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Forum for discussion and support on Colostrum

Colostrum (also known as beestings or first milk) is a form of milk produced by the mammary glands in late pregnancy and the few days after giving birth.

Human and bovine colostrum is thick and yellowish. In humans, it has high concentrations of nutrients and immunities, but it is small in quantity.

Colostrum is high in carbohydrates, protein and antibodies, and low in fat, which human newborns may find difficult to digest. Newborns have very small digestive systems, and colostrum delivers its nutrients in a very concentrated low-volume form. It has a mild laxative effect, encouraging the passing of the baby's first stool, which is called meconium. This clears excess bilirubin, a waste product of dead red blood cells which is produced in large quantities at birth due to blood volume reduction, from the infant's body and helps prevent jaundice.

Colostrum contains large numbers of antibodies called "secretory immunoglobulin" (IgA) that help protect the mucous membranes in the throat, lungs, and intestines of the infant. Leukocytes are also present in large numbers; these begin protecting the infant from harmful viruses and bacteria. Ingesting colustrum establishes beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

Premature babies tend to fare better on human colostrum than manufactured baby milks. Human milk contains special components, called growth modulators, that help the premature baby's digestive system adjust to oral feedings (Davies 1989). Research (Schlanler 1999b; Gross and Slagle 1993; Lucas 1987; Lucas 1984) indicate that premature babies fed formula tend to vomit more and continue tube feeding longer than those fed human colostrum and breast milk.

Bovine colostrum is sometimes used by humans as a dietary supplement. It has been attributed with curative powers and used as an ingredient in food dishes for the ill or invalid (Davidson, 1999). Purified bovine colostrum extract is also sometimes used in protein supplements used by athletes and bodybuilders.

Health benefits of colostrum

Improved digestive efficiency It’s safe to say that our health and well-being are directly related to the foods we eat. However if we’re eating the right foods and not absorbing the nutrients from them then the whole process is a bit pointless. This is what can happen with gut disorders like diarrhoea and food poisoning. A study (1) has proved that natural foods from animals can indeed heal the harm caused by these kinds of bacteria and viruses. The research confirmed that the immune factor lactoferrin in colostrum is one of the best ways to reduce viral levels in the body and to inhibit infection of certain body cells. Lactoperoxidase and lysozyme, found in colostrum can also inhibit the growth and promote destruction of harmful organisms. Colostrum’s properties have shown to be effective against a host of gut problems like candida albicans (2, 3) and diarrhoea (4). “Consuming 40 grams of colostrum powder per day for 21 days completely reduced the diarrhoea," says Dr Greenberg – one of the studies authors. Professor Ray Playford, the U.K’s leading clinical gastro-entomologist and deputy warden at the Queen Mary’s School of Medicine says, “It’s clear that colostrum could offer patients a greater choice in treating a wide range of unpleasant, and sometimes life threatening gut problems. It is a natural food product that I thought was worth looking at and it is an exciting discovery.”

Stronger gut walls Years of antibiotic use combined with additive-filled diets can weaken the defences in your digestive system and allow pathogens to enter the body and cause disease. This condition which precedes these conditions is known as leaky gut syndrome. It’s a very common health disorder in which the intestinal lining is more permeable than normal. Studies (5) have found that large spaces between the cells of the gut wall let viruses, bacteria, fungi and other toxic material into the bloodstream. A separate report (6) found even more serious incidences where a leaky gut can trigger allergies, leading to auto-immune diseases, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, alopecia areata, thyroiditis, vasculitis, colitis and diabetes. These toxins place stress on the liver and one of its main jobs is to help keep the bowel clean for better nutrient absorption. When the bowel becomes overloaded with toxins the liver also becomes unnecessarily burdened. This decreases the liver's ability to work efficiently, which then causes further disruption to the homeostasis of the body. We can however get antibodies from foods which can help protect us from these types of conditions. It was discovered (7) that our body fends these afflictions off with the help of IgA (immunoglobulins) antibodies. Colostrum is rich in these antibodies (8) and inflammation components (9) that help seal off the gut wall. This can be used to treat these problems with a huge degree of success which is making even the stern fast medical community stand up and take notice. “Bovine colostrum is a very appealing natural based product,” says Professor Ray Playford. “There is extensive evidence of its biological activity in a laboratory setting and increasing data from individuals and clinical trails of its value for a wide range of gastrointestinal and other problems,” says Playford. Anna Kolstad,of the Kolstad Clinic at the Integrated Medical Centre in London which specialises in colonics and digestive diseases says, “Majority of the patients that we treat in the clinic are suffering from some level of digestive disbyosis and compromised immune system.” “Colostrum has played an integral part in our treatment programmes over the last 3 years and it has proved invaluable due to its ability to heal the gut wall and thus assist, with a very high success rate, in the treatment and recovery from conditions such as IBS, leaky gut and chronic fatigue.”

