Bovine Colostrum

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

Bovine Colostrum

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More
Bovine Colostrum

Common Names

  • Hyperimmune Bovine Colostrum
  • Bovine Immunoglobulin
  • Cow milk Colostrum

For Patients & Caregivers

Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.

What is it?

Some studies suggest that bovine colostrum in various forms can help treat diarrhea or infections.

Bovine colostrum is the milk produced by cows for the first several days following birthing. It is rich in antibodies, growth factors, and cytokines, and protects the newborn calf from infections. It has also been used as a dietary supplement in the last decade.

Several clinical trials suggest that various bovine colostrum preparations may be helpful to treat or prevent diarrhea, but additional studies are needed. Similarly, more studies are needed on the conditions under which it may confer immune function benefits.

Bovine colostrum contains trace amounts of estrogen, so patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should discuss this product with their doctors before consumption. In addition, individuals allergic to dairy products should avoid this product.

What are the potential uses and benefits?
  • Diarrhea

    Certain bovine colostrum formulas have been used in small studies with positive results, but larger trials are needed.
  • Infections

    Small studies suggest bovine colostrum may increase immune response, but larger studies are needed.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders

    A few studies suggest that bovine colostrum may be helpful, but more studies are needed.
What are the side effects?

Case report

Severe allergic reaction: In a 16-year-old boy with cow’s milk allergy, from a bovine colostrum-based cream applied to a surgical wound.

What else do I need to know?

Do Not Take if:

  • You are allergic to dairy products: Bovine colostrum is from milk produced by cows.
  • You have a hormone-sensitive cancer: Bovine colostrum contains trace amounts of estrogen, so patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should discuss use of this product with their doctors before consumption.

For Healthcare Professionals

Clinical Summary

Bovine colostrum is cow’s milk secreted during the first few days following calving. It is rich in immunoglobulins, growth factors, and cytokines, and confers immune protection to the newborn calf from opportunistic infections. Bovine colostrum has been used as a dietary supplement to treat diarrhea, infections, and colitis, and to improve athletic performance. In vitro studies suggest that bovine colostrum has anti-inflammatory (16) and chemopreventive (17) properties.

Several clinical trials suggest that hyperimmune bovine colostrum, prepared by immunizing cows with the causative agent, is effective in treating diarrhea caused by rotavirus (2), E. Coli (12) (18), and Cryptosporidium parvum (3) (4). In human challenge trials, specially formulated bovine colostral-IgG preparations provided protection against some enterotoxigenic E. coli strains (22) (23).

Other small studies suggest bovine colostrum supplementation may reduce GI problems including diarrhea in ICU-hospitalized patients (24) and in children (25). There is also some data suggesting it may prevent gastrointestinal damage caused by NSAIDs  (7) (19) or help treat distal colitis (8).

In perioperative settings, data suggest that oral bovine colostrum may reduce endotoxemia in patients undergoing abdominal surgery (5) and postoperative plasma C-reactive protein levels in patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery (6).

Although it is thought to have immunological benefits, meta-analyses found a lack of evidence for colostrum in either preterm infants (26) or physically active adults (27). Evidence is also lacking on whether it could help prevent hemolytic uremic syndrome from E. coli infections (28).

In a study of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, prophylactic bovine colostrum had no effect on fever or infection, although oral mucositis severity was significantly reduced (29).

Bovine colostrum contains trace amounts of naturally occurring estrogen (20) (21). Therefore, patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should discuss this product with their physicians before consumption. In addition, individuals allergic to dairy products should avoid this product.

Food Sources

Cow’s milk from the first few days after calving

Purported Uses and Benefits
  • Colitis
  • Diarrhea
  • GI disorders
  • Immunostimulation
  • Infections
Mechanism of Action

Although the high concentration of immunoglobulins may account for bovine colostrum’s effects, the exact mechanism is not known. Studies suggest that bovine colostrum improves exercise performance (9) (10) by increasing serum insulin-like growth factor I and may enhance immune response in humans (11), although a meta-analysis found that evidence is lacking (27). Other studies suggest that colostrum derived from cows immunized with C. parvum is effective against diarrhea induced by C. parvum in AIDS patients (3) (4). Similarly, colostrum from cows immunized with rotavirus alleviated symptoms of rotaviral diarrhea in children (2). Colostrum also reduced diarrhea associated with E.coli (12).

  • Allergy to dairy products
Adverse Reactions

Case report

Anaphylaxis: In a 16-year-old boy with cow’s milk allergy, from application of a bovine colostrum-based cream to a surgical wound (30).

