Colostrum is a complex makeup of many different components. Scientists are still working to understand all the elements and how they work together and within the body. The most important components of colostrum can be broken down into two major categories: immune factors and growth factors. The immune factors can be further divided into two major categories: protective and regulatory. Below we can become familiar with these components and start to understand how this miracle food works to protect, heal and regenerate the body.
Immune Factor Components
Protective factors are one of the components of colostrum that neutralize and destroy invading microorganisms. This is a natural defense mechanism that helps ward off and combat infectious agents.
Immunoglobulins, or antibodies, are powerful weapons in the war against disease, especially viral infections. They have been proven effective in neutralizing many strains of viruses and bacteria as well as yeasts. Immunoglobulins have been used to treat such diseases as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis A, anemia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and chickenpox, among others. Because of this incredible power, immunoglobulins are the most important immune factors in colostrum. Luckily, they are also the most abundant. Bovine colostrum contains all five immunoglobulins found in humans. It also contain large amounts of the four key antibodies: IgG, IgM, IgA and Secretory IgA.
- Trypsin Inhibitors and Protease Inhibitors
These immunoglobulins remain molecularly intact as they pass through the digestive system. This allows them then enter the body unbroken or to stay in the bowel. This is an important characteristic of the antibodies found in bovine colostrum since most infectious diseases enter into the body through the bowel. The antibodies that stay in the intestinal tract can then fight off invading organisms before they can colonize and penetrate into the body.
- Leukocytes (White Blood Cells)
Leukocytes play a very active and important role in fighting off infections and cleaning up the toxins left by invading substances. Bovine colostrum contains various living white blood cells, the most abundant of which are neutrophils and macrophages. The leukocytes in colostrum can also stimulate the production of interferon, which, as its name suggests, interferes with the reproduction of viruses.
Powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral agent. In helping the body to more effectively use iron, Lactoferrin deprives bacteria of the mineral. This makes it impossible for the antigen to reproduce. Lactoferrin also has the ability to latch onto bacteria and weaken them until other immune factors can destroy them. Lactoferrin also contains many antibodies, and an anti-inflammatory agent. Recent studies have proven that Lactoferrin from bovine colostrum can inhibit the growth of the HIV virus. It is also effective in fighting cytomegalo virus.
This protein, designed to destroy bacteria by breaking it up, can also kill viruses on contact. It is found in saliva and tears and has recently been added to baby formula.
This enzyme generates the release of hydrogen peroxide, which then burns, or hydrolyzes, dangerous bacteria. Peroxidase is a more recently discovered immune factor.
- Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 and Growth Hormone
Though technically considered growth factors, both IGF-1 and growth hormone can render significant aid to the immune system. Their growth-promoting characteristics have been proven to have a profound effect on the thymus gland. The thymus gland is a major organ of the immune system playing a major role in cell-mediated immunity.
Equally as important as the factors that actually neutralize and destroy invading microorganisms are the factors that regulate immune function. They do this by stimulating immune response when it is too low, and suppressing it when it is too high. If these regulatory factors are missing, the consequences can be very severe. A depressed immune system allows invading substances to reproduce inside the body resulting in all kinds of infection and disease. On the other hand, an immune system that cannot shut itself off begins attacking the healthy cells of the body. This is what’s called an autoimmune response. It leads to allergies and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, Alzheimer’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Proline-Rich Polypeptide (PRP)
A hormone that regulates the thymus gland, stimulating an underactive immune system or down-regulating an overactive immune system as seen in autoimmune disease. PRP also helps regulate immune function by increasing the permeability of the skin’s vessels.
Cytokines help regulate immune function by influencing T-cell production, lymph activity and the production of immunoglobulins. With this broad influence, cytokines are able to regulate both the force and duration of an immune response. One of the cytokines, interleukin-10, works to reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.
Lymphokines are peptides, released by stimulated white blood cells, that control immune response.
Growth Factor Components
The growth factors found in colostrum include epithelial growth factor (EgF), insulin like growth factor-I and II (IGF-I and IGF-II), Fibroblast Growth Factor (FgF), Platelet-Derived Growth and growth hormone (GH). All of these help stimulate cellular and tissue growth. A 1989 study published in Comparative Biochemical Physiology pointed out that the high levels of growth factors found in bovine colostrum promote cell growth by stimulating the formation of DNA, which is essential to the survival of every cell in the body.
It is only natural that the first food a baby receives be rich in growth factors. These help stimulate the rapid growth a baby’s body undergoes during the first years of life. They strengthen both bone and muscle and helping the child’s organs develop properly. Though adults are no longer growing, they can still benefit from the work the growth factors do in the body.
The best-known and most studied growth factors are the Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) and growth hormone (GH). Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. Growth hormone controls the body’s growth by regulating the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, electrolytes and fat. It also influences the production of hormones. It is particularly essential during the adolescent years.
IGF-1 is so named because of its close resemblance to the hormone insulin. This chain of amino acids, produced in the liver, is actually a by-product of growth hormone release. It is responsible for muscle cell division. IGF-1 even improves the function of growth hormone throughout the body.
Some companies now market genetically engineered versions of both IGF-1 and GH. They use them in healing, muscle-building and anti-aging therapies as well as AIDS treatments. These factors were first identified and isolated by studying bovine colostrum. Since that time, several studies, including a 1991 British report, have concluded that the growth factor IGF-1 found in bovine colostrum is molecularly identical to the IGF-1 produced naturally in the human body. This means that individuals taking colostrum will experience all the benefits the IGF-1 provides to the body, without encountering any negative side effects. In addition, bovine colostrum is the natural source with the highest concentration of IGF-1.
Healing and Regeneration Ability
Just as the growth factors are able to re-grow the thymus gland, they have also been proven to re-grow tissue and repair other damage done to the body. In fact, these regenerative effects extend to nearly all the structural cells in the body. So not only will colostrum immune factors fight off disease and illness, but the growth factors come in and act as the clean up and repair crew. All of the components of colostrum work in different ways to promote this healing.
A 1981 study found that bovine colostrum contained 7 different nucleosides that are key to both the growth and repair of body cells. The growth factors promote healing because they are able to encourage growth on a cellular level by enhancing both DNA and protein synthesis. In addition, growth factors improve the body’s nutrient uptake, providing the raw materials needed for rebuilding the cells.
In 1990, the University of Arizona concluded that Fibroblast Growth Factor, Insulin Like Growth Factor, and Transforming Growth Factor-b (all found in bovine colostrum), when administered together, caused growth and reproduction of cells that then fused together or to the adjacent muscle fiber. This type of quick and strong healing and re-growth means that there is usually less scarring. It also indicates an incredible potential for healing the wounds of diseases like lupus or multiple sclerosis.
For example, growth factors like TGF A & B stimulate the reproduction of skin cells to replace those that may have been damaged by lupus. Growth factors also have the potential of stimulating the re-growth of the myelin sheath (a thick, fatty material that surrounds and protects nerve fibers) that is destroyed with a disease like multiple sclerosis.
In surgical cases or illnesses requiring any amount of bed rest, a patient is most often unable to use the injured muscle. The muscle is weakened and muscle mass is lost, further slowing the healing process. Growth factors found in colostrum (particularly GH) speed up rehabilitation by strengthening the muscle on a cellular level. This helps the speed of the healing process.
All the components of colostrum are beneficial in recovery from many diseases. They work together in perfect combination to regulate, protect and regenerate the body.