Increased nutrient uptake

When a person is ill it’s obvious they need a greater amount of high quality nutrients to maintain energy levels to fight the illness and maintain their body weight. As mentioned in the section on greater lean muscle mass, colostrum helps the gut to become healthier so it’s primed to absorb nutrients from food. This could have a host of benefits for people struggling to get their weight up because of sickness or age. The mechanisms behind these benefits are down to microvilli in your gut which are finger-like projections responsible for nutrient absorption. They are easily damaged by infections or prescription drugs. The repair factors in colostrum were found to aid in the recovery of damaged microvilli in the gut (10). Colostrum is also rich in carnitine, which is important for long chain fatty acid metabolism within the mitochondria and epithelial growth factor which has a potent effect on the gut to enhance nutrient absorption. “When treating any patient the first point of call is to ensure that the digestive system regains its ability to absorb nutrients effectively,” says Kolstad. “Colostrum has been proved to aid in the recovery of the microvili brushborder in the small intestine, responsible for the majority of nutrient absorption, and owing to this has become a natural starting point for any treatment programme. Of huge interest are the results we are seeing in treating patients with severely compromised digestive tracts and in inflammatory bowel disease by administrating Colostrum via enema route.”

Support immunity and fight infection

The immune benefits reported in studies (11, 12) apply to people with lowered immune systems, caused by stress, illness or therapy, colostrum can help meet the challenge of opportunistic infections. This is because the antibodies in colostrum recognise and attack bacteria, viruses and yeasts. When challenged by an infection, we may take antibiotics, which fight infections but studies (13) have shown this can also kill beneficial bacteria that aid in the digestion of food and suppress yeasts. In some cases, one can avoid treatments with such serious side-effects by using colostrum which provides natural antibodies against bacteria, viruses and yeasts. Components found in colostrum can train and refresh the immune system to produce antibodies against infection proved in study (14). This is a form of safe, passive vaccination, intended by nature to initialise the immune system of the calf. This is nothing new, mainstream medical practitioners recommended colostrum as a natural cure before the discovery of penicillin and sulphur drugs. As far back as the 1950s, colostrum was used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Albert Sabin, who developed the polio vaccine, found cow’s colostrum contained antibodies against human polio and recommended it as a supplement. ”Colostrum is the specific first diet of a supplement rich in immunoglobulins peptides and growth factors,” says Professor Ray Playford “Studies have shown extremely positive results suggesting that colostral supplementation is thought to be useful for the treatment of gastro-intestinal conditions, non-steriodal-anti – inflammatories drug induced gut injury.” One the studies he is currently undertaking at the Queen Mary’s hospital is to test its effects on IBS sufferers. Gwynne Murkin an IBS suffer for 2 years (43) had this to say about colostrum: “My health since taking Neovite colostrum – second month now – has seems to have improved. In fact my stomach is performing a lot better, my IBS has hardly troubled me at all, I have not had the usual colds and sore throat, touchwood. So things seem to be looking-up. I hope it carries on like this.”

