6 Immune Benefits of Colostrum
Colostrum is known as “mother’s milk” or “first milk” because it is highly concentrated in the first feeding of a nursing mother in mammals. In nature, newborn calves and fawns require the colostrum from its mother’s milk within 12 hours or will likely face severe health consequences and possibly death.
Not only essential to mammals in the wild, humans also must receive colostrum from their mother’s milk during the first few feedings in order to build and develop their immune system. Colostrum has been called by many, “liquid gold,” due to the powerful immune supportive compounds contained within. Could it be the secret key to overcoming chronic disease and building a robust immune system? In this article, you will discover 6 immune benefits of colostrum.
1. Colostrum Is a Critical Nutrient Source
Colostrum is so critical to the development of the immune system that researchers speculate the substitution of formula is associated with the increased occurrence of chronic conditions in children. Formula does not contain colostrum and is believed to increase the risk of: (4)
- Juvenile diabetes
- Allergies including asthma
- Childhood cancer
- Chronic infections relating to the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract and lungs
- Infant mortality
Breast feeding supplies the essential nutrients needed for the development of tissues and organs and provides the bioactive compounds required for a baby to develop a healthy immune system. Researchers suspect that the highest concentration of colostrum contained in milk at birth supplies the newborn with the majority of its immune defense properties her body requires. As the infant ages, the child’s immune system develops, the gut heals and colostrum concentration tapers off. (4)
Protective properties of the immune system rely on colostrum to stimulate healthy immune system most critically in early childhood development but possibly throughout all stages of life as well.
2. Colostrum Develops the Immune System
As previously noted, colostrum is most important to an individual at birth. Before a baby is born, he or she is provided with immune regulating factors such as autoantibodies through the placenta. Numerous types of antibodies are associated with reducing the threat of type-1 diabetes, systemic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Before and during birth, a baby then receives other types of antibodies from mom’s blood serum to stimulate an effective immune response. (5)
A mother’s final gift to her newborn is the gift of her breast milk which contains a different variety of antibodies designed to help the infant grow and develop including the proliferation of stem cells and regulation of gene function (5). A mother’s milk can be seen as the weaning stage of her newborn’s immune system and initiating factor for its own development of a defense system.
3. Colostrum Reduces Inflammation
One specific compound contained in colostrum is lactoferrin. Lactoferrin, as its name may suggests to you, is a protein which is critical in the metabolism of iron. Receptors are found all around the body in organs and cells for lactoferrin to bind. Lactoferrin has been shown to inhibit autoimmune responses which trigger inflammatory conditions such as increased intestinal permeability. (4, 7)
Lactoferrin also plays a role in activating T-cells, antigen response pathways and the ability of enzymes to function. Lactoferrin has been found to scavenge for free radicals and is also a strong antioxidant which aids the body in the detoxification process. Decreased circulating lactoferrin handicaps the autoimmune response and increases the risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases. (7)
Lactoferrin also boosts healthy immune stimulating responses by decreasing the toxic load on the lymphatic system. An effective detoxification agent, lactoferrin contained in colostrum prevents invasive agents found in our everyday environment such as water and food supply from being pushed into lymph nodes (7). As a result, colostrum may decrease the duration of a cold. (6)
4. Colostrum is AntiMicrobial
Human beta-defensin-2 or hBD-2 has been detected in human breast milk. This peptide exhibits antimicrobial activity protecting a child from pathogens and infection. Researchers have found that this peptide may be partly responsible for defending a child from serious and possibly fatal bacterial infections such as: (4)
- Salmonella (Bacteria associated with infection of gut)
- coli (Bacteria most known for meat-related infectious outbreaks)
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Abundantly found in environment which may causes pneumonia and blood infections)
- Acinetobacter baumanii (Common infection in those with weakened immune systems)
Antimicrobial peptides defend the gut and lungs from bacterial invasion by emphasizing the surveillance and detection of pathogens. Some T-cells also exhibit antimicrobial activity. Unfortunately, stress in individuals of all ages deteriorates these beneficial T-cells which attack pathogenic bacterial overgrowth. As a result, the bowels become susceptible to inflammation, infection and an unhealthy autoimmune response in the gut seen in the development of Crohn’s disease. (6)
5. Improves Metabolism
The treatment of colostrum to patients with metabolic syndrome, such as those with type-2 diabetes, has been shown to heal liver damage, regulate fatty acid levels, increase insulin and better regulate a health concern known as postprandial glucose response associated with elevated glucose levels following a meal (6).
6. Fights Cancer
From birth an individual’s body is intrinsically designed to protect itself from these metabolic concerns by building a strong surveillance system known as its immune response. Colostrum therefore supports and protects the body from not only diabetes related concerns but cancerous cell growth as well (5). Research suggests the supplementation of colostrum may benefit systemic health and delay the aging process (3).
Associated with its ability to defend from the invasion of cancer, colostrum increases bioactive compounds which defend against cancer.
Colostrum Stimulates GcMAF
Bovine colostrum stimulates a macrophage-activating factor known as GcMAF derived from a vitamin D-binding protein. GcMAF is critical for the proper functioning of the immune system in the human body. An increase in GcMAF is associated with the repair of damaged tissue from trauma, infectious agents, and the development of cancer including ovarian, bladder and colorectal (2).
Bovine colostrum increases the body’s natural production of GcMAF and may possibly benefit individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome and infection (1). Further testing requires the possibility of colostrum to be used as an immunotherapy agent without adverse side effects.
Bovine (cow based) colostrum can be found in supplemental form and has been used to treat diarrhea from those afflicted by AIDS and ulcerative colitis. Evidence suggests that bovine colostrum contains lactoferrin which can activate cells to produce cytokines and cell proliferation (7).
This response shows that the human gut is responsible at utilizing at least some of the immune boosting components from cow colostrum and can detoxify the lymphoid system. I like to use a pure grass-fed colostrum that is isolated from any impurities. The product I use with clients is called Gut Defense.
I typically have my clients begin with 1 scoop in water or in a shake. It is best to have it on an empty stomach, but it doesn’t taste very good, so you can do it on a protein shake as well. Begin with 1 scoop and if you feel like you tolerate it well (no increase in inflammation) after 3 days on this dosage, you can bump it up to 2 scoops.