Zakka Lab

Finding Humor in Diabetes for a Healthier You

Diabetes being a life-long disease is no joke, but given the implications of humor and laughter on health, it might help to have a little bit of fun. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the 2017 global diabetes atlas recorded 425 million diabetic people, with the number expected to rise to 629 million by 2045.  

Apart from a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits, psychological stress can increase the severity of diabetes. Research shows that diabetes patients improvtheir odds for a longer life by developing an elevated sense of humor. Humor has also been found to have a positive effect on pain and discomfort, blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.  

What’s not funny about Diabetes? 

Suffering from a chronic disease like diabetes can be a serious matter. Diabetic patients suffer from many adverse effects including kidney failure, stroke, heart attack, and blindness. Iisn’t funny when you wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat with a glucose level of 36 mg/dL and have to stumble to the kitchen for a glass of juice to save your life.  

Because diabetes is a chronic diseasethese effects may be experienced for the rest of the patient’s life. Long-term illnesses lead to chronic stress which can then increase the adrenaline of stress hormones and cortisol. Adrenaline instructs your liver to pump more glucose into the bloodstream, while cortisol tells your body to resist insulin. The two hormones boost the body’s inflammatory effect which speedup the advancement of illnesses detrimental to diabetes including cardiovascular disease.  

With type 2 diabetes, you are likely to experience an increase in inflammatory cytokines responsible for insulin resistance. Therapeutic humor is a tool that can help diabetes patients to deal with their suffering and pain. Humor and laughter have been found to reduce complications related to diabetes. Clinical studies show that a positive mood improves the cardiac autonomic function of glycemic control. It also drastically reduces episodes of cardiovascular events and boosts cognitive function.   

Therapeutic Humor and its Effects in Diabetes 

Fear, anxiety, and sorrow are the 3 main factors known to elevate the levels of blood glucose. Conversely, laughter and humor have been found to stabilize the levels of blood sugar linked to negative emotions. Humor enhances communication and offers positive social and psychological benefits.  

These benefits can prove useful to people who have diabetes. Laughter and humor are sure ways of coping with diabetes and it influences the body’s biochemistry. This ensures that the chemical messages released, works for you and not against you.  

Psychological Effects 

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that can adversely affect the quality of life. Psychological stressors tend to create a bidirectional effect in controlling the disease. Pressure can then increase the risk of its severity through the stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA), parasympathetic withdrawal, and sympathetic axes which then heighten norepinephrine, cortisol, epinephrine, leptin, and the growth of hormones. The activation of HPA is linked to poor control of blood sugar and diabetes complications such as diabetic neuropathy. Chronic stress can result in hypertension, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of CVD.  

If you have diabetes and you are able to keep your blood sugars under control, this would help in decreasing the onset of kidney disease. Several studies suggest that patients with prediabetes and diabetes record a reduced level of blood glucose after watching a funny movie for about 30 minutes.  In a different study, patients with diabetes and those without the disease were exposed to a 6-months regimen of watching funny videos at least once a week. At the start of the study, the renin levels of diabetics were seen to be higher than those of non-diabetics. In the third month, the levels of renin and angiotensin had dropped drastically. Researchers then concluded that laughter therapy could be used by diabetics as a non-pharmacologic treatment to prevent microvascular complications.  

Sources of Humor 

Diabetes patients tend to feel isolated. Pain, restricted diets, and treatment can accelerate the feelings of self-pity which can then elevate the blood sugar levels.  But how do you find the humor when life has too many frustrations?  

Media Outlets: There are many comedies and funny movies on the internet, theatre, TV, and radio. A hilarious show can be an easy way of attracting laughter into your life.  

Laugh with friends: Did you know that laughter is contagious? Research shows that people are about 30 times more likely to be swayed into laughter. Attending parties can be a great laughter setup.  

Humor as a Form of Exercise 

Laughter is a form of exercise that can effectively reduce stress and help in controlling diabetes. It offers an effective cardio workout, that accelerates the heart rate for better stabilization of blood sugars. Abdominal stretching stemming from laughter is believed to play a significant role in the regeneration of pancreatic cells. Because the diaphragm is the only muscle attached to other tissues in the body, all other internal organs are jogged when you laugh.   

A good laugh stretches the diaphragm, tones the midsection, respiratory accessory, back muscles, abdominal organs, muscular-skeletal system, and intestinal tract. It is also a great cardio activity for the lungs and the heart.  Laughter is a low impact exercise that burns calories, boosts lymph and blood circulation, and enhances the flow of oxygen in the body. It can, in turn, improve the sensitivity for β-cells, the secretion of insulin, and blood supply to the muscles. Because hormonal homeostasis is in the process improved, glycemic control is experienced. Humor is a therapy that also reduces proinflammatory responses and improves immune function.   

Although diabetes is a chronic illness presented with many life stressors, humor can be considered a form of exercise that can make it easier to control blood sugar levelsIt acts positively on the body and the mind and can improve flexibility and mobility. Humor as therapy is known to change various neurotransmitters and hormones. Joy and euphoria occur due to an increase in the β-endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin levels. Humor and laughter also reduce postprandial blood sugar, fasting blood sugar, anti-diabetic drug requirement, and hemoglobin A1c.