03. November 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Immune System, Stress, Wellbeing


A UK study has found that group drumming produces significant changes in well-being, including improvements in depression, anxiety and social resilience. Researchers enrolled 45 adults, who were already recipients of mental health services but not receiving antidepressant medications, in a 10 week programme of either weekly 90-minute group drumming sessions or community group social activities (such as quiz nights, women’s institute meetings and book clubs). By week six, the drumming intervention group showed decreases in depression and increased social resilience, while at 10 weeks they reported further improvements in depression alongside significant improvements in

anxiety and mental wellbeing. These changes were maintained at three-month follow-up. The drumming intervention group also saw their immune profile shift from a pro-inflammatory towards an anti-inflammatory response. (Effects of Group. Drumming Interventions on Anxiety, Depression, Social Resilience and Inflammatory Immune Response among Mental Health Service Users. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 14;11(3):e0151136).



Singing in a choir can reduce stress, improve mood and boost levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer, suggests a study carried out in Wales. A single-arm preliminary study assessed the impact of singing on mood, stress and immune response in 193 people belonging to three populations affected by cancer: carers, bereaved carers and patients. Participants were all regular participants in five choirs across South Wales and took part in one hour of group singing. Before and after singing, visual analogue mood scales, stress scales and, saliva samples were taken. Across all five centres and in all three participant groups, singing was associated with significant reductions in negative affect and increases in positive affect, as well as significant increases in cytokines (including GM-CSF, IL-17, IL-2, IL-4 and sIL-2ra). In addition, singing was associated with reductions in cortisol, beta-endorphin and oxytocin levels. (Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers. ecancermedicalscience, 2016; 10 DOI: 10.3332 / ecancer.2016.631)

Researchers from the USA have reported that a single massage treatment can produce measurable changes in the immune and endocrine systems of healthy adults. The team compared 29 healthy adults who received a vigorous 45-minute Swedish massage with 24 healthy adults who received a 45-minute session of much milder light-touch massage. Blood samples were taken before the massage and at regular intervals up to one hour after the massage. The results showed positive changes in many immune parameters, including decreased levels of cortisol and anti-diuretic hormone (arginine-vasopressin [AVM), increased numbers of circulating lymphocytes an decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The authors note that their findings may have implications for the management of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. (A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Sep 1).

 Japanese researchers have investigated the effect of acupuncture on the human immune system. They measured CD-positive cell counts and cytokine expression levels in the peripheral blood of fifteen healthy volunteers before and after acupuncture, to determine the activity of T cells, B cells, macrophages and natural killer (NK) cells. There was a statistically significant increase in the number of CD2(+), CD4(+), CD8(+), CD11b(+), CD16(+), CD19(+), CD56(+) cells as well as IL-4, IL-1beta and IFN-gamma levels in the cells after stimulation of acupuncture points. These observations indicate that acupuncture may regulate the immune system and promote the activities of humoral and cellular immunity as well as NK cell activity. (Acupuncture Regulates Leukocyte Subpopulations in Human Peripheral Blood. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2007 Dec;4(4):447-453).

Researchers in the USA have found that a combination of tai chi and qigong (TQ) can enhance older adults’ immune responses to the flu vaccine. A group of 50 adults in their 70s, were randomised TQ or no exercise. The TQ group attended three one-hour classes per week, consisting of tai chi and qigong movements along with standing and seated meditation. All participants received a flu vaccination at the start of the study and had blood tests over the next five months. The results showed that the TQ group had much higher antibody responses against the virus than the comparison group. The vaccination resulted in a 173, 130 and 109% increase in antibody titre at 3, 6, and 20 weeks post-vaccine, respectively, in the TQ group, compared to 58, 54 and 10% in the controls. (Effects of a Taiji and Qigong intervention on the antibody response to Influenza vaccine in older adults. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(4):597-607).

Acupuncture has been found to counteract impairment of the immune system associated with anxiety. Thirty-four female patients, 30-60 years old, suffering from anxiety, received ten acupuncture sessions during the course of a year (leading to complete remission in all cases). Sessions lasted 30 min and 19 points were used. Blood samples were taken from all patients before and 72 hours after the first acupuncture treatment and a subset of 12 patients had blood taken immediately after the first session and one month after the end of the whole course of treatment. A variety of immune parameters was measured in each blood sample. Immune functions that were reduced in anxious women (chemotaxis, phagocytosis, lymphoproliferation and natural killer cell activity) were found to be significantly improved by acupuncture, while those that were over active (superoxide anion levels and excessive lymphoproliferation) were lowered significantly. Acupuncture was thus shown to have a modulatory effect on the immune system in this group of patients.

(Effect of acupuncture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(1):35-51)

Tai chi therapy can boost the immune system of patients with shingles to levels comparable to those achieved using a vaccine against varicella zoster virus (VZV; the virus which causes chickenpox and shingles). A controlled trial randomised 112 healthy adults aged 59 to 86, who had a history of varicella infection, to Tai Chi Chih (TCC, a simplified, standardised form of tai chi) or health education (HE) for 25 weeks. After 16 weeks of intervention, subjects were vaccinated against VZV. The results of blood tests showed that TCC alone increased immunity against VZV by an amount comparable to that induced by varicella vaccine in the HE group. Furthermore, the effects of the two were additive; TCC, together with varicella vaccine, produced a substantially higher level of immunity against VZV than vaccine alone, raising it to levels usually observed in adults 30 years younger. The tai chi group also showed significant improvements in scores for physical functioning, bodily pain, vitality, and mental health.

(Augmenting immune responses to varicella Zoster virus in older adults: a randomized, controlled trial of tai chi. J Am Geriatr Sac. 2007 Apr;55(4):511-7)