Colostrum & Autoimmune Disorders

By John Balmier, MS

What is an autoimmune disorder?

The immune system is a collection of specialized cells and chemicals that fight infection-causing agents such as bacteria or viruses. An autoimmune disorder occurs when a person's immune system over-reacts and mistakenly attacks his or her own body tissues. These disorders can affect one organ in the body (organ specific), or multiple organs or systems may be affected (non-organ specific). T

here are approximately 80 different autoimmune disorders which range in severity from mild to disabling, depending on which system of the body is under attack and to what degree.

Some autoimmune disorders include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis - affects the joints, causing inflammation and deformation
  • Fibromyalgia - affects the muscles and soft tissues surrounding joints, causing chronic pain and tenderness at specific sites in the body
  • Multiple sclerosis - affects the nervous system, causing numbness, paralysis and vision impairment
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome - affects the brain and multiple body systems, causing incapacitating fatigue and problems with concentration or short-term memory
  • Lupus erythematosus - affects connective tissue and can strike any organ system, causing joint inflammation, fever, weight loss and facial rash
  • Diabetes (Type 1) - affects the pancreas, causing thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and an increased susceptibility to infection
  • Addison's disease - affects the adrenal glands, causing weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, and sometimes darkening of the skin
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease) - affects intestinal tract, causing diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Scleroderma - affects the skin and other structures (often joints), causing scar tissue
  • Psoriasis - affects the skin, causing thick and reddened skin scales

What triggers Autoimmune Disease?

Approximately 50 million Americans, 20 percent of the population, suffer from autoimmune diseases. Women are more likely than men to be affected, especially during their child-bearing years. The development of an autoimmune disease may be influenced by the genes a person inherits, combined with the way in which the person's immune system responds to various environmental triggers. Some autoimmune disorders are known to either begin or worsen with certain triggers, such as viral infections. Other factors that have be shown to contribute to autoimmune disease are leaky gut syndrome, aging, chronic stress, hormones and pregnancy.

Leaky gut syndrome plays a major role

Experts now believe that leaky gut syndrome, which is not considered a disease itself, plays a significant role in autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, scleroderma and others. Before you think "Oh, I don't have leaky gut syndrome," you should consider how very common it is. Approximately 70% of the population has it. If you have consumed substances that damage your intestinal lining, including antibiotics, steroids, soft drinks, alcohol, non-­steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen or aspirin) or prescription pain medication, alcohol, chemical hardeners used in canned foods, wheat proteins that contain gluten, or refined foods, then chances are great that you have some degree of leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the lining of the intestines is more permeable than normal. This means that there are large pores or spaces between the cells that make up the intestinal wall. This compromised intestinal barrier means compromised immunity, since infectious pathogens (including bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and fungi) as well as allergens can move through these enlarged holes within the intestinal wall and take up residence in your body. As the body pours more and more of these substances into the body, auto antibodies are created, and inflammation becomes chronic. The type of autoimmune disease that can develop depends on the location of the inflammation. For example, inflammation that affects a joint can result in rheumatoid arthritis, and when it affects the blood vessels, vasculitis may occur.

It is becoming clear in recent research that there is a relationship between gastrointestinal health and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Kent Katz, MD, discussed this relationship in a 1989 article, pointing out that many intestinal disorders have rheumatological manifestations and vice versa. He then postulated that rheumatoid arthritis may be related to altered intestinal permeability.19  This hypothesis was examined further by Dr. Patrick Rooney, MD, of McMaster University in Canada, published in a 1990 article. It is known that many common intestinal flora can cause reactive arthritis when the gut barrier is breached. While there is no known connection between rheumatoid arthritis and gut abnormalities, a similar condition, ankylosing spondylitis, a rheumatic condition of the spine, has been linked to ulcerative colitis.18   Dr. Daniel Hollander, MD, of UCLA reported in 1999 that gut permeability is increased in patients with Crohn's disease, and furthermore that the extent of the increase in gut permeability is directly correlated to the severity of the disease.5

According to Dr. Donald Henderson, a highly-respected gastroenterologist, "Colostrum is the ideal solution for leaky gut syndrome. Because colostrum reaches the gut while its components are still viable, its immunoglobulins and other immune factors can attack the offending pathogens in the intestines and prevent them from causing darnaqe.”4

Colostrum to the Rescue

Research shows how specific components within colostrum may benefit individuals with autoimmune disease. Colostrum contains immune factors which can regulate the immune response, growth components to help repair damaged cells, and anti-inflammatory substances to reduce inflammation that is characteristic of autoimmune disorders.