Improved recovery from auto-immune illness

As the body goes through physiological changes with age the ability to resist disease declines and these changes affect the organs, muscles, skin, and bones. These processes can be slowed with colostrum because it has immunoglobulin which neutralises toxins and pathogens in the gut study (15). It’s been shown to have a host of benefits not just limited to gut health. “Immunoglobulin in colostrum has been used to successfully treat: Thrombocytopenia, Anemia, Neutropenia, Myasthenia Gravis, Guillain Barre Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Systemic Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Bulluos Pamphigoid, Kawasaki’s Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, among others,” states Dr Dwyer in the New England Journal of Medicine (16). Inflammation is of course part of the immune response and its regulation and duration are important. When the inflammation is overactive or under active, then illness will occur. Colostrum contains components, such as cytokines, which are known to be responsible for regulating this inflammatory response, and has potential as an anti-inflammatory aid. Proline-Rich-Polypeptide (PRP) in colostrum can work as a regulatory substance of the thymus gland. It has been demonstrated to improve or eliminate symptoms of both allergies and auto-immune diseases (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and myasthenia gravis). PRP inhibits the overproduction of lymphocytes and T-cells and reduces the major symptoms of allergies and autoimmune disease. Transforming growth factor-b (TGF-b) plays an important role in immune system regulation, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Dairy TGF-b1 and TGF-b2 are identical to the human forms and interact with specific gut cell surface receptors. They stimulate the production of a number of immunoglobulins including IgA and IgG. “Bovine Colostrum contains TgF-B which has an important suppressive effect on cytoxic substances (anti-inflammatory),” says Drs. Tokuyama of the Cancer Research Institute in Kanazawa University of Japan. “It inhibits cell growth of human Osteosarcoma (cancer) cells (75% inhibition) has been found to be a mediator of fibrosis and angiogenesis (healing of heart muscle and blood vessels), accelerates wound healing and bone formation,” says Tokuyama. These types of diseases have been somewhat of a mystery to some healthcare professionals and most treatments simply provide a minor relief of pain and other symptoms. The real issue lies in the discovery of how to stimulate or suppress the immune response. Colostrum's suppressive action can help prevent this type of activity involved in autoimmune diseases. "Colostrum contains a special PRP that serves as a powerful regulator of the immune system,” says Drs Staroscik PRP has the same ability to regulate activity of the immune system as do the hormones of the thymus gland. It activates an under active immune system, helping it move into action against disease-causing organisms", reports Drs Staroscik.

Colostrum and exercise

Recent information on colostrum has struck a cord with the athletes who are always looking to maintaining a fully functional body that’s free from illness to perform at their peak. They have to pay special attention to their recovery needs due to the huge stress, created by exercise, their bodies are placed under. U.K triathlon coach of year (2004) Joe Beer has been recommending colostrum protein, for the past 2 years, to his athletes because of his personal research which found the following effects. It improved blood buffering capacity in female rowers by 21% over nine weeks. It improved 5x10metre sprint performance by 93% in a mixed hockey group over eight weeks. It improved treadmill running in second of 2x30min bouts by 2.3 fold over eight weeks. “In athletes preventing infections and illnesses is of paramount importance because it promotes more consistent, high-quality training and lowers the risk of missed competitions,” says Beer.

The potential detriments of exercise

Endurance athletes are more prone to infections of the upper respiratory tract because they have lower levels of immunoglobulin in their saliva. Your front line of defence in the war against infection is in your saliva. It has powerful antibacterial agents, called Salivary Iga which stop certain infections before they can do damage. But if they are weakened because your body’s efforts are devoted to repairing the damaged muscles, from training, then these bugs will reach your lungs and that’s where the sniffles begin. An Australian study (17) of endurance swimmers found that their Salivary Iga levels dropped significantly after long bouts of exercise. This was mirrored by a further study (18) which found that one in seven runners came down with an upper respiratory infection after taking part in a marathon. Further problems endurance athletes are faced with are IBS or ‘Runner’s Trots’ made famous by Paula Radcliff. It’s not yet exactly known why they’re caused but it’s commonly thought to be one of the following reasons. The up and down motion of running can stir the bowels. The flow of blood to the intestines is diverted to your legs and which may 'trigger' the cramping and/or diarrhoea. Irritable bowel disease may be brought to light by the additional stress of the exercise. Dehydration on long training runs may also cause diarrhoea. When training for long periods of time endurance athletes have a lot to deal with but are finding colostrum is the answer to these problems.

