a magical start from nature’s first food
Colostrum is the fluid produced from the breast tissue of mammals for the first 72 hours after birth, before their milk comes in.
It is rich in vitamins, minerals, lactoferrin and essential fats and is food for the developing immune system of the newborn. Colostrum is the main source of secretory IgA (read about this here) for a newborn;1 crucial in helping to form the gut-immune balance. Human and bovine (cow) colostrum are extremely similar and luckily we can source organic, grass-fed colostrum to help us later in life, if we need it.
Dr Jess says: Nature never ceases to amaze me, and colostrum is one of the most wonderful substances that mammals produce. As the first gut fertiliser provided for the newborn, those of us who were breastfed from birth were lucky enough to receive this nutrient-dense immune superfood. Without colostrum, over those first few days, we are shown to have more health problems throughout life, and we now have a wealth of evidence to show that colostrum can heal leaky gut, which is the root cause of many health problems. I have seen great results in many immune deficient, autoimmune and likely leaky gut patients after a few months of taking colostrum, but it is important to source good quality colostrum, that is organic, grass-fed and if possible raw (not heat-processed).
colostrum and the immune system
Colostrum has been shown to be very important at the beginning of our lives. It can reduce inflammatory markers, increase immune protective chemicals and reduce clinical sepsis (serious infection) in preterm babies.2, 3 If babies do not get early colostrum, or if there is a delay in breastfeeding, it can lead to infants having less health-protective bifidobacterium in their gut, later in life.4
We are also now learning that supplementation with animal colostrum can be helpful all through our lives. Bovine (cow) colostrum supplements improved the general health and weight of children aged 1-10yrs, who failed to thrive.5 It has also been shown to improve lean muscle mass over eight weeks, in adults doing exercise.6 Animal colostrum supplements reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels in studies of diabetic patients.7, 8 Colostrum supplements have also been shown to boost levels of important immune system cells, CD3+ T cells and NK cells,9 which are important in killing viruses and in the early detection and elimination of cancer cells.
Small studies have shown colostrum’s benefit in autoimmune diseases, including ulcerative colitis10 and multiple sclerosis.11, 12 It has also shown benefit in long-term studies of Alzheimer’s disease.13,14
colostrum and infections. Colostrum supplementation has been shown to significantly reduce diarrhoea and aid recovery from stomach bugs in children.15 It also reduces the number of episodes and the severity of upper respiratory tract infections (colds and viral infections) in children16 and adults.17,18 It seems to significantly improve the immune system’s response to fight off infection in adults19 and protect against travellers’ diarrhoea.20
colostrum may reduce the risk of influenza infections and the severity of symptoms. A 2007 epidemiological study of a population of both healthy patients and high-risk patients for flu and complications were placed into several groups. Those who received colostrum and vaccination, just colostrum or just flu vaccination. The study concluded that in both healthy patients and at-risk patients, colostrum was three times more effective than a vaccination and the patients who received colostrum had far fewer cases of flu, and those cases were much less likely to be hospitalised.21 While this is just one study, it shows colostrum’s potential as a preventative measure for seasonal influenza.
colostrum can heal intestinal permeability (leaky gut). A randomised, double-blind controlled study looking at blood markers of leaky gut in 70 very ill patients in intensive care showed a significant reduction after just 10 days of bovine colostrum.22 Multiple small studies of leaky gut created by heavy exercise have found an improvement in blood and stool markers for intestinal permeability, when given bovine colostrum for 14-20 days, as compared to a placebo.23, 24, 25
One of these studies showed a greater improvement when colostrum was taken alongside the supplement zinc carnosine.24 Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and indomethacin, which can cause intestinal permeability, even when used short-term for injuries and pain. Taking colostrum for seven days alongside the medication significantly reduced intestinal permeability in a small study.26
how to take colostrum
The quality of the colostrum we supplement with is very important. The best colostrum is organic, grass-fed and ideally raw (not processed using heat). Our favourite UK brand (if you can get it) is Holvita, which do both liquid and capsule supplements. If this is too expensive and you wish to find an alternative, try to source a grass-fed or pastured source of colostrum. Gazegill organic farm is a wonderful farm for raw milk and meat and offers nationwide occasional batches of fresh raw, organic, grass-fed colostrum by waiting list, which we recommend you freeze into daily portions (freeze in ice cube trays and take 2-4 cubes daily) for daily consumption, and may offer a high quality, but more cost-effective alternative. If you are local to Poynton or Adlington, Cheshire, we get our raw milk from Hopewell farm who can also supply high-quality colostrum, on request, in glass bottles.
is there anyone who shouldn’t take colostrum?