PRP:  Proline-Rich Polypeptides

Colostrum contains PRPs (Proline-rich peptides); also known as Colostrinin, a powerful immune modulator which can help tone down the overactive immune response found in autoimmune diseases. It acts by preventing the overproduction of lymphocytes and stimulating the production of helper and suppressor T cells.10,17,22

Researchers in Warsaw, Poland reported in 1993 that the regulatory substance PRP, found naturally in colostrum, offers enormous possibilities to support the body's thymus gland in balancing the immune response, especially in cases of autoimmunity where the immune system is overactive and attacks the person's own body. This research shows that PRP's therapeutic value in treatment of autoimmune disorders is also non-species specific, meaning that the PRP in cow's colostrum can benefit humans.13

Immunoglobulins and Lactoferrin:

Immunoglobulins and Lactoferrin, both found in significant amounts in colostrum, show effective action in inhibiting viruses and bacteria within the body. This action can be important in autoimmune diseases, as many autoimmune disorders are triggered or worsened by viral or bacterial invaders.

Immunological studies show that multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease triggered by a virus infection. In 1984, Dr. Takusaburo Ebina of Tohoku University School of Medicine in Japan gave his patients colostrum orally to investigate its effect on the course of the disease. He reported some improvement in the condition of MS patients taking colostrum rich in IgA containing anti-measles lactoglobulin. Also, no side effects were observed in colostrum recipients.24

Lactoferrin restores the humeral immune response, which is an immune response that is mediated by T and B cells.1   Lactoferrin is shown to minimize viral and bacterial infections, especially in immuno compromised patients, which can thereby reduce potential triggers for autoimmune conditions 2.  In 2001, researchers in Britain published results of a study showing that lactoferrin inhibits the production of local proinflammatory cytokines, TNF-a and interleukin 1-b. To limit the inflammatory response is important in many autoimmune conditions, as the inflammation creates pain and complicattons.3

Growth Factors:

Various types of growth factors in colostrum should help repair the damage of autoimmune diseases. Epithelial growth factor (EGF) may help reverse the destruction of skin cells that can occur with lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Transforming growth factor (TGF), found in two forms in colostrum, can help reverse protein breakdown and stimulate tissue repair. Insulin-like growth factor (iGF- 1) can help stimulate glucose transport in diabetic patients.19

Colostrum's growth factors have anti-inflammatory action and also help repair damaged cells in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which decreases cellular spacing and prevents further leakage of toxins into body. Colostrum naturally contains EGF, which research shows can actually help grow and repair intestinal tissue.

Several studies have shown that taking pain relievers, also known as NSAIDS, over a short term of 1-7 days increases gut permeability (leaky gut) by approximately threefold. We previously demonstrated how leaky gut syndromes can lead to autoimmune diseases. However, when colostrum is taken along with the NSAIDS, there is not any increase in gut permeability! In a clinical study in London Raymond Playford and his team of researchers at the Imperial College School of Medicine conducted studies showing that colostrum keeps the gastrointestinal tract from becoming more permeable, even while taking NSAIDs. They attributed this anti-inflammatory response to the numerous growth factors that occur naturally in the colostrum.6   Unlike other therapies, colostrum is the only known natural substance that has the capability of healing the GI tract and preventing it from becoming too permeable. Thus, colostrum may have the potential to slow or stop the progression of an autoimmune disease that progresses as a result of leaky gut syndrome.


In a clinical study reported by Drs. Alejandro and Fabiola Nitsch, MD, from the University of San Carlos, Guatemala Medical School, colostrum-derived protein derivatives, termed "Infopeptides" by Dr. Nitsch, have been shown to reduce inflammation, edema, pain and fever in a variety of conditions. When these Infopeptides were tried on patients suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis as well as therapy­ resistant osteoarthritis, patients experienced significant improvement and sustained benefit with prolonged therapy. Dr. Nitsch also pointed out that the benefits of such a treatment regimen are low cost, oral administration, and the absence of side effects.9

Anti-inflammatory components:

