You may have heard about them on the news – or perhaps your buddy at the gym has been raving about them nonstop.
Whatever the case may be, it’s safe to say that colostrum supplements are here to stay.
But what is a colostrum supplement, and is it right for you?
In short, a colostrum supplement is a natural health product that’s derived from the milk produced by mammals during the first few days after giving birth. All mammals (including humans) produce colostrum, and it’s a nutrient-dense superfood that contains all kinds of elements that can help newborns thrive.
Believe it or not, colostrum supplements can be beneficial to us even after we’re out of diapers – here’s an overview of what colostrum supplements are to help you decide whether they might be a good fit for you.
What is Colostrum?
As mentioned earlier, colostrum is the first form of milk produced by mammals immediately after giving birth, provided to their newborns during the first few days after birth. It is characteristically different from regular milk and is thick and yellowish in color.
Most importantly, it’s loaded with immune-boosting nutrients. Colostrum is essential for supporting the newborn’s immune system and aiding in the development of body tissues and organs.
Colostrum is packed with an array of essential nutrients, including high levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins (A, B, C, and E), minerals (calcium, magnesium, and zinc), and immunoglobulins. It contains antibodies that are crucial for the development of the newborn’s immune system.
Specifically, it contains IgG, IgA, and IgM antibodies, which are valuable when it comes to protection against various types of viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Colostrum has long been used by humans to treat various types of illnesses, such as diarrhea, respiratory infections, and inflammatory bowel diseases. It’s also been found to boost muscle growth and repair, improve the digestive system, improve cognition, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system.
Though colostrum is technically for infants, adult supplementation with bovine colostrum has become increasingly popular due to its numerous health benefits.
Bovine colostrum has a similar composition to human colostrum and has been found to be an excellent source of immunoglobulins, containing high levels of IgG and IgA. It is this similarity between bovine and human colostrum that has caused colostrum supplements to be more readily available on the market.
Key Components of Colostrum
Colostrum contains an array of key components that ensure the health and survival of newborns (and that may be beneficial to us as adults, too).
Let’s take a closer look.
Of all these components, lactoferrin is perhaps one of the most significant, known for its immune-boosting properties.
According to research, lactoferrin plays a crucial role in warding off infections and illnesses by binding iron, which helps prevent harmful bacteria from thriving in the body. Not only that, but lactoferrin has antimicrobial properties that can protect against a range of pathogens.
Another key component of colostrum is growth factors that promote the growth and development of newborns. These proteins are essential for the proper development of numerous physiological processes, including the immune system, bone growth, and tissue repair.
A study published in Science Direct suggests that colostrum growth factors can contribute to the prevention and treatment of various diseases, including diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Colostrum also contains antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins, that provide passive immunity to newborns.
These antibodies are transferred from the mother to the newborn through colostrum and help protect against diseases until the baby’s immune system develops and becomes more robust. In particular, the immunoglobulin IgG is critical for preventing infections and promoting overall immunity.
Finally, colostrum also contains hormones such as prolactin, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), oxytocin, and cortisone. These hormones are essential for regulating numerous physiological processes and ensuring the proper functioning of the body’s internal systems.
For instance, prolactin stimulates milk production in lactating females, IGF-1 promotes bone and tissue development, oxytocin plays a role in social bonding and maternal behaviors, and cortisone modulates the immune response and stress levels.
Why Do People Take Colostrum Supplements?
Here are some of the reasons why people take colostrum supplements.
Boost Immune System
Colostrum contains high levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG), which is a type of antibody that plays a crucial role in the immune system. IgG helps to fight off infections by identifying and neutralizing harmful pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
Numerous studies have shown that colostrum supplements can boost the immune system and reduce the risk of infections.
Improve Gut Health
Colostrum also contains a variety of growth factors that can help to improve gut health. These growth factors promote the growth and repair of the intestinal lining, which can improve nutrient absorption and reduce inflammation.
Supplements can improve symptoms of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut syndrome.
Reduce Signs of Aging
Colostrum supplements contain high levels of antioxidants, which can help to reduce the signs of aging. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals, which are harmful molecules that can damage cells and tissues.
As we indicated earlier, colostrum supplements may also contain growth factors that can promote the growth of new cells and tissues, which can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Improve the Skin
Colostrum supplements may also help to improve the health of the skin. The growth factors in colostrum can promote the growth and repair of skin cells, which can improve the texture and elasticity of the skin.
Studies have shown that colostrum supplements can help to reduce skin inflammation and improve skin hydration.
When Should I Take Colostrum Supplements?
So, when should you take colostrum supplements? The answer depends on your specific health needs or goals.
Some people take colostrum regularly to support their overall immune system, while others use it to improve digestion, muscle growth, or recovery after exercise. Colostrum supplements are also popular among athletes and bodybuilders for their potential enhanced performance and muscle-building effects.
The recommended dosage for colostrum supplements typically ranges from 10 to 20 grams per day for healthy adults. However, the exact dosage may differ based on individual needs and desired outcomes. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a trusted nutritionist to determine the optimal dosage of colostrum supplements for your specific needs.
Some factors that may impact the appropriate dosage of colostrum supplements include age, weight, overall health, and any underlying medical conditions.
Who Should Take Colostrum Supplements?
For athletes, colostrum supplements have been shown to boost the immune system, enabling them to perform better and recover faster. One study found that athletes who supplemented with colostrum exhibited lower rates of upper respiratory infections compared to those who did not.
Children can also benefit from colostrum supplements. While more research is necessary, studies have suggested that it can reduce the risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea.
What’s more, colostrum has been shown to provide benefits for individuals with gastrointestinal conditions such as stomach injuries and infections caused by Helicobacter pylori.
Research demonstrates that colostrum supplementation can improve symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Colostrum also contains growth factors that can help repair the intestinal lining and promote healing.
Who Should Not Take Colostrum?
While there are many touted benefits of colostrum to pay attention to, it’s important to note that not everyone should take this supplement, especially not without consulting a healthcare professional first.
For those who have lactose intolerance, taking colostrum may not be the best option. This is because colostrum is a byproduct of milk and may contain lactose. For these people, consuming colostrum can lead to digestive distress and discomfort, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
People who are on certain medications, such as blood thinners, should exercise caution when taking colostrum, too. This is because colostrum has the potential to interact with these medications and lead to adverse effects.
Colostrum can be quite expensive, making it a less viable option for those who are on a tight budget.
It’s also important to mention that the safety of colostrum for pregnant or breastfeeding women is still not clear. There is limited research on this topic, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid taking colostrum if you fall into one of these categories.
Finally, it’s important to note that colostrum is not regulated by the FDA. Because of this, there is the potential for contamination by bacteria or toxic metals.
Side Effects of Colostrum Supplements
Like any other dietary supplement, there are some potential side effects of colostrum supplements to be aware of.
In particular, bloating, diarrhea, and gas are common side effects that can be experienced by those taking colostrum supplements.
These side effects tend to be mild and resolve on their own – nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of them if you’re thinking about taking colostrum at any point.
Final Thoughts: What Is Colostrum?
Colostrum supplements are popular dietary supplements that have the potential to produce several health benefits, from enhancing muscle growth and repair to boosting your immune system.
While they might not be ideal for everyone – and you’ll want to check with your doctor before making any kind of decision about taking them – they could just provide the boost you’ve been looking for.