Bovine colostrum is one of those superfoods that I always have on hand for the horses, the dogs, and myself. I first got wind of it after the 2000 Summer Olympics, when it was revealed that the powerful Australian swim team was supplementing with bovine colostrum. What makes bovine colostrum a super food is that it supports a range of biological activities: immune support, cellular repair, bone support, glucose tolerance, protection of GI tract tissue, and optimization of beneficial intestinal flora.
Colostrum for the immune system
Colostrum is an immune system modulator. This means that it can stimulate the immune system if needed, or bring it back to homeostasis if it is overreacting—as in the case of allergies, hives, or systemic inflammation. There really is no other food that can do this.
Colostrum provides a potent array of immune factors, including immunoglobulins, cytokines, interferon, lactoferrin, and proline-rich proteins (PRPs). Some of these specific proteins found in colostrum are part of the innate immune system, and provide important protection against harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Immunoglobulins, or “antibodies,” are a critical part of the immune system response because they recognize and bind to antigens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and cancer cells. The immunoglobulins in colostrum contribute to its ability to kill dangerous bacteria including coli, salmonella, candida, streptococcus, staphylococcus and cryptosporidium, as well as rotavirus.
- Lactoferrin is a protein that acts by binding free iron, which is needed by certain bacteria and fungi to reproduce. Lactoferrin can penetrate the cell walls of bacteria, causing them to burst.
- PRPs (proline-rich proteins) are able to regulate the thymus gland, the master gland of the immune system. PRPs can help bring the immune system back to homeostasis, or stimulate it to fight infections and diseases.
- Transfer factors are immune system molecules that contain codes for immune recognition and balance.
Colostrum for tissue repair and injury recovery
Bovine colostrum can help horses, dogs and humans recover more quickly from injuries by providing 70 different growth factors which can accelerate healing of damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) helps to stimulate collagen production, while fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and epithelial growth factor (EGF) repair muscle fibers, tendons, and ligaments through regulation of cellular migration and proliferation. Transforming growth factor (TGF-alpha and TGF-beta) in colostrum stimulate the production and repair of RNA and DNA.
Colostrum for bone regeneration
Recent studies have shown that lactoferrin in bovine colostrum accelerated bone regeneration in bone defects. Lactoferrin activates the proliferation of osteoblasts (cells that synthesize bone) and inhibits apoptosis (cell death). Bovine colostrum can also promote calcium absorption, and a study published in Dairy Science & Technology (2009) showed that the acid proteins in bovine colostrum increased bone mineral density.
If your horse is currently on a protocol of Tildren or Osphos, bovine colostrum would be an excellent support food for bone support.
Colostrum for metabolism
Various researchers have identified that bovine colostrum is loaded with metabolically activating nutrients including insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). This protein plays an integral role in endocrine regulation of metabolism, and helps to balance blood sugar in the body.
Gastrointestinal tissue protection
Components of bovine colostrum, including epithelial growth factors, can stimulate repair of intestinal membranes. The anti-inflammatory effect of alpha-lactalbumin reduces hyper-permeability associated with including leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome. Alpha-lactalbumin can boost levels of the important antioxidant glutathione. Deficiencies of this antioxidant are associated with inflammatory bowel diseases and ulcerative colitis. Other benefits of colostrum for the GI tract include healing of the damage and irritation done to the gut by NSAIDs.
Supports growth of beneficial microorganisms
Bovine colostrum provides prebiotics that enhance growth of the beneficial bifidobacteria that inhabit the small intestine and help to modulate immune response.
Important food for athletes
Studies on human athletes have demonstrated the importance of bovine colostrum supplementation including a 20-percent increase in strength and stamina and shorter recovery time for soccer players and cyclists. A study from Finland highlighted that skiers taking colostrum experienced less fatigue and only half the level of blood creatine-kinase, which is a marker of muscle injury.
Performance and sport horses, as well as dogs that do agility, fly ball, and herding all can benefit from bovine colostrum supplementation.
Colostrum as a support food
If your horse has been diagnosed with Lyme or EPM, bovine colostrum is an important support food that regulates the immune system, helps tissue repair, and supports the GI tract and intestinal membranes. Colostrum is an important support food for horses with allergies, or those having an allergic reaction such as hives. Colostrum is excellent support for healing connective tissues like ligaments.
When choosing bovine colostrum
Bovine colostrum quality and effectiveness is measured by the amount of IgGs (immunoglobulin G). Most colostrum supplements are at 15 percent IgG, with the exception of colostrum for foals which is 40 percent IgG. Biostar’s Colostrum-38 is 38 percent IgG from grass-fed, r-BGH-free cows in Canada. Because Biostar’s colostrum is so high in IgGs, you only need ½ -1 teaspoon per day to provide your horse with the powerful elements of colostrum. Dogs need 1/8- ¼ teaspoon per day.