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Colostrum & Gastrointestinal Health

by Douglas Wyatt

The newborn gut is unique in that it has not completed maturation at the time of birth and needs the growth factors and other components of colostrum to complete its development.  The incomplete development of the gut is of benefit to the newborn as it allows large proteins, such as immunoglobulins, to easily enter the body.

However, this is not a condition that is good for adults or older children.  Unfortunately, most people have a leaky gut to some degree due to the negative effects of drinking coffee, alcohol or soft drinks, smoking and other causes.  Leaky gut syndrome, as it is called, allows pathogens of all varieties easy access into the body.  It is estimated that the majority of all human illness has its source in the gut.

Colostrum, just as it does in the newborn, helps heal this leaky gut and restore the gastrointestinal tract to optimal functioning while shutting out pathogens.  It also helps heal and restore injuries to the gastrointestinal lining.  Colostrum inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, such as Helicobacter pylori, the principal cause of gastric and duodenal ulcers, and promotes the growth of healthy gut flora.  Those who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for arthritis and other painful conditions also suffer damage to the lining of the GI tract, and colostrum has been shown to heal this damage as well.

Colostrum has been called a “biologic soup” due to the vast number of ingredients that have been added by nature to provide the newborn with just the right balance of nutrients, growth factors, immunoglobulins and other substances that it needs to survive and grow.  Part of the development of the newborn intestinal tract that needs to occur is to reduce the permeability of the intestinal lining.  Human beings above the age of infancy also experience increased permeability of the intestinal lining from the effects of inflammation and decreased mucous production due to a number of causes, including drinking coffee, alcohol or soft drinks, smoking, improper diet, and so forth.  This leads to leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which substances, such as pathogenic microbes and toxins, that are normally prevented from entering the body through the intestinal lining can now enter, often leading to illness.  Food allergies may be developed as larger particles of food can enter the bloodstream, which the body then detects as foreign.  The inflammation that is present interferes with nutrient absorption.  Nutrient deficiencies can occur, and chemical sensitivities can develop due to the disruption of the detox pathways that line the gut.  Systemic symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, memory loss, poor concentration, or irritability develop.  Antibodies made in the gut can travel through the gut into the bloodstream where antibodies are made against them.  This may be one of the causes of autoimmune diseases[i].

Over time this condition can lead to a more serious condition, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  This condition often develops when antibiotics are given.  Antibiotics wipe out the normal gut flora that help protect the gut from fungal and amebic infections, help the body break down complex foods, and synthesize vitamins like B12 and biotin.  With the normal flora gone, the gut becomes inflamed and leaky gut develops.  Candida overgrowth often occurs leading to candidiasis.  Other consequences of IBS include chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disease, even cancer.

The use of NSAIDs over a prolonged period of time has a similar effect.  NSAIDs produce damage to the gut lining every time they are used, and over time, they prevent the lining from repairing itself, so the damage gets worse.

There are no effective medical treatments that are successful in treating IBS or leaky gut.  They may alleviate the symptoms somewhat, but a cure is never achieved.  Natural remedies have proven much more effective in helping the gut heal itself, and preeminent among these is colostrum.

Colostrum, the first milk a newborn infant receives, is packed with everything needed to heal leaky gut.  It is the only natural remedy that has been proven to eradicate intestinal pathogens such as rotavirus and help control the chronic infections of IBS while promoting the growth healthy intestinal flora[ii],[iii].  Growth factors in colostrum help heal the damage to the intestinal lining.  It also contains anti-inflammatory to cool the fires of inflammation that keep the whole process going.  And it is nutrient rich to help recover from nutrient deficiencies more quickly[iv].

Scientific studies have proven that colostrum helps heal the increased permeability of leaky gut[v] and is anti-inflammatory[vi],[vii].  Other studies have confirmed that colostrum heals damaged intestinal lining[viii].  It also is bactericidal to H. pylori, the leading cause of ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract[ix].  And finally, colostrum has been clinically shown to heal the damage caused by NSAIDs in the intestinal tract[x],[xi].

One very important factor to consider when choosing a colostrum to use is the presence or absence of an enteric coating on the colostrum.  While the proteins in colostrum are designed to withstand digestive enzymes and acids, there is a certain degree of loss as the colostrum passes through the stomach and into the intestinal tract.  With enteric coating, more of the colostrum ingredients get to where they’re needed.  Make sure that your colostrum has an enteric coating.

