Everything you need to know about colostrum supplements – what the research says about its role in immune function and gut health, the best brands, common doses, and my incredible personal experience using colostrum in my own family!
I’ve been using colostrum more and more in my home and with my clients and, the more I use it, the more convinced I am that it works – I’ve seen it improve symptoms of poor gut health and low immune function, and I’ve seen lab tests to confirm it (scroll down to read my incredible personal story with it!).
Colostrum supplements may not be for everyone, but I do believe they have a good chance of helping a LOT of people since poor gut health and immune dysfunction are a key component of so many chronic health issues people face today.
WHAT IS COLOSTRUM?
Colostrum is the earliest portion of breast milk produced by mammals, beginning just before and continuing for a few days after birth. It’s often called “liquid gold” for two reasons – it’s yellowish color, and how rich it is in immunoglobulins (aka: antibodies) like IgA, IgG, IgM, and others to protect the baby from illness. (1)
Similar antibodies are also found in regular breastmilk (i.e., human breast milk and raw cow’s milk or goat’s milk). But the immoglobulin levels in colostrum are 200-250 times higher than regular breast milk! (2)
HEALTH BENEFITS OF COLOSTRUM SUPPLEMENTS
We all know that colostrum is great for newborn babies, but bovine colostrum supplements (from cows) can also be very helpful for children and adults. Here are just a few impressive results from scientific studies:
- REDUCES FLU RISK BY ~70% – An Italian study showed that taking just 1 capsule (400 mg) of colostrum daily for 8 weeks dramatically reduced the rate in adults, making it 4 times more effective than the flu vaccine. (3)
- SHORTENS FLU DURATION BY ~65% – The same study found that those who did contract the flu recovered much faster than if they had taken colostrum. (3)
- DECREASES COLDS BY 58% – Adults who took 600 mg of bovine colostrum daily for 3 months reported 58% fewer common colds than those who didn’t take colostrum. (4)
- 375% FEWER UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTIONS (URI) IN CHILDREN – 3-6 grams of bovine colostrum per day for just 2 months reduced URI by 375% in young children who had previously had recurrent URI. (5)
- REDUCES DIARRHEA BY 40% IN CHILDREN – The same study as above showed 2 months of bovine colostrum supplements of 3-6 grams/day resulted in 40% fewer episodes of diarrhea than the same children had prior to taking colostrum. (5)
- DECREASES GUT INFLAMMATION + SUPPORTS RECOVERY FROM LEAKY GUT – the immunoglobulins from colostrum have been shown to bind up viruses and pathogens in the GI tract, reduce gut inflammation, and help repair leaky gut. (2)
- REDUCES GUT INFECTIONS + DIARRHEA IN HIV PATIENTS – Multliple studies have shown high doses of colostrum (between 2.5-100 grams/day) to increase antibody levels, reduce diarrhea, and improve fatigue in immunocompromised HIV positive individuals. (2)
- MAY PROTECT FROM NSAID INDUCED DAMAGE TO GUT LINING – Animal research has shown promising results for colostrum’s role in preventing damage to the GI lining following frequent use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). (6)
- MAY HELP SUPPORT HEALTHY IMMUNE FUNCTION IN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE – While I’ve not seen studies on colostrum for autoimmunity, IV administration of immunoglobulins similar to those in colostrum has grown in recent years. (More info on IVIG therapy at the end of this post) If you have autoimmunity, it may be worth discussing with your provider.
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MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH COLOSTRUM
Colostrum has become one of my favorite supplements for immune support and gut health, based on the scientific research as well as on the incredible benefits I’ve seen with clients and my own family.
COLDS, DYSBIOSIS, AND ALLERGIES, O MY!
A couple of winters ago, both my son and I were sick almost constantly despite all our natural cold and flu remedies (minus colostrum since I didn’t know then what I do now!), while the rest of the the family was fine. That was my first sign something was off. Later that spring, I also developed severe seasonal allergies, which I had never had before – so bad I had to carry a full box of Kleenex with me everywhere for weeks!
I ran GI MAP comprehensive stool tests on both of us since I knew from my work with clients that the gut is often the best place to start. We both had dysbiosis (imbalance of good and bad bacteria), but I also noticed something else – VERY low secretory IgA levels (which can result from dysbiosis), a marker of poor immune function that can lead to more colds and flu, seasonal allergies, leaky gut, and even food sensitivities (which I also showed signs of).
We tightened up our already healthy diet and brought on some herbal antimicrobial supplements and probiotics to tackle the dysbiosis head on, but we also started taking colostrum daily – 1 gram/day for my son and 1 gram twice daily for me.
After just six months, the colds were gone, my allergies were gone, and the symptoms of dysbiosis and food sensitivities were much, much better. But it wasn’t just how we felt – my son’s repeat GI MAP showed the dysbiosis was almost totally resolved and the Secretory IgA had TRIPLED, returning it to the normal range!
