This paper reviews the composition of colostrum and the potential preventive and therapeutic use of this “first milk” for treating various gastrointestinal disorders in humans. Colostrum is a complex biological liquid that is richer in antimicrobial peptides, immune-regulating compounds and growth factors than the subsequent mature milk. The main functions of colostrum are to provide essential nutritional components, strengthen the natural defense system, modulate immune response, balance intestinal microbiota and enhance the growth and repair of several tissues. Several studies and clinical trials carried out both in vitro and in vivo on humans and animals suggest the clinical benefits of bovine colostrum (BC) supplementation in gastro-intestinal diseases. Despite the encouraging results, further well-designed studies are required in order to confirm these effects, the dose and duration of treatment. Colostrum is safe since there are no contraindications regarding high dose levels and few side effects of clinical relevance have been reported. In conclusion, in the near future, colostrum based supplements may play a complementary role to synthetic drugs in the prevention and treatment of various gastrointestinal disorders.
Colostrum is a biological fluid produced by the mammary gland after parturition, before it gradually loses its initial characteristics and to becomes mature milk. This secretion is fundamental for the survival of mammal offspring, especially for ungulates (1). Colostrum provides nutrition of newborns, enhances protection against pathogens, promotes the development of immune system and ensures the growth, maturation and repair of several tissues (2,3). Several studies have extensively analysed the composition of bovine, goat and human colostrum highlighting the presence of at least ninety different biologically active substances essential for specific functions (4). The bioactive components of colostrum include: i) anti-microbial factors, ii) immunestimulating peptides and iii) growth factors (5). Antimicrobial factors provide passive immunity and protect against infections, especially during the first weeks of life. The anti-microbial activity of colostrum can be direct on pathogen agents or indirect by stimulating the growth of a healthy intestinal microbiota rich in Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli (6,7).
Colostrum provides signals to the immune system by inducing tolerance to food and noninvasive antigens, thus avoiding the onset of an abnormal immune response while promoting its maturation and an adequate immune response against pathogens at the same time (8). Some components are able to promote the maturation and modulation of the immune system either directly as colostrinin, cytokines and lactoferrin, β-lactoglobuline, α-lactalbumin and glycomacropeptide or indirectly as oligosaccharides, gangliosides and nucleosides that favour the development of beneficial bacteria species (2,3,9). Furthermore, colostrum contains growth factors that play important roles in the development, maturation and repair of various tissues (10). In recent decades, BC have been used for the prevention and treatment of a variety of human and animal diseases, especially but not only of the gastrointestinal system (11,12).
The aim of this review is to discuss the specific properties of some of the bioactive components of colostrum and to assess the potential clinical uses of colostrum in the prevention and treatment of various gastrointestinal disorders and colostrum gastrointestinal diseases.
This review is divided into three sections: 1) quality of colostrum; 2) constituents of colostrum and their functions; 3) clinical uses for colostrum gastrointestinal diseases.
Laura Menchetti1 , Giovanna Traina2 , Giovanni Tomasello3,4, Patrizia Casagrande-Proietti1 , Leonardo Leonardi1 , Olimpia Barbato1 , Gabriele Brecchia1 1 Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Perugia, via S. Costanzo 4, Perugia, Italy, 2 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Perugia,Via S. Costanzo, Perugia, Italy, 3 Euro-Mediterranean Institute of Science and Technology (IEMEST), Via E. Amari 123, Palermo, Italy, 4 DICHIRONS Department, University of Palermo, Via L. Giuffre 5, Palermo, Italy