  1. Kelly GS. Bovine colostrums: a review of clinical uses. Altern Med Rev 2003; 8(4):378-94.
  2. Mitra AK, et al. Hyperimmune cow colostrum reduces diarrhoea due to rotavirus: a double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Acta Paediatr 1995; 84(9):996-1001.
  3. Greenberg PD and Cello JP. Treatment of severe diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum with oral bovine immunoglobulin concentrate in patients with AIDS. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 1996; 13(4):348-54.
  4. Nord J, et al. Treatment with bovine hyperimmune colostrum of cryptosporidial diarrhea in AIDS patients. AIDS 1990; 4(6):581-84.
  5. Bolke E, et al. Preoperative oral application of immunoglobulin-enriched colostrum milk and mediator response during abdominal surgery. Shock 2002; 17(1):9-12.
  6. Bolke E, et al. Enteral application of an immunoglobulin-enriched colostrum milk preparation for reducing endotoxin translocation and acute phase response in patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery—a randomized placebo-controlled pilot trial. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2002; 114(21-22):923-28.
  7. Playford RJ, et al. Co-administration of the health food supplement, bovine colostrum, reduces the acute non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced increase in intestinal permeability. Clin Sci (Lond) 2001; 100(6):627-33.
  8. Khan Z, et al. Use of the ’nutriceutical’, bovine colostrum, for the treatment of distal colitis: results from an initial study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2002; 16(11):1917-22.
  9. Buckley JD, et al. Bovine colostrum supplementation during endurance running training improves recovery, but not performance. J Sci Med Sport 2002; 5(2):65-79.
  10. Buckley JD, Brinkworth GD, Abbott MJ. Effect of bovine colostrum on anaerobic exercise performance and plasma insulin-like growth factor I. J Sports Sci 2003; 21(7):577-88.
  11. He F, et al. Modulation of human humoral immune response through orally administered bovine colostrum. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 2001; 31(2):93-96.
  12. Huppertz HI, et al. Bovine colostrum ameliorates diarrhea in infection with diarrheagenic Escherichia coli, shiga toxin-producing E. Coli, and E. coli expressing intimin and hemolysin. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1999; 29(4):452-56.
  13. MICROMEDEX(R) Healthcare Series. 120. 2004. Thomson MICROMEDEX (last accessed on 3/28/05).
  14. Mero A, et al. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on serum IGF-I, IgG, hormone, and saliva IgA during training. JAP 1997; 83:1144 -51.
  15. Tacket CO, et al. Lack of prophylactic efficacy of an enteric-coated bovine hyperimmune milk product against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli challenge administered during a standard meal. J Infect Dis 1999; 180(6):2056-9.
  16. An MJ, Cheon JH, Kim SW, et al. Bovine colostrum inhibits nuclear factor kappaB-mediated proinflammatory cytokine expression in intestinal epithelial cells. Nutr Res. 2009 Apr;29(4):275-80.
  17. Masuda C, Wanibuchi H, Sekine K, et al. Chemopreventive effects of bovine lactoferrin on N-butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl)nitrosamine-induced rat bladder carcinogenesis. Jpn J Cancer Res. 2000 Jun;91(6):582-8.
  18. Otto W, Najnigier B, Stelmasiak T, Robins-Browne RM. Randomized control trials using a tablet formulation of hyperimmune bovine colostrum to prevent diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in volunteers. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jul;46(7-8):862-8.
  19. Kim JW, Jeon WK, Yun JW, et al. Protective effects of bovine colostrum on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug induced intestinal damage in rats. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(1):103-7.
  20. Farke C, Rattenberger E, Roiger SU, et al. Bovine colostrum: determination of naturally occurring steroid hormones by Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Feb 23;59(4):1423-7.
  21. Barreiro R, Regal P, Díaz-Bao M, et al. Analysis of Naturally Occurring Steroid Hormones in Infant Formulas by HPLC-MS/MS and Contribution to Dietary Intake. Foods. 2015 Oct 22;4(4):605-621.
  22. Savarino SJ, McKenzie R, Tribble DR, et al. Hyperimmune Bovine Colostral Anti-CS17 Antibodies Protect Against Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli Diarrhea in a Randomized, Doubled-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Human Infection Model. J Infect Dis. Jul 2 2019;220(3):505-513.
  23. Talaat KR, Porter CK, Bourgeois AL, et al. Oral delivery of Hyperimmune bovine serum antibodies against CS6-expressing enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli as a prophylactic against diarrhea. Gut Microbes. Nov 9 2020;12(1):1732852.
  24. Eslamian G, Ardehali SH, Baghestani AR, et al. Effects of early enteral bovine colostrum supplementation on intestinal permeability in critically ill patients: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition. Apr 2019;60:106-111.
  25. Barakat SH, Meheissen MA, Omar OM, et al. Bovine Colostrum in the Treatment of Acute Diarrhea in Children: A Double-Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial. J Trop Pediatr. Feb 1 2020;66(1):46-55.
  26. Panchal H, Athalye-Jape G, Patole S. Oropharyngeal Colostrum for Preterm Infants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Adv Nutr. Nov 1 2019;10(6):1152-1162.
  27. Główka N, Durkalec-Michalski K, Woźniewicz M. Immunological Outcomes of Bovine Colostrum Supplementation in Trained and Physically Active People: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. Apr 8 2020;12(4).
  28. Imdad A, Mackoff SP, Urciuoli DM, et al. Interventions for preventing diarrhoea-associated haemolytic uraemic syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Jul 5 2021;7(7):Cd012997.
  29. Rathe M, De Pietri S, Wehner PS, et al. Bovine Colostrum Against Chemotherapy-Induced Gastrointestinal Toxicity in Children With Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. Feb 2020;44(2):337-347.
  30. Porcaro F, Caminiti L, Crisafulli G, et al. Anaphylaxis to cutaneous exposure to bovine colostrum based cream. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. Mar 2019;37(1):9-11.
Email your questions and comments to [email protected].

Last Updated