Immune Function Before Colostrum:
Immune Function After Colostrum:
Yes, we did multiple things to get the best results the fastest, but I have no doubt that colostrum was an integral piece of our success. And guess, what? The next year, we were still reaping the benefits – we got just 1-2 colds and recovered quickly just like we had in the past, and I had NO signs of seasonal allergies or food reactions! The proof’s in the pudding, as they say. 🙂
BEST BRANDS OF COLOSTRUM SUPPLEMENTS
Colostrum comes in both capsules and powder form – here are some of my favorite products from reputable brands:
Studied vary widely in the doses used. Since I’ve seen clear benefits from doses at the lower end of that range, I don’t usually recommend going higher unless it’s under the guidance of a practitioner.
I’ve seen good results from 500-1,000 mg once or twice daily in my family and clients.
HOW TO TAKE COLOSTRUM POWDER
Obviously, colostrum capsules can be swallowed. But, if you’re wondering how to use the powder – below are some of the ways I add it to foods and beverages at home. It has a very mild, lightly sweet flavor so you don’t have to worry about covering up the flavor like some other powdered supplements!
- Coffee (technically, you can add it to black coffee, but it works best if you use some sort of creamer)
- Matcha tea latte (My favorite matcha powder is Gut Power Matcha designed by a fellow dietitian – it’s organic, it dissolves perfectly, and it has 6 grams of prebiotic fiber per serving!)
- Smoothies and protein shakes
- Hot chocolate
WHO SHOULD NOT TAKE COLOSTRUM SUPPLEMENTS?
Until more research is done on these groups, I have concerns about them taking colostrum supplements:
- Pregnant women – I’ve not seen studies on colostrum supplementation during pregnancy and, since the pregnant immune system is naturally suppressed to prevent an attack on the baby, I’d discourage taking colostrum until more research has bee done.
- Those with Autoimmune Disease – This one is a little less clear cut. On the one hand, we know that autoimmune disease has been linked to dysbiosis and leaky gut, both of which could be improved with colostrum supplementation. We also see that the immunoglobulins in colostrum act more as powerful immune modulators (adjusting immune function either up or down, as needed), which protects from “boosting” an overactive or dysfunctional immune system as is the case in autoimmunity. If you have autoimmune disease, consult with your provider about the pros and cons before taking.
- People with dairy allergy or sensitivity – colostrum is a dairy product, so it should be avoided in people who are allergic or have a food sensitivity to dairy products. Goat’s milk colostrum in capsule or powder form may be suitable alternative for those with an allergy or sensitivity to cow’s milk, but not to goat’s milk products.
ALTERNATIVES TO BOVINE COLOSTRUM
Bovine colostrum isn’t the only source of antibodies that can support immune function. Here are a few related products/interventions:
- Raw milk – Milk that hasn’t been heat treated will have the maximum amount of immunoglobulins, and studies have linked raw milk (but not pasteurized milk) consumption to lower rates of eczema and asthma in children. (2)
- Goat’s milk colostrum – As mentioned above, this version of colostrum is considered a dairy product, but may be a good consideration for those with allergy or sensitivity specifically to cow’s milk, but not to goat’s milk.
- Serum derived bovine immunoglobulins (SBI) – The scientific literature has shown these to have similar but even more potent effects than colostrum and is dairy free. I personally don’t feel comfortable ingesting blood products, but it’s an option for those who are open to that.
- IV Immunoglobulins (IVIG) – This therapy administers serum derived immunoglobulins intravenously. It is very expensive and must be administered by a physician but is, by far, the most potent form of immunoglobulin therapy I’m aware of.
Check out these related posts!
Disclaimer: Information on this site is intended only for informational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult with a trusted healthcare provider before implementing significant dietary change. Read additional disclaimer info here.
- Hurley, W.L. Perspectives on Immunoglobulins in Colostrum and Milk. 2011 Apr; 3(4):442-474. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257684/
- Ulfman, L.H., et al. Effects of Bovine Immunoglobulins on Immune Function, Allergy, and Infection. Front. Nutr., 2018, June, vol. 5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2018.00052/full
- Cesarone, M.R., 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. 2007, 13(2): 130-136. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1076029606295957
- Vitetta, L., et al. The clinical efficacy of a bovine lactoferrin/whey protein Ig-rich fraction (Lf/IgF) for the common cold: a double blind randomized study. Complement Ther Med. 2013 Jun;21(3): 164-71. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23642947
- Saad, K., et al.Effects of bovine colostrum on recurrent respiratory tract infections and diarrhea in children. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Sep;95(37):e4560. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5402550/
- Playford, R.J., et al. Bovine colostrum is a health food supplement which prevents NSAID induced gut damage. https://gut.bmj.com/content/44/5/653