Colostrum is safe for children, pregnant women and those on medications as it is classed as a food. However, it is an animal product, so is not suitable for vegans. Colostrum contains a small amount of lactose, so is not suitable for those who are lactose intolerant (though it may be useful for you to visit our kefir page, for more information on how to improve lactose intolerance). If you are allergic to cow’s milk, you should not take colostrum.
Are there any alternative sources for vegetarians or vegans?
Colostrum is a vegetarian but not a vegan product. An alternative to help strengthen the gut lining would be L-glutamine powder.
Are there any ethical issues with taking away colostrum from animals? Are the calves harmed by taking colostrum?
Dairy cows produce a lot more colostrum (3-4x) than the requirements of their calf. A good company source like Gazegill or Holvita only removes excess colostrum (what is left, after the calf has fed).
Does colostrum interact with medication?
No. Colostrum has not been known to interact with medication and is considered a food. It is even used to make a traditional Asian dessert!
- Pribylova J, Krausova K, Kocourkova I, Rossmann P, Klimesova K, Kverka M, Tlaskalova-Hogenova H. Colostrum of healthy mothers contains broad spectrum of secretory IgA autoantibodies. J Clin Immunol. 2012 Dec;32(6):1372-80. doi: 10.1007/s10875-012-9733-9. Epub 2012 Jul 10. PMID: 22777159.
- Lee J, Kim HS, Jung YH, Choi KY, Shin SH, Kim EK, Choi JH. Oropharyngeal colostrum administration in extremely premature infants: an RCT. Pediatrics. 2015 Feb;135(2):e357-66. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2004. PMID: 25624376.
- Martín-Álvarez E, Diaz-Castro J, Peña-Caballero M, Serrano-López L, Moreno-Fernández J, Sánchez-Martínez B, Martín-Peregrina F, Alonso-Moya M, Maldonado-Lozano J, Hurtado-Suazo JA, Ochoa JJ. Oropharyngeal Colostrum Positively Modulates the Inflammatory Response in Preterm Neonates. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 5;12(2):413. doi: 10.3390/nu12020413. PMID: 32033312; PMCID: PMC7071247.
- Tanaka K, Nakamura Y, Terahara M, Yanagi T, Nakahara S, Furukawa O, Tsutsui H, Inoue R, Tsukahara T, Koshida S. Poor Bifidobacterial Colonization Is Associated with Late Provision of Colostrum and Improved with Probiotic Supplementation in Low Birth Weight Infants. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 13;11(4):839. doi: 10.3390/nu11040839. PMID: 31013872; PMCID: PMC6520773.
- Panahi Y, Falahi G, Falahpour M, Moharamzad Y, Khorasgani MR, Beiraghdar F, Naghizadeh MM. Bovine colostrum in the management of nonorganic failure to thrive: a randomized clinical trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 May;50(5):551-4. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3181b91307. PMID: 20639714.
- 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 Mar;17(3):243-7. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(00)00552-9. PMID: 11312068.
- Kim JH, Jung WS, Choi NJ, Kim DO, Shin DH, Kim YJ. Health-promoting effects of bovine colostrum in Type 2 diabetic patients can reduce blood glucose, cholesterol, triglyceride and ketones. J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Apr;20(4):298-303. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2008.04.002. Epub 2008 Jul 7. PMID: 18602824.
- Guaragna MA, Albanesi M, Stefani S, Pasqualone A, Angelini A, Alfieri S, Paparo Barbaro S. The effectiveness of oral goat colostrum in the treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: our preliminary experience. Clin Ter. 2013;164(2):111-4. doi: 10.7417/CT.2013.1527. PMID: 23698202.
- Jensen GS, Patel D, Benson KF. A novel extract from bovine colostrum whey supports innate immune functions. II. Rapid changes in cellular immune function in humans. Prev Med. 2012 May;54 Suppl:S124-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.01.004. Epub 2012 Jan 17. PMID: 22285946.
- Khan Z, Macdonald C, Wicks AC, Holt MP, Floyd D, Ghosh S, Wright NA, Playford RJ. Use of the ‘nutriceutical’, bovine colostrum, for the treatment of distal colitis: results from an initial study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Nov;16(11):1917-22. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2002.01354.x. PMID: 12390100.
- Ebina T, Sato A, Umezu K, Aso H, Ishida N, Seki H, Tsukamoto T, Takase S, Hoshi S, Ohta M. Treatment of multiple sclerosis with anti-measles cow colostrum. Med Microbiol Immunol. 1984;173(2):87-93. doi: 10.1007/BF02124822. PMID: 6493135; PMCID: PMC7087162.
- Inui T, Katsuura G, Kubo K, Kuchiike D, Chenery L, Uto Y, Nishikata T, Mette M. Case Report: GcMAF Treatment in a Patient with Multiple Sclerosis. Anticancer Res. 2016 Jul;36(7):3771-4. PMID: 27354653.
