Bovine Colostrum 101: The Gut-Healing Supplement That Should Be On Your Radar
Many moms are familiar with colostrum: the first form of milk produced from the mammary glands during the end of pregnancy and the first few days postpartum.
It’s amazing just how powerful our bodies are. Even though colostrum is produced in small amounts, it is extremely high in important nutrients making it easy for newborns to digest. Everything in colostrum helps the baby thrive in their first few days of life. No wonder it's often referred to as nature’s "first food."
Bovine colostrum for adults.
While it is biologically necessary for newborns, there is a lot of developing research on how colostrum and its vital nutrients can be beneficial throughout your entire life. No, I am not saying you need to go out and buy breast milk online. (Yes, that’s a thing!) These days, supplements are usually derived from bovine colostrum: colostrum from cows. Although bovine colostrum is slightly lower in nutrients than human colostrum, it still contains growth factors, immunoglobulin antibodies (IgA), and lactoferrin that support optimal health.
Even though it may be a seemingly new concept for us today, adults have used bovine colostrum for thousands of years, particularly in the field of ayurvedic medicine. And after all, in reality bovine colostrum is just a more nutrient-dense version of what we have been encouraged to drink for years—you know, to achieve strong bones and all that.
But if this still sounds a little bit too far out there for you, let’s nerd out a bit and look at all the fun research on the benefits of bovine colostrum, all of which I have seen firsthand in my functional medicine clinic. Maybe I’ll even convince you to add this supplement to your wellness routine.
The health benefits of bovine colostrum:
1. It reduces inflammation.
The lactoferrin in bovine colostrum is an uber-powerful inflammation moderator. In fact, lactoferrin levels in our bodies rise during times of increased inflammation and can help bring down the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-61. Doctors even look at lactoferrin levels in stool to help diagnose inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and 2C. diff2.
Years of stress, toxins, and unhealthy food can lead to leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which your intestinal lining is compromised and allows food particles and bacterial endotoxins known as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) to pass into the blood stream. These invaders create a cascade of inflammation, increasing your risk for chronic health problems—autoimmune conditions included. Studies have shown that lactoferrin can actually bind to endotoxins to neutralize their effect and reduce inflammation, especially in cases of psoriasis3 and other diseases associated with increased endotoxin activity.
2. It supports a healthy gut.
Lactoferrin in colostrum not only acts as a prebiotic by stimulating the growth of good gut bacteria such as bifidobacterium and lactobacillus4, but it has been shown to support the overall health of the gastrointestinal tract. Beyond just working to reduce inflammation in digestive disorders, lactoferrin actually promotes cell growth5 in the intestines to help to restore a damaged gut.
3. It promotes muscle and ligament healing.
Due to its high level of growth factors like insulinlike growth-factor-I (IGF-I) and antioxidants, bovine colostrum is a powerhouse for promoting muscle healing and growth. This makes it a great supplement for athletes. Research has shown6 that the addition of bovine colostrum can reduce oxidative stress on and damage to muscles after exercise. Further studies7 looking at the effect of colostrum on athletic men and women linked supplementation with increased athletic performance as well as increased lean muscle mass after just eight weeks.
4. It enhances immune health.
Lactoferrin is responsible for helping regulate the defense response against pathogens by boosting immune-balancing T-cells and increasing natural white blood cells. To examine just how powerful lactoferrin’s immune boosting abilities are, researchers in one study8 gave oral lactoferrin to mice with suppressed immune systems due to chemotherapy and lab-induced autoimmune conditions. Afterward they found that their immune systems were not only strengthened, but the state of their autoimmune condition actually improved as well.
Additionally, lactoferrin is a natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It has the ability to inhibit pathogenic growth9 by actually binding the bacterial and viral cells in order to prevent their entry into the body’s cell.
Ultimately, this is just the tip of the iceberg for bovine colostrum's benefits. As colostrum continues to create more buzz in the wellness world, there will undoubtedly be more studies done to examine the direct effects of supplementation for adults. If you are interested in taking a colostrum supplement, look for ones derived from grass-fed cows or ones not treated with artificial growth hormones. As of now there is no recommended daily dosage or known side effects of supplementation.
Next up: Check out some more amazing benefits of colostrum.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., 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.