Colostrum contains components that help to regulate the body's inflammatory response, helping to reduce it when over-stimulated, as it is in autoimmune disorders. In 1993, Dr. Donald Murphey of the University of Texas Medical School created an experimental inflammation model using subcutaneous air sacs placed in the backs of rats into which carrageenan is then injected to cause inflammation. Colostrum injected into these sacs showed a pronounced anti-inflammatory effect over controls, as measured by polymorph nuclear leukocyte (PMN) migration into the affected area.14

Dr. Marc Feldmann, MD, of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London has shown the relationship between tumor necrosis factor (TNF-a) and rheumatoid arthritis, as reported in articles published in 1996 and 1998. He showed that the pro-inflammatory cytokines associated with rheumatoid arthritis can all be turned off if TNF-a is neutralized and that patients with both rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease benefit when treated with TNF-a blockers. 8, 11   Then in a 1998 report by Dr. E Buescher of the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, it was demonstrated that colostrum contains, along with TNF-a itself, TNF-a receptors which bind to and alter TNF-a activity. This may be one mechanism for how colostrum produces its anti-inflammatory action. 7

Natural Delivery System

Most important is the natural delivery system provided by the mammary gland to ensure that colostrum reaches the portion of the gastrointestinal system where it can do the most good. When colostrum is secreted by mammary cells, it does so by what is called apocrine secretion. This means that colostrum is collected in a globule in the mammary cell that is surrounded by cell membrane. When the globule is released into the mammary duct, the cell membrane remains around the colostrum, protecting it until it reaches the intestine where it can be absorbed by the body. Dried and defatted colostrum products lose this protective membrane, leading to degradation of colostral proteins in the stomach.

Colostrum which has the membrane phospholipids reconstituted, however, retains the protective membrane and is much more effective. New Life Solutions Colostrum-LD products (Sovereign Laboratories, LLC - Sedona, AZ) utilize Liposomal Delivery or LD technology, a bio-identical delivery system in which the membrane phospholipids are reconstituted to protect the colostrum and enhance delivery for all nutrients. This enhanced delivery makes colostrum’s components up to 1,500% more bioavailable throughout our body systems and helps to ensure that the gastrointestinal tract receives the immune and growth components necessary to fight off leaky gut syndrome and protect against auto-immune disease. 26


These representative studies indicate that colostrum can provide support for individuals with autoimmune disease. Colostrum may potentially slow or stop the progression of the autoimmune disease, by healing injury in the gastrointestinal tract and eliminating the leaky gut connection to the disease. Scientific research and clinical studies show evidence of the powerful immune and growth components in colostrum which can regulate the overactive immune response as well as heal tissue damage caused by autoimmune disease.


1. Artym J, et al. (2003) Orally administered lactoferrin restores humoral immune response in immunocompromised mice.lmmunol Lett. 9(1):9-15 ABSTRACT: Prolonged, oral treatment of immunocompromised mice with lactoferrin led to partial reconstitution of the humoral response, associated with elevation of T and B cell and macrophage content and the proliferative response of splenocytes to mitogens.

2. Berkhout B, et al. (2002) Characterization of the anti-HIV effects of native lactoferrin and other milk proteins and protein-derived peptides. Antiviral Res. 55(2):341-55. ABSTRACT: Bovine Lactoferrin, a protein in cow's milk and colostrum, is shown to target and inhibit the process of virus entry.

3. Griffiths CE, et al. (2001) Exogenous topical lactoferrin inhibits allergen-induced Langerhans cell migration and cutaneous inflammation in humans. British Journal of Dermatology 144(4):715-25. ABSTRACT: Lactoferrin, a component of colostrum, inhibits the migration of Langerhans cells from the skin (part of the inflammation response) as well as influences inflammatory responses in the skin. It apparently does this by inhibiting the production of local proinflammatory cytokines, TNF-a and interleukin 1-~.

4. Henderson D. (2000) Colostrum: Nature's Healing Miracle. CNR Publications, Sedona, AZ.

5. Hollander D. (1999) Intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and intestinal disorders. Current Gastroenterology Reports 1 (5):41 0-416. ABSTRACT: Intestinal permeability is increased in most patients with Crohn's disease and in 10% to 20% of their clinically healthy relatives. The abnormal leakiness of the mucosa in Crohn's patients is amplified by aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

6. Playford RJ. (1999) Bovine colostrum is a health food supplement which prevents NSAID induced gut damage. Gut 44(5):653-8.

