Colostrum and the Immune System
You’ve probably heard of colostrum in terms of its role in breastfed newborns, but what about the relationship between bovine colostrum and your immune system as an adult? Here’s why so many people are taking colostrum supplements for their immunity.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is a milky fluid produced by the breasts of mammals after giving birth, just before breast milk comes in. It’s known for being a very concentrated source of important nutrients for growing babies, especially maternal immune cells and antibodies that can help babies fight infections early on in life.
However, many adults are finding colostrum benefits from taking supplements. This is because research shows that colostrum may boost immunity, improve your gut health, and help your body fight off infections when consumed even after infancy.1,2
These supplements are typically produced from the colostrum of cows, which is pasteurized and made into a powder or pill.
How does colostrum benefit your immune system?
Bovine colostrum is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, growth hormones, protein, carbohydrates, and digestive enzymes that can help support a healthy immune system. It’s also high in antibodies, especially IgA and IgG, which are essential for immunity by fighting off viruses and bacteria.3
This immune-boosting impact has been seen in studies involving athletes. For instance, a 2006 study among 35 adult endurance runners found that those who took bovine colostrum every day for 12 weeks experienced a 79% increase in infection-fighting salivary IgA antibodies.4
In another 2007 study, 29 male cyclists took 10 grams of bovine colostrum daily for 5 weeks. They experienced a lower risk for upper respiratory infection symptoms, as well as the prevention of postexercise immune cell reduction that is commonly observed in endurance sports.5
Colostrum and gut health
Gut health is largely linked to overall health and immunity - as your gut is among your first line of immune defense - so taking care of your digestive system is a good idea. This is one reason why many adults and athletes are taking bovine colostrum supplements.6
Colostrum supplements may also boost your digestive health due to its lactoferrin and growth factors. Bovine colostrum triggers intestinal cell growth and strengthen your gut wall, preventing a leaky gut.7-9
A 2011 study of 12 athletes at heightened risk for intestinal permeability resulting from intense exercise found that those who took 20 grams of colostrum daily had a significantly lowered risk of intestinal permeability compared to the placebo group.10
Another study conducted in 2002 found that 14 adults with colitis - inflammation of the lining of the colon - experienced a larger reduction in their disease symptoms when taking bovine colostrum enemas in conjunction with their regular medications, versus medication alone.11
Other research has found bovine colostrum benefits to be helpful in treating diarrhea and gastrointestinal infections.
Note that, although bovine colostrum supplements can be very helpful in boosting healthy immunity, you shouldn’t take them if you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy products.
How to use colostrum supplements
There are many colostrum supplements available today, in chewable or powder form. They should be easy to add to your daily routine or even add to your favorite protein shakes. Not only are colostrum supplements an excellent addition during cold and flu season, but they can support immunity year-round.
ImmuneBody Colostrum Chewable tablets are designed to provide a rich source of immune factors that support your natural immunity and gut health. It’s been clinically proven to promote healthy gut flora and intestinal tract health, support athletic recovery, and promote overall immune health.
- Godhia, ML & Patel, N. Colostrum - its Composition, Benefits as a Nutraceutical - A Review. Curr Res Nutr Food Sci 2013;1(1):37-47. http://dx.doi.org/10.12944/CRNFSJ.1.1.04
- Uruakpa FO, Ismond MAH, & Akobundua T. Colostrum and its benefits: a review
Author links open overlay panel. Nutr Res 2002; 22(6): 755-767. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0271-5317(02)00373-1
- McGrath, B.A., Fox, P.F., McSweeney, P.L.H. et al. Dairy Sci. & Technol 2016; 96:133. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13594-015-0258-x
- Cookrs CV, Wall CR, Cross ML, & Rutherfurd-Markwick KJ. The effect of bovine colostrum supplementation on salivary IgA in distance runners. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Feb;16(1):47-64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16676703
- Shing CM, Peake J, & Suzuki K et al. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on immune variables in highly trained cyclists. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007 Mar;102(3):1113-22. Epub 2006 Nov 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17095643
- Wu HJ, Wu E. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes. 2012;3(1):4–14. doi:10.4161/gmic.19320
- Blais S, 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 Oct;27(5):857-74. doi: 10.1007/s10534-014-9779-7. Epub 2014 Aug 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25082351
- Playford RJ1, Macdonald CE, & Johnson WS. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jul;72(1):5-14. Colostrum and milk-derived peptide growth factors for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10871554
- 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;9(4):370. Published 2017 Apr 8. doi:10.3390/nu9040370 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409709/
- Marchbank T, Davison G, & Oakes JR et al. 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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21148400
- Khan Z, Macdonald C, & Wicks AC et al. 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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12390100