Colostrum is the first milk produced by humans and other mammals to nourish their newborn offspring. It is rich in important immunity and growth factors and essential nutrients to provide the optimum life-enhancing boost for the infant.
Historically bovine colostrum has been used medicinally by humans for thousands of years. In India, Scandinavia and elsewhere it was favoured for its antibiotic and immune enhancing properties. A nutrient-dense source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and other factors, this substance has been the subject of much research, revealing an extensive list of health benefits for children and adults.
What are the known health benefits of colostrum?
Colostrum’s primary role is immune supportive, with anti-microbial, anti-parasitic actions combined with a balancing action on the intestinal micro-flora.
It also improves absorption of nutrients at cellular level which increases function throughout the body. Cognition increases and mood swings reduce. Blood sugar levels normalise and fat metabolism is accelerated. Lean muscle is preserved and maintenance and healing of various tissues including muscle, bone, collagen, cartilage and nerves increases with colostrum. This contributes to reducing aging processes, maintaining a healthy weight, retaining skin tone and speeding up wound healing.
Other specific benefits indicated by research are improved athletic performance, better resistance to upper respiratory tract infections and repair of intestinal damage caused by NSAID-type anti inflammatory drugs.
A 2007 study found colostrum supplementation at least 3 times more effective at flu prevention than the flu vaccination that is so heavily promoted by the medical system.
Alzheimer’s patients taking a supplement of colostrum-derived proline-rich polypeptide (PRP) experienced stabilised or improved health status, indicating an area for further research in managing this degenerative disease.
Sources of colostrum
Because our only source of human colostrum is lactating mothers, supplements are necessarily derived from animal sources. Bovine (cow) colostrum contains all the immune and growth factors found in human colostrum, in much higher amounts, making it a readily available option for supplement manufacture.
New Zealand dairy farmers’ consortium Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy product exporter, is the producer of all New Zealand bovine colostrum. The health supplement marketplace recognises New Zealand colostrum as the world’s premium colostrum. Several favourable conditions combine to give our country the advantage in colostrum production. New Zealand cows are pasture fed year round in climate conditions that challenge them to develop their natural immunity to a variety of microorganisms. The short annual calving period facilitates bulk production and chilled transportation of the colostrum collected from the first four milkings. The colostrum produced for human consumption is collected from only non-immunised Fonterra herds, and is pasteurised.
Testing shows the colostrum from these herds is free of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, however there is no certified organic New Zealand bovine colostrum available on the market.
Do the calves miss out on their colostrum?
The calf gets the first milking from the cow, as the colostrum produced in the first 6 hours provides the factors most important to the health of the newborn calf. Maintaining a healthy herd depends on maximising the health of new calves, so it is vitally important that this happens. Bovine colostrum is so nutrient rich the valuable health factors needed to meet human requirements still remain in later milkings.
Why take a colostrum supplement?
There is no deficiency risk with colostrum, as it is not part of the usual human diet beyond the first few days of life. Bovine colostrum is used as a supplement to improve wellbeing, address specific health issues, or as a performance enhancer by athletes and body builders.
Learn more about the range of quality Colostrum supplements.
What is the recommended daily dosage?
Colostrum supplements are commonly available in 400 – 500 mg capsules, and manufacturers recommendations vary hugely ranging from 1 to 6 gm per day depending on the health issue needing to be addressed. 2 gm per day is considered a high dose by some, although when using colostrum to improve athletic performance very large doses of 10 – 20 gm per day are sometimes recommended by manufacturers. On the other hand, results achieved in a variety of conditions have shown that supplementing as little as 125 mg high quality colostrum per day is enough to achieve beneficial results.
Gradually reducing a high dosage until you find the optimal effective dose for improving general immune and digestive function for your body is a good way to get the most benefit from your colostrum supplement. Effective dosages will vary according to individual requirements.
Are there any contraindications or adverse effects reported?
Colostrum is considered a safe supplement when taken as directed, with no adverse effects. As with any form of supplementation, long term use is not recommended without professional guidance, although no toxicity has been found to occur in either large doses or long term use.
Bovine colostrum supplementation is not recommended for mothers during pregnancy and breastfeeding because there is not yet enough research on possible adverse effects, and there is the added safety factor of potential environmental contaminants from non-organic farming methods.
For babies who are not breastfed and miss out on first milk from the mother, adding one drop per day of high quality liquid bovine colostrum to their bottle will boost their immune system and provide the growth factors they need.
For lactose intolerant people, some tolerance is usual before a reaction occurs. High quality bovine colostrum contains less lactose than an inferior quality one. The lowest levels are in the colostrum collected soonest after birth, with levels doubling after 24 hours. In highest quality colostrum up to 700 mg per dose can be safely taken by lactose intolerant individuals. For lower quality supplements only half this maximum dose is advisable.
By Carolyn Simon
Cesarone MR, et al ‘Prevention of Influenza Episodes with Colostrum Compared with Vaccination in Healthy and High-Risk Cardiovascular Subjects: The Epidemiologic Study in San Valentino’, Clinical and Applied Thrombosis / Hemostasis, April 2007; 13(2):130 – 136
http://www.biolifenz.com/Colostrum+Info/Frequently+asked+questions/How+to+choose+colostrum.html – NZ production advantages
http://www.zhion.com/Supplements/Colostrum.html – Health benefits
http://www.globinmed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=77648:Colostrum&catid=426:c – More references
http://tuberose.com/Colostrum%20%26%20Lactoferrin.html – Infant dose, lactose intolerance