You must think I’m going crazy. Laughter could cure diabetes, really? Well, not exactly… but it can help deal with it! Several studies have shown interesting psychological and physiological benefits of laughter on diabetic patients over the recent years. So let’s delve into the subject!
There are at least 3 different independent University researches that have investigated the effects of laughter on diabetic patients. All 3 of them conclude that laughter is beneficial to diabetes management, helps reducing blood sugar levels, and limit heart attack risks.
Keiko Hayashi, PhD of the University of Tsukuba, Ibataki, Japan, led a serious research on the subject in 2003. The study was done with 19 type 2 diabetic volunteering patients. The research team monitored the volunteers’ blood sugar levels before and 2 hours after the same meal on 2 successive days.
On the first day after the meal, the patients attended a serious TV show. On the second day after the same meal, they attended a humorist stand-up comedy show, where everybody was laughing. Well, on the second day, their post-prandial (after meal) blood sugar levels still went up, but much less than it did on the first day!
The scientists concluded that the study elucidates the “inhibitory effect of laughter on the increase in postprandial blood glucose and suggests the important of daily opportunities for laughter in patients with diabetes.”
In other words, laughing after meals reduces the sugar spikes, and diabetics should have a laugh as often as possible!
This is the result of a 2009 Loma Inda University, CA, USA research made by Lee Berk, PhD, Preventive care specialist and Psychoneuroimmunologist – Stanley Tan, PhD, Endocrinologist and Diabetes Specialist at Oak Crest Health Research Institutite – and Theresa Garnero, Certified diabetes educator.
The research was conducted on 20 adults with type 2 diabetes (average age 50). All of them suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and all were medicated with the same standard diabetes medications, high-pressure medicines and cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Each patient was assigned either to the “control group” or the “laughter group”. The laughter group was instructed to view at least a 30-minutes humorist show of their choice every day during a whole year.
After a year, the laughter group had increased by 26% their “good” HDL cholesterol levels (only 3% for the control group), and had decreased by 66% (against 26% for the control group) their levels of harmful reactive C-proteins (suspected to be associated with heart diseases and higher risk of heart attack).
In other words, there are high chances that laughing helps reducing the risk of heart attacks in people with type 2 diabetes. The author of the study, Lee Berk, even said: “Laughter may be as valuable as the diabetes medicine you are taking.“
Theresa Garnero, diabetes educator involved in this study, says that she has always used humor to help her patients deal with diabetes. She says that “there is so much minutia involved in this disease. Adding a little humorist can help maintain perspective on the long haul.” Theresa Garnero is the author of several success diabetes management books, including her best seller, Your First Year with Diabetes: What to do Month by Month.
This last study was conducted by Miro Cokolic from the Maribor University Medical Centre of Slovenia. Laughter Yoga is a new trendy exercise involving voluntary laughter, generally in groups. The belief behind it is that laughter provides both psychological and physiological benefits.
The Slovenian research concluded that “Laughter Yoga has proved to be an effective complementary and preventive therapy in reducing postprandial levels of blood glucose. Therefore, it contributes to long-term regulation of type 2 diabetes. Laughter is of preventive, psychological, physiological and therapeutic importance.”
There’s no doubt that diabetes is a mood-sensitive disease. Our moods and emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, have direct corresponding impacts on our blood glucose levels. You might notice it more or less, but scientifically it is true. I won’t go too deep into the subject here, as it is part of an entire new article I’m working on, but here’s a bit of a trailer:
Being happy and positive has enormous effects on our diabetes management. In fact, it has enormous effects on everybody’s health in general. Plenty of studies have been done on the subject and they all agree that happy people have a better health than others. One of these studies is Dr. Ed. Diener, professor of psychology from the Illinois University: “Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-being Contributes to Health and Longevity.” He defines happiness and well-being as “life satisfaction, absence of negative emotions, optimism, and positive emotions.”
Not only are the effects of happiness and positivity psychological, but they are primarily physiological. I’m talking hormones here. And what a coincidence that diabetes is a hormonal disease. Positive moods reduce the secretion of stress-related hormones (which increase blood glucose) and increase the secretion of the “happy” hormones that boost our immune system and our overall health and energy.
On top of that, happy people adhere better and longer to their medical treatment and diabetes control. A happy environment facilitates long-term commitment to the daily efforts one has to make in order to manage diabetes properly and stay away from complications.
