Could Colostrum Be Your Secret Weapon Against Allergies This Spring?

Spring is in the air, and while that means blooming flowers and warmer weather, it also signals the start of allergy season for many people. If you’re one of the millions who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might dread the sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose that come with this time of year.
Over-the-counter allergy medications like Benadryl and Claritin can offer some relief. But they also have significant side effects and risks, including drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, increased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and insomnia. Prolonged use of nasal decongestant sprays may result in rebound congestion, worsening symptoms when the medication is discontinued.
Natural remedies like quercetin and black seed oil (Nigella sativa) can also be helpful and typically have fewer side effects and risks. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about another potential ally in your fight against allergy symptoms: bovine colostrum.
Recent studies have explored the potential of colostrum in alleviating allergy symptoms with promising results. As a Functional Medicine clinician, I’ve had great success prescribing colostrum to my patients with allergies for many years.
Why is colostrum such a promising natural remedy for allergies? The answer lies in its unique combination of immunoglobulins, growth factors, lactoferrin, and other bioactive molecules. These components work together to support and regulate the immune system, which could help reduce the severity of allergic reactions.
In this article, we’ll dive into the science behind colostrum and its potential role in allergy relief. We’ll explore what makes this supplement unique, how it works in the body, and what the research says about its effectiveness. By the end, you’ll better understand whether colostrum could be your secret weapon against allergies this spring.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum, or “liquid gold,” is the nutrient-rich fluid female mammals produce in the first few days after giving birth. It serves as the first source of nourishment for newborns and is packed with essential nutrients, antibodies, growth factors, and other bioactive compounds.
Mammals have been around for about 200 million years. And colostrum is still—after all that time and evolutionary pressure—the first food every mammal gets after birth. That should tell us something about its nutritional value!
For a more detailed primer on colostrum and its diverse health benefits, see my article Colostrum: “Liquid Gold” for Gut and Immune Health.
How does colostrum prevent and reduce allergy symptoms?
Scientists have identified five distinct ways that colostrum fights allergies:

Immunoglobulins: Colostrum contains high levels of immunoglobulins, predominantly IgG, which are antibodies that play a crucial role in the immune system. When consumed, these immunoglobulins can survive digestion and bind to allergens in the gut, preventing them from entering the bloodstream and triggering an allergic response. Additionally, studies have shown that IgG reduces gut inflammation by modulating pro-inflammatory cytokine production. This is particularly important because gut inflammation increases the risk of allergic reactions.
Proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs): PRPs are a unique type of protein found in colostrum that regulates the immune system. They work by modulating the activity of T-helper cells, specifically Th1 and Th2. In allergic individuals, there is often an imbalance between Th1 and Th2 cells, with Th2 cells being overactive. This Th2-dominant state increases the production of IgE antibodies responsible for triggering allergic reactions. PRPs can help restore the balance between Th1 and Th2 cells, reducing the production of IgE and thus decreasing the severity of allergy symptoms.
Lactoferrin: Lactoferrin is a multifunctional protein with anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. It reduces inflammation in the gut by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for maintaining a balanced immune response and reducing the risk of allergic reactions. Additionally, lactoferrin can bind to iron, making it unavailable for harmful bacteria to grow, further promoting a healthy gut environment.
Growth factors: Colostrum is rich in growth factors, such as transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which promote the growth and repair of the gut lining. A healthy gut lining is essential for preventing the entry of allergens into the bloodstream and reducing the risk of allergic reactions. TGF-β also regulates the immune system by promoting the development of regulatory T cells, which help maintain immune tolerance and prevent overactive immune responses.
Cytokine modulation: Cytokines are signaling molecules that modulate the immune system. People with allergies often have an imbalance in cytokine production, with an increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13. These cytokines promote the development of Th2 cells and the production of IgE antibodies, leading to allergic reactions. Colostrum contains cytokines that can help modulate the immune response by promoting the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-10, and reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines restore balance in the immune system and reduce the severity of allergy symptoms.