7. Buescher ES, McWilliams-Koeppen P. (1998) Soluble tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) receptors in human colostrum and milk bind to TNF-alpha and neutralize TNF-alpha bioactivity. Pediatric Research 44( 1 ):37-42. ABSTRACT: Study done to determine whether TNF-alpha receptors in human colostrum bind to and modify TNF-alpha activity. Using column chromatography, affinity binding and bioassay methods, it was determined that these receptors do bind to the TNF-alpha in human colostrum, indicating that this may be one mechanism of anti-inflammatory activity in human colostrum and milk.

8. Feldmann M, Brennan FM, Maini R. (1998) Cytokines in autoimmune disorders. International Review of Immunology 17( 1-4 ):217 -228. ABSTRACT: Further development of the role of TNF-alpha in autoimmune diseases has shown that patients suffering from both rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease benefit from TNF-alpha blockers.

9. Nitsch A, Nitsch FP. (1998) Clinical Use of Bovine Colostrum. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 13(2). ABSTRACT: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease with cytokine involvement.. Infopeptides (colostrum-derived protein derivatives) have been shown to reduce inflammation, edema, pain and fever regardless of cause. A clinical trial was carried out to study the effects of these Infopeptides on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as well as therapy-resistant osteoarthritis (OA). Both RA and OA patients showed significant improvement after supplementation with the Infopeptides with sustained benefit and improvement on prolonged therapy. Aside from the clinical benefits, this treatment regimen has the benefit of oral administration, low cost and an absence of side effects.

10. Rona, Z. (1998) PRP from colostrum can work as a regulatory substance of the thymus gland. The American Journal of Natural Medicine. ABSTRACT: PRP It has been demonstrated to improve or eliminate symptomatology of both allergies and autoimmune diseases (MS, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, myasthenia gravis). PRP inhibits the overproduction of lymphocytes and T-cells and reduces the major symptoms of allergies and autoimmune disease.

11. Feldmann M, Brennan FM, Maini RN. (1996) Role of cytokines in rheumatoid arthritis. Annual Review of Immunology 14:397-440. ABSTRACT: A new model of the action of proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1, IL-6, GM­CSF) in the etiology of rheumatoid arthritis is presented in which the proinflammatory cytokines are linked in a network with TNF-alpha at its apex. Therefore, if TNF-alpha is neutralized, all the other proinflammatory cytokines are also suppressed. This theory has been tested in animal models and found to be effective using anti-TNF-alpha antibody.

%ıl               Pennisi. (1995, Jan 15) Immune therapy stems diabetes progress. Science News 37(1):145. ABSTRACT: Researchers report that mice treated with the anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody have been able to resume normal regulation of their blood sugar. The results of treatment are the first known to induce remission of the development of diabetes and have kept the mice free of the disease.

13. Janusz M, Lisowski J. (1993). Proline-rich polypeptide (PRP)-an immunomodulatory peptide from colostrum. Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis (Warszawa) 41 (5-6):275-9. ABSTRACT: A new immunomodulatory peptide found in bovine colostrum, Proline-Rich Polypeptide (PRP). Not species-specific. PRP increases permeability of skin vessels. Causes differentiation of murine thymocytes into functionally active T cells. Simultaneously changes surface markers and function of cells. Results shown in treatment of auto-immune disorders and sarcoma S-180 (cancer). Important Immune modulator: stimulates underactive immune system, tones down an overactive one.

14. Murphey OK, Buescher ES. (1993) Human colostrum has anti-inflammatory activity in a rat subcutaneous air pouch model of inflammation. Pediatric Research 34(2):208-212. ABSTRACT: An acute inflammation model was created in vivo by injecting carrageenan into subcutaneous air pouches on the backs of rats. Human colostrum was added to the pouches and after six hours polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) counts were done. Degree of PMN influx was used as a measure of inflammation. Use of colostrum greatly reduced the PMN influx to a degree similar to that of indomethacin, a known anti-inflammatory agent. This is the first demonstration that human colostrum has a biologically significant effect on the inflammatory process.

15. Newsweek, Nov 15, 1993. A new way to fight Diabetes. 145:73. ABSTRACT: Researchers at UCLA and Stanford show diabetes can be caused by an allergic reaction to a protein called GAD; immune systems in diabetics turn against other antigens as well. A single injection produced tolerance to GAD in mice eliminating the diseases process.

