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Nature’s Perfect Preventative- Colostrum

By Eric Carter, Phd

My idea of a perfect natural supplement (or even a perfect chemical medicine) is one that would not only provide broad spectrum immunity from disease, but would also come to the rescue in the event we did succumb to one of Pasteur’s nasty bugs or our own foolish lifestyle choices. While I seriously doubt that science will ever be able to create the perfect medicine, a significant amount of research indicates that Mother Nature has had such an answer all along.

You will read about Mother Natures perfect answer below, however, before I tell you about the wonders of “colostrum ”, I feel I would be quite remiss in my responsibility to tell the “whole story”, if I didn’t also tell you that the milk that follows colostrum from the mammary glands is just as powerful, unless it is pasteurized. Raw milk has a long history of success in treating virtually all diseases known, and many of the studies available on colostrum could just as surely be studies on raw milk.

Dr. Charles Sanford Porter, M.D. in his 1911 book “The Milk Diet as a Remedy for Chronic Disease" detailed patient cures for a variety of ailments using a regimented milk diet (and raw milk was the only milk at that time). Dr. J. R. Crewe, of the Mayo Foundation, forerunner of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, published in Certified Milk Magazine, January 1929 an article detailing successful treatments of patients using raw milk. Dr. Crewe is credited with curing many patients of many diseases, using only raw milk. Most medical professionals refused to “pay attention” to the “milk cure”, because as Dr. Crewe stated, “it is just too simple”. I urge you to consider researching the value of raw milk further, and including this “perfect food” in your diet and that of your children. You will likely be amazed at the health problems that may resolve !

But back to colostrum ; I have attempted to write the following information to be easily understood by the layperson as well as the doctor, however, it is necessary to add extensive references and scientific substantiation for doctors, and I apologize in advance if such “referencing” proves a little “tiring” to the lay-reader.

While the knowledge that colostrum is essential for newborns is “old news”, and aside from the vast amount of “hype” available from companies and retailers concerned with marketing their colostrum products, clinical trial and research over the past few decades show that colostrum truly is unquestionably one of nature’s most powerful contributions to health. While this article is certainly not an all-inclusive list of the vast amount of research available on colostrum, I hope to answer common questions in hopes of educating parents, the victims of chronic poor health, and caring doctors to go forth and satisfy themselves that colostrum may just be a perfect, safe and effective adjunct in the treatment of many of our chronic health woe’s at any age.  For those that believe colostrum holds value only for the “newborn”, keep reading !

About Colostrum (also called foremilk): Colostrum is a thin yellowish fluid secreted by the mammary glands at the time of parturition that is rich in antibodies and minerals, and precedes the production of true milk. Colostrum contains many substances that are important to immunity and health including; Immunoglobulin’s (IgG, IgA, IgD, IgE, and IgM), which are natural antibiotic factors, or substances that neutralize toxins, viruses, and bacteria, particularly in the digestive and respiratory systems. These antibodies specifically recognize any foreign compound that enters the body, then direct themselves to the invader and attack it; Cytokines, which are small proteins that affect the behavior of other cells; Lactoferrin, which is a substance that neutralizes bacteria and helps release cytokines; and Growth factors (IGF-I, IGF-II, EGF, TGF α & β), which are substances that aid in cellular, muscular and skeletal growth.

Research shows colostrum to be one of nature's most potent, broad-spectrum substances

Chiropractic Journal. Joseph M, Flesch A. (1998)14

Importance of colostrum factors: A study in 199712 shows the importance of colostrum for the newborn calf. Delaying colostrum intake by one day impairs plasma lipid, essential fatty acid, carotene, retinol and a-tocopherol status in neonatal calves12. We can likely deduce that the same holds true for humans. Kelly GS. (2003)15 reviewed the clinical uses of colostrum. He reported that Bovine colostrum has higher amounts of immunoglobulins, growth factors, cytokines and nucleosides than mature milk, and is also rich in oligosaccharides, antimicrobials, and immune-regulating factors.  Multiple research studies indicate that colostrum can have a beneficial effect on improving body composition, athletic performance, diarrhea (particularly in people with immune deficiency), gastrointestinal disturbances, and infectious diseases.

Safety: While multiple studies are available attesting to the safety of colostrum, common sense dictates that virtually every living human has consumed it without ill effects, therefore the safety of colostrum taken from healthy bovine and properly prepared is assured (individuals sensitive to lactose should consult with a health care professional). In one study, Davis, PF, Greenhill, NS, Rowan, AM, Schollum, LM. (2007)4 tested New Zealand bovine colostrum in rat chow and discovered no observable toxicological or histopathological abnormalities.

