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Colostrum is the first milk produced by a mammal after birth to nourish, promote growth and immune fuction in neonates. Bovine colostrum is sold as a health supplement, and it is thought to have a number of benefits for people. Let's take a look at some of these, and the sort of side effects that can be expected

Colostrum Benefits

This milky substance is a rich source of nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, but the main reason people use colostrum is for the high levels of antibodies, antimicrobials and growth factors contained in this product. Colostrum has shown a number of benefits in the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, such as colitis, and various infections and conditions which cause diarrhoea.

Colostrum Side Effects – Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders and athletes have found many benefits in colostrum too, and it is widely used, both as an ingredient in protein powders and as a stand alone supplement. It has shown a lot of promise, and a number of studies have shown that it has the ability to improve athletic performance (1).

In addition, it has been shown to have advantages over whey in the accumulation of lean body mass, which makes it an attractive prospect for bodybuilders and people trying to put on muscle (2).

Colostrum Powder Side Effects

Colostrum is very similar to milk, and as such, it has similar side effects to dairy proteins casein and whey.

Even though it is used in the treatment of diarrhoea and bowel inflammations, the major reported side effects from colostrum are gastric issues, including diarrhoea and flatulence. Because colostrum is used in lower doses than other dairy proteins, these side effects are less likely to occur as a result of the dose, and more likely to occur as a result of intolerance or allergy to dairy proteins or sugars. Although colostrum contains very small amounts of lactose, people with a severe intolerance to this sugar are advised to avoid colostrum.

One of the reasons behind the popularity of colostrum as a supplement is the high level of growth factor, such as IGF-1, that it contains naturally. While IGF-1 is a potently anabolic substance which can cause lean muscle gains, it can also encourage the growth of cells in other proliferative conditions, such as in some cancers, and it may also exacerbate acne in susceptible individuals.

IGF-1 is an insulin-like protein, and as such has some potential to induce hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar. For this reason, it is important that people with any of these conditions should consult their doctor before using colostrum (3).

There has, in the past, been concern about the transmission of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE or Mad Cow Disease) through products like colostrum. Because Australia is free from BSE, and our strict quarantine system prevents imports of dairy products from affected countries, the good news is that there is next to no chance of contracting this rare illness through use of bovine colostrum products.

Colostrum is a very safe supplement that has shown a lot of promise in treating illness, and for improving performance and lean mass gain in athletes. Anybody who experiences side effects, or has concerns about this product is encouraged to stop using colostrum and speak to a medical professional before resuming supplementation.

(1) Hofman, Z.; Smeets, R.; Verlaan, G.; Lugt, R.; Verstappen, PA. (Dec 2002). "The effect of bovine colostrum supplementation on exercise performance in elite field hockey players". Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab12 (4): 461–9.
(2) Antonio J, Sanders MS, Van Gammeren D. The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in active men and women. Nutrition. 2001 Mar;17(3):243-7.
(3) Balhara B, Misra M, Levitsky LL. Recombinant human IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) therapy: where do we stand today? Indian J Pediatr. 2012 Feb;79(2):244-9.

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