- Leszek J, Inglot AD, Janusz M, Byczkiewicz F, Kiejna A, Georgiades J, Lisowski J. Colostrinin proline-rich polypeptide complex from ovine colostrum–a long-term study of its efficacy in Alzheimer’s disease. Med Sci Monit. 2002 Oct;8(10):PI93-6. PMID: 12388930.
- Leszek J, Inglot AD, Janusz M, Lisowski J, Krukowska K, Georgiades JA. Colostrinin: a proline-rich polypeptide (PRP) complex isolated from ovine colostrum for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 1999;47(6):377-85. PMID: 10608295.
- Barakat SH, Meheissen MA, Omar OM, Elbana DA. Bovine Colostrum in the Treatment of Acute Diarrhea in Children: A Double-Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial. J Trop Pediatr. 2020 Feb 1;66(1):46-55. doi: 10.1093/tropej/fmz029. PMID: 31168590.
- Saad K, Abo-Elela MGM, El-Baseer KAA, Ahmed AE, Ahmad FA, Tawfeek MSK, El-Houfey AA, Aboul Khair MD, Abdel-Salam AM, Abo-Elgheit A, Qubaisy H, Ali AM, Abdel-Mawgoud E. Effects of bovine colostrum on recurrent respiratory tract infections and diarrhea in children. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Sep;95(37):e4560. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000004560. PMID: 27631207; PMCID: PMC5402550.
- Jones AW, Cameron SJ, Thatcher R, Beecroft MS, Mur LA, Davison G. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on upper respiratory illness in active males. Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Jul;39:194-203. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.10.032. Epub 2013 Nov 4. PMID: 24200515.
- Brinkworth GD, Buckley JD. Concentrated bovine colostrum protein supplementation reduces the incidence of self-reported symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in adult males. Eur J Nutr. 2003 Aug;42(4):228-32. doi: 10.1007/s00394-003-0410-x. PMID: 12923655.
- Jones AW, March DS, Thatcher R, Diment B, Walsh NP, Davison G. The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on in vivo immunity following prolonged exercise: a randomised controlled trial. Eur J Nutr. 2019 Feb;58(1):335-344. doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1597-6. Epub 2017 Dec 22. PMID: 29274034; PMCID: PMC6425115.
- Otto W, Najnigier B, Stelmasiak T, Robins-Browne RM. Randomized control trials using a tablet formulation of hyperimmune bovine colostrum to prevent diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in volunteers. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jul;46(7-8):862-8. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2011.574726. PMID: 21526980; PMCID: PMC3154584.
- Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Di Renzo A, Dugall M, Cacchio M, Ruffini I, Pellegrini L, Del Boccio G, Fano F, Ledda A, Bottari A, Ricci A, Stuard S, Vinciguerra G. Prevention of influenza episodes with colostrum compared with vaccination in healthy and high-risk cardiovascular subjects: the epidemiologic study in San Valentino. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2007 Apr;13(2):130-6. doi: 10.1177/1076029606295957. PMID: 17456621.
- Eslamian G, Ardehali SH, Baghestani AR, Vahdat Shariatpanahi Z. Effects of early enteral bovine colostrum supplementation on intestinal permeability in critically ill patients: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition. 2019 Apr;60:106-111. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2018.10.013. Epub 2018 Oct 12. PMID: 30551120.
- Hałasa M, Maciejewska D, Baśkiewicz-Hałasa M, Machaliński B, Safranow K, Stachowska E. Oral Supplementation with Bovine Colostrum Decreases Intestinal Permeability and Stool Concentrations of Zonulin in Athletes. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 8;9(4):370. doi: 10.3390/nu9040370. PMID: 28397754; PMCID: PMC5409709.
- Davison G, Marchbank T, March DS, Thatcher R, Playford RJ. Zinc carnosine works with bovine colostrum in truncating heavy exercise-induced increase in gut permeability in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Aug;104(2):526-36. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.134403. Epub 2016 Jun 29. PMID: 27357095.
- Marchbank T, Davison G, Oakes JR, Ghatei MA, Patterson M, Moyer MP, Playford RJ. The nutriceutical bovine colostrum truncates the increase in gut permeability caused by heavy exercise in athletes. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2011 Mar;300(3):G477-84. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00281.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 9. PMID: 21148400.
- Playford RJ, MacDonald CE, Calnan DP, Floyd DN, Podas T, Johnson W, Wicks AC, Bashir O, Marchbank T. Co-administration of the health food supplement, bovine colostrum, reduces the acute non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced increase in intestinal permeability. Clin Sci (Lond). 2001 Jun;100(6):627-33. PMID: 11352778.