Colostrum Benefits: Fight Inflammation & Heal Your Gut

The Benefits Of Colostrum

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.”

But what is the benefit of taking colostrum for those of us who aren’t newborns? Adults experience many benefits from taking colostrum such as reducing inflammation, healing the gut, and supporting the immune system. Let’s dive into how this works and how you can use colostrum to experience these same benefits. 

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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 colostrum for adults throughout their 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 bovine colostrum benefits for adults, 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.

Reducing 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. (1) In fact, doctors test lactoferrin levels in patient’s stool to help diagnose C.diff and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). (2)

When looking at how colostrum benefits inflammation, gut health is a major benefactor, as well as immune health and muscle healing. Let’s dive a little deeper into each of those areas and explore how exactly colostrum will help. 

Quick Refresh: What Is Leaky Gut?

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. Lactoferrin acts as a prebiotic and stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. (5) It also has been shown to support health of the gastrointestinal tract by promoting cell growth (6) in the intestines. This helps to soothe inflammation and heal a damaged gut.

Read more: How To Heal Your Gut Naturally

Does Colostrum Heal The Gut Lining?

Using colostrum for leaky gut is extremely effective. The lactoferrin in 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 (7) oxidative stress and overall damage to muscles after exercise, making this a perfect supplement to support athletes. Additional studies (8) also showed that 8 weeks of bovine colostrum supplements increased lean muscle mass and athletic performance.

Does Colostrum Strengthen 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 effect on the immune system, researchers gave (9) 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  (10) and prevent their entry into the body’s cell.

How Much Colostrum Should You Take For Leaky Gut?

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg with bovine colostrum supplement benefits. With more buzz around colostrum, there will undoubtedly be more research to examine and confirm the effects of adult supplementation and using colostrum for leaky gut, inflammation, immune support, or other conditions. Until more studies are done, there is no recommended dosage or potential side effects of this supplement. It is best to consult with your doctor for a personalized plan. If you would like to start taking colostrum, make sure to get a supplement that is derived from grass-fed cows, and not ones given artificial growth hormones.

Seeking Support From A Functional Medicine Expert

While there are many benefits of colostrum for both adults and infants, it is always important to consult your functional medicine doctor when incorporating new supplements into your diet. An expert can help tailor your efforts to your unique biology and needs, so you can experience the most effective results possible.

 

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References:

  1. Otsuki K, Yoda A, Saito H, et al. Amniotic fluid lactoferrin in intrauterine infection. Placenta. 1999;20(2-3):175‐179. doi:10.1053/plac.1998.0368
  2. Boone JH, DiPersio JR, Tan MJ, et al. Elevated lactoferrin is associated with moderate to severe Clostridium difficile disease, stool toxin, and 027 infection. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2013;32(12):1517‐1523. doi:10.1007/s10096-013-1905-x
  3. Gui-Hang Zhang, David M. Mann, Chao-Ming Tsai Neutralization of Endotoxin In Vitro and In Vivo by a Human Lactoferrin-Derived Peptide Infection and Immunity Mar 1999, 67 (3) 1353-1358; DOI: 10.1128/IAI.67.3.1353-1358.1999
  4. Klára Gyurcsovics, Lóránd Bertók, Pathophysiology of psoriasis: coping endotoxins with bile acid therapy Pathophysiology Volume 10, Issue 1, December 2003, Pages 57-61 doi:10.1016/j.pathophys.2003.07.001
  5. Bo Lönnerdal, Nutritional and physiologic significance of human milk proteins, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 77, Issue 6, June 2003, Pages 1537S–1543S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/77.6.1537S
  6. Blais A, Fan C, Voisin T, et al. Effects of lactoferrin on intestinal epithelial cell growth and differentiation: an in vivo and in vitro study. Biometals. 2014;27(5):857‐874. doi:10.1007/s10534-014-9779-7
  7. Appukutty M, Radhakrishnan AK, Ramasamy K, et al. Colostrum supplementation protects against exercise-induced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle in mice. BMC Res Notes. 2012;5:649. Published 2012 Nov 22. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-649
  8. Antonio J, Sanders MS, Van Gammeren D. The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in active men and women. Nutrition. 2001;17(3):243‐247. doi:10.1016/s0899-9007(00)00552-9
  9. Zimecki M, Artym J, Chodaczek G, et al. Immunoregulatory function of lactoferrin in immunosuppressed and autoimmune animals. Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2007;61:283‐287.
  10. Berlutti F, Pantanella F, Natalizi T, et al. Antiviral properties of lactoferrin--a natural immunity molecule. Molecules. 2011;16(8):6992‐7018. Published 2011 Aug 16. doi:10.3390/molecules16086992

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BY DR. WILL COLE

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Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
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