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The Immune System Benefits of Colostrum

The Immune System Benefits of Colostrum

Written by: Don Otter, PhD, 4Life Health Sciences Advisory Board

A mom innately wants the best for her baby. This is reflected in all the goodies contained in her colostrum and milk. A newborn’s immune system needs help to develop, and colostrum is specifically designed to assist in this healthy development.

Colostrum can still benefit you throughout your life, giving you a boost when you need it. Colostrum strengthens your body’s immune system with some of nature’s best immune system powerhouse ingredients.

The immune system-enhancing properties of colostrum are not new. The ancient Ayurvedic tradition from India and the Western World recognized the benefits of colostrum and used it in medicinal form to improve the immune system as far back as the 18th century.

So, what do we know about colostrum’s benefits for the immune system? Before answering this question, it is helpful to know what your immune system does, how it performs these functions, and how you can influence and strengthen your immune system.

Why do you need an immune system?

Your immune system has three main functions:

1. Your immune system fights and protects you from potentially harmful pathogens. These pathogens may come in the form of viruses, bacteria, fungi, or yeasts, and are different from our natural microbiota. Your immune system must recognize and tolerate you (your body and all the ‘good’ microflora inside you). This tolerance extends to your cells, the food you eat (unless it carries harmful bacteria), and your indigenous microbiota. Your immune system is constantly determining if newcomers in your body are dangerous.

2. Your immune system helps repair any wounded tissue you may have, no matter how big or small. Your immune system helps repair wounded tissue from a scratch from a rose bush or the graze when you fell off your mountain bike.

3. Your immune system also gets rid of all the dead cells you accumulate every day. (That in itself is a huge undertaking.)

Your immune system is constantly working hard to keep you healthy and functioning.

How does your immune system work?

Humans have two types of immunity — innate and adaptive:

Innate immunity

Everyone is born with innate (or natural) immunity. This is a type of general protection where the immune system recognizes if certain invaders are foreign and/or dangerous. For example, the skin acts as a barrier to block germs from entering the body. Innate immune system responses are rapid and non-specific. Innate responses just want to help, and they are built around physical barriers, chemical barriers, and cellular defenses.

Adaptive immunity

Adaptive immunity develops throughout your life. Adaptive immunity is specific and typically responds a bit slower. Adaptive immunity can be either active or passive.

  • Active immunity comes from exposure to pathogens or being vaccinated (immunized) against pathogens.
  • Passive immunity is "borrowed" from another source and it lasts for a short time. For example, antibodies in a mother's breast milk give a baby temporary (maternal) immunity to pathogens the mother has been exposed to.

Benefits of colostrum for immune system health

Clinical studies have shown substantial potential for colostrum to support human health.1 For example, colostrum has been shown to:

  • Support healthy immune system function
  • Support healthy intestinal immune system cell function and number
  • Support a healthy microbiome
  • Maintain seasonal health
  • Maintain intestinal health and integrity
  • Shape the development and function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract

What ingredients in colostrum are good for you?

Cow (bovine) colostrum contains large amounts of over 100 biologically active compounds, including:

  • Immunoglobulins
  • Proline-rich polypeptides
  • Antimicrobial proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Immune system cells
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Lactoferrin and lysozyme

These compounds have immune system-enhancing properties and may benefit your overall immune system. Most of these compounds have multiple functions and can help other aspects of your health.

Benefits of immunoglobulins:

Your immune system makes immunoglobulins, also called antibodies, in response to bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. Immunoglobulins attach themselves to the invaders, which lets the immune system know the invaders need to be destroyed. There are five major types of immunoglobulins:2

  • Immunoglobulin A (IgA): IgA antibodies protect body surfaces that are exposed to the external environment and are found in areas such as the nose, ears, eyes, and digestive tract. They can also be found in blood, saliva, and tears.
  • Immunoglobulin G (IgG): IgG antibodies help protect your body from bacteria and viruses. They are found in all bodily fluids and are the most common antibodies in your body.
  • Immunoglobulin M (IgM): IgM antibodies are the first type of antibody your body makes when a foreign substance enters your body. Their presence signals other immune system cells to destroy the foreign invaders. IgM antibodies are found in your blood and lymph fluid.
  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE): IgE antibodies are responsible for reactions against common allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, milk, and certain medicines. They are found in the mucous membranes, lungs, and skin.
  • Immunoglobulin D (IgD): The function of IgD antibodies is still unclear, but their presence has been identified in tissues that line the chest and belly.

IgA and IgG are responsible for most of the immune system-boosting effects of colostrum. Like human colostrum, cow colostrum contains high concentrations of immunoglobulins. The primary immunoglobulin in cow colostrum is IgG and the primary immunoglobulin in human colostrum is IgA. In humans, IgG from cow colostrum has been shown to provide passive immunity by binding to foreign invaders along the GI and respiratory tract.3

The bottom line

Remember that your immune system performs many tasks to keep you healthy. You owe it to yourself to look after your immune health, and colostrum has the tools to help support and strengthen your immune system.

Check out 4Life Fundamentals Fortified Colostrum: A bovine-sourced colostrum product that features the immune system-boosting power of colostrum, fortified with additional key ingredients, to reinforce and support the immune system, digestive system, and respiratory system.*

References** 1. Arslan A, Kaplan M, Duman H, Bayraktar A, Ertürk M, Henrick BM, Frese SA and Karav S (2021). Bovine colostrum and its potential for human health and nutrition. Front. Nutr; 8:651721. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.651721 2. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw41342 3. Silva, E.G.S., Rangel, A.H.N., Murmam, L., Bezerra, M.F., Oliveira, J.P.F. (2019). Bovine colostrum: benefits of its use in human food. Food Sci. Technol; 39 (Suppl.2): 355-362.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. **External links provided in 4Life blog posts are provided strictly as a courtesy to blog readers who may find the linked pages interesting. 4Life does not endorse these websites or vouch for the accuracy of any information found on these external sites.