by Dr. Will Cole
Colostrum is something many moms are familiar with as it is the first milk that is produced from the mammary glands toward the end stage of pregnancy and the first few days following birth.
Our bodies are extremely powerful. Although the amount of colostrum produced is very small, its high nutrient content is second-to-none and easy for newborns to digest. Colostrum provides everything a baby needs to thrive in the beginning of life. In fact, it is often referred to as nature’s “first food.”
Bovine colostrum in adult diets
While we see it is biologically necessary for newborns, a lot of new research is coming out about the benefits of taking colostrum throughout your whole life. No, you don’t need to buy breast milk online (yes, that is a thing!) instead, you can buy supplements that are derived from bovine colostrum (colostrum from cows). Even though it is slightly lower in nutrients compared to human colostrum it still contains immunoglobulin antibodies (igA), lactoferrin, and growth factors which support optimal health.
While this may seem a little far fetched to us today, adults have been using bovine colostrum for thousands of years, specifically in ayurvedic medicine. And after all, bovine colostrum is simply a more nutrient-dense version of what we have been encouraged to drink for years – you know, to achieve strong bones and all that.
If this still seems a little bit outlandish, let’s geek out a bit and take a deeper look at all the exciting research on the benefits of bovine colostrum, all of which I have seen firsthand with my functional medicine patients. And just maybe I’ll convince you to add it into your own wellness routine.
The benefits of colostrum:
1. Reduces inflammation
Bovine colostrum is particularly high in lactoferrin. This powerful inflammation moderator actually rises in our bodies during times of increased inflammation by working to help lower the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6. In fact, doctors test lactoferrin levels in patient’s stool to help diagnose C.diff and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).
Years of unhealthy food, toxins, and stress can lead to leaky gut syndrome – a condition that results in damage to the intestinal lining. When this happens, undigested food particles and bacterial endotoxins known as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) “leak” into the bloodstream causing a cascade of inflammation which increases your likelihood of chronic health problems such as heart disease and autoimmune conditions. According to research, lactoferrin has the ability to bind to endotoxins to neutralize their effect and in turn, reduce inflammation, particularly in cases of psoriasis and other conditions associated with high activity of endotoxins.
2. Supports a healthy gut
Lactoferrin acts as a prebiotic and stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. It also has been shown to support health of the gastrointestinal tract by promoting cell growth in the intestines. This helps to soothe inflammation and heal a damaged gut.
3. Promotes ligament and muscle healing.
Bovine colostrum is a powerhouse for promoting muscle growth and healing due to its high amount of antioxidants and growth factors, including insulin like growth-factor-l (IGF-I). Studies show that bovine colostrum supplementation can reduce oxidative stress and overall damage to muscles after exercise, making this a perfect supplement to support athletes. Additional studies also showed that 8 weeks of bovine colostrum supplements increased lean muscle mass and athletic performance.
4. Strengthens immunity
Lactoferrin works to boost immune-balancing T-cells and increase natural white blood cells which help to regulate your body’s defense against pathogens. To look at lactoferrin’s affect on the immune system, researchers gave oral lactoferrin to mice with suppressed immune systems due to chemotherapy and autoimmune conditions. They found that their immune systems were strengthened as well as their symptoms and overall state of their autoimmune condition.
An additional benefit is lactoferrin’s natural antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral abilities. By binding to viral and bacterial cells, lactoferrin is able to inhibit pathogen growth and prevent their entry into the body’s cell.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of bovine colostrum’s benefits to our health. With more buzz around colostrum there will undoubtedly be more research to examine and confirm the effects of adult supplementation. If you would like to start taking colostrum, make sure to get a supplement that is derived from grass-fed cows and ones not given artificial growth hormones. Until more studies are done there is no recommended dosage or potential side effects of this supplement.
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