Body Piercing from a Health Perspective

    Available evidence suggests that people have been practicing body piercing since ancient times. It appears that some people pierce for cultural or religious reasons, while others do so for ornamental or even sexual reasons. However, has anyone looked at this from a health perspective?

    The oldest mummy discovered to date was that of Otzi the Iceman, found in an Austrian glacier – he had an ear piercing of between 7 and 11 mm in diameter. Otzi lived around 5,000 years ago.

    Piercings are also mentioned in biblical history. Genesis 24:22 records Abraham’s servant giving a nose ring and bracelets to his daughter-in-law, Rebekah. Ear piercing was seen during biblical times as a mark of slavery (Deuteronomy 15:12-17) – I’ll remind my daughter about that fact the next time she winces about doing her chores. During the 1980s, it was trendy for men to have one earring only. I remember my first boyfriend had an earring, which greatly impressed me at the time. Not so much my parents!

    What seems to be a rite of passage for any ‘modern primitive’ today seeking ‘body modification’ is a tongue piercing. This practice dates back to the Aztec and Mayan cultures, who carried out ritual tongue piercings for spiritual purposes. Navel piercings are increasingly popular with women today, but again, this isn’t anything new. Ancient Egyptians pierced their navels to signify royalty. As for nose rings, well, they seem to have originated in India around the 16th century.

    It appears that some people pierce for cultural or religious reasons, while others do so for ornamental or even sexual reasons (those ‘down under’ folk again).


    Some people seem to cope with metal in their bodies without any problems, but for the rest of us, there's a different story. Here’s why: a simple electric current is very easily generated when there are two dissimilar metals in an electrolyte. The mouth is an example of where this can happen – the electrolyte would be saliva, as it is a very good conductor of electricity. Dental amalgams, for example, are invariably composed of several metals. Studies have shown that people with at least 2 or 3 amalgam fillings are generating measurable, albeit very small, electric currents in their mouths – only the electrical output involved is a thousand times greater than that generally used by the body in nerve conduction. Doesn’t that concern you? Small electric currents they may be, but it does appear that with some people, it is enough to interfere with their neural activity, contributing to headaches, behavioural problems, an inability to focus or concentrate, or an inability to think or remember clearly. One then wonders about dental braces as they are often made with different metals. How might they be negatively affecting the wearer in ways that we’ve never considered? Anecdotal evidence appears to indicate that body piercing can have serious side-effects for some people, particularly when bodily fluids are involved, as in the case of tongue or genital piercings (both of which lie directly on major body meridians). A navel piercing could also be problematic. I have known them to interfere with the workings of the central meridian, an energy circuit that runs from the pubic bone to the bottom lip. Eyebrow and nose piercings seem to be less likely to cause a problem, but this depends on the positioning of the stud and the professionalism of the studio offering the piercing.


    The eyebrow can be a risky area because it harbours skin and hair bacteria, and it has a rich blood supply that connects to the eye. A bad infection can develop very quickly and spread into the eye area (periorbital cellulitis), and could worsen to cause blindness or deeper infection into the brain. Ear piercings have been known to be problematic in some people. There are a great many acupuncture points on the ear, and if you're unfortunate enough to have a hole made directly into one, you may discover endless problems with that particular piercing. The wound will often take months to heal, be constantly sensitive to particular types of metal, and often get inflamed for no apparent reason. This was the case with my daughter. We finally managed to sort it out with copious doses of tissue salts, and she now takes her earrings out at night. In instances where the wound does not heal, the best course of action would be to allow the hole to close naturally and perhaps consider a slightly different position for the piercing. Aside from that, the traditional ear piercing, if accurate, happens to be right on the eye points! A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked the inherently more risky practice of ear cartilage piercings to an increase in bacterial infections of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.