The unique composition of this natural supplement, with its immunoglobulins, PRPs, lactoferrin, growth factors, and cytokine-modulating properties, suggests that it may be a valuable tool in managing allergy symptoms.
How to get the benefits of colostrum
Dietary sources
There are no significant dietary sources of colostrum. Female mammals produce colostrum in the first few days after giving birth, which is not part of the regular milk production process.
Dairy cows are typically milked for their regular milk supply several days after calving, when colostrum production has ceased. Therefore, supplementation is necessary to obtain the full benefits of colostrum.
Supplements
Colostrum supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and liquids. However, you should be aware that many colostrum supplements suffer from three shortcomings.
First, they don’t contain enough colostrum per serving to move the needle. Almost all studies documenting colostrum’s benefits used a dose of at least 2 grams daily. Yet many colostrum products contain just 500 mg to 1 gram per serving. Despite this, they still charge a premium price. So you’re either not getting enough colostrum to experience its full benefits, or you end up paying an arm and a leg to get the recommended amount.
Second, many popular colostrum products are processed with heat. This denatures the fragile proteins and reduces levels of immunoglobulins, growth factors, and other compounds responsible for colostrum’s remarkable health benefits.
Third, most colostrum products don’t come from grass-fed cows. Colostrum from cows raised on pasture contains higher levels of immunoglobulins and other immune factors and is free of hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs. This is important in our increasingly toxic world.
It is crucial to choose a high-quality supplement that contains at least 2 grams per serving, is cold-processed (without heat), and is derived from pasture-raised cows.

Safety profile
Colostrum is remarkably safe when taken in recommended dosages, with few side effects reported in studies.
That said, bovine colostrum does contain trace amounts of lactose (typically ~2%). This is similar to the amounts in yogurt (~2-3%) and soft cheese (~2-3%). If you’re lactose intolerant or sensitive, consuming bovine colostrum may cause gastrointestinal (GI) issues like gas, bloating, or changes in stool frequency and consistency.
However, many of my patients with lactose intolerance can consume colostrum without adverse effects. Some have even found that colostrum improves lactose tolerance after taking it for 6 to 8 weeks.
If you’re lactose intolerant, I suggest starting with a small amount of colostrum and monitoring your response. If you don’t have any adverse reaction, build up slowly to the recommended daily dose.
Colostrum is best taken with 6–8 ounces of room temperature water on an empty stomach 30 minutes before or two hours after a meal.
References

Ulfman, L. H., Leusen, J. H. W., Savelkoul, H. F. J., Warner, J. O., & van Neerven, R. J. J. (2018). Effects of bovine immunoglobulins on immune function, allergy, and infection. Frontiers in Nutrition, 5, 52. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2018.00052/full
Jones, A. W., March, D. S., Curtis, F., & Bridle, C. (2016). Bovine colostrum supplementation and upper respiratory symptoms during exercise training: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 8, 21. https://bmcsportsscimedrehabil.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13102-016-0047-8
Playford, R. J., & Weiser, M. J. (2021). Bovine colostrum: Its constituents and uses. Nutrients, 13(1), 265. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/1/265
Guberti, M., Botti, S., Capuzzo, M. T., Nardozi, S., Fusco, A., & Berardi, A. (2021). Bovine colostrum applications in sick and healthy people: A systematic review. Nutrients, 13(7), 2194. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/7/2194
Bagwe, S., Tharappel, L. J. P., Kaur, G., & Buttar, H. S. (2015). Bovine colostrum: An emerging nutraceutical. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 12(3), 175-185. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/jcim-2014-0039/html
Wong, C. (2016). O033 Bovine colostrum as an adjunct therapy in the control of allergic respiratory disease in children. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Official Publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 117(5), S12. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2016.09.393
Hurley, W. L., & Theil, P. K. (2011). Perspectives on immunoglobulins in colostrum and milk. Nutrients, 3(4), 442-474. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu3040442
Stelwagen, K., Carpenter, E., Haigh, B., Hodgkinson, A., & Wheeler, T. T. (2009). Immune components of bovine colostrum and milk. Journal of Animal Science, 87(13 Suppl), 3-9. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2008-1377
Zimecki, M., & Kruzel, M. L. (2007). Milk-derived proteins and peptides of potential therapeutic and nutritive value. Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology, 6(2), 89-106. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17407969/

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