Health & Fitness

Tattoos, Hormesis, Acupuncture and Health

Kristen Sparrow • June 09, 2016

American Journal Of Human Biology, Volume 28, Issue 5, September/October 2016

I’m sure this is what we see with Acupuncture too.  It’s the repeated slight stress to the system that leads to better immunity, lower cortisol and better health.

The article that follows is from the popular press.  The abstract is below that.

No need for permanent tattoos, get acupuncture!!

An Astonishing Health Benefit of Tattoos

Want to avoid getting a cold? Get tattoos!

Those who have multiple tattoos have a stronger immune system than those who aren’t inked, which makes them better able to fight infections.

But there is a catch: Receiving just one tattoo has the opposite effect by lowering your resistance to germs, according to a trio of researchers from the University of Alabama.

It all began when Dr. Christopher Lynn, an associate professor of anthropology, received a tattoo and realized he was physically drained from the process.

“They don’t just hurt while you get the tattoo, but they can exhaust you,” Lynn said. “It’s easier to get sick. You can catch a cold because your defenses are lowered from the stress of getting a tattoo.”

The body’s response to tattooing is akin to that experienced from exercising in the gym when you’re out of shape. Initially, muscles become sore, but if you continue, the soreness fades and the muscles become stronger following subsequent workouts.

“After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium,” Lynn said. “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.”

The study: Along with Johnna Dominguez and Dr. Jason DeCaro, Lynn interviewed people who received tattoos in the Alabama cities of Tuscaloosa and Leeds. The volunteers were asked how many tattoos they had, as well as the time involved in the tattooing procedures. Each participant also provided a saliva sample prior to and following the tattooing process so researchers could measure the levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that lines portions of the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, and cortisol, a stress hormone known to suppress immune response. Immunoglobulin A is a front line of defense against many common infections, such as the common cold.

The results: Levels of immunoglobulin A dropped significantly in those receiving initial tattoos, as would be expected because of the immunosuppressant effects of cortisol, responding to the stress of tattooing. But the immunoglobulin A decrease was less marked among those receiving tattoos more frequently.

When receiving a tattoo, the body mobilizes immunological agents to fight possible infections at the site of the new tattoo.

Translation: Repeated tattooing makes your immune system stronger.

The study findings were published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

–From the Editors at Netscape


Am J Hum Biol. 2016 Mar 4.
Tattooing to “Toughen up”: Tattoo experience and secretory immunoglobulin A.

Author information

  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487.



A costly signaling model suggests tattooing inoculates the immune system to heightened vigilance against stressors associated with soft tissue damage. We sought to investigate this “inoculation hypothesis” of tattooing as a costly honest signal of fitness. We hypothesized that the immune system habituates to the tattooing stressor in repeatedly tattooed individuals and that immune response to the stress of the tattooing process would correlate with lifetime tattoo experience.


Participants were 24 women and 5 men (aged 18-47). We measured immune function using secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) and cortisol (sCORT) in saliva collected before and after tattoo sessions. We measured tattoo experience as a sum of number of tattoos, lifetime hours tattooed, years since first tattoo, percent of body covered, and number of tattoo sessions. We predicted an inverse relationship between SIgA and sCORT and less SIgA immunosuppression among those with more tattoo experience. We used hierarchical multiple regression to test for a main effect of tattoo experience on post-tattoo SIgA, controlling for pretest SIgA, tattoo session duration, body mass, and the interaction between tattoo experience and test session duration.


The regression model was significant (P = 0.006) with a large effect size (r2  = 0.711) and significant and positive main (P = 0.03) and interaction effects (P = 0.014).


Our data suggest that the body habituates over time to the tattooing stressor. It is possible that individuals with healthy immune systems heal faster, making them more likely to get multiple tattoos. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2016