    Hayley (not her real name) was referred to me by her mother as they had been unable to get to the root of her extreme lethargy and lack of motivation. On her mother’s recommendation, Hayley had been taking copious quantities of Kali phos (a tissue salt) to try and raise her energy levels, but to no avail. She had gone from being an exercise fiend to a couch potato in the space of a few months. During the kinesiology session, we quickly pinpointed the possible cause – her belly ring was interfering with the functioning of the central meridian. Upon taking it out, a subsequent kinesiological test revealed that the meridian had immediately returned to its normal flow. I suggested she remove the ring for a week and see what happened. Two days later, I received a call from her mother to say the transformation was incredible – she had her old daughter back. Hayley has chosen not to wear the belly ring, as in her case, it definitely affected her quality of life.

    My advice to women who enjoy their belly rings is to remove them at night to allow the meridian to flow correctly, whether or not they perceive there to be a problem. This could be one explanation as to why some navel piercings can take as long as 9 to 12 months to heal.


    How can this be, you might ask? Dr George Goodheart, the respected father of applied kinesiology, discovered one possible explanation. He called this phenomenon the antenna effect. He found that by just taping a small metal ball onto an acupuncture point, this point was continually stimulated. This important discovery led him to believe that any metal that was constantly on a given point on the human body could eventually cause problems for that person.

    What happens when anything is continually stimulated? Eventually, it wears out, right? This is when exhaustion and fatigue set in. As I have previously noted, it is really critical to know where these points are located on the body and how to avoid them, but your local piercing parlour practitioner is unlikely to possess this knowledge.

    As a teenager, I was a serious student of karate. We were taught that the source of our power is located around our navel or ‘hara’ area. Prior to hitting 10 bells out of our opponent, we had to focus on this area to feel strong and centred. Before breaking wood, we were told to visualize our ki energy coming from our hara and vocally express the energy out of our core.

    Try this exercise (and if you have a belly ring in, take it out first): stand with your feet slightly apart and ask a partner to push you firmly on one shoulder. Notice how this affects your balance. Are you forced to step back to maintain your equilibrium? Do you fall to one side? Now ask your partner to repeat the test again, only this time you must focus on your navel – and notice the difference! You are far more grounded, right? Putting a metal stud there can really distort and short-circuit your body energy over time.


    Dental associations are no doubt concerned about the increase of tooth fractures as a direct result of trauma incurred from barbells inserted during tongue piercing, and the incidence of more and more chipped molars and worn teeth. Associated risks with intra-oral piercings include nerve damage, damage to dentition, infection, and obviously speech impediments. A research group from the Ohio State University in Columbus conducted a survey wherein it was found that receding gums were significantly greater among subjects with lip piercings (41.4%). One hopes that people receive adequately sufficient ‘after-care instructions’ after a piercing thus reducing the risk of post-operative (for want of a better word) complications.

    Women who have had a nipple pierced may consider removing the nipple jewellery if considering breastfeeding. During sucking, the jewellery could become loose and lodge in the baby’s throat. The jewellery could injure the baby’s gums and tongue, as well as the soft and hard palate. Breastfeeding problems can and do occur with women who refuse or who cannot remove their nipple jewellery – poor latching, milk leaking, and gagging being the common issues which stop the minute the nipple jewellery is removed. So, this goes without saying – don’t have a nipple pierced if you are also thinking of becoming pregnant and want to breastfeed. Nipple piercings can also take months to heal.

    So all this metal fatigue got me thinking about underwired bras. It is a very real fact that the underwires in your favourite bra could also be affecting your health as they fall directly onto two very important neuro-lymphatic reflexes. John D Andre of the Delta Clinic in Kansas City states that ‘these reflexes, like all acupoints, follow the law of stimulation. In the beginning of stimulating a point, it is stimulated – often causing an increase in associated function. Later on, this continued stimulation causes sedation of that point and a subsequent decrease in its associated function. It’s a mechanical thing. If a woman keeps the metal underwires on top of those reflex points, over time that will mess up the functioning of the associated circuits’.

    According to Professor Serfontein, although a study involving 4,700 women by Singer and Grismaijer hasn’t been confirmed by other studies, it is worthwhile making note of. They found that women who wear a bra 24 hours a day are 125 times more likely to get breast cancer than those who do not wear a bra.