The performance results of colostrum
Better athletes

A host of endurance athletes have currently been going from strength to strength in their training because they can train for extended periods without being interrupted by illnesses. A study (11) on distance runners, taking colostrum, found that their levels of Salivary Iga, your front line of defence, increased by 79% This isn’t an isolated case. “Colostrum increases these antibodies, which are suppressed in mouth and throat – and that can fight against illness,” says Dr Buckley the physiologist who led further research (12) into the supplement. But the improved performance is not just down to the fact that athletes have remained healthy. It’s proved to be a catalyst for better performance in sportsmen and women who were already healthy. Bovine colostrum supplementation in elite hockey players resulted in significant improvements in sprint performance and vertical jumps (19). Another study (20) found that elite cyclists taking colostrum had an overall 2.2% increase in performance. At such a high level that’s the difference between hoisting a bronze and a gold medal making or breaking a career. Dr Iain Chalmers a keen cyclist and GP in Grimsby (43): “Getting well down second bag of colostrum and may have solved the problem of my guts with this product. I can train longer and more frequently doing distances/volumes I never thought possible.” But these findings are not reserved solely to endurance athletes. Matt Lovell, Elite Sports Nutritionist and advisor to teams and players in Premiership and Olympians had this to say about the magic powder “Colostrum is valuable support to your nutrition during periods of intense training. It offers background immune support and is a great benefit to digestive health and wellness. I use colostrum supplementation as part of a program for both athletes and the general public.”

Greater recovery from effort

Training and exercise stimulates growth and improves performance but only full recovery permits that growth to actually occur. A study (21) on the Finnish Olympic Ski Team had the athletes do heavy exercise and their levels of their blood creatine-kinase (a common marker for muscle damage) were monitored. Compared to the placebo group, the athletes who consumed colostrum showed half the blood creatine-kinase levels four days after the heavy exercise. They were less fatigued and their performance improved in the long run. “Athlete taking colostrum recover much quicker than those taking a placebo and we found they could train longer and harder because they recovered faster,” says Dr Buckley. Cyclist Russell Williams, World Masters Champion, won the U.K Derny track title (30km, motor paced) at the age of 41 against competitors half his age after taking colostrum for the past 3 months. He had the following to say: “I haven’t missed a single days training in the last 3 months unlike previous months where I’ve suffered from recurring respiratory infections. There’s no doubt that colostrum has helped make me a champion.” Toby Jefferson a keen triathlete says, “I felt very little muscle soreness or aching in the days following training. I would normally have expected some soreness in the first few days of returning to any training, particularly when starting each new discipline again, but overall I experienced noticeably very little pain.”

Greater lean muscle mass

Ask any sportsman to draft a performance wish list and chances are the top of that list will be a desire for more muscle. It makes athletes faster, stronger and entirely superior to their opponent in every discipline. The easily absorbed protein found colostrum makes the acquisition of more muscle child’s play. Studies (22) have proved that a daily supplementation of colostrum can increase strength and stamina by 20%. Why? Colostrum is used as a treatment for IBS because it promotes a healthy digestive system which helps athletes absorb nutrients from food better and as a result builds greater lean muscle mass and lowers body fat. Colostrum’s glycogenic not only helps your body burn calories more efficiently it is vital for muscle growth and tissue repair. It also makes you release growth hormones and like steroids, the proteins in colostrum are anabolic, which means it sends growth signals to your muscles. But unlike steroids, colostrum does not upset the natural balance of your hormones, which leads to side effects. It’s certified by top WADA approved HFL Laboratory as being drug free and suitable for players at the elite level. Dr Louise Burke, the head of nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, describes colostrum as “a hottest supplement in the athletics world at the moment.” Toby Jefferson a keen triathlete mirrors this by saying, “During the period of using colostrum I put on some weight. This in itself may seem unsurprising, but I have always been one of those people who remains at the same weight, regardless of diet, or fitness regime and even on previous occasions (such as prior to endurance events) have tried hard to put on weight and failed!”