Oral absorption: A study conducted on newborn rats by Jochims K, Kaup FJ, Drommer W. (1994)1 1demonstrated that IgG molecules were absorbed primarily in the first portion, as well as further along in the small intestine, as opposed to the stomach. Another study by Petschow B, Talbott R. (1994)2 shows that gastric acid and pancreatic trypsin (a digestive enzyme) reduce the biological activity of bovine milk antibodies as they pass through the digestive tract. At the same time, Mother Nature has addressed this issue as was shown by Sandholm M, Honkanen-Buzalski T. (1979)3, who found that Colostrum contains a trypsin inhibitor that helps protect IgG and other components of colostrum from digestion in the gastrointestinal tract. If these same principles hold true for humans, absorption of active substances in colostrum may be enhanced when taken on an empty stomach, perhaps with a full glass of water to help dilute stomach acid.


Below is a partial list of conditions colostrum shows success in treating:

Influenza: In a 2007 epidemiologic study in San Valentino5, colostrum was compared to anti-influenza vaccination for effectiveness in preventing the flu in healthy as well as high risk cardiovascular patients. The study found that 2 months supplementation with colostrum is at least 3 times more effective than vaccination in preventing flu. This study follows a 1990 study26.

Cancer: A study in 199725 may give hope for cancer patients. The study shows that conjugated linoleic acid, a component of cow's milk and colostrum, inhibits proliferation of human malignant melanoma, colorectal, breast and lung cancer cell lines. It also has been shown to reduce the incidence of chemically induced mouse epidermal tumors, mouse forestomach neoplasia, and aberrant crypt foci in rats.  It also inhibits mammary tumorogensis. While I would personally recommend avoiding pasteurized milk, this study makes a good case for raw milk, and particularly colostrum as an adjunct in cancer therapies.

Body Composition: A 2004 study6 of healthy young men in resistance training who were taking colostrum at the rate of 60 g/day for 8 weeks, showed a significantly greater increase in body comp/limb circumference than those taking whey protein6. Doctors that use body comp analysis in practice to provide a marker for health, take note – colostrum may be a tremendous boost to phase angle/cell heath in addition to its immune boosting qualities!

Upper Respiratory Tract Infection – Bronchitis – Viral Infections: Brink worth GD, Buckley JD. (2004)7 conducted a study that shows evidence that concentrated bovine colostrum protein may enhance resistance to the development of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (URI). A study by Tyrell D. (1981)8 shows that breast fed babies are much less likely to experience bronchitis due to RSV (respiratory syncitial virus) than bottle fed babies. The antiviral activity of breast milk and colostrum is partially due to antibodies (immunoglobulins) and partially due to other causes, possibly polysaccharides found on a number of the constituents of colostrum. The main effect of these components of colostrum and milk take place in the gut.

Rheumatoid and other forms of Arthritis: Several studies indicate that bovine colostrum may be a very successful treatment for rheumatoid and other forms of arthritis. In one 20049 study, it was found that Oral administration of bovine lactoferrin, a component of colostrum, inhibited the development of arthritis in a rat experimental system by suppressing TNF-alpha (pro-inflammatory cytokine) and increasing IL-10 (anti-inflammatory cytokine) production. Two other studies in 199621 and 199922 indicate that substances in colostrum may have a major impact on the inflammation seen in arthritis.

Physical Performance: Research in 200010 studied the effect of colostrum supplementation on maximal oxygen uptake and flight times in jump tests in 10 young athletes in a double-blind placebo study.  After 12 days, oxygen uptake in the placebo group declined 7% while remaining steady in the colostrum group.  Flight times declined for the placebo group in the counter movement and squat jumps while remaining the same or only slightly less for the colostrum group.  The results indicate that colostrum supplementation improves running and jumping performance in young athletes. Could colostrum also benefit those suffering lung disease ?

Anti-Inflammatory: Colostrum could possibly provide pain relief for injury and reduced healing time – In an experimental study in 199311, colostrum showed an anti-inflammatory effect on wounds by decreasing the number of white blood cells in the wound area.

Blood Pressure:  A study in 200413 shows that factors from milk and colostrum are potent ACE inhibitors. Several human studies associate these factors with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

Diarrhea/Intestinal Infection: Clostridium Difficile Bacterium (C Diff) is a toxin that causes diarrhea and intestinal infection. Research indicates that C Diff is primarily acquired during hospital visits, and largely due to over-use of antibiotics. In recent reports, C Diff is blamed for 7000 new infections daily, resulting in 300 daily deaths.  A study in 199816 indicates that the C Diff neutralizing factor in colostrum (IgG) survives the digestive tract, indicating that oral colostrum shows great promise as an effective treatment for this deadly toxin. Another study in 199227 shows that IgG from colostrum can help prevent nosocomial infections, i.e. infections which are a result of treatment in a hospital.

