Should You Take Colostrum for Leaky Gut?

Should You Take Colostrum for Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut… It’s a term that’s been tossed around quite a bit in recent years, especially since it’s been under investigation as a potential underlying culprit of multiple types of gut-related conditions and even immune imbalances.  Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that research is confirming can help strengthen your intestinal barrier, one of which is colostrum. In this article, I’ll share my two cents on why you might want to consider trying colostrum for leaky gut!

Disclaimer:  This article was written for educational purposes only. This is not medical / nutritional advice! Please consult with your doctor and a registered dietitian if you’re navigating a gut issue of any kind, so you can receive custom clinical guidance.

Affiliate disclosure:  This article contains affiliate links*.  As an Amazon Associate, I may make a commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!

What is colostrum?

Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty of how colostrum can benefit a leaky gut, let’s take a step back and talk a bit about what colostrum actually is!

Colostrum or “first milk” is a milk-like substance produced by mammals, including humans, in the first few days after giving birth. It’s chock-full of nutrients, immunoglobulins, growth factors, and other bioactive compounds that are essential for the growth and development of newborns. (1, 2)

This very unique supplement has also been found to have potential benefits for people with leaky gut syndrome. So, what does colostrum have to do with gut repair? Well, quite a lot, actually!  

Leaky gut: a quick recap

Leaky gut syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”, is a state in which the lining of your gut becomes more permeable (or “leaky”) than what’ s considered healthy.  

A leaky gut unchecked allows for harmful substances like toxins, bacteria, and undigested food particles to enter or “leak” into your bloodstream. 

Modern research studies are correlating leaky gut with a wide range of symptoms and conditions, including but not limited to:  (3)

Colostrum for leaky gut: beneficial constituents

Repair” is one of the key steps of the 5R protocol for healing your gut, and colostrum is a popular gut repair supplement used a lot in my field of functional nutrition.  This is because of some special constituents in colostrum which support a healthier gut wall barrier and more optimal immune system regulation on the cellular level.

Immunoglobulins for immune balance

Colostrum is naturally abundant in immunoglobulins (often referred to as “bovine IgG”), which are essentially specialized proteins that help our bodies fight off infections and other invaders. 

It makes sense why newborns would need immunoglobulins, since their immune systems aren’t fully developed, but so many other groups of people could use more of these, too!

In the case of leaky gut syndrome, colostrum’s immunoglobulins are helpful because they bind gut pathogens and allergens, and even help reduce inflammation caused by gram-negative (pathogenic) microbes in the gut. (4)

Growth factors for the the intestinal barrier

Colostrum contains multiple types of growth factors, including one called “epidermal growth factor” (EGF).  

Research has uncovered that EGF plays a key role in keeping your intestinal barrier (gut lining) strong, by activating specific pathways in your gut. (5

  • This is critical because your intestinal barrier or gut wall (much like the skin) is an important boundary designed to protect the inside of your body from potential invaders.

Lactoferrin: an anti-inflammatory ally

Colostrum is rich in a substance called lactoferrin, a special type of protein being studied for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antimicrobial benefits in the body. (6, 7)

Fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants

Colostrum also contains a number of micro- and macronutrients which are important for overall gut health and immunity including fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as calcium, phosphorous, and more. (7)

How Colostrum Benefits Leaky Gut - Infographic

Colostrum health benefits for leaky gut

Many people have reported significant improvements in their symptoms after taking colostrum supplements.  And while more research is needed for us to fully understand all the potential benefits of colostrum for leaky gut, it’s looking promising so far!

Healthier digestion and reduced IBS symptoms

Taking colostrum may help reduce many of the symptoms commonly associated with leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrme (IBS), such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and fatigue – since a healthy intestinal barrier equates to a better ability to process food and absorb nutrients more efficiently and effectively.

A healthy intestinal barrier means your gut has optimal “selective permeability”.  Given what we know about colostrum’s ability to regulate and optimize your gut permeability, it makes sense that taking colostrum for leaky gut can support healthy digestion!

Enhanced immune function

Colostrum’s naturally-occurring immunoglobulins are wonderful allies for people with autoimmune disorders and allergies and even those who are immunocompromised. (4

Most recently, a 2023 Biomedicines study even deemed colostrum supplementation beneficial for reducing unwanted side effects of chemotherapy while enhancing overall well being among cancer patients. (8)

This all makes perfect sense, since most immune imbalances originate in the “gut-associated lymphoid tissue” (GALT) – aka the 70% of your immune system which lives in your gut. (9, 10)

Therapeutic for IBD

Due to all the amazing benefits colostrum has to offer in the realm of the intestinal barrier and the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (immune system in the gut), it’s no surprise that colostrum is now being recognized as a “nutraceutical” and ally for people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other types of IBD. (7, 11)

Frequently asked questions

How can I choose the best colostrum supplement for leaky gut?

