“The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
~ Mark Twain
With research unveiling the tremendous potency of laughter to fight against an array of ailments, the medical fraternity couldn’t have agreed more that laughter is indeed therapeutic. In general, laughter promotes the secretion of endorphins or the ‘feel good hormone’. It also enhances ones resistance against infections by increasing the concentration of both circulating antibodies in the blood stream and white blood cells in the immune reaction, to fight germs.
Laughing is one of the best exercises for lungs. It keeps the lungs clear of secretions and is a good workout for the diaphragm (muscle separating the abdomen from the chest) and other breathing muscles. Belly laughter also helps in forceful expulsion of air from the entire lungs and thus has a cleansing effect. For people with conditions like cystic fibrosis or chronic bronchitis, where getting rid of excess mucus is an absolute necessity, laughter is highly beneficial from a medical point of view.
But did you know that more than 50 percent of asthmatics report that their asthma is triggered by laughter? Asthma is a very common airway disorder, where the air passages becomes inflamed or constricted and secrete excess mucus, making the simple act of breathing a herculean task.
According to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, which was conducted on 235 patients, 56 percent had laughter- induced asthma (LIA). Stuart Garay, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine at NYU Medical Center was struck by how common laughter-induced asthma is. “It’s as common as some of the most well-known asthma triggers, such as grasses, trees, pollen, fumes and odors, and it’s even more common than dust mite allergy, and allergy to animal dander and molds,” he said. “It’s a little-appreciated frequent trigger.”
The study found that the most common symptom in patients with laughter- induced asthma was coughing, which generally starts within two minutes. The next most common symptom was chest tightness.
But the real twist in the whole story lies elsewhere. The study shows that the incidence of laughter induced asthma is more commonly seen when the patient’s asthma is not well controlled. Patients involved in the study could laugh longer when their asthma was under control. Thus if you know of someone who gets an asthma attack on laughing, it is likely that treatment needs to be reviewed.
Easy ways to ensure good asthma control:
- Understand Asthma – Knowing about the condition triggers (substances or conditions that bring on an asthma attack) and treatment empowers you to take better control of your health. Do not hesitate to ask questions of your doctor.
- Take medicines regularly – Even when you feel well. Just as some people need glasses to see, asthmatics need some medicines to breathe well. The doctor will prescribe the minimum dose to keep one healthy. When it is taken regularly, one feels much better and can enjoy a more productive life.
- Take Peak Expiratory Flow twice daily – A severe bout of asthma is an unpleasant surprise any time. But you can prevent it by measuring the Peak Expiratory Flow regularly in the morning and evening, preferably at the same time every day. A simple test to monitor the airway condition can be performed at home which can predict the narrowing of airways well before the onset of symptoms. A normal reading gives peace of mind, while a lower measure gives you time to adjust the treatment with a doctor’s help.
- Exercise regularly – It keeps you in good shape and enhances stamina. If there are asthma attacks during exercise, talk to your doctor who can help you work out with an easy breath.
- Beat stress – Easier done than said! A realistic target, good planning, supportive network of family and friends, a hobby, and above all a passion for life itself goes a long way to beat the stress monster. Practices like meditation have been proved effective in reducing stress and promoting a sense of peace, calmness and joy.