Colostrum

woman with abdominal pain

What other names is Bovine Colostrum known by?

Bovine Colostrum, Bovine Immunoglobulin, Bovine Lacteal Compounds, Calostro, Colostrum Bovin, Colostrum Bovin Hyperimmune, Colostrum de Chèvre, Colostrum de Lait de Vache, Cow Milk Colostrum, Goat Colostrum, Hyperimmune Bovine Colostrum, Immunoglobuline Bovine, Lait Colostral, Protogala.

What is Bovine Colostrum?

Bovine colostrum is a milky fluid that comes from the breasts of cows the first few days after giving birth, before true milk appears. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and specific kinds of proteins called antibodies that fight disease-causing agents such as bacteria and viruses. Antibody levels in bovine colostrum can be 100 times higher than levels in regular cow's milk.

People originally got interested in bovine colostrum because of the high antibody levels. They thought that the antibodies might prevent infections in people.

Some athletes take bovine colostrum by mouth to burn fat, build lean muscle, increase stamina and vitality, and improve athletic performance. Bovine colostrum is not on the banned drug list of the International Olympic Committee.

Bovine colostrum is also taken by mouth for boosting the immune system, healing injuries, repairing nervous system damage, improving mood and sense of well-being, slowing and reversing aging, and as an agent for killing bacteria and fungus. It is also used to treat HPV (human papilloma virus).

Bovine colostrum is used in the rectum to treat inflammation of the colon (colitis).

Bovine colostrum is applied in the mouth to reduce dental plaque and to treat mouth inflammation associated with diseases like oral lichen planus and Sjogren's syndrome. In the eyes, bovine colostrum is applied to treat dry eyes.

Researchers have created a special type of bovine colostrum called "hyperimmune bovine colostrum." This special colostrum is produced by cows that have received vaccinations against specific disease-causing organisms. The vaccinations cause the cows to develop antibodies to fight those specific organisms. The antibodies pass into the colostrum. Hyperimmune bovine colostrum has been used in clinical trials for treating AIDS-related diarrhea, diarrhea associated with graft versus host disease following bone marrow transplant, and rotavirus diarrhea in children.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted hyperimmune bovine colostrum "orphan drug status." Under the Orphan Drug Law, drug makers who invest in the development of treatments for rare conditions enjoy special market advantages; for example, permission to sell the drug without competition for 7 years. If these special incentives were not in place, pharmaceutical companies might not develop drugs for rare conditions because the potential market is so small.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Upper airway infection in people who exercise. Research shows that taking bovine colostrum by mouth for 8-12 weeks can reduce of the number of episodes and symptoms of upper airway infections in people who exercise.
  • Infectious diarrhea. Taking bovine colostrum seems to reduce infectious diarrhea in children and people with a weakened immune system, including those with HIV/AIDS and bone marrow transplant recipients. Most clinical trials have used hyperimmune bovine colostrum. Hyperimmune bovine colostrum has FDA orphan drug status for AIDS-related diarrhea. However, some research suggests that taking hyperimmune bovine colostrum by mouth does not improve symptoms of infectious diarrhea caused by Shigella bacteria.
  • The flu (influenza). Taking a specific type of bovine colostrum (Ad Colostrum, Corcon srl) by mouth for 8 weeks helps prevent the flu, including in people that have already been vaccinated against the flu and in people with heart disease who have a higher risk of getting the flu.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Damaged intestinal tissue in premature infants (necrotizing enterocolitis; NEC). Early research suggests that giving bovine colostrum to very low birth weight infants does not prevent NEC.
  • Blood infection (sepsis). Early research suggests that giving bovine colostrum to very low birth weight infants does not prevent sepsis.
  • A problem with the small intestine causing absorption problems (short bowel syndrome). Early research suggests that taking bovine colostrum does not improve the function of the bowels in patients with short bowel syndrome.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Muscle loss in the elderly. Some research shows that taking a specific bovine colostrum product (Eterna Gold, Saskatoon Colostrum Co. Ltd.) improves leg strength but not upper body strength or body composition in older adults doing some weight training.
  • Athletic performance. Early research suggests that bovine colostrum might increase athletic performance for some athletic activities. Activities that seem to benefit are cycling and sprinting activities that are done following a previous exercise session.
  • Memory (cognitive function). Early research shows that taking bovine colostrum does not improve memory in older adults also taking part in an exercise program.
  • Diabetes. Early research shows taking bovine colostrum might help to reduce levels of blood sugar following a meal, as well as cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Inflammation of the colon (colitis). There is some early evidence that a rectal enema containing 10% bovine colostrum might be helpful for treating colitis.
  • Reduced health in young children (failure to thrive). In young children that are not growing well, early research suggests taking bovine colostrum by mouth improves weight but not height.
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV). Early research shows that applying bovine colostrum to the vagina for 6 months helps cure cervical lesions in people with HPV.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). Taking hyperimmune bovine colostrum might help treat symptoms of MS, but conflicting results exist.
  • Upper airway infection. Research shows that taking bovine colostrum protein reduces helps prevent upper airway infections. However, it doesn't appear to reduce the duration of upper airway infections if they do occur.
  • Bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Building lean muscle.
  • Burning fat.
  • Dry eyes.
  • Elevating mood and sense of well-being.
  • Healing injuries.
  • Increasing stamina and vitality.
  • Inflammation in the mouth.
  • Repairing nervous system damage.
  • Stimulating the immune system.
  • Slowing and reversing aging.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of colostrum for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

How does Bovine Colostrum work?

Hyperimmune bovine colostrum is collected from cows that have been vaccinated to produce antibodies that fight the bacteria that cause diarrheal disease. These antibodies appear in the colostrum that is collected as medicine. The hope is that these cow antibodies will help fight human disease. However, the cow antibodies don't seem to be absorbed well and might not be active in humans for many infections.

Are there safety concerns?

Bovine colostrum is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when taken appropriately by mouth. When it is given rectally as an enema it is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people. While most people don't experience any side effects from bovine colostrum, there have been rare reports of problems in HIV-positive people such as nausea, vomiting, abnormal liver function tests, and decreased red blood cells.

There is some concern about the possibility of catching "mad cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalitis, BSE) or other diseases from products that come from animals. "Mad cow disease" does not appear to be transmitted through milk products, but it is probably wise to avoid animal products from countries where "mad cow disease" has been found.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Children: Bovine colostrum is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken appropriately by mouth in children.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking bovine colostrum if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Allergy to cow's milk: If you are allergic to cow's milk or milk products, you may also be allergic to bovine colostrum. In that case, it is best to avoid it.

Dosing considerations for Bovine Colostrum.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

ADULTS

  • For preventing upper airway infections in people who exercise: 10-20 grams of bovine colostrum daily for 8-12 weeks has been used.
  • For infectious diarrhea: 10-100 grams of bovine colostrum daily for 1-4 weeks.
  • For the flu (influenza): 400 mg of a defatted freeze-dried bovine colostrum daily for 8 weeks has been used.
CHILDREN

BY MOUTH:
  • For infectious diarrhea: 10-21 grams of bovine colostrum daily for 4-14 days, or 20-300 mL daily for up to 2 weeks, has been used.
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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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