To Your Health

What does colostrum have in it that is good for babies, and is it also good for adults?

Q. What does colostrum have in it that is good for babies, and is it also good for adults?

A. Colostrum is the first food for mammals. It is the nutrient-rich, premilk fluid that is secreted by the mammary glands from about the fourth month of gestation until about 72 hours after birth. Not only is it a rich source of nutrients, it also contains several biologically active substances that are essential to the baby's immune and growth functions. Much less colostrum is produced than the amount of mature milk, but what it lacks in volume it makes up for in power. Without it, many newborn mammals would simply die.

Colostrum contains more than 90 known components. Besides vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids, in the precise optimum balance for newborns, it provides a host of immune factors and growth factors. The terms below are necessarily "technical," but you can use them to find more information.

Immune factors in colostrum include:

Immunoglobulins such as IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM, which provide defense against viral, bacterial, fungal and yeast infections.

Antibodies specific to the common disease-causing pathogens, such as Helicobacter pylori, cryptosporidium, rotavirus, salmonella, streptococcus, staphylococcus, and E. coli.

Proline-rich Polypeptide (PRP), a messenger molecule that helps regulate the thymus gland and stimulate the immune system.

Lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein with antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties, helpful in reducing risk of infection.

Glycoproteins, (protease and trypsin inhibitors) that protect the immune and growth factors in colostrum from being destroyed by the digestive juices in the stomach and intestinal tract.

Cytokines (Interleukin 1, interleukin 6, Interferon Y, and Lymphokines), immune factors that are involved in cell-to-cell communication and regulate the intensity of the immune response. Cytokines also increase cancer-fighting T-cell activity and stimulate production of immunoglobulins.

Lysozymes, which destroy bacteria on contact and protect the body from bacterial infections.

Growth factors in colostrum include

Epithelial Growth Factor, which protects and maintains the skin.

Insulin-like Growth Factors I and II, which affect the body's use of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. IGF-I is one of the few substances that stimulate the repair and growth of DNA and RNA. IGF-1 may cause a positive test for substances that competitive athletes should not use.

Transforming Growth Factors A & B stimulate the cells in connective tissue and assists in the formation of bone and cartilage.

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor assists with cell division in connective tissue, smooth muscle, and fibroblasts and may assist in neuron survival and regeneration.

Apparently any person of any age who is not allergic to milk can use bovine colostrum to boost their immune system. The colostrum commercially available usually comes from cows that have been deliberately infected with human pathogens, allowing that cow to develop antibodies for those nonbovine diseases.

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