What if I was to tell you that I have discovered one of nature’s most nutrient dense, healing foods available? Okay, I didn’t really discover it, it’s not a new concept at all. Starting with Ayurvedic healers known as Rishis, bovine colostrum is used for medicinal purposes to treat everything from age-related symptoms to the common cold.
In Scandinavian countries, the birth of a calf is celebrated by the making of a pudding for human consumption from the extra colostrum after the calf is fed, to promote good health. Early Amish farmers have also used this practice. When the Australian Olympic swim team won more gold medals than the Chinese in both 2000 and 2004, they attributed it, in part, to their use of colostrum supplements. It is known in China as a powerful yin jing tonic and live superfood.
Bovine colostrum has an identical structure to the natural colostrum produced by humans. Research has attributed many health benefits to bovine colostrum.
Health Benefits of Colostrum
In the book Colostrum, Life’s First Food, Dr. Daniel G. Clark’s message is loud and clear – bovine colostrum “rebuilds the immune system, destroys viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and accelerates healing of all body tissue, while helping with weight loss and builds lean muscle, while slowing down and reversing aging.”
According to Clark and the well-known naturopathic physician Dr. Bernard Jensen, colostrum plays a therapeutic role in AIDS, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, allergies, herpes, bacterial, viral and parasitic infections, gingivitis, colds and flu. In fact, conventional doctors once used colostrum for its antibiotic effects before the introduction of penicillin!
Colostrum and gut health:
The gut is responsible for nutrient absorption, detoxification and immunological balance. Researchers believe the microbial balance in the gut plays a role in roughly 70% of our immunological control. The major player here is a special immunoglobulin protein called secretory IgA (sIgA).
People who have chronic gut problems, IBS, candidiasis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and autism typically have low sIgA. This is a sign of chronic stress in the body that has drained the immune system and the adrenals. Chronic infections, environmental toxins and poor lifestyle could all be the major causes behind this.
Colostrum is the most prolific substance for boosting sIgA levels in the gut. This provides a balancing effect on the immune system by reducing inflammatory cytokines and pathogenic species in the gut. Colostrum also helps provide raw materials to help repair a damaged gut lining. The intestinal membrane replaces cells every three days, and colostrum supplementation can help heal intestinal problems such as leaky gut syndrome and other permeability issues naturally. It has been said that colostrum heals the gut faster than any other supplement available.
Colostrum and the immune system:
Colostrum is rich in transfer factors that educate and modulate the immune system and successfully teach it to recognize specific antigens. These transfer factors also help coordinate the immune system to be able to recognize the difference between normal tissue and pathological microbes or abnormal tissue growth. These important transfer factors include hydrogen peroxide and immunoglobin G (IgG).
The transfer factors from colostrum are able to boost natural killer cell (NK) activity and calm a hyperactive immune system through activating suppressor T cells. This improves the intelligence of the immune system and allows it to function with greater efficiency. These transfer factors also act as a catalytic memory agent for the immune system to alert naive immune cells of an impending danger.
Colostrum’s use in sports:
Dr. Jon Buckley, a sports nutrition expert who teaches at the University of South Australia, has studied the potential benefits of bovine colostrum for athletes for many years. He’s found that supplementing an athlete’s diet with 60 grams of concentrated bovine colostrum powder can improve an athlete’s performance by more than 5 percent, as is mentioned above in the case of the Australian Olympic Swim Team.
Colostrum and Gingivitis:
Colostrum and the Flu:
My personal experience with colostrum includes an increase in energy, elevated mood, loss of weight, better sleep, clear skin, and a sudden lack of sugar cravings!
In order to understand how and why colostrum could benefit your health, one must first understand what it is and what it’s composed of. So, let’s dig in!
What is bovine colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk-like fluid yielded from the mammary glands of mammals after giving birth and is intended for ingestion by the newborn during the first hours of life. Unlike people, calves do not get their immune building goodness through the placenta, but rely entirely upon the mother’s first milk. This is why calves who do not get that first milk have an 85% death rate.
