Understanding Colostrum and Transfer Factors
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum – better known as the first milk – is produced in the mammary glands during pregnancy. The protein-rich milk, secreted in humans and animals, is known chiefly for its high immunological value. Indeed, colostrum is the only natural source of immune and growth factors, which together help prevent disease and heal damaged tissues.
The so-called first milk’s reserves of immunoglobulin G (IgG), a powerful antibody which offers newborns protection against bacterial and viral infections, are a gift from Mother Nature.
It also supplies valuable immune cells and colony-stimulating factors which modulate the performance of the gut – another area of health which has come under intense scrutiny in recent years.
Like so many aspects of human biology, colostrum beguiles and mystifies in equal measure. It is, inarguably, the perfect nutrition for newborns – and not just for its immunological protection. Its laxative effect also helps babies pass their early stools, known as the meconium.
Colostrum is a major part of the reason why infants who are regularly breastfed exhibit greater resistance to infections and allergies.
Of course, you can’t really mention colostrum without also mentioning transfer factors – of which colostrum is a fertile source.
The History of Transfer Factors
In a nutshell, transfer factors are molecules responsible for transferring immune memory and information to cells throughout the body. Their stimulative role in cell-mediated immunity has been analysed many times over the years, although as with colostrum, we don’t tend to hear a lot about transfer factors in mainstream health circles. Strange when you consider that transfer factors have a) been the subject of thousands of peer-reviewed papers and b) been used, at various times, to treat infections in children, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes and yeast infections, to name just a few.
Needless to say, the immune system is our best defence against disease. With a compromised immune system, we are little more than sitting ducks for infection and illness, whether in the form of invading germs, bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites.
Transfer factors determine the quality of our immune system by teaching it to recognise harmful antigens and, in the manner of an alarm system, alert the body that they are present. TFs also help the body remember the exact makeup of encountered threats, making it easier to combat them when next they’re encountered.
Since their discovery by Dr. H. Sherwood Lawrence in the late 1940s, transfer factors have been dubbed the brains of the immune system for their ability to communicate with cells and bolster our body’s natural defence mechanisms.
According to a 2013 review article, a collaborative effort by universities and hospitals in both Italy and North America, “the preventative potential of transfer factors is as its important as its therapeutic one.” Or to put it more bluntly, transfer factors are as useful in preventing disease as treating one when it arises, locating and intercepting foreign intruders such as viruses and toxic substances derived from our increasingly polluted atmosphere.
Encouragingly, transfer factors are not species-specific, meaning bovine transfer factors are just as effective in humans as they would be in cows. One long-time proponent of transfer factors is Dr. Carol Ann Ryser, who has experienced considerable success in lessening symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Asked to explain the most noteworthy benefits for patients, she says: “They stop getting sick and don’t have any more infections. Their cognitive thinking clears up – no more brain fog. Their energy comes back – they can start doing more and they can start walking and exercising again. They don’t suffer relapses.”
Factors Which Impact Our Immunity
The immune system is extremely complex and comprised of over a trillion cells. Though in most cases it does a creditable job, there are many factors which conspire to undermine our body’s natural defences: a general deterioration in the quality of our water, increased toxicity in the atmosphere and the emergence of new strains of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and food-borne pathogens.
Other common factors which negatively impact our immunity include poor sleep, a high-sugar diet (bad bacteria thrives on sugar), excess alcohol consumption and stress. When you consider how many different things influence the efficacy of our immune system, it’s little wonder there’s been a renewed interest in this area in recent years.