Yes, getting inked up might make you look tough on the outside, but new research shows it may also make your body stronger on the inside
Science shows there are plenty of easy ways to build a stronger immune system on a daily basis, including working out, staying hydrated, and even listening to music. Not usually mentioned on this list? Getting a sleeve of tattoos.
But according to a new study published online in the American Journal of Human Biology, getting multiple tattoos can actually strengthen your immunological responses, making it easier for your body to ward off illness. We know, crazy, right?!
For the study, researchers analyzed saliva samples from 24 women and five men before and after their tattoo session, measuring levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that lines portions of our gastrointestinal and respiratory systems and is a front line of defense against common infections like colds. They also looked at the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone known to suppress the immune response.
As expected, they found that those who were relatively inexperienced or receiving their first tattoo experienced a significant drop in their immunoglobulin A levels due to heightened stress. In comparison, they found that those who had more tattoo experience (determined by number of tattoos, amount of time they spent getting tattooed, how many years since their ﬁrst tattoo, the percentage of their bodies covered, and the number of tattoo sessions), experienced an elevation in immunoglobulin A. So, while getting one tat can make you more susceptible to getting sick because your body's defenses are lowered, multiple tattoos can do just the opposite.
"We think of tattooing like exercise. The first time you exercise after much sloth, it kicks your butt. You can even be more susceptible to catching a cold," says Christopher Lynn, Ph.D., professor at the University of Alabama, and author of the study. "But with continued moderate exercise, your body adjusts." In other words, if you're out of shape and hit the gym, your muscles will be sore, but if you continue, the soreness fades and you'll actually become stronger. Who knew tats and working out had so much in common?
The researchers didn't specifically look at how long these immunity-boosting effects last, but Lynn believes that there is an extended affect, granted you don't have an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle or experience a large environmental change, which can cause the body's stress and immune systems to be affected.
Of course, we aren't recommending you head to the tattoo parlor in the name of a potentially stronger immune system, but consider this one way to get all those tattoo haters off your back. If you want some other ways to build immunity without a needle involved, try these 5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Without Medicine.