Breastfed babies with eczema experienced milder symptoms if their mothers laughed hours before feeding them, according to a study by Hajime Kimata at the Moriguchi-Keijinkai Hospital in Osaka, Japan.
He showed breastfeeding mothers either a feature length Charlie Chaplin movie or bland footage of weather information, and took samples of breast milk at regular intervals afterwards. Two milk feeds later, he also measured their babies’ allergic reactions to dust mites and latex. Those infants whose mothers had laughed had markedly reduced reactions (Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol 62, p 699). All participating babies and some of the mothers suffered from mild atopic eczema – the most common type.
Kimata also found significantly higher levels of melatonin in the laughing mothers’ milk. The hormone is associated with relaxation, and levels are reduced in people with eczema.
“It would be good to investigate if 15 minutes of laughter a day can reduce allergies in mothers and infants in the long term,” says Michael Miller of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, who studies the effect of laughter on heart disease.