Colostrum is available on the market in a powdered form and in capsules. 

The best colostrum supplements may be taken as a powder or capsule, as long as they meet the necessary quality standards, for example:

  • Derived from organic ingredients
  • Sourced from grass-fed cows
  • Minimally processed without added fillers or artificial ingredients
  • Third-party tested
  • Certified to have “good manufacturing practices” (GMP)

What are the best colostrum brands and products?

There are lots of wonderful brands on the market!  A few of my favorite brands of colostrum supplements meeting the above criteria include but are not limited to:

What’s the best way to take colostrum?

I recommend taking colostrum supplements (whether as a powder or capsule) on an empty stomach, about 20 to 30 minutes before eating and/or at least a few hours after eating, so the medicinal constituents reach your gut lining faster.

  • Taking colostrum at the same time as food or after eating would make the absorption and utilization of colostrum less efficient, since it’s competing with food to get to your gut lining!

If you’re taking colostrum supplements in powder form, dissolve in at least 4 ounces of water.

What is the recommended colostrum leaky gut dosage?

The amount of colostrum you should take for a leaky gut is going to vary from one person to another, since one size doesn’t fit all.  (You can receive customized recommendations through working with a functional dietitian nutritionist and/or naturopathic doctor and/or a functional medicine doctor.)

But generally speaking, most colostrum supplement dose recommendations will range from 1 to 4 tablespoons of powder per day, or ~2 to 6 capsules per day.

How long should you take it for?

In my experience and continuing education, it takes at least 3 to 4 months of colostrum supplementation (alongside implementing the other components of the 5R protocol for gut repair) in order to successfully heal and seal a leaky gut.

How long does it take for colostrum to work if I have leaky gut?

For leaky gut syndrome, it really depends on whether or not you’re addressing your gut health from all angles.  Taking colostrum as a stand-alone intervention is not enough.

But if colostrum is part of a holistic and multidimensional plan for healing your gut, most people who stay on track can usually expect to start feeling better within a few months!

Is there such a thing as lactose free / dairy free colostrum?

Fortunately for those who are lactose intolerant, you can rest assured that colostrum supplements are naturally lactose-free!

And in most cases, colostrum won’t bother you – if you have a dairy sensitivity. 

However, if you’re navigating food sensitivities and leaky gut, you’re working with a certified LEAP therapist and you’ve identified cows’ milk as a food sensitivity via the Mediator Release food sensitivity test,  it may be beneficial to opt for one of the following dairy free alternatives to colostrum:

(Read more about my thoughts on lactose intolerance vs dairy sensitivity here!)

More resources

So much to say about gut healing and leaky gut! If you’d like to learn more about these topics, make sure to check out the following resources:

The bottom line

Colostrum is a milk-like substance produced by mammals, including humans, in the first few days after giving birth. It contains high concentrations of immunoglobulins, growth factors, and other bioactive compounds which are essential for the growth and development of newborns – and for leaky gut repair. 

Through supporting a stronger, healthier and more optimized intestinal barrier and by helping to bring your immune system back into balance, colostrum can help your gut to do what it was designed to do: break down your food and let the vital nutrients enter into your body, essentially taking what it needs and eliminating the rest as waste.

Taking 1 to 4 teaspoons or 2 to 6 capsules of a high-quality organic, grass-fed, third-party tested colostrum supplement on an empty supplement broken into smaller doses each day may potentially make a great difference for people who are immunocompromised, navigating autoimmunity, and/or suffering from leaky gut syndrome.

Of course, while colostrum can be a helpful addition to a treatment protocol, it’s not a cure-all and should be used in conjunction with other therapies, such as dietary changes, probiotic and prebiotic foods/supplements, herbal antimicrobials (if needed) for gut microbial imbalance, and stress management techniques, for best results.

If you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms pointing to a leaky gut, it’s important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to develop a comprehensive and customized treatment plan that’s right for you!

Next steps

If you’re among the millions trying to navigate leaky gut and all the issues that stem from it, I’d love to help you craft your own custom roadmap so you can start healing your gut from all angles.

Download my free gut health nutrition guide:  5 Common Diet Mistakes to AVOID when Healing Your Gut – to pave the way on your journey!

5 Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut - Free Gut Guide by Jenna Volpe