It’s long been said that laughter is the best medicine. Letting go with a deep belly laugh can provide a physical and emotional release. A doctor in Taipei is helping cancer patients improve their moods and sleep better with a class in laughing.
Liao Chih-Ying, director of radiation oncology at Taichung Hospital, first learned about “laughter yoga” in the United States and introduced it at his hospital in October 2013. This innovative method is based on the idea that forced laughter provides the same physical and emotional benefits as spontaneous laughter. Through regular practice, the fake laughter can eventually become genuine.
According to Dr. Liao, many cancer patients experience varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms can include depression, stress and insomnia. This creates a domino effect when stress-related hormones and chemicals weaken the immune system, which can allow the cancer to spread.
Laughter stimulates production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers. Dr. Liao believed that learning to laugh more frequently could be a healthy way to reduce the patients’ mood disorders. Yoga instructor Lai Ching-ju was asked to teach a weekly one-hour class at the hospital. Two months later roughly 70 percent of the participants reported improvements in their pain and mood levels as well as better quality sleep.
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Yoga may help recovering breast cancer patients fight the fatigue and inflammation that follows surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Exercise is known to help alleviate post-treatment symptoms, but many cancer patients are simply too exhausted to participate in regular exercise. For these cancer patients, one option is low-impact hatha yoga which boosts strength and flexibility while enhancing mind-body awareness without taxing the body.
In a recently published study designed to test yoga’s benefits for cancer patients, Ohio State University researchers tracked 200 breast cancer survivors. According to a report on Boston.com, cancer patients who participated in 90-minute restorative yoga classes twice a week for 12 weeks following cancer treatment reported a nearly 50% reduction in fatigue. Blood tests of yoga participants also revealed a 15% reduction in three proteins that are markers for inflammation.
Interestingly, the study found that yoga continued to benefit cancer survivors even if they stopped participating in yoga after the initial test period. After six months, fatigue and inflammation continued to decrease with those who continued practicing yoga realizing the greatest benefits.
Yoga participants also benefited from improved sleep which study leader Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at OSU, linked to the decrease in inflammation. “Part of the idea with yoga and related kinds of practices is it may make people less stress-responsive overall. If you can turn down the thermostat in terms of reacting to stressors, you may be able to lower inflammation,” Kiecolt-Glaser told the Columbus Dispatch. Inflammation has been linked to a higher risk of cancer recurrence and spread.
Issels Integrative Oncology embraces a comprehensive strategy of non-toxic cancer treatment that encompasses body, mind and spirit to restore the body’s own immune system. Visit our website to find out more about our integrative immunotherapy cancer treatments.