Getting inked strengthens your immune system and lowers your risk of developing common colds. New research reveals evidence that getting many tattoos lowers the risk of common infections by strengthening an individual's immunological responses.

Researcher Christopher Lynn, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, noted that the effect isn't immediate. In fact, receiving a tattoo can temporarily lower the body's resistance to infections. Why? Because the pain from receiving a tattoo is physically draining.

"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."

Researchers note that our bodies respond to receiving a tattoo the same way it would after a grueling gym session after months of not working out.

"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," Lynn explained.

Lynn and his team discovered that tattooing showed similar benefits when it comes to immune response.

For the study, researchers took saliva samples from 29 people aged 18 to 47. Researchers collected saliva samples before and after each participant's tattoo session. They found that levels of immunoglobulin A, an important infection-fighting antibody found in the body's gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, dropped significantly in those receiving their first tattoos. However, the drop was less dramatic in participants who've received multiple tattoos in the past.

"Immunoglobulin A is a front line of defense against some of the common infections we encounter, like colds," Lynn said. "People with more tattoo experience have a statistically smaller decrease in immunoglobulin A from before to after."

"We can consider our data in two ways," researchers concluded. "First, participants with greater tattoo experience may be more excited than anxious about a tattooing session, resulting in reduced immunosuppression. Another explanation, which is not mutually exclusive, is that people with higher tattoo experience might also display reduced IgA suppression after tattooing, similar to elite athletes who habituate to moderate and high intensity exercise stress over time." 

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