16. Kaufman. (1992, May). Virus Hunter (Paul Cheney). American Health, 33. ABSTRACT: Paul Cheney, known as Dr. Chronic Fatigue, says chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an immune system disease caused by a retrovirus.

17. Zimecki M, et al. (1991) Effect of a proline-rich polypeptide (PRP) on the development of hemolytic anemia and survival of New Zealand black (NZB) mice. Arch Immunol Ther Exp 39(5- 6):461-7. ABSTRACT: The data indicate that PRP may have a therapeutical value in treatment of autoimmune disorders. PRP, administered intraperitoneally into NZB mice, significantly lowered the incidence of positive Coombs' reaction (autoimmune reaction) and prolonged the mean age of the mice. PRP may induce, from a precursor pool of cells, suppressor cells controlling development of the disease.

18. Bloembergen P, et al. (1990) Endotoxin induced autoimmunity in mice. Archives of Allergy and Applied Immunology 92(2): 124-30.

ABSTRACT: An auto-immune response can be provoked by various endotoxins, such as E. coli and Salmonella. The potency of the endotoxin will affect the auto-immune phenomena.

19. Dohm GL, et al. (1990) IGF-1-stimulated glucose transport in human skeletal muscle. Diabetes 39(9): 1 028-32. ABSTRACT: Igf-1 found in bovine colostrum (identical to human) can provide an effective acute treatment for Hyperglycemia. Igf-1 can be an effective alternative to insulin in stimulating transport in diabetic muscle. Plasma levels of IgF-1 in diabetic patients is lower than in nondiabetic groups. IgF-1 receptors present in human muscles. IgF binding is 24% that of insulin. IgF-1 stimulated glucose transport twofold. Did not stimulate transport in obese subjects.

20. Rooney PJ, et al. (1990) A short review of the relationship between intestinal permeability and inflammatory joint disease. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 8(1 ):75-83. ABSTRACT: The gut is the likely source of the antigens causing inflammatory arthritis, and the studies of this hypothesis are reviewed here.

21. Katz K. (1989). Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Baillieres Clinical Rheumatology 3(2):271-284). ABSTRACT: Rheumatoid arthritis may be related to altered intestinal permeability.

22. Julius et al. (1988) A colostral protein (PRP) that induces the growth and differentiation of reacting B lymphocytes. Journal oflmmunology 140: 1366-71. ABSTRACT: PRP (Proline-rich Polypeptide) is the first protein of mammalian origin that induces the growth and differentiation of reacting B lymphocytes. PRP has been isolated from sheep and (cows) colostrum. PRP is not species specific. Spleanocytes from neonatal mice responded robustly to PRP with the growth and differentiation of contained B cells to plaque formation. PRP did not induce detectable Ig isotype switching.

23. Goldman AS, et al. (1986) Anti-inflammatory properties of human milk. Acta Paediatrica Scandinavica 75(5):689-695. ABSTRACT: A novel mechanism of the immune protection afforded by milk/colostrum is through its numerous anti-inflammatory agents in conjunction with its paucity of inflammatory mediators. This is important because classical immune protection is achieved through the marshaling of inflammation, but this would be fatal in an infant. Therefore it is necessary to modulate the inflammatory response through the action of anti-inflammatory agents.

24. Ebina T, et al. (1984) Treatment of multiple sclerosis with anti-measles cow colostrum. Med Microbiollmmuno/173(2):87 -93. ABSTRACT: Previous virological and immunological studies have suggested that multiple sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease triggered by a virus infection. The findings of this study suggest that orally-administered anti-measles colostrum improves the condition of MS patients, without side effects.

25. Khan A, et al. (1980) Transfer factor treatment in bullous pemphigoid. Impaired T cell function. Dermatologica 161(4):243-9. ABSTRACT: Bullous pemphigid is an autoimmune disease of the skin which causes painful blistering. When given Proline-rich poly peptides (PRPs) found in colostrum, T-cell function returned to normal, serum IgE levels decreased by a factor of about 4, and the patients skin returned to normal.

26. Robert D Milne, MD: PC Liposomal Encapsulation Technology: Proven Nano Chemistry that can make health and longevity supplements many times more efficient and effective. Life’s Fountain Books, Henderson, NV 2004


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