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Colostrum
 

Colostrum Introduction

Colostrum is the substance produced by the milk glands of mammals in the weeks before giving birth; and is the substance that newborns eat until actual milk production begins. Colostrum is very high in immune cells (antibodies), protein, and enzymes. All of these nutrients aid a newborn in his/her transition into the world of eating. Colostrum can also contain various amounts of hormones such as insulin and cortisol, which are very useful to the newborn until they begin to produce their own hormones.

Because the newborn will need protection from bacteria and viruses in its new world, the colostrum is packed with antibodies that the mother has been making throughout pregnancy. Once ingested, these antibodies provide protection to the newborn, and gives the immune system time to develop without immediately being put on the defense.

Newborns also need very large amounts of protein, as they will be growing at a very high rate. In fact, human babies double their total body weight in only 6 months. In addition, protein is also a more suitable form of energy for a newborn because it improves their metabolism while not causing dramatic elevations or fluctuations in blood sugar levels. It also takes longer to digest, providing for a more long-term energy source.

Newborns also need enzymes to help them digest the new food they will be getting from their mother. In the womb, a child receives all nutrients from the blood via umbilical cord. Once born, the digestive system is new and lacks the ability to digest proteins, larger sugar molecules, as well as fat. The enzymes from mother help develop their digestive system as well as provide protection to the cells in the digestive tract.

Colostrums supplementation can be used in many of the same ways that newborns use it, and may also yield some of the same benefits to adults. Most of the colostrums that can be purchased for supplementation are from cow (bovine) or sheep sources. It is collected from these animals because they make such a large amount (up to 9 gallons), while humans may only make as much as a quart. Many of the commercially available supplements have also been collected from animals that have been sensitized or exposed to certain pathogens. This allows the product to offer immunity to specific bacteria and viruses, instead of making a broad statement of increased immunity.

Colostrums has been studied and found to be an effective treatment for diarrhea, decreasing risk of infection, protection of the GI tract, and as an aid in exercise and bodybuilding.

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Colostrum Uses

  • Colostrum may improve the overall functioning of the immune system and prevent infection. It has been shown to increase the production of salivary IgA, an antibody secreted in the mouth. Colostrum can decrease the incidence of upper respiratory infections like sore throat and sinusitis via the increase in salivary IgA. [1]
  • Colostrum is an excellent treatment for diarrhea. It has been shown to prevent and treat diarrhea by enterobacteria bacteria, such as E.coli, Clostridium, Klebsiella, and Proteus. Studies have indicated that it may be equally effective against viral diarrhea, especially those caused by rhota virus.
  • Colostrum may also prevent the adhesion of E.coli bacteria to the intestinal cell wall, thereby protecting against the development of diarrhea caused by E.coli, including; OH57 and enteropathogenic E.coli, the most severe forms. [2] It is also effective at reducing the frequency of stools due once diarrhea has occurred. [3]
  • Colostrum is also a welcome treatment for individuals with AIDS or other immodeficiencies, who develop diarrhea due to the opportunistic organism Cryptosporidium. [4] It has been shown to be an effective treatment in reducing the frequency of stools, as well as in fighting the particular infection by increasing anti-body production to combat the given pathogen.
  • Colostrum protects the digestive tract. It has been effective at preventing damage caused by NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).[5] It can protect both the stomach lining and the small intestine.
  • Colostrum has also been shown to decrease permeability of the intestinal wall. [6] The referenced study looked at increased permeability caused by NSAID use. However, there is also the potential to apply this action of colostrum to conditions with increased permeability, such as Leaky Gut Syndrome and food allergies.
  • Colostrum is also a useful addition to an exercise protocol. It has been shown to increase anaerobic power for individuals who are interested in weight lifting. [7] Colostrum has also benefited sprint performance, and was superior when compared to whey protein in trial. [8] Finally, colostrum was shown to improve recovery from high endurance running such as marathons. [9]

Colostrum Dosages

Because the use of colostrum has only developed popularity quite recently, there is not an established dose for specific conditions. Typical doses range from 10 - 60 grams per day. Colostrum is not contained in any food and must be obtain from a nutritional supplement.

Colostrum Toxicities and Deficiencies

There are no known toxicities or side effects caused by the dietary supplementation of colostrum. It has, however, caused mild GI distress, such as increased gas and nausea, in some individuals. [10]

There is also a potential for an allergic reaction in individuals who are hypersensitive to any of the constituents found in colostrum, therefore supplementation is contraindicated in these individuals.

Colostrum has not been studied as a supplement in pregnant or nursing women. If you are pregnant or nursing you should not take this supplement because of the unknown effects it could have on the developing fetus or child.

References

[1] Brinkworth GD, Buckley JD. Concentrated bovine colostrum protein supplementation reduced incidence of self-reported symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in adult males. Eur J Nutr. 2003 Aug; 42(4): 228-232.

[2] Palmeira P et al. Inhibition of enteropathogenic E.coli (EPEC) adherence to Hep-2 cells by bovine colostrum and milk. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr) 2001 Nov-Dec; 29(6): 229-237.

[3] Huppertz HI et al. Bovine colostrum ameliorates diarrhea in infection with diarrheagenic E. coli, shiga-toxin producing E.coli, and E.coli expressing intiman and hemolysin. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1999 Oct; 29(4): 452-456.

[4] Greenberg PD, Cello JP. Treatment of severe diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum with oral bovine colostrum immunoglobulin concentration in patients with AIDS. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1996 Dec 1; 13(4): 348-354.

[5] Playford RJ et al. Bovine colostrum is a health food supplement, which prevents NSAID induced gut damage. Gut 1999 May; 44(5): 653-658.

[6] Playford RJ et al. Co-administration of the health food supplement bovine colostrum reduces the acute NSAID induced increases in intestinal permeability. Clin Sci (Lond) 2001 Jun; 100(6): 627-633.

[7] Buckley JD, Brinkworth GD, Abott MJ. Effect of bovine colostrum on anaerobic exercise performance and insulin like growth factor I. J Sports Sci. 2003 Jul; 21(7): 577-588.

[8] Hofman Z, Smeets R, Verlean G, Lugt R, Verstappen PA. The effect of bovine colostrum supplementation on exercise performance in elite field hockey players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2002 Dec; 12(4): 461-469.

[9] Brinkworth GD, Whyte PB. Bovine colostrum supplementation during enderance running training improves recovery but not performance. J Sci Med Sport 2002 Jun; 5(2): 65-79.

[10] Kelly G. Bovine colostrum. Altern Med Rev. 2003; 8(4): 376-394.