You get it: if we’re positive, our body releases less blood glucose, our mind is more committed to and motivated for our daily fight against diabetes. It gets easier to achieve good glucose readings and targeted HA1c. We feel better, prouder of ourself, successful, and our body secretes even more “happy” hormones that will all the more facilitate our diabetes management! And so on and so on…
On the other hand, with negative emotions such as stress and anxiety, we can enter the opposite vicious circle.
Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, anger, self-criticism, loneliness, sadness, have been proven to increase blood glucose levels and mess up with diabetes management.
When our body is under stress, our adrenal glands secrete more stress-related hormones (adrenaline, glucagon, steroids, and cortisol mainly). Glucagon and adrenaline have been proven to trigger glucose to be released from the liver. In the meantime, steroids and cortisol decrease our organism sensitivity to insulin. Thus, our blood sugar levels are higher, and it’s harder to lower them.
Just like we can enter a virtuous diabetes management circle, we can get stuck in a vicious one from which it’s hard to get out. We’re not happy about our life, stressed at work, we feel sadness or other negative emotions and bam! Our body starts releasing more stress-related hormones, more glucose, and becomes less sensitive to insulin. Results get bad, we feel tired, demotivated, a sense of failure starts to overwhelm us…and we’re on with even more stress and negativity, and so on and so on. We’re in the vicious circle of diabetes management.
It can be really hard for one to get out of this one. If you think that’s your case, you might need help from your endocrinologist, family and friends, or psychologist. Don’t feel ashamed if you don’t manage to get out of this vicious circle alone: most of diabetics can’t! I suppose we’ve all entered this circle at least once if our life. And we’ve all needed an external trigger to break it and re-enter the so-much-nicer virtuous circle!
I’d be happy to hear your comments on that post. Have you ever been stuck in a vicious diabetes management circle? How did you make your way out of it?
A good way to stay positive and avoid the vicious circle is naturally to laugh! We could actually include laughter in our virtuous diabetes management circle! It does make us release happy hormones that help us lower blood sugars and control diabetes better. Let’s even laugh about our own diabetes!
Diabetes is boring, there’s no doubt about it. It’s very serious too. It requires a lot of self-discipline and rigor on a daily, even hourly, basis. There’s no “perfect” diabetes management, and whatever they say, no one has ever managed to have these perfect linear blood sugar levels.
What if instead of feeling a bit depressed whenever we have a hard diabetic day, we’d laugh about it? As we’ve seen above, laughing helps us not only feeling better, but also getting better sugar results. With a bit of humour and perspective, it is possible to laugh about diabetes. As Savitha Hosamane says, “laugh at yourself, so that you will be able to laugh at the challenges of life.” Diabetes is definitely one of the biggest life challenges for all of us.
Isn’t diabetes the perfect ironic disease to laugh about? Have you never found yourself in an awkward situation that made you want to laugh? The problem is we often have to deal with our daily diabetic problems on our own, and they don’t seem of much interest to others. What if in that same awkward situation, you had a friend on your side to laugh about it with you? Wouldn’t you have laughed out loud? Probably.
Scott Johnson from Mysugr.com wrote one of my favourite articles about diabetes. It’s called Diabetes is full of reasons to laugh, and it’s one of the scarce funny articles about diabetes. His reminisce about his own funny diabetes experiences and stories is sometimes hilarious:
Not all of us are capable of laughing alone. Chances are there’s no other diabetics in your entourage. Who would understand why you’re laughing about a test strip? Other diabetics! Instagram is full of funny people who spend their time sharing stories, memes, and jokes about their day-to-day with diabetes. I myself follow quite a few of them. Trust me, it helps! It does help a lot when you’ve just had enough of your diabetes and need to take some perspective, to relax, and to laugh about it. Here are some of my favourites:
Diabetes memes and diabetes memes only!
Kelly Reilly has diabetes herself and is a diabetic nurse educator. She shares her humorist way of dealing with diabetes.
Nik Politis is from Greece and has been living with diabetes for more than 20 yeas. He shares his day-to-day life with diabetes with a humorous vibe.
Hilarious and relatable diabetes memes!
I’m sure we can all think about some funny diabetic sketches that happened to us. Let’s share it. Comment if you have one!