What Is Colostrum? - Definition, Benefits & Side Effects

What Is Colostrum? - Definition, Benefits & Side Effects
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  • 0:01 Colostrum
  • 1:04 Bovine Colustrum
  • 1:43 Benefits
  • 2:34 Side Effects
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Lawson

Sarah has taught nursing courses and has a master's degree in nursing education.

Did you know colostrum can be taken as a supplement to help boost immunity and may even make you a better athlete? Learn more about colostrum, its benefits and its side effects in this lesson.


Many people know what breast milk is and where it comes from; but, have you ever heard of colostrum? Did you know there is a difference between breast milk and colostrum? Colostrum is a milky substance that is produced by the breasts of mammals before birth and during the first few days following birth. Colostrum precedes the production of true milk, or breast milk. It's usually clear in appearance, but may look slightly yellow. While breast milk is highly nutritious and immensely beneficial to newborns, colostrum is thicker, more concentrated in protein, and lower in fat than true breast milk.

Colostrum contains many nutritional benefits for the baby, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies, which are important disease-fighting proteins produced by the immune system that attack and kill microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. The antibody level in colostrum can be as high as 100 times the level found in regular milk!

Bovine Colostrum

Bovine colostrum is colostrum secreted by cows. Because of colostrum's high protein content, bovine colostrum may be taken as a dietary supplement by children and adults. This supplement is believed to boost and stimulate the immune system, and has been used as a treatment for colitis, diarrhea, and infections. It's most often taken by mouth in capsules. Athletes will sometimes use colostrum to help build lean muscle, burn fat, increase stamina, and improve athletic performance. While it may or may not help improve athletic ability, it's unlikely to give you huge, rippling muscles.


Proponents for the use of colostrum supplementation argue that it has many health benefits, including gastrointestinal protection, improved physical performance, and flu prevention. According to available research, colostrum may help protect the gastrointestinal tract from damage and may help it to heal from chronic conditions, such as colitis. One study found colostrum may help to prevent damage from long-term NSAID use.

Colostrum may also help to improve physical performance and help to build lean body mass. It has been found that colostrum is most effective if used during periods of high-intensity training or recovery from high-intensity training. Research has also found that participants using colostrum supplementation during a two-month period had the flu three times less than participants who were not using the supplement.

Side Effects

While it's believed that colostrum may be able to treat some conditions, it's not currently officially recommended for any treatment due to the need for more research. There's little known about the long-term effects of using bovine colostrum supplements. Because there hasn't been a great deal of research performed on bovine colostrum, there's still much that's unknown about its use.

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