What is Colostrum

Designed by nature to be the perfect first food for humans and animals

Colostrum is nature’s perfect first food. It is the pre-milk substance that is produced by all mammals at the time of giving birth. Colostrum is a mixture of immune and growth factors as well as important nutrients, all designed to activate a newborn’s immune system and support their digestive health, ensuring their overall health, vitality, and growth. Numerous studies show that bovine colostrum and its components continue to support important biological activities when given to adults, children, and animals so that its benefits can extend well beyond the neonatal period of development.

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The beneficial bioactives found in bovine colostrum

Colostrum contains various bioactives, such as immune factors, colostral polypeptides, lactoferrin and many others. Colostral polypeptides, also present in colostrum, have the unique ability to help balance the immune system. Much of the immunoglobulin fraction is represented by Immunoglobulin G (IgG). Immuno-supplementation with bovine antibodies has shown to be an effective means of providing local protection to the gastro-intestinal tract. Colostrum is a source of amino acids, as well as important fats, including phospholipids. While bovine colostrum has been used for thousands of years in human medicine, its components also offer an ideal bioactive backbone for developing new oral therapeutics that can modulate our gut and systemic biology. Below is an overview of the components of colostrum and their potential therapeutic benefit.

Immune Factors


Colostrum contains IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, IgE1


    Also known as antibodies are used by the immune system to identify, attack and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses. Absorption of immunoglobulins is important for the passive immunity of neonatal mammals after birth.

  • IgG

    Bovine colostrum has more IgG than all the other immunoglobulins found in colostrum. It provides a large portion of immunity against invading pathogens. IgG also helps to initiate the cascade of other immune functions.

  • IgA

    Strategically resides in areas like the gastrointestinal, respiratory and urogenital tracts to play a critical role in mucosal immunity by preventing specific pathogens from colonizing.

  • IgM

    The first responder to pathogens entering the body. Attacks bacteria, rendering them inactive.

  • IgE

    Plays an important role in allergenic reactions and aids in the response to parasites in the digestive system.

  • IgD

    Functions closely with IgM to send a signal to B cells, thus activating them into action. Once activated, they begin to participate with other immunoglobulins to bolster the body’s immune system. Also help in creating specificity to antigens.


Colostrum contains many of these biological response modifiers. These can be protein, peptide or glycoprotein signaling molecules that are used in cellular communications. Cytokines have a specific role as regulators of epithelial cell growth and development, including intestinal inflammation and epithelial restoration following mucosal damage. They are also important mediators in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses.

  • Colostrum contains numerous cytokines including IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, IFN-γ, and IL-1ra 2
  • These small peptide molecules are important mediators in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses 3
  • In the newborn, cytokines play an important role in combination with the ingested maternal immunoglobulins and non-specific antibacterial components of colostrum 4
  • They are major regulators of epithelial cell growth and development, including intestinal inflammation and epithelial restitution following mucosal damage

Growth and Repair Factors

Growth Factors: help stimulate cell growth, cellular differentiation and cell maturation. Growth factors act as signaling molecules from one cell to another as well as regulating a variety of cellular processes.

Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGF-I and IGF-II)

The most abundant growth factors of bovine colostrum. These proteins are single chain polypeptides with amino acids. They play an important role in childhood growth and have an anabolic effect in adults.

  • Primary structures are highly conserved across species and have similar sequences in humans 17
  • Heat and acid stable and widely distributed mediators of cell growth, development, and differentiation 18
  • Amino acid sequence of purified bovine IGF-I is identical to that of human IGF-I 19,20
  • Dietary IGF-I can stimulate cell proliferation in the gastrointestinal tract 21,22
  • Dietary IGFs may have a direct effect on the epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal tract and can be absorbed into circulation 23

Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)

Plays an important role in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation and differentiation. The EGF family of growth factors can help modulate development of the epidermis, mammary gland, and gut.

  • Stimulates the repair process at the site of inflammation 24
  • Plays an important role in preventing bacterial translocation and stimulating gut immunity 25,26
  • Anabolic growth factor with possible differentiation-inducing factors for intestinal epithelium of newborns, suggesting possible applications of recombinant IGF and IGF analogs for repair of damaged gastrointestinal tissues 27
  • Supplementation with EGF may aid in the recovery of traumatized gastric and intestinal tissues 28

Transforming Growth Factor Alpha (TGF-α)

  • Plays a complementary role with TGF-β in controlling the balance between cell proliferation and differentiation in the intestinal epithelium 4,29
  • Systematic [systematic would mean methodical, do we mean systemic here or oral?] administration of TGF-α stimulates gastrointestinal growth and repair, inhibits acid secretion, stimulates mucosal restitution after injury and increases gastric mucin concentrations 30
  • Upregulation of TGF-α expression has been shown to occur in the gastrointestinal mucosa at sites of injury, supporting a role of TGF-α in mucosal growth and repair 31
    Major physiological role of TGF-α is to act as a mucosal-integrity peptide, maintaining normal epithelia function in the non-damaged mucosa 32

Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-β)

TGF-beta plays a crucial role in tissue regeneration, cell differentiation, formation of bone cartilage, and regulation of the immune system.

