Tattoos can help strengthen your immune system

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Researchers say getting tattooed makes your immune system stronger

Getting inked multiple times makes you tougher in more ways than one. According to a study from the University of Alabama, getting multiple tattoos can actually strengthen your immune system.

According to the research, "tattooing may stimulate the immune system in a manner similar to a vaccination to be less susceptible to future pathogenic infiltration." While the study has a small sample size and is not yet conclusive, it provides fascinating evidence of how well the body can be "trained" to respond to stresses over time.

The study shows that your first tattoo might temporarily weaken your immune system, but the more you get the stronger it gets. Researchers compared the process to going to the gym, the first time can make your body sore and tired, but the more you do it the stronger you get.

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They say the pain and stress of getting multiple tattoos forces your immune system to get stronger, so people with multiple tattoos are more likely to avoid illnesses like the common cold.

For the study, researchers at the University of Alabama collected saliva samples from 29 volunteers before and after they were given tattoos. Nine of those participants were receiving tattoos for the first time. They then analyzed the participants' saliva samples for levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that lines portions of our gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, and cortisol, a stress hormone known to suppress immune response.

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According to the researchers, the saliva samples from first-time tattoo recipients showed their levels of immunoglobulin. A declined much more dramatically than they did for the people who already had multiple tattoos, suggesting that people with more "tattoo experience" had immune systems that were more habituated to that kind of stress.

But other experts are poking holes in the findings. According to the Mayo Clinic, tattoos can also come with some serious health risks like allergic reactions and bloodborne illnesses.

You can read the full study in the American Journal of Human Biology.