Raise your hand if your cabinets are so overflowing with vitamins and supplements that you almost need a spreadsheet to keep track of when to take them. If that sounds about right, you’ll definitely want to learn about the many benefits of colostrum, the multi-beneficial ingestible that’s about to take over the wellness world (and majorly streamline your supplement routine).
Colostrum is a supplement that comes from the milk produced by all mammals within the first two to four days after giving birth, explains functional dietician Jenn Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT. “The purpose of this ‘first milk’ is to provide newborns with high quantities of bioavailable vitamins, minerals, and immunoglobulins,” she tells Bustle. Sarah Rahal, MD, a double-board certified pediatric and adult neurologist trained in functional medicine and environmental health, says colostrum basically acts as an immunization shot for the baby. “It has thousands of bioactive molecules in it, like peptides and fats, that help protect the infant’s immune barrier,” Rahal tells Bustle.
Though it’s essential for newborns, you can take colostrum in supplement form at any point in life to boost immunity, gut health, energy levels, and more. And science backs up its healing powers: Rahal notes that there are over 5,000 studies on the many benefits of colostrum — including bloating relief, gut health perks, and even beauty benefits — that all stem from its ability to help seal up the immune barriers within the body.
Here are all the ways colostrum can help support your health, according to experts.
One of the main benefits of colostrum is how it works to repair your immune barrier, which often needs a boost due to the onslaught of environmental pollutants you encounter every day.
“Basically, just like we have skin as a physical barrier that protects us from the outside, we literally have the same thing that lines the inside,” Rahal explains. “It lines our nose, sinuses, mouth, lungs, gut, and urinary tract — it’s the interface between everything we're inhaling and ingesting and our bloodstream.”
If this immune barrier isn’t strong it might fail to protect your body, and that’s when it’s possible you’ll experience an immune response or inflammation — plus all the side effects that come with it. These can include digestive issues, headaches, allergies, and more.
Improved Gut Health
According to Alicia Galvin, RD, the functional GI and resident dietician for Sovereign Laboratories, taking colostrum is a helpful way to begin clearing up ongoing gut-related issues like gas, bloating, constipation, and even fatigue. This is all thanks to the way it helps balance intestinal permeability, she says, which helps prevent leaky gut-related symptoms.
The superfood can boost your workout game, too. “Athletes have been using bovine colostrum for years to help increase athletic performance and build lean muscle mass,” Galvin says. Studies have shown that it can help your muscles recover faster after a workout, and it can also help you put on lean muscle tissue for improved strength.
Rahal notes that inflammation is at the core of so many health issues. “Whether it’s mental fog, bloating, or sleep problems, colostrum may be able to repair the root cause,” she says. And that can help you feel better overall.
Research has shown that colostrum can improve your complexion in multiple ways: It reduces inflammation, can help quash breakouts, and even out the skin. You can even use colostrum on your skin for treating breakouts, rashes, or eczema. “Anytime I have a little blemish I just go ahead and make a mask with it and it really works wonders,” says Rahal.
How Do You Take Colostrum?
Colostrum typically comes in powdered form in a tub, kind of like a protein mix. It’s typically a flavorless powder you can easily stir into water or dump into your morning smoothie. According to Rahal, you may even want to sprinkle it over food — just make sure it’s cold food so you don’t disrupt active ingredients.
How Often Should You Take Colostrum?
Rahal’s colostrum brand ARMRA, in particular, is something you can take every day. “The immune barrier entirely replaces itself every two to three weeks, so that means you need constant support and it also means, when you start supporting that barrier, you can see changes very quickly,” says she says. “Oftentimes people will start with one stick pack a day, or one scoop a day for immune protection. But then they start noticing other changes in their body very quickly, so they start taking more.”
Taking it once a day is perfectly adequate, but Rahal says many people take colostrum three times a day to support their gut health, boost their energy levels instead of drinking coffee, or support lean muscle mass and tissue repair after exercise. To see the full scope of all of these benefits, she says it’s recommended that you take colostrum for four to six weeks.
Will You Still Need Other Supplements?
According to Rahal, colostrum is a complete replacement for probiotics because it replenishes the whole body microbiome. “That means the microbiome in your skin, in your mouth, in your sinuses, in your lungs, in your urinary tract,” she says.
While you’d want to check with your doctor first, this may mean you could stop taking supplements designed for gut support, as well as other natural supplements you might be taking for inflammation, like turmeric. As Rahal says, “Inflammation is what underpins almost every modern chronic health issue.” So you may, with time, be able to cut back on other supplements, too.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Colostrum is considered safe, Rahal explains, as there’s never been a side effect or medication interaction documented. Studies have also shown that any lactose intolerance-related side effects are significantly less with colostrum compared to milk. The body has a hard time recognizing processed dairy, says Rahal. But since colostrum is a raw, bioavailable product, it’s actually anti-inflammatory. So you get all the benefits, without any of the annoying digestive distress.
That said, colostrum is not vegan, and you may want to be careful if you have a milk allergy. “Since most colostrum supplements are derived from bovine sources, even though it isn't the same as cow's milk, people with a cow's milk allergy or sensitivity may possibly have an adverse reaction to colostrum supplements,” says Volpe. “It may be worth exploring alternative forms of colostrum derived from goat or sheep if that is the case.”
If it does work out for you, however, it may just become the multi-beneficial all-star of your supplement routine.
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Sarah Rahal, MD, double-board certified pediatric and adult neurologist
Jenn Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT, functional dietician