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is intended to provide education about topics of general interest in the nutritional and nutraceutical areas. It is not intended as medical advice. CNR, Inc. encourages all readers to discuss questions about information contained in this article with their health care practitioners.



[ii] Carver, JD, Barness, LA.  Trophic factors for the gastrointestinal tract.  Clinical Perinatology 23(2):265-285 (1996).  Factors in colostrum which promote the development of the GI tract in newborn infants also help protect against such diseases as Crohn’s disease, colitis, necrotizing enterocolitis and diarrhea.  PMID: 8780905

[iii] Lonnerdal, B.  Nutritional and physiologic significance of human milk proteins.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 77(6):1537S-1543S (2003).  The proteins found in colostrum can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria in the gut.  PMID: 12812151

[iv] Borody, TJ, et al.  Tunnel vision in the bowel. In: Advanced Therapy of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, TM Bayless, SB Hanauer, eds., London: BC Decker Inc 2001.  Review of irritable bowel syndrome, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, and its etiology, including infective agents such as Shigella and Campylobacter. Infections of the gut are difficult to treat because no antimicrobial therapy is available that is effective against Clostridia spores.  Only bovine colostrum has proven clinical efficacy in eradicating intestinal pathogens, such as rotavirus, and may help control the infections seen in chronic disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome due to the number of biologically active components in colostrum.  The growth factors in colostrum help heal intestinal erosions and ulcerations.  It also contains anti-inflammatory factors and is nutrient rich.  Colostrum may be used alone or in combination with other anti-inflammatory and/or immune substances.  Future research should focus on identifying immune strategies, novel delivery systems and identification of the bioactives in colostrum.

[v] Prosser, C, et al.  Reduction in heat induced gastrointestinal hyperpermeability in rats by bovine colostrum and goat milk powders.  Journal of Applied Physiology 96:650-654 (2004).  Bovine colostrum healed “leaky gut” in an experimental rat model using heat induced gastrointestinal hyperpermeability.  PMID: 14527963

[vi] Goldman, AS, et al.  Anti-inflammatory properties of human milk.  Acta Paediatrica Scandinavica 75(5):689-695 (1986).  The major anti-inflammatory components found in human milk (and bovine colostrum) include anti-proteases, lactoferrin, lysozyme, secretory IgA, and a number of antioxidants, including cysteine, ascorbate, alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene.  PMID: 3551484

[vii] Murphey, DK, Buescher, ES.  Human colostrum has anti-inflammatory activity in a rat subcutaneous air pouch model of inflammation.  Pediatric Research 34(2):208-212 (1993).  In an experimental animal model using subcutaneous air pouches in rats, colostrum showed significant anti-inflammatory activity.  PMID: 8233726

[viii] Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Repair Group, Imperial College, London (2003).  Unpublished research.  In an in vitro experimental study, colostrum stimulated intestinal cell growth and reestablished a healthy epithelial layer following injury.  In an in vivo experimental study, colostrum powder was also shown to reduce gastric injury.

[ix] Korhonen, H, et al.  Bactericidal effect of bovine normal and immune serum, colostrum and milk against Helicobacter pyloriJournal of Applied Bacteriology 78:655-662 (1995).  The antibody-complement system found in bovine colostrum was also found to be bactericidal against H. pyloriPMID: 7615421

[x] Playford, RJ, et al.  Bovine colostrum is a health food supplement which prevents NSAID induced gut damage.  Gut 44:653-658 (1999).  Although non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are very effective in controlling joint pain in arthritis, their use also causes significant, and sometimes fatal, gastrointestinal damage.  Supplementation with colostrum, however, significantly reduced and healed injury caused by NSAIDs.  PMID: 10205201

[xi] Playford, RJ, et al.  Co-administration of the health food supplement, bovine colostrum, reduces the acute non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced increase in intestinal permeability.  Clinical Science 100:627-633 (2001).  Another study by Dr. Playford on the ability of colostrum to prevent damage due to NSAID use.  This study showed that colostrum also prevents an increase in gastrointestinal permeability due to NSAID use, whereas NSAID use alone without colostrum causes an increase in permeability.  PMID: 11352778

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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