The composition of fluid in the mammary gland at birth is that of true colostrum. It has a high protein concentration, is low in lactose content, and is rich in milk fat. In fact, the highest quality bovine colostrum, containing the maximum concentration of biologically active substances, is collected in a single milking during the first six hours after giving birth. After that, the fluid would be considered transitional milk.
Colostrum contains 10 times more vitamin A, 3 times more vitamin D, 10 times more iron, and more calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium than milk.
Biologically Active Components of Colostrum Include:
- Thymosin (alpha & beta chains): A hormone composed of two protein-based chains that are separately present in bovine colostrum. The chains act on the thymus gland independently or in concert with each other to stimulate activation, development and maintenance of the immune system.
- Proline-Rich Peptide (PRP), aka thymulin: A hormone-like small protein that acts upon the thymus and other organs associated with the immune system to keep them from over-reacting to an insult.
- Cytokines: Small proteins produced by various cells in the body that induce the generation of specialized types of white blood cells, signal them to come to the site of an insult and help in their passage through tissues.
- Lymphokines: Proteins of varying sizes that are produced by different types of white blood cells that tell related cells to transform themselves into more functional cell types that can release substances capable of destroying an invading microorganism.
Gut Protective Substances:
- Immunoglobulins (IgG, IgM, IgA): Complex proteins, better known as antibodies, that make up a significant portion of the proteins found in complete first milking colostrum. These antibodies were produced by the mother’s immune system in response to her exposure to many different microorganisms during her lifetime and then transferred into the colostrum prior to birth of the calf.
- Transfer Factors: Small proteins produced in response to the body’s exposure to certain types of microorganisms, particularly those that reside in deep tissues for a long period of time, like Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. They are specific for a particular microorganism and are carried inside of certain types of specialized white blood cells. Transfer factors act together with various white blood cells and other factors in an attempt to keep the microorganisms under control.
- Lactoferrin: A mineral-binding carrier protein that attaches to available iron. Certain aerobic bacteria, like E. coli require iron to reproduce and, therefore, lactoferrin is an effective substance, when operating in the presence of a specific antibody, to impede the growth of some microorganisms in the gut.
- Transferrin: Another mineral-binding carrier protein that attaches to available iron and can act independently or together with lactoferrin to impede the growth of certain aerobic bacteria, particularly in the gut.
- Lysozyme: A very powerful enzyme that is capable of attaching itself to the cell wall of certain pathogenic bacteria and degrading selected proteins, leaving holes in the wall of the bacteria.
- Lactoperoxidase: A mildly effective enzyme that can also attach to the wall of certain bacteria, degrade other selected proteins and interfere with the ability of the bacteria to replicate.
- Xanthine Oxidase: Another mildly effective enzyme that can also attach to the wall of certain bacteria, degrade different proteins than those affected by lactoperoxidase and also interfere with the ability of the bacteria to replicate.
- White Blood Cells (leukocytes): Primarily three types of functional white blood cells are present in colostrum, including neutrophils, macrophages and polymorphonuclear cells. Each has the ability to phagocytize microorganisms and other foreign bodies and apply substances carried internally to the destruction of the microorganisms. Their functions are dramatically enhanced when antibodies first attach to the microorganisms.
- Oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates: Complex carbohydrates (sugars) that can adhere to specific sites on the inner surface of the gastrointestinal tract and prevent the attachment of microorganisms.
The Growth Factors:
Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGFs): Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and its closely related counterpart insulin-like growth factor-2 (IGF-2) are potent hormones that are found in association with almost all cells in the body. They are part of a group of more than 90 different proteins, called the “IGF Binding Protein (IGFBP) Superfamily”, that is responsible for the processes by which cells grow and reproduce. These substances are also responsible for maintenance of the metabolic pathways y which cells convert glucose to glycogen, a primary metabolic energy resource, and assemble amino acids to create proteins.