Faster repair of damage

Colostrum contains natural antibodies for immune boost, immuno-modulatory components that act as anti-inflammatory agents and factors which aid in growth and strength. Studies (23) found colostrum contains anti-inflammatory agents so strong that it’s been prescribed as natural remedy for people with debilitating diseases that affect joints and cartilage like arthritis. When trying to bulk up these anti-inflammatory agents help athletes train as heavy as they can for as long as they want because their immune system stays strong and can deal with the stresses of exercise. If an injury does occur then the repair factors meant to protect the calf help rebuild your muscle, bone and cartilage. Ireland international rugby union player Johnny O’ Connor had this to say about the colostrum, "Top level rugby demands so much from your body that most of my in-season weeks were spent recovering from the previous Saturday, there is precious little time to manage constructive training or to gear up for the next game. Colostrum has boosted my recovery systems and helps my digestive system to cope with the volume of fuel I need to perform at my best."

How these benefits transfer to non-athletes

Athletes will always be on the cutting edge of performance and health supplements because they stand to make more money if they are in optimum condition. The benefits gained by them serve as quantifiable markers for the benefits the human body can obtain from colostrum. These however are not limited to those who exercise and the average Joe can improve his health in the following ways with colostrum.

The future of colostrum

All the research and anecdotal reports on benefits of colostrum may be new but the use of the substance is far from cutting edge. Precedents have been set for its use all around the world across a myriad of cultures. British dairy farmers have given the surplus first milk to their families for hundreds of years. Ayurvedic physicians in India have used colostrum for countless generations. It is highly valued by the Maasai herdsmen in Kenya, and its use is widespread in Finland and Scandinavia. Mainstream medical practitioners used to recommended colostrum as a natural cure before the discovery of penicillin and sulfa drugs. The problem is the inability to patent a natural product so there’s no money to be made from it by big drug companies leaving its benefits lost to mainstream medicine. But holistic based clinics are slowly beginning to realize what an asset it is to people’s immune and digestive system and health in general. With these wide spread benefits being attained by normal people from dosages of as little as one tablespoon per day it won’t remain a niche product for athletes for long.

References 1. Harmsen, M. C.; Swart, P. J.; Bethune, M.; Pauwels, R.; De Clercq, E.; et al. “Antiviral Effects of Plasma and Milk Proteins: Lactoferrin Shows Potent Activity against Both Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Human Cytomegalovirus Replication In Vitro,” Journal of Infectious Diseases. 172:380-8, 1995

2. Biggar, W.D., Park, B.H., Dupont, B. and Good, R.A. “Variability in immunologic reconstitution following bone marrow transplantation”. Clin. Immunol. Immunopathol. 2:501-509, 1974.

3. Hsia, C.C., Sun, T.T., Wang, Y.Y., Anderson, L.M., Armstrong, D. and Good, R.A.: “Enhancement of formation of the esophageal carcinogen benzylnitrosamine from its precursors by Candida albicans”. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 78:1878-1881, March, 1981

4. Greenberg PD, Cello JP. “Treatment of severe diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum with oral bovine immunoglobulin concentrate in patients with AIDS.” J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 1996 Dec 1;13(4):348-54

5. Galland, L. “Leaky Gut Syndrome: Breaking the Vicious Cycle,” Townsend Letter for Doctors. 145(6):63-68, 1995.>

6. Rooney, P. L.; et al. “A Short Review of the Relationship Between Intestinal Permeability and Inflammatory Joint Disease” ,Clin Exp Rheumatol. 8(1):75-83, 1990.

7. Deitch, E. A. “The Role of Intestinal Barrier Failure and Bacterial Translocation in the Development of Systemic Infection and Multiple Organ Failure,” Arch Surgery. 125:403-404, 1990.