  • Plays an important role on the regulation of the immune system 23
  • Stimulates proliferation of some cells, especially in connective tissue, whereas it acts as a growth inhibitor for other cells 3
  • During injury or disease, it acts in concert with EGF to stimulate cell proliferation 33
  • Key player in stimulating restitution, the early phase of the repair process during which surviving cells from the edge of a wound migrate over the denuded area to reestablish epithelial continuity 4
  • TGF-β blocks the destruction of newly synthesized cells by regulating the synthesis of proteases
  • Both TGF-α and TGF-β are helpful in the repair and integrity of epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract 24

Oligosaccharides and Glycoconjugates

  • Oligosaccharides are defined as carbohydrates which contain between three and ten monosaccharide residues, covalently linked through glycosidic bonds and are divided into two broad classes, neutral and acidic 34
  • Oligosaccharides act as a prebiotic as they are neither digested nor absorbed in the upper intestinal tract of humans but are delivered intact into the colon where they can act as nutrients for colonic microflora 34
  • Specific oligosaccharides support the growth of beneficial bacteria and modulate the microbiome 35
  • Oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates in milk and colostrum are soluble receptor analogues of epithelial cell-surface carbohydrates and can therefore compete with virulent bacteria and viruses for attachment sites 34
  • Sialylated oligosaccharides, which are present in colostrum, have been shown to inhibit binding of pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli in neonates and many other pathogens 36,37
  • Adhesion to epithelial cells by ulcer-causing human pathogen Heliobacter pylori is inhibited by sialylated oligosaccharides 38

Broad Spectrum Antimicrobials


Iron-binding glycoprotein. One of the antimicrobial components of the immune system that fights bacteria and fungi in the body. It binds metal ions which are necessary bacterial metabolites, making them unavailable for bacterial development. This anti-inflammatory glycoprotein binds free iron ions in biological fluids, transporting the iron to blood cells. Lactoferrin has been shown to inhibit the growth of specific microbes, like E. coli and Salmonella. Lactoferrin has additionally demonstrated antiviral effects.

  • Lactoferrin is an 80 kDa iron-binding glycoprotein with antiviral and antimicrobial activity
  • Shown to inhibit the growth of specific microbes including Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Shigella, dysenteria, and Streptococcus mutans 6,7,8
  • Antiviral effects against herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1), human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) and human cytomegalovirus 9,10
  • Plays an important role in iron uptake in the intestine and in the activation of phagocytes and immune responses 3
  • Immune mediator regulating target cells responses, including those involved in oxidative stress and systematic inflammatory responses
  • Clinical studies show lactoferrin can inactivate LPS and inhibit dermal inflammatory cytokine production, indicating lactoferrin may have a potent anti-inflammatory effect 11


Antibacterial enzymes that help to support the immune system by disrupting the cell walls of harmful bacteria. A special attribute of lysozyme is its interaction with other colostral components. It has been shown to work in a synergistic effect with lactoperoxidase, IgA and lactoferrin. With lactoperoxidase, lysozyme partly activates it by forming a complex. With IgA, it works in synergy to combat E. coli. And in the presence of lactoferrin, the antimicrobial effects of lysozyme are also enhanced.

  • An enzyme that helps to support immune function by attacking specific bacteria and fungi
  • Lysozyme interacts with other components in colostrum, like lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin and IgA, resulting in a synergistic blend of antimicrobials 3
  • The natural substrate of this enzyme is the peptidoglycan layer of the bacterial cell wall and its degradation results in the lysis (breaking down of the cell wall) of the bacteria 12


A major antibacterial enzyme found in colostrum. Protects the lactating mammary gland from infections. Partly activated by forming a complex with lysozyme. Also shown to work with lactoferrin for some antibacterial effects. Some viruses, like polioviruses, are sensitive to lactoperoxidase’s toxic effects on viruses.

  • A major antibacterial enzyme found in colostrum
  • Primary function is in the defense against microbial infection
  • Next to its antimicrobial and antiviral activity, degradation of various carcinogens and protection of animal cells against peroxidative effects have been reported 13
  • Inhibits bacterial metabolism via the oxidation of important sulfhydryl groups in proteins 14
  • Shown to inactivate polio virus, vaccinia virus, and HIV-137 15,16

Additional Macro & Micronutrients within Colostrum:

Colostrum provides energy and nutrients. It is a source of energy-giving ingredients like carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Carbohydrates are naturally available in colostrum, along with minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Colostrum contains vitamins A, B2, B9, B12, and D. Vitamins are important organic nutrients that, like minerals, work as catalysts or co-factors in biological functions. They are important for such processes as neurodevelopment, transportation of important matter across cellular walls, and processing other nutrients.
Colostrum provides calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Minerals act as catalysts in body functions such as metabolism and ATP formation. Minerals are also important building blocks of bone and teeth.
From simple sugars to complex oligosaccharides, colostrum contains carbohydrates that are an important energy source and used in cellular recognition.
Colostrum contains a large number of amino acids, compounds that are the building blocks of proteins through the linking of peptide bonds. Amino acids are important for nutrition and muscle development.
Colostral protein provides important nutritional components for muscle and tissue development. Help to provide energy.
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