Friday, April 1, 2016

The Best Medicine?

It's definitely true that obesity and bariatric surgery are no laughing matters. On the other hand, since it is April Fools Day, it might be a good time to look at the benefits, including the health benefits, of a sense of humor.

Such sources as WebMD have referenced a number of studies which found that laughter appears to have some of the same benefits as exercise, including boosting the heart rate and burning some extra calories in a healthy manner. There may also be some benefits in terms of blood sugar and immune response. Since we all know that humor releases tension, it's not surprising that there may also be benefits in terms of relaxation and sleep.

These are not small matters for anyone -- particularly those of us struggling with obesity and it's many health impacts. At the same time, it's important to keep things in perspective. At least right now, the impacts of laughter can't be quantified in the same way that, say, a gastric sleeve can. Also, it can be easy to overstate these matters. The laughter and health connection was first seriously suggested in the 1980s by writer Norman Cousins, who was dealing with a seemingly incurable and very painful condition.  He found that laughing hard watching old Marx Brothers movies and "Candid Camera" TV shows seemed to reduce or even eliminate his pain for an hour or two, allowing him to sleep.

Cousins himself was careful not to exaggerate what he had noticed, but the results were frequently exaggerated -- to the point where many people seemed to believe that the writer had laughed his way out of cancer. In reality, while his condition did improve, taking time to laugh was just a small part of a detailed health regimen -- and the condition he suffered from wasn't actually cancer!

Nevertheless, there's no denying that, while we can't yet prove that laughter adds years to your life, we can be pretty sure that, as the old saying goes, it adds a lot of life to your years. We at Dr. Feiz & Associates heartily recommend it!

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