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Galdino et al. recently reviewed the immune-boosting properties of bovine colostrum and its potential for combating COVID-19, in a paper published in Food and Agricultural Immunology, an open access journal. Colostrum is the nutrient-rich fluid secreted by the mammary glands of female mammals during the first few days following birth. Colostrum contains high amounts of growth factors, enzymes, hormones, macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate), vitamins and minerals, and antibodies for nourishing the newborn and assisting the development of its immune system. The tissue-building and immune factors present in colostrum aid in appropriately sealing for the first time the immature intestinal wall of neonates. Adult supplementation with colostrum has benefited autoimmune conditions through the same mechanism – decreasing excessive permeability of the gut wall..
Mammalian colostrum also contains probiotics and prebiotics that further the establishment of the infant’s intestinal microbiota. Many of the probiotic species carried by human colostrum are of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera, while the prebiotics present are in the form of oligosaccharides (strings of simple sugar units). The health of the gut microbiota plays a major role in immune function and has been linked to disease severity in patients with COVID-19.
Stem cells and microRNAs can be found in colostrum, too – the stem cells supplying precursors for all three of the germ layers, and the microRNAs helping to program and guide immune development as regulators of gene expression.
The protective immunoglobulins and lactoferrin (an antimicrobial protein) found in colostrum have previously demonstrated activity against a range of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. These pathogens include E. coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Candida albicans, HIV-1, and Giardia lamblia.. Specific to respiratory tract infections, bovine colostrum has helped thwart infection by influenza virus, human rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and coronavirus varieties.
Athletes and other physically active individuals have also benefited from using colostrum, gaining enhanced immune defenses and improved exercise performance. Additionally, colostrum consumption has been associated with a reduction in asthma and respiratory allergy symptoms.
Because of colostrum’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, as well as its ability to strengthen both the innate and adaptive immune systems, multiple research groups are scrutinizing it as a prophylactic and treatment option for COVID-19. Lactoferrin may be capable of inhibiting the binding of SARS-CoV-2 to host cells, and in an observational study, liposomal bovine lactoferrin improved the symptom profile in all of 75 patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Further studies are needed, but Galdino et al. concluded: “Current evidence indicates that colostrum and its components may contribute as a non-pharmacological alternative for the clinical management of COVID-19.”
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Published in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing
Winter 2021-22 | Volume 45, Number 4
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