Andra MIhali/Flickr
Getting multiple tattoos can strengthen your immune system

No pain, no gain.

JOSH HRALA
9 MAR 2016
 

Looking for a solid reason to finally get that Schrodinger's cat tattoo you've always wanted? Well, science has got you covered, because new research has found that getting multiple tattoos could boost your immunological response, which makes you better able to fight off infections. The catch? You need more than one tattoo to see any improvement. 

According to researchers from the University of Alabama, getting a bunch of tattoos is a lot like working out. When you first start, your body is weakened by the new stress. At the gym, this means sore muscles. For tattooing, the process often leaves you feeling generally exhausted because your body is wondering why you injected a foreign contaminant deep into your skin. 

 

But after a few days in the gym, your muscles start to strengthen and you no longer feel like death. Noticing how this works for muscles, the team wondered if the same could be said about tattooing. Could getting multiple pieces tattooed act as an immunological exercise routine?

As it turns out, yes. The researchers were able to verify this by heading out to a local tattoo shop and recruiting volunteers for a study that examined how many tattoos a person had and how long each tattooing session was. With this data, they then analysed blood samples to gauge the participants' levels of immunoglobulin A, which is an antibody, and cortisol, a stress hormone.

The team found that people who were getting their very first tattoo had a large drop in immunoglobulin A thanks to rising cortisol levels. As for those who had been tattooed many times before, immunoglobulin A levels decreased only a tiny bit, which, according to the team, suggests that the body is strengthening its immunological response. 

"After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium," said Christopher Lynn, one of the study’s authors. "However, if you continue to stress your body over and over again, instead of returning to the same set point, it adjusts its internal set points and moves higher."

Though the team’s findings make logical sense, it’s important to point out that the study was only conducted with 24 women and 5 men, a sample size that's large enough to suggest that something is going on here, but small enough to warrant further study to confirm that.

What we're saying is if you want to boost your immune system, getting multiple tattoos is probably not the best way of going about that, but if you need a reason to get one more, you can add this study to the list.

You can read the team’s full report in the American Journal of Human Biology.

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