Many of the growth factors found in colostrum include the following substances: 1) Transforming growth factors A & B. Induces the transformation of cells from an immature form to a mature, functional status. 2) Epithelial growth factor. Involved in the generation and maintenance of cells in the epithelial layers of the skin. 3) Fibroblast growth factor. Associated with the regeneration of various types of tissue, including skin and other organs. 4) Platelet-derived growth factor. Responsible for the generation of cells and functions associated with blood clotting.
The Metabolic Factors:
- Leptin: A small hormone-like protein that can suppress appetite, enhance metabolic rate, and lead to body weight reduction. Mature fat cells (adipocytes) release leptin in the presence of insulin, which is also found in colostrum. Insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells have receptor sites for leptin and it is believed that the size of fat cells may be a major factor in determining the amount of leptin released. The binding of leptin to its receptors in the presence of insulin initiates a cascade of chemical signals to the hypothalamus resulting in appetite suppression and the triggering of fat metabolism in the liver. Leptin deficiency may be associated with obesity, particularly in diabetic individuals.
- Insulin: A hormone required for the effective metabolic utilization of glucose. Insulin binds to specific receptor sites on cells, facilitating their interaction with IGF-1 and, thus, initiating the conversion of glucose to glycogen, a major source of metabolic energy.
- Vitamin-binding proteins: Smaller proteins that act as carriers to deliver B-complex vitamins to the body. Carrier proteins and the associated vitamins folate (B6), B12 and orotic acid are found in colostrum.
- Fat-Associated Vitamins: Significant quantities of vitamins A, D, E and K are dissolved in or associated with the fat in colostrum.
- Mineral-Binding Proteins: In addition to interfering with the replication of certain microorganisms the iron-binding proteins, lactoferrin and transferrin, also serve to capture iron from ingested sources and present it in a form that can be readily absorbed by the body. Lactoferrin can also bind copper and deliver it in a form suitable for absorption by the body. In addition, there are two carrier proteins in colostrum that assist in the absorption of calcium. They are casein, which is also an abundant source of amino acids to build new protein molecules, and alpha-lactalbumin, which is present in colostrum very soon after birth.
- Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate (cAMP): A phosphorylated nucleotide in a high energy state that is applicable to energy transfer in metabolism. This is the lowest energy form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy transfer molecule in normal metabolism. AMP can be recycled to ATP through existing intracellular pathways and, thus, colostrum can serve as a resource for these energy transfer substances.
- Enzyme Inhibitors: These are small proteins that slow down or inhibit the breakdown of proteins by certain enzymes. They provide limited protection to the immune, growth and metabolic factors as they pass through the digestive tract.
Important Factors In Buying High Quality Colostrum:
FIRST, colostrum must be harvested within 6 hours of birth or you are just buying expensive milk. Colostrum gives way to milk production 6 hours after birth. Many colostrum companies will continue to harvest “colostrum” days after birth. Again you are buying expensive milk with a bit of colostrum in it. You must be sure that you are buying a certified 6-hour colostrum, like Surthrival or Immune Tree (both of them are from the same source, are of high quality, and my favs!).
SECOND, and an even more common problem, colostrum needs to be raw and uncooked. Antibodies and growth factors are both broken down by heat treatment so often times, when buying “colostrum” you are actually buying expensive protein powder. You must be sure that you are buying non-denatured, or “raw” colostrum.
What form of colostrum is best?
I personally prefer the loose powder form in terms of cost effectiveness, besides the fact that it tastes good! I simply place the amount I want to take in a small shaker with water and shake shake shake! Only thing is, due to the fat content, it doesn’t very mix well, although using an immersion blender or hand held frother seems to help to do the trick well if need be! If you have a problem with taste, another option is to buy the loose powder and purchase empty 00 capsules and make your own pills. Regardless, all forms that colostrum come in are thought to be equally effective.
After much research, and personal daily use, these are my favorites! They have the best flavor, consistency and texture, and meet all of the quality standards that are important in bovine colostrum! (Both come from the same source.)