The importance of colostrum for early childhood nutrition & the health benefits it affords adults
By Lauren Crosby MD, FAAP | Board-Certified Pediatrician
As a practicing pediatrician for over 20 years, I have been lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time with parents of newborn babies. Those first days are all about feeding that baby, making sure she gets the colostrum and the breastmilk that follows. Both of these fluids contain a variety of important nutrients, though at differing amounts, perfectly tailored by nature for a baby’s nutritional needs.
Let’s look at colostrum in more detail. Colostrum is key to a baby’s health – it is the first food made by mammals to feed their newborns. It is the first fluid that breastfed babies receive during the first days of nursing before the breastmilk comes in. Colostrum is literally nature’s superfood as it provides all the nutrition a newborn needs during those first few days after birth.
Colostrum differs from breastmilk in its composition, consistency and color because it is made up of a unique combination of nutrients. Colostrum contains protective proteins, immune factors, growth factors, and prebiotics, all of which work to jumpstart the newborn immune system to help the baby grow, develop and thrive. This precious fluid is more yellow in color than breast milk and is produced in very small amounts and it is transient -- it is only produced during those first few days after birth. Hence the nickname “liquid gold”. Colostrum is extraordinarily rich in nutrients yet has been historically unavailable to anyone besides a newborn baby.
Given all the wonderful nutrients colostrum offers, you might be asking “Is there a way to ingest colostrum beyond the newborn period? Can children and adults reap the benefits of that magical fluid that is both extremely beneficial and yet sadly transient?” It turns out the answer is yes! Extensive research has shown that colostrum from cows can play an important role in supporting the immune system and the digestive health of humans of all ages. Studies have shown that cow colostrum is highly similar to human colostrum and contains the following key nutrients:
- Protective proteins: Help support your body’s natural defenses so they can recognize and ward off foreign invaders
- Immune factors: Help support a balanced and healthy immune response
- Prebiotics: Promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, helping to create a balanced and healthy microbiome
- Growth factors: Help to support the gut’s natural repair process and strengthen the protective lining of the gut
Cows produce colostrum well in excess of what a calf can consume, so the excess can be collected and used in the production of a colostrum supplement. Fortunately, the benefits of cow colostrum can be bottled and is available for people of all ages. Studies have shown that this colostrum supplement supports immune health by strengthening the body’s natural immune response, and by supporting a healthy gut, where over 70% of the immune system resides. And it supports digestive health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and by supporting the gut’s natural repair process.
In short, colostrum from cows is a naturally derived potent superfood with numerous health benefits in humans. It is highly similar to human colostrum as they both contain precious nutrients and work in similar ways. Research has shown that its components can play an important role in in strengthening and supporting health throughout all of life.
Nutrition is a key component of health and wellness and the addition of colostrum to the daily routine of both adults and children provides numerous benefits that cannot be obtained in any other way. Colostrum from a new mom is fleeting, but cow colostrum is available to take over where human colostrum leaves off and aid us on our nutrition and wellness journey that truly begins at birth!