By now you may have heard of colostrum, or seen products on the shelves of your favorite health products store, and maybe have noticed it in
reference to heightening immune response.
Dr. Beth Ley, Ph.D., author of Immune System Cotnrol: Colostrum & Lactoferrin, writes that for centuries, man has known that newborns have
fewer illnesses and generally live longer and more robustly -- if they were fed their mothers' first milk following birth, than those that did not.
Specifically, Ley explains, colostrum "is the pre-milk fluid produced by female mammals in the mammary glands just before they give birth. While it is
technically not milk at all, colostrum is often called 'first milk' as it is obtained in the first milking after birth."
A Quick Overview of the Immune System
To understand the importance of colostrum, it helps to know a bit about our immune system. According to Robert Rountree, M.D., author of
Immunotics: A Revolutionary Way to Fight Infection, Beat Chronic Illness, and Stay Well, the immune system is unlike others because it is not
confined to an organ, group of organs or specific site. "The immune system is not a discrete entity, but rather an assortment of billions of specialized
cells that protect the body in many different ways," he explains.
There are many varied immune cells with targeted missions. Some circulate throughout the body and deal immediately with foreign invaders. Others
only perform local reconnaissance on the lining and blood vessels of certain organs. Mucus is also an arsenal of immune cells, and the lining of the
gastrointestinal tract is likewise filled with various immune cells. Meanwhile, the lymphatic system, a veritable roadmap that circulates lymph fluid
composed of white blood cells and fat throughout the body, is filled with cruising immune cells.
Immune cells include B-cells, T-cells (helper, suppressor and killer), macrophages, monocytes, neutrophils and another set called antibodies composed of
five classes: IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD, and IgE.
Colostrum's Affinity for Immunity
Colostrum, writes Ley, contains all four of the key immunoglobulins: IgM, IgA, IgG and secretory IgA. "These immunoglobulins are equipped with special
adaptive sites which are effective at neutralizing a wide range of bacteria, viruses and yeasts. They include antibodies specific to fight disease-causing
Lactoferrin is a key protein found in colostrum which Rountree points out binds to unbound iron. "Numerous studies document that lactoferrin also has
natural antibiotic, antifungal and possibly anticancer activity," he writes. "According to a study published in Cancer Research, lactoferrin can inhabit
both the growth of solid tumors and metastasis in mice. Refined lactoferrin is being tested as potential cancer treatment," he adds.
Ley adds that the benefits of lactoferrin are many. Specifically, among many other activities, lactoferrin "promotes intestinal cell growth (enhances
nutrient digestion); activates and regulates the immune system (produces or stimulates production of antibodies, interleukins, killer cells and other
white blood cells, etc.); and provides unfavorable conditions for growth of certain harmful microorganisms (inhibits binding activity, etc.)."
Colostrum also contains immunoglobulins, which Rountree describes as proteins that attach to foreign proteins and mark them for attack by circulating
T-cells. "Think of globulins as the scouts of the immune system," offers Rountree.
Transfer factor is another beneficial ingredient found within colostrum; it facilitates an exchange of information from one cell to another, which in turn
alerts other immune cells to potentially nefarious invaders. Older immune cells transfer their antibody memory to younger cells through the transfer
factor, he explains.
Ley, in another book on the subject, Colostrum: Nature's Gift to the Immune System, also explains that colostrum contains pro-line-rich
polypeptide (PRP) which regulates the immune system in a powerful manner. "PRP in Colostrum increases the permeability of the skin vessels which
offers a regulatory activity, stimulating or suppressing the immune response," she writes.
Colostrum has been shown to be promising for inhibiting conditions of bone cancer, lymphoma and other cancer types, Ley reports. Other conditions in
which researchers have shown some benefit from taking colostrum include the effective neutralizing of a number of microorganisms such as
Escherischia coli, Streptococcus pneumococci, Clostridium difficile A and B, Bivrio cholera, salmonella, shigella and a variety of viruses
including rotavirus and coxsackie, and yeasts such as Candida albicans.
Colostrum taken on a daily basis can also have positive effects for bodybuilders and other athletes, Ley points out. The naturally occurring growth
factors, such as IgF1, help to stimulate cell division and tissue development, assisting in healing and repair.
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