Colostrum Supplements: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosages

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Bovine colostrum (simply called colostrum) is a type of milk secreted by cows during the first days after calving. Colostrum, available as a dietary supplement, is rich in immunoglobulins (antibodies), which are known to boost the immune system. Proponents argue that colostrum has a number of health benefits, including treating colitis , diarrhea , and upper respiratory infections . Colostrum is also said to enhance immunity and enhance athletic performance.

Scientists have also developed a special type of colostrum known as hyperimmune bovine colostrum, which is made by vaccinating cows against certain pathogens. Although clinical trials are underway to evaluate the efficacy of hyperimmune colostrum, the evidence of actual benefits remains scant.

Get Medical Information / Alexandra Gordon

What is colostrum used for?

Colostrum has gained popularity among athletes for its purported ability to burn fat, build muscle, and enhance athletic performance. Hyperimmune colostrum has also generated interest among scientists, who believe that it can treat a wider range of diseases.

Gastrointestinal disorders

Colostrum can help prevent gastrointestinal problems caused by non-steroidal anti -inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In a small study published in 2001, researchers found that colostrum helps protect the gastrointestinal tract from damage caused by long-term use of indomethacin (an NSAID commonly used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis ).

In 1991, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated hyperimmune colostrum as special 'orphan drug' status. It is a classification that allows manufacturers to develop a drug without competition. The status was awarded specifically for the treatment of HIV-related chronic diarrhea caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite.

To date, no such benefit has been found. However, there is evidence that it can alleviate idiopathic diarrhea (diarrhea of unknown origin) in people with advanced HIV infection, as well as diarrhea caused by Escherichia coli ( E. coli ).

Athletic performance

Several studies have shown that supplementation with colostrum can improve physical performance. In a study published in 2001, researchers prescribed colostrum or whey protein to a group of active men and women. During the eight-week study, each of the subjects participated in aerobic exercise and resistance training at least three times per week.

Study results showed that members of the colostrum group experienced significant increases in lean body mass, while members of the whey protein group experienced significant increases in body weight.

In a 2009 review of research on colostrum and physical activity , researchers concluded that supplementation with colostrum may be most effective during periods of high-intensity exercise and recovery from high-intensity exercise.

Similar results were published in 2014 in which older adults who received colostrum supplements had greater muscle strength in the lower body after eight weeks compared to a similar group of adults who received whey powder. Upper body strength, muscle thickness, muscle mass, and bone mineral content were not affected.

Flu Prevention

Colostrum may help prevent influenza, according to a small study published in 2007. Among study participants who took colostrum supplements for two months, the number of days with the flu was three times less than among people who did not take the supplement. .

Similar results were described in a 2016 study from Egypt in which children who received a daily colostrum supplement for two months had 37 percent fewer upper respiratory infections than children who did not receive the supplement.

Despite some positive results, there is no evidence that colostrum can treat the flu, reduce its severity, or reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from the flu. It should not be viewed as a viable alternative to the annual flu vaccine .

Possible side effects.

While there are no recommendations for the proper use of bovine colostrum, it is generally considered safe to use with no known drug interactions. Side effects are rare, although studies in people with HIV have reported rare reports of nausea, vomiting, anemia , and liver dysfunction.

Dosage and preparation

Colostrum supplements are available in powder form, as well as capsules and softgels. There are even colostrum nasal sprays that are marketed as an allergy remedy. Colostrum supplements can be purchased online without a prescription, as well as in vitamin supplement stores and some of the major drug stores.

Dosages can vary, but many manufacturers recommend a daily dose of 20 to 60 grams to improve athletic performance or gut health. When used to treat diarrhea, colostrum supplements should be taken before meals.

Colostrum is not a substance prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Colostrum is also found in human breast milk, although for the first few days after birth.

What to look for

Supplements like bovine colostrum are not as strictly regulated in the US as pharmaceuticals. As quality can vary, only buy supplements that have been certified by an independent certification body such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, and ConsumerLab.

Some colostrum supplements are available in vegetarian softgels and are suitable for lacto-ovo vegetarians. You can also check if the supplement comes from cows that have not received bovine somatotropin (rBST), a growth hormone used to increase milk production.

It is important to remember that despite some promising results, there have been no large-scale clinical trials investigating the health benefits of colostrum. To this end, you should be wary of supplements that claim to be medicinal.

While it is not uncommon for manufacturers to claim that colostrum can "boost immunity" or "improve performance," any suggestion that it can cure or alleviate symptoms of the disease should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

Treating any medical condition on its own or delaying standard treatment can have serious consequences and should be avoided.

Frequently asked questions

  • The lactose content of colostrum is lower than that of normal milk. If you can handle a little lactose, you may be transferring bovine colostrum. However, if you need to completely eliminate lactose, you should not use it.

  • No. It appears that humans have no way of contracting mad cow disease, also known as a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, by consuming milk or dairy products such as colostrum. The risk is associated only with eating the nerve tissue, brain or spinal cord of cows infected with mad cow disease.

  • Some animal studies show that "hyperimmune" colostrum from specially vaccinated cows can reduce joint inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, more research is needed to confirm the benefits.

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