Tattoos have been a part of our species’ collective culture for more than 2,500 years, finding different roles in each society they’ve been a part of. So it’s only natural that a part of our legacy that has been along for the ride for such a long time is still embraced in today’s culture.
But while our society is as divided about tattoos as it is about pretty much anything else, there are still those attempting to look at this form of expression from a scientific point of view. So, according to a team of researchers from the University of Alabama, immune systems get a boost from tattoos.
Similar to how a single trip at the gym can leave you with aching muscles and a reduced immune system because of your body not being used to the intense effort, the same goes for a single tattoo session. The intense levels of stress raise your cortisol levels, leaving you exhausted and more vulnerable to common illnesses.
But just like subsequent visits to the gym strengthen your muscles and make the initial pain go away, going for multiple tattooing sessions forces your body to adapt to the increased levels of cortisol, dramatically raising your immune system.
Like one of the study authors, Cristopher Lynn of the University of Alabama, explained,
They don’t just hurt while you get the tattoo, but they can exhaust you. It’s easier to get sick. You can catch a cold because your defenses are lowered from the stress of getting a tattoo. After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium. 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.
As you go through repeated tattooing, your levels of immunoglobulin A skyrocket. As it is an important antibody in preventing many issues of the gastrointestinal and respiratory variety, statistics show that those people with multiple tattoos have a greatly decreased chance of catching the common cold.
Lynn also said in a press release that
Another explanation, which is not mutually exclusive, is that people with higher tattoo experience might also display reduced immunoglobulin A suppression after tattooing, similar to elite athletes who habituate to moderate and high intensity exercise stress over time.
The team performed its study at various tattoo parlors, recording relevant data such as the levels of cortisol and of immunoglobulin A, the number of tattoos and the duration of each, and even collecting saliva samples before and after the tattooing was done.
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