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Colostrum, Immune-Boosting Liquid Gold
It’s been called, “liquid gold” for its yellow-hue, yet colostrum’s ‘invaluable’ reputation is due to its health benefits. Colostrum may be the most potent immune-enhancing supplement available.
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk a mother produces after birth. It’s the body’s way of downloading the mother’s vast knowledge of the ‘germ-world’ and kick-starting an offspring’s immune system.
In adults, it has exceptional health effects too. There is a large body of research showing that colostrum has the ability to positively benefit the immune system, enhance gastrointestinal health and more. Research suggests that colostrum deserves a top spot among immune-boosting supplements.
Every minute of the day germs bombard your body. The immune system is designed to identify and destroy unwanted germs. To do this, the body has immunoglobulins (antibodies). The main immunoglobulin in the blood, lymph and cerebrospinal fluid is called IgG. Bovine colostrum is a great source of IgG. Scientists have found that colostrum is unmatched as an immune enhancer – it not only stimulates the immune system, it can also turn it up or down as needed.
A Free Download
In the 1950s, scientists would have found it easy to explain their discovery of colostrum as the body’s largest download, but such ‘tech-talk’ wasn’t popular then. The downloading effect of colostrum comes from proteins called transfer factors. Transfer factors can teach an immune system – an amazing feat!
A potent cocktail
Colostrum contains more than transfer factors and immunoglobulin. It’s a potent cocktail of healthy ingredients, including growth factors and lactoferrin.
Growth factors are involved in cell division and tissue proliferation – processes that unfortunately slow as we age. Colostrum is the only natural source of growth factors.
Lactoferrin is an effective antimicrobial and immune modulating protein. Lactoferrin is such an effective immune booster it’s trendy to find it as an added ingredient in supplements concocted to target immunity.
Scientists Say Bones, Gut, Muscles & More…
There is more to colostrum than immune enhancement and growth factors. Researchers have found additional positive health effects of colostrum. A review published in 2012, concluded that supplementation of bovine colostrum has a positive effect in many conditions including treatment of upper respiratory infections and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Colostrum has even been found in studies to be effective against certain parasites, bacteria and viruses. Researchers from China reported that colostrum prevents bone loss, and may have a role in osteoporosis prevention.
And, research reported in sports medicine indicated that colostrum could improve parameters compromised during intensive athletic training (immune function, gastrointestinal integrity and the neuroendocrine system). Reports are suggesting colostrum is a safe and effective supplement for many health reasons.
Things to Look for in a Colostrum Supplement
Get your own germs. The germs you encounter in your backyard are not the same germs on the other side of the world. Thus, when searching for a bovine colostrum supplement, look for one made from animals that live nearest you. For example, Canadians would ideally look for North American sourced colostrum; the animals are more likely to have been exposed to the same viruses and bacteria as the population consuming the colostrum.
First milk is important. The concentration of health-promoting factors is highest in colostrum immediately after birth, and quickly declines as hours pass. In fact, the value of this liquid gold declines by half six hours after birth. As such, it is important that colostrum is collected immediately after birth (0-6 hours) to ensure it is of the highest quality.
Quality colostrum products are available on the market. The highest quality products are: tested for heavy metals, nitrates, bacteria and pesticides; come from small certified dairies where cows are pastured; and, no growth or milk production hormones are given to the cows.
Allison Tannis, BSc, MSc, RHN is a nutritional consultant, scientific writer and author of four internationally sold nutrition books. Read more at allisontannis.com.
Tokaev, ES et al. Composition and clinical use of bovine colostrums. Vopr Pitan 2012:81(3):35-40.
Du, M. et al. Protective effects of bovine colostrum acid proteins on bone loss of ovariectomized rats and the ingredients identifications. Mol Nutr Food Res 2011 Feb;55(2):220-8.
Shing, CM. et al. Bovine colostrum supplementation and exercise performance: potential mechanisms. Sports Med 2009;39(12):1033-54.
Unjar, BL et al. Cessation of Cryptosporidium-associated diarrhea in an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patient after treatment with hyperimmune bovine colostrum. N Engl J Med. 1988; 318: 1240-1243.
van Hooijdonk, AC et al. In vivo antimicrobial and antiviral activity of components in bovine milk and colostrum involved in non-specific defence. Br J Nutr 2000 Nov;84 Suppl 1:S127-34.
Keech, AM. Colostrum: A Physicians Reference Guide.