Multiple tattoos can help you better fight infections as getting inked can boost your immune system; however, you need more than one tattoo to enjoy the extra boost.
University of Alabama (UA) recruited volunteers from a local tattoo shop in Leeds and Tuscaloosa. They examined the participant's number of tattoos and how long each tattooing session took. The researchers measured the levels of antibody immunoglobulin A and stress hormone cortisol in the participants' saliva samples.
Among the participants who had their first tattoo, the escalating cortisol levels caused a huge decrease in immunoglobulin A. But for those with multiple tattoos, they only had slight drops in immunoglobulin A levels before and after the sessions. Researchers suggested this could be due to a stronger immune response.
"After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium," said Dr. Christopher Lynn, an anthropology associate professor from UA. Getting multiple tattoos stresses the body repeatedly. Instead of going back to the original set point, the body adjusts and its internal set points increase. This suggests that the body is getting stronger.
When it comes to defenses against common infections such as colds, Immunoglobulin A is at the front lines. When person receives his or her first tattoo, it is expected that the levels of the Immunoglobulin A because of the cortisol's response to the stressful activity.
"People with more tattoo experience have a statistically smaller decrease in immunoglobulin A from before to after," added Lynn.
Putting it in perspective, getting a first tattoo is like your first workout at the gym. At first you feel exhausted and your muscles ache. But in your next several visits at the gym, the muscles get stronger. You feel less and less exhausted the more you frequent the gym.
Injecting a foreign contaminant into one's skin makes the body exhausted. Getting multiple tattoos could be a workout for the immune system.
While the study holds much potential, the research only had 24 female and five male participants aged 18 to 47 years old. Further study is needed to confirm to make conclusions. The research was published in the American Journal of Human Biology on March 4.