What Happens to Your Body When You Take Colostrum Powder
Health & Fitness

What Happens to Your Body When You Take Colostrum Powder

Whether you’re a mom or not, it’s likely you’ve heard of colostrum. (Thanks, TikTok.) But, in case you need a little refresher, colostrum—aka “liquid gold” in the pediatric world—is the milk produced by mammals in the first few days after giving birth. Yellow-gold in color and thicker than fluid milk, colostrum is filled with nutrients to support growth and development, as well as antibodies and antimicrobials (the good guys needed to help build and support the immune system). To say it’s kind of a big deal to infant development would be an understatement.

In the nutrition world, when an ingredient gets publicized into a “superfood,” like colostrum powder (the supplement form of colostrum), companies jump on the bandwagon to create products to meet the demand. But, is colostrum powder worth the hype? And, most importantly, what’s really happening to your body when you take it? We’ve asked nutrition experts to get the facts and latest science on this emerging trend before you spend your hard-earned money on it. 

Nutrition Facts

Contrary to the fresh colostrum that newborns consume, colostrum in supplements for adults comes in dried or powdered form. As for its nutrients—well, that’s not so clear. “The nutrition of supplemental bovine colostrum will vary depending on the brand and form of the supplement taken,” says Melissa Groves Azzaro, RDN, owner of The Hormone Dietitian. Supplemental bovine colostrum may contain the following nutrients and compounds in varying quantities:

  • Calories
  • Carbohydrates 
  • Protein 
  • Fat
  • Vitamins (such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E) 
  • Minerals (such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium and zinc)
  • Other compounds (including antibodies and antimicrobials) 

Bovine colostrum and regular cow’s milk differ in nutrients, research shows. For instance, colostrum is richer in protein, immunoglobulins (antibodies) and antimicrobials (substances that fend off infections). However, it’s important to note that these differences are seen in the liquid form of bovine colostrum, not the powdered form in supplements.

And that’s the big limitation: There’s a lack of research on powdered colostrum and what nutrition these supplements contain. What’s more, bovine colostrum has to undergo heat treatment during the manufacturing process. Lactoferrin—a protein with antiviral and antibacterial properties—is one nutrient in colostrum that is altered by heat, says Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., CFS, FACN, a professor at George Mason University. In addition, adds Wallace, your stomach acid also affects the active components of the supplement. So, it’s not clear what components from colostrum could actually be used by the body and how that may affect your health.

Potential Health Benefits of Colostrum 

Considering the lack of data available on colostrum powder, both Wallace and Azzaro suggest being cautious about supplementing until we have more research. Here’s what you need to know about how it may affect your health.

May Improve Gut Health and Digestion

One research review of 28 studies that explored the use of bovine colostrum concluded that supplementing could—in the future—be recommended for improving microbiome and digestive health, though no recommendations can be made right now due to lack of data. The potential benefits are likely due to the antibodies and compounds like lactoferrin in bovine colostrum. In addition, “colostrum may potentially help repair tissues in humans,” says Azzaro. For that reason, it may be useful in addressing leaky gut by potentially helping heal a compromised gut lining, she says. If you struggle with any GI condition, speak with a gut-health dietitian before adding supplemental colostrum into your routine.

May Support a Healthy Immune System

The natural colostrum produced by mothers after birth has a direct effect on the immune system of newborns—and that is well-established with scientific evidence. But now there’s speculation that colostrum can do something similar in supporting the immune system of adults. “In infants, colostrum plays a key role in establishing the immune system, and although research in adults is limited, it may benefit adults in a similar way, since much of our immune system lives in our guts,” says Azzaro. What’s more, the vitamin D in colostrum—it’s one of the best nutrients for immune health—may also affect a person’s immune system response, but that research is still preliminary and limited.

Should You Take Colostrum Supplements?

Unless under the care of your doctor or registered dietitian, Azzaro does not recommend adding a colostrum supplement to your routine. “It is not appropriate for all people to take,” she says. Plus, with the data lacking, it’s difficult to recommend that someone buy colostrum supplements. At the time, we don’t know if it’s worth the price or if you’d be literally flushing your money away.

In addition, clinical trials often give people an unusually high dose that you wouldn’t otherwise find in a supplement. Studies that have used colostrum supplementation in adults report roughly dosages of 20 to 60 grams per day for up to 8 weeks. Compare that to the typical suggested daily dosage of supplemental colostrum, which is usually 1 to 2 grams.

Safety and Precautions 

Now, should you and your medical team decide it’s worth a try, be sure to purchase from brands that are third-party certified and verified. You want to be sure that what’s on the label is actually in the bottle and that the formula is free of contaminants.

Also keep in mind that colostrum supplements contain dairy. “Anyone who is allergic to or intolerant of dairy or lactose should not take colostrum,” Azzaro says. In addition, there is not enough research to support its safety in those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a hormone-sensitive cancer, talk to your provider about whether colostrum use is safe for you, she recommends.

The Bottom Line

While social media may have you thinking taking colostrum powder will be your golden ticket to optimum health, nutrition experts advise to proceed with caution before adding this supplement to your routine. While the current dosages of supplemental colostrum powder likely pose no serious harm for healthy individuals, further research is needed—including clinical human trials—to discover the true benefits of taking the supplement long-term. In the meantime: “Don’t waste your money,” says Wallace.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of taking colostrum?

    Right now, it’s not clear what—if any—benefits there are to taking colostrum powder. While there may be promise when it comes to gastrointestinal health and immune support, many experts are skeptical. “I doubt colostrum supplements have much to offer,” says Wallace.

  • Who should not take colostrum?

    Unfortunately, there’s just not enough data to say who should and who should not take colostrum supplements. Since the research is evolving in this area, Azzaro recommends consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist or your health care provider before incorporating this supplement into your routine.

  • Is colostrum better than collagen?

    There’s more research to support taking collagen in terms of benefiting skin health, including improving elasticity, hydration and cellulite. “Collagen can be used long-term and supports connective tissue, like hair, skin, nails, bones. I recommend collagen in my practice multiple times more often than I recommend colostrum,” says Azzaro.