Rotavirus: One of the main reasons for hospital admission of infants and young children is infectious diarrhea usually caused by a rotavirus infection. Infants can also acquire rotavirus in hospital neonatal and pediatric wards; the infection can also be transmitted to adult members of the family. In a 1989 study20, the efficacy of a 10-day course of bovine colostrum with high antibody titre against the four known human rotavirus serotypes in protecting children against rotavirus infection was examined in patients admitted to hospital. Of the total group of children in the study, none of the 55 receiving colostrum acquired Rotavirus infection, while 9 in the control that did not receive colostrum did.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease/Crohn’s Disease: A study in 200417 showed that Mice with experimentally-induced inflammatory bowel disease, fed a diet rich in colostrum transforming growth factor beta-2 (TGF-ß2) gained more weight, did not develop diarrhea or prolapse, had lower pathological scores and lower serum amyloid (SAA).  This study supports the use of TGF-ß2 diets in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. This study follows a study in 199031 that shows that There is a direct correlation between increased intestinal permeability and Crohn's disease.

Helicobactor Pylori: H. pylori causes gastric and duodenal ulcers in humans. It was shown in a 1998 study19 that bovine colostrum blocks attachment of the pathogens to PE.  Colostral PE or PE derivatives also bind to the pathogens, inhibiting their ability to bind to target cells. Another study in 199523 shows that both serum and colostrum but not milk from cows was found to be highly bactericidal against H. pylori.

Leaky Gut: Multiple studies show that colostrum “heals” leaky gut. A 2004 study33 is but one example. Since the “gut” is the beginning of health, and since leaky gut is epidemic, it makes a great deal of sense to start your journey to better health with colostrum !
Allergy: Allergy is characterized by elevated levels of specific IgE in the blood, called “atopy”.  According to research in 200224 Therapy with anti-IgE has shown promise in inhibiting early and late-phase allergic reactions and asthma.  Colostrum contains both IgE and IgE-blockers. An additional study in 200528 suggests that colostrum may protect from both infectious disease and allergies mediated by Th2 type responses.

Antibacterial-Antifungal-Antiviral-Antitumor-Antialzheimers – Plus More: Colostrum and milk are rich in proteins and peptides which play a crucial role in innate immunity when transferred to the offspring, and may accelerate maturation of the immune system in neonates. The immunotropic properties of these proteins prompted investigators in 200518 to research their potential application in prevention and therapy. Lactoferrin (LF) exhibits antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitice, and antitumoral activities. It is protective with regard to intestinal epithelium, promotes bone growth, and accelerates the recovery of immune system function in immunocompromised animals. LF was tried in the treatment of hepatitis C infection and the intestinal form of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). A proline-rich polypeptide (PRP) demonstrated a variety of immunotropic functions, including the promotion of T-cell maturation and inhibition of autoimmune disorders. PRP, in the form of chewable tablets (Colostrinin) was recently found to improve or stabilize the health status of Alzheimer's disease patients. Casein and casein-derived peptides showed protective activities in enamel demineralization and as caries-preventing agents. The protein hydrolyzates were also protective in diabetic animals, reduced tumor growth, had antihypertensive activity and diminished colicky symptoms in infants. Glycomacropeptide (GMP), a peptide derived from kappa-casein, exhibited various antibacterial and antithrombotic activities. Alpha-lactalbumin (LA) demonstrated antiviral, antitumoral and anti-stress properties. LA-enriched diets were anxiolytic, lowered blood pressure in rats, prevented diarrhea, and led to a better weight gain in malnourished children. HAMLET, a complex of LA and oleic acid, was effective in patients with cutaneous papillomas. Lysozyme found application in infant formulas, the treatment of periodentitis, and the prevention of tooth decay. Milk enriched in lysozyme was used in feeding premature infants suffering from concomitant diseases. Interesting, antibacterial properties were exhibited by lactoperoxidase. Both lysozyme and lactoperoxidase required cooperative action with LF in combating bacteria. In conclusion, preparations derived from milk and colostrum are effective, easily bioaccessible, and safe, finding wide application in prevention and therapy for newborns and adults.

Prevention of intestinal damage from NSAIDS/Chemotherapy: NSAIDs given to animals have much the same effect as they do in humans, namely, increased intestinal permeability, increased enteric bacteria levels, villous loss, and loss of enteric protein and albumin.  A study in 200529 indicates that supplementation with bovine colostrum reduced the increase in intestinal permeability, the enteric bacteria overgrowth, the lose of proteins, and villous damage. This study follows finding in 199932 that taking colostrum prior to NSAIDs reduced gastric injury by up to 60%. Additional studies indicate that colostrum is protective against chemotherapy-induced mucositis.

Psychiatric Disorders: Certain chronic psychiatric disorders are characterized by a change in intestinal permeability30. This is another reminder that “health begins in the gut”

Conclusion: I could continue with several hundred more studies that show the value of colostrum for all humans, young and old, sick or healthy, but surely you “get the point” by now!  In a “perfect world”, a time before chemicals, pollution, processed food, mercury fillings and symptom depressing medications, colostrum at birth followed by a year or so of pure mother’s milk may have imparted the immunity for a lifetime. Today that is not possible and we can see from multiple research trials that colostrum is likely the most powerful supplement you can take to improve many area’s of health.

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