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Telling stories with ink Part Two

Are tattoos part of a responder staying healthy? A few days ago we published a rather long article on responders and tattoos. The trend is continuing and everyday we see more and more of our first responders inked from wrist to uniform. As we pointed out, sometimes it is a remembrance, sometimes it is just therapy, other times it is pride, but what if this continual search for new ink is more than just art and memories? What if tattoos are really keeping responders healthier?

They say that responders are primarily adrenaline junkies and the truth could lie somewhere in the medical facts surrounding that phrase.

For years we have known that there are two types of stress, eustress and distress. Eustress is actually good for your body and necessary to stay healthy. Other studies find that short-term stress benefits the immune system. Stress’ bad rap comes from chronic forms that really do undermine immune response and health. But a little bit is actually good for you and prepares your body to fight off germs. Regular exercise provides immune function benefits through repetition, not necessarily single visits to the gym. It is possible that researchers have proven that this is how multiple tattoos work.

Since the hot topic of the day is vaccines, think of it that way… by introducing a small amount of something to your system, your system is trained to then attack that type of invasion and thus becomes immune or stronger.


Innate immune responses involve general reactions to foreign material. So getting a new tattoo triggers your immune system to send white blood cells called macrophages to eat invaders and sacrifice themselves to protect against infection.

Your body also launches what immunologists call adaptive responses. Proteins in the blood will try to fight and disable specific invaders that they recognize as problems. There are several classes of these proteins—called antibodies or immunoglobulins—and they continue to circulate in the bloodstream, on the lookout lest that same invader is encountered again. They’re at the ready to quickly launch an immune response the next time around.

In other words, it is quite possible that tattoos can actually help you stay healthier and create faster and stronger responses to invasions. This rush of the body to respond is so similar to the work of adrenaline, it is now being studied and correlated to the increase we are seeing amongst “adrenaline junkie” responders.

Any way you look at it, this is an interesting topic and if you want to learn more, search out and read the findings of Dr. Christopher D. Lynn. Christopher D. Lynn is a biocultural medical anthropologist who studies cultural impacts on health and human cognitive evolution. Lynn is also a host on the Sausage of Science Podcast.



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