    An article in the New York Times of October 20, 1998, described the dermatological problems that so many fans of body piercing encounter. Dr David Cohen, a New York dermatologist, has found that many people are also allergic to their jewellery, specifically to nickel, which is often used in inexpensive costume jewellery. Nickel is the metal most likely to provoke allergic reactions, followed by chrome, cobalt, and palladium, also often found in costume jewellery.

    If you are concerned about the absorption of metals, you might want to consider chelation therapy to help your body detox from the negative effects of metal poisoning. Jewellery for all body piercing should be made of surgical steel, niobium, titanium, or 14-carat gold.

    Whether we like it or not, piercing is probably here to stay. For anyone considering piercing their body (or having a tattoo for that matter), they would do well to consider both the energetic and even spiritual ramifications they are setting into motion that might one day affect their health.

    Dr Masaru Emoto has become quite a worldwide celebrity due to his groundbreaking discovery on how water molecules are affected by intention. Using high-speed photography, Dr Emoto captures images of the crystals formed from frozen water after specific thoughts, words, or feelings have been directed at it. Loving words create the most beautiful images. Negative feelings or thoughts do not create crystals at all. Our bodies are composed of around 60% water. One might wonder how a tattoo with a negative thought form might impact on our body’s water content and thus our general health over time.

    This is just on a small scale; what then if we consider the impact of the collective thoughts of humanity upon the earth’s oceans? You can answer that question yourself – that is the scope of another article altogether!

    While many piercings proceed uneventfully, complications can and do set in, and this cannot be ignored. Body piercers are unlicensed and not necessarily members of the medical profession. If the practitioner is not scrupulous about hygiene and maintaining a sterile environment, many potentially life-threatening diseases can be spread, for example, hepatitis B or C, tetanus, TB, syphilis, HIV, or blood infections, blood poisoning, skin cysts, scars, and other disfigurements. I asked a few people I know with piercings and in all instances, no health histories were taken at the time of the piercing, they were not informed of what emergency procedures were in place in the event of something going wrong, no antibiotics were obviously prescribed post-piercing, and no detailed post-operative advice was offered, other than being advised to keep the area clean.

    My advice to anyone considering a body piercing is to learn as much as you can about the process and potential side-effects before taking the plunge. If you are aware of all the pitfalls, you can make an informed decision whether to have the procedure done or not.


    On October 10, 2005, Pravda (a Russian online newspaper) published an article quoting that the Slavs used to wear wedding rings for not more than 4 hours a day to preserve their sexual power. The article suggested that continuous wearing of a wedding ring, particularly on the fourth finger, might lead to various sexual disorders and even partial or complete impotence. Recent research by Belarussian scientists supports the widespread belief that extended wear of a wedding ring on the ring finger could have certain scientific implications.

    Renowned biotherapist and healer Sergei Gagarin commented on this scientific phenomenon to Pravda, drawing a comparison with the right-hand screw rule from physics. Gagarin explained that human nerves can be likened to conductors, and a wedding ring acts like a closed circuit, intensifying the flow of specific energy in the finger. This energy, according to Gagarin, is directed towards the Swadhishthana chakra, which governs the urogenital system and sexual sphere to a certain extent.

    Gagarin further emphasized that periodically removing a wedding ring allows for a positive effect on the sexual sphere due to the energy current. Conversely, constant wear of the ring could lead to negative consequences. Historical accounts of Slavic practices suggest that wearing wedding rings for only limited hours contributed to stronger sexual powers, as evidenced in ancient Slavic tales depicting large families.

    Gagarin acknowledged the complexity of the issue, noting that his explanation covers only a fraction of the topic. He proposed further exploration into the qualities of metals like silver and gold and their influence on human organisms. In conclusion, Gagarin suggested that those who do not wear wedding rings around the clock may experience fewer problems in their sex lives.

    Further reading:

    1. Keene WE, Markum AC, Samadpour M. Outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections caused by commercial piercing of upper ear cartilage. JAMA 2004; 291: 981 – 985.
    2. Singer RS, Grismaijer S. Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publications, 1995.
    3. Grady D. When body piercing causes body rash. NY Times 1998; October 20.
    4. Emoto M. The Hidden Messages in Water. Beyond Words Publishing, 2005.
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