8. Antti Mero, Jonne Kahkonen, Tarja Nykanen, Tapani Parviainen, Ilmari Jokinen, Timo Takala1, Tuomo Nikula, Simo Rasi, and Juhani Leppaluoto; IGF-l, IgA and IgG responses to bovine colostrum supplementation during training;” J Appl Physiol, March 15, 2002, Link below

9. Heinerman, John. Dr. Heinerman “Encyclopedia of Anti-Aging Remedies.” Paramus: Prentice Hall, 1997; pp.85-86

10. Playford R.J., Macdonald C.E., Johnson W.S. “Colostrum and milk-derived peptide growth factors for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. “ Am J Clin Nutr, Vol 72, No. 1, 5-14. July 2000

11. Christine V. Crooks, Clare R. Wall, Martin L. Cross*, Kay J. Rutherfurd-Markwick. “The Effect of Bovine Colostrum Supplementation on Salivary IgA in Distance Runners.” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Feb;16(1):47-64.

12. Buckley, “Effect of bovine colostrum on anaerobic exercise performance and plasma insulin-like growth factor” Journal of Sports sciences, Publisher Taylor & Francis, Volume 21, Number 7 / July 2003, pages 577 – 588

13. Steinke D, Emslie-Smith A, Boyle P, Young HK, Macfarlane G, Davey P. “A population study of first exposure to community antibacterials in children and the suitability of routine urine samples for study of the acquisition of drug resistance.” J Antimicrob Chemother. 2002 Dec;50(6):1085-8.

14. He, Fang, Tuomola, Elina, Arvilommi, Heikki & Salminen, Seppo FEMS “Modulation of human humoral immune response through orally administered bovine colostrum.” Immunology and Medical Microbiology, Volume 31 Page 93 August 2001, Volume 31 Issue 2

15. CP Kelly, C Pothoulakis, F Vavva, I Castagliuolo, EF Bostwick, JC O'Keane, S Keates and JT LaMont. “Anti-Clostridium difficile bovine immunoglobulin concentrate inhibits cytotoxicity and enterotoxicity of C. difficile toxins.” Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 02 1996, 373-379, Vol 40, No. 2

16. JM Dwyer, “Manipulating the immune system with immune globulin” New England Journal of Medicine Volume 326:107-116 January 9, 1992 Number 2 . Division of Medicine, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW, Australia

17. Gleeson, Maree; McDonald, Warren A.; Pyne, David B.; Cripps, Allan W.; Francis, J. Lynn; Fricker, Peter A.; Clancy, Robert L. “Salivary IgA Levels and Infection Risk in Elite Swimmers”, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol 31 (1), pp67-73, 1999

18. Nieman, D.C. “Does exercise alter immune function and respiratory infections?” Research Digest, (President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports)(2001) Series 3, No. 13

19. Hfman, Z , et al, “The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on exercise performance in elite field hockey players,” Int. J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2002, 12 (4):461 – 9.

20. Cecilia M Shing , David G Jenkins , Lesley Stevenson and Jeff S Coombes, “The Influence of Bovine Colostrum Supplementation on Exercise Performance in Highly-Trained Cyclists.” , Br J Sports Med. 2006 Jul 6 {Electronic pub ahead of print]

21. Burke.E.; “Colostrum as an athletic enhancer and help for AIDS.” Nutrition Science News, May (1996); pp.30-32.

22. Brinkworth, GD., Buckley, JD. Slavotinek and Kurmis A. “Effect of bovine colostrum supplementation on the composition of resistance trained and untrained limbs in healthy young men.” European Journal of Applied Physiology, 91:53-60, 2004.

23. Jerzy Leszek1 a, Anna D. Inglot , Maria Janusz, Franciszek Byczkiewicz, Andrzej Kiejna1 f, Jerzy Georgiades, Józef Lisowski. “Colostrinin proline-rich polypeptide complex from bovine colostrum – a long-term study of its efficacyin Alzheimer’s disease.” Med Sci Monit, 2002; 8(10): PI93-96

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