Bovine colostrum, the milky fluid expressed by dairy cows in the first few days after giving birth, is a nutrient-rich substance that is packed with proteins, carbohydrates, and fats along with a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, immune-modulating components, and growth factors. Overall, these substances work synergistically to improve gut and immune health. Colostrum may also help to support gut health by feeding the beneficial gut bacteria and thus, crowding out the non-beneficial bacteria.
To learn more, we asked several experts in the health and medical field why they might recommend colostrum.
Immune Health Potential
There was a resounding agreement that colostrum should be recommended for its potential to support the immune system thanks to its rich combination of enzymes, bioactives, and growth factors.
Caleb Backe, the Health and Wellness Expert at Maple Holistics, noted the high amount of lactoferrin in colostrum. “Lactoferrin, the protein found in colostrum, helps to boost immunity and balance our T-cells,” Backe says, “This can regulate our bodies’ defenses.”
According to Dr. Inna Lukyanovsky, a Doctor of Pharmacy, gut health expert, and functional medicine practitioner at Real Health Solutions, colostrum contains other growth and immune factors, including IGF-1, immunoglobulins, and amino acids, all of which work to support a healthy immune system.
Dr. Heidi Iratcabal, a certified functional medicine practitioner and founding partner of the Carpathia Collaborative, identifies the proline-rich peptides in colostrum. These are cell signalers that essentially instruct the immune system to turn on and determine which cytokines to produce. “They activate our thymus to make T cells, which then activates TH1 or TH2 immune responses,” Dr. Iratcabal says of proline-rich peptides, “Our body is constantly taking the information (food, exercise, stress, fun, allergies, etc.) and signaling a TH1 or TH2 response.”
Dr. Iratcabal compares this response to a seesaw. An immune response that is too dominant on either side will result in imbalance. “Colostrum helps bring that back into balance. Colostrum acts as a reboot to the immune system, which is why it is called an immune modulator.”
Supporting Gut Health
Along with its potential to modulate the immune system, bovine colostrum is often recommended to support gut health and promote proper digestion. According to registered dietitian Lauren Manaker from Nutrition Now Counseling, part of this comes from colostrum’s potential to support your probiotic health. Probiotics refer to the beneficial bacteria that exist in your gut. This complex community of bacteria helps digest food and absorb nutrients and contributes to nearly all facets of your general health and wellbeing.
Manaker says, “Colostrum provides a probiotic called human milk oligosaccharide. This probiotic supports the growth of certain other probiotics and therefore supports a healthy gut.”
According to Dr. Iratcabal, bovine colostrum’s gut healing abilities come in part from its immunoglobulin content. Immunoglobulins are a type of protein in the immune system. Colostrum contains immunoglobulins A, D, E, G, and M. Dr. Iratcabal goes on to say, “So much of this immune modulation happens in the gastrointestinal tract, so colostrum is very effective in supporting the digestive tract.”
Support Healthy Skin
While colostrum is often used in supplement form, it may also be applied topically according to Allison Tray of Tres Belle Spa. “At Tres Belle Spa, we apply and suggest colostrum serum to clients with very dry skin to keep skin soft during the change of the seasons. Colostrum stimulates the skin’s own healing mechanisms.”