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What Nutritionists Really Think About Colostrum, the Smoothie Add-In Some Are Calling ‘Liquid Gold’

Learn how the supplement can boost immunity, ward of GI trouble and more

If you haven’t heard the internet abuzz with talks of the latest superfood, let us fill you in. Called colostrum, it’s the breast milk that comes in the first few days after giving birth, providing essential nutrients to babies. But now, adults are interested in experiencing its healthy perks. Before we lose you, no one is asking you to drink human breast milk. Manufacturers are selling supplemental versions of the stuff, which comes from cows and is processed into a powder that you blend into smoothies. It’s especially good for gut health. Keep reading to discover the benefits of colostrum for adults.

What is colostrum?

Colostrum is the beginning stage of breast milk, explains osteopathic physician Shiva Lalezar DO, founder of the Health & Vitality Center in Los Angeles. In the first few days following birth, mammals’ mammary glands produce colostrum to provide essential nutrients to newborns. For that reason, it’s incredibly nutrient-dense.

“Colostrum is rightly dubbed ‘liquid gold’ thanks to its unique nutrition composition and anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and immune-boosting properties,” explains functional dietitian and gut health expert Erika Jacobson, MS, RD. Growing evidence suggests that the benefits of colostrum for adults range from boosting immunity to aiding in muscle recovery.

Colostrum vs. milk

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If colostrum is just the first stage of milk, can’t you get the benefits from sipping a glass of skim? Not exactly. “Colostrum, produced only within the first 72 hours after birth, is notably richer in protein than mature milk, mainly because of its high immunoglobulin content,” explains Jacobsen. These virus- and bacteria-fighting compounds are key to colostrum benefits for adults. What’s more, it’s packed with more vitamins and minerals than plain cow’s milk, “including B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.” So if you’re looking to shore up your levels of essential nutrients, colostrum may be a good choice for you!

Related: If You Can’t Lose Weight, Suffer From Muscle Aches and Feel Blah, You Likely Need More Vitamin D, Say Doctors

Health benefits of colostrum for adults            

Thanks to all the buzz around colostrum on Instagram and TikTok, some folks are calling it the latest superfood. And “while it’s not the panacea some suggest, it’s particularly beneficial for certain conditions, including gut disorders,” says Jacobson. Keep reading to learn how colostrum may benefit your health.

Related: The 10 Best Snacks for Weight Loss, Including What One MD Calls “The #1 Superfood in the World”

1. Colostrum repairs the gut lining

A healthy gut has a variety of impacts on our overall health. Jacobson points out that our ability to absorb nutrients, keep harmful substances out of the bloodstream, have regular bowel function and maintain overall cognitive health starts with the bacteria in our microbiome. But for many of us, our gut lining is damaged and leaky, triggering inflammation. “If you have a leaky gut, everything else is going to break down,” says Dr. Lalezar. “It doesn’t matter how many supplements you take if you have leaky gut, you’re at square one until you repair it.” (Click through for more ways to heal leaky gut symptoms.)

Colostrum can help. Thankfully, there are nutrients in colostrum that are essential for stimulating gut repair, says Jacobsen. Indeed, studies show that supplemental colostrum may increase levels of serum insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This growth factor regulates intestinal cell growth that repairs the gut lining. And lactoferrin, a protein, plays a role in repairing intestinal damage brought on by environmental factors, like preservatives in our foods and certain medications.

2. Colostrum improves immunity

“Colostrum is an immune modulator,” says Dr. Lalezar, explaining that the supplement can help regulate and boost the immune system. That’s one reason why she gives colostrum to her 12-year-old twin daughters twice daily – and says that they were the only two students in their class who didn’t get sick this past winter.

More proof: In a Nutrients study, subjects taking colostrum daily had fewer sick days and less severe upper respiratory symptoms. One reason for this is that colostrum brims with antibodies. “They bind to antigens, things like viral infections or bacterial infections, and sort of lock themselves to the antigen to prevent it from taking over your body,” Dr Lalezar explains.

Jacobson notes that the gut-healthy benefits of colostrum for adults are also key for immune health. “Since 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, supporting gut health is crucial for healthy immune function,” she explains.  

Related: MD: The Active Ingredient in Star Anise Is the Same One That Powers Tamiflu — Here’s How to Reap the Immune-Boosting Benefits

3. Colostrum may prevent muscle soreness

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Whether you just did a particularly difficult workout or you’re new at the gym, colostrum may help repair muscles and ease aches. In one European Journal of Nutrition study, soccer players who played a simulated game after supplementing with colostrum had less exercise-induced muscle damage than they did pre-supplementation. The researchers note that colostrum lowered levels of C-reactive protein, creatine kinase and interleukin-6. These inflammatory compounds are known to induce muscle damage and pain post-exercise. (Age-related muscle loss can lead to frailty. Click through for the vitamin that bolsters muscle.)

4. Colostrum wards off GI troubles

The inflammation so many of us experience in the gut “can lead to various gut-related symptoms, including food sensitivities, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating,” says Jacobsen. But with all its gut-supporting nutrients, it’s no surprise that colostrum may ease symptoms. Lalezar also notes it may also help ward off short-term gastrointestinal issues, like constipation and indigestion. Though more research is need, a study on children found that colostrum halved the recovery time from E.coli and rotavirus-induced diarrhea. And early animal studies show colostrum can increase levels of beneficial gut bacteria that ward off GI trouble and reduces signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.

Related: Do Probiotics Help With Bloating? Docs Say Yes — If You Choose the Right Ones

Who can benefit from a colostrum supplement?

Most people won’t have any adverse effects from taking a colostrum supplement. But Jacobsen recommends avoiding them during pregnancy, after organ transplants and while taking medications like anti-rejection drugs. Colostrum is lower in lactose than other dairy, so it may be tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. But if you’re allergic to dairy, avoid the supplements. “In my practice, I most commonly use colostrum to alleviate symptoms of IBS, IBD and autoimmune conditions,” says Jacobsen. She notes that colostrum is most effective when taken daily, and Dr. Lalezar agrees. Always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any nutritional supplement.  

What to look for in a colostrum supplement

With a wide range of products available online, it can difficult to discern which colostrum supplement is right for you. Jacobsen recommends looking for one from pasture-raised or grass-fed antibiotic-free sources. Also, check labels for third-party testing – a seal that means the product meets safety, purity and potency standards. Both Jacobsen and Dr. Lalezar recommend Sovereign Laboratories Colostrum. Other options include ARMA, which is popular with many influencers, and Adapt Naturals Bio-Avail Colostrum+, which also contains beta glucan, a prebiotic fiber that supports healthy gut bacteria. (Click though to learn how beta glucan enhances weight loss.)

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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