Enjoyment – tested the pleasure principle by measuring how much of an antibody called secretory Immunoglobulin-A(slgA) was produced when people had pleasant and unpleasant experiences. He found happy thoughts boosted production of the antibody, which protects against respiratory infections, while unhappy ones undermined it.
“Previous scientific experiments found a link between changing moods and the immune system, but these new studies provide a direct link,” said Prof Warbarton, head of psychopharmacology at the University of Reading. “This proves happiness can make you healthier.”
Dr Roger Lichy, medical officer at the Bristol Cancer Support Centre, is also a firm believer in the power of the mind in helping the body. “We are just putting into a scientific framework what we know intuitively”, he said. If you are feeling happy you feel better.
“Why is it that when we are in love we never catch a cold while if we lose a loved one, we often catch one?
“Now at the biological level we can explain these things. Researchers have located nerves coming from the brain which plug into blood vessels in the body. When we are feeling happy, these nerves start firing and release chemical substances called leucokines or lymphokines into the blood stream. “They plug on to white blood cells like a car coming into a petrol station, then zoom off again.”
“These neurotransmitters give messages to the body on what to do and also the speed with which they should do it. They dictate how many white blood cells should be mobilised and what sort of virus or bacteria they need to work on, for example a cancer cell or a flu virus.
“A different set of neurotransmitters is released if we are happy than if we are sad. If we are calm, peaceful and happy then our white blood cells are more active than if we are fooling sad.”
Professor Oleg Erimen and Dr.Lesley Walker of Aberdeen University found a cancer patient’s natural killer cells are boosted by 30% when they relax.
Angela Burns believes changes in the way she thought helped in her fight against breast cancer. A first tumour was removed, but four years later in 1995 she needed a masectomy.
“I asked my surgeon what 1 could do to help myself but was told there was nothing,” said Angela, 54, of Wimbledon, South-West London.
“While 1 trusted in their treatment I didn’t believe that I had no control over my body and contacted the Bristol Centre. It helped me to learn techniques that stopped my mind racing around with terror.
“Physically and mentally it helped me get off the floor.
*The Bristol Cancer Centre can be contacted on 0117 980 9500.
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