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Colostrum for athletes

Colostrum: an essential food supplement for serious athletes

Colostrum is becoming a key focus for sports researchers as they seek to alleviate the two main challenges faced by athletes:
  • Stomach problems (stomach cramps, diarrhoea and nausea)
  • A weakened immune defence system
Athletes are super fit, so why do they suffer with these ailments?
During periods of very intensive training, it’s not uncommon for athletes to experience stomach problems such as stomach cramps, diarrhoea and nausea. “Runners diarrhoea” is a well-known phenomenon feared by marathon runners, with extreme physical strain and an increased body temperature being the main cause of symptoms.

Stressed intestines are more 2-3 times more permeable to bacteria, toxins and other substances that can’t normally pass from the intestines into the bloodstream. As well as an acute reaction in the form of stomach pains and diarrhoea, there is a high impact on the immune defence system. As it works overtime to combat the undesired substances in the blood [6], the immune function is weakened.

Endurance sports athletes (cyclists, long-distance runners, swimmers and triathletes) are especially prone to infections in the upper respiratory passages, such as sore throats and colds. Typically, infections occur just before competitions, when training intensity is high and recovery periods short. These ailments are another product of weakened immune function.

Nutritional influence is now a key factor for maximum recovery in athletes. Researchers are turning towards food supplements as a natural way of supplying the organism with what it needs for optimum recovery.

WHAT IS COLOSTRUM?
Colostrum – also called raw milk – is the first milk a cow produces during the 24 hours after calving. As well as a high nutrient content, it contains a large range of bioactive substances that are important for the growth of the calf and the development of the immune defence system [3].

Studies have shown that colostrum’s range of bioactive substances are not species-specific and can be beneficial to humans.

It is essential for the calf to be satisfied before surplus colostrum can be sourced for human use and converted into a powder. The first colostrum powder for athletes was produced in 2013, when Biodane Pharma was approved as Denmark’s only colostrum-producing dairy.

How can colostrum help?
Recent studies by [insert research sources] suggest colostrum can alleviate symptoms by:
  • Providing a boost to the immune defence system
  • Reducing the occurrence of infections in the athletes’ respiratory passages [4]
Research into precisely how colostrum provides this protection is still underway. The latest hypothesis suggests the beneficial effects of colostrum begin within the gastrointestinal tract [5].

The use of colostrum in Olympic athletes.
In the USA, Australia and New Zealand, the use of colostrum is familiar among athletes and non-athletes. When Australia became the third most medal-winning nation at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, their use of colostrum was highlighted as a key factor behind their success.
  • Colostrum could play a defining role at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, as athletes will have to withstand the country’s high pollution rate.
  • Researchers at Edinburgh Napier University are currently investigating if colostrum can reduce athletes’ risk of contracting respiratory problems in an environment with a high level of CO2 and NO2. 
  • The study is focused on colostrum’s ability to reduce infections, fatigue and improve recovery after training. Should the results prove it to be effective, it will be taken by British athletes. 
Is colostrum a safe supplement?
Colostrum from cows is considered a safe product, with no risk of serious side effects [8]. Due to the lactose content, milk allergy sufferers are advised not to take colostrum.

Athletes’ use of colostrum is a controversial issue, often debated because of the natural content of growth factors such as IGF-1, which in its pure capacity is prohibited. However, colostrum does now show any positive results in doping tests and is therefore not on the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) 2014 list of prohibited substances.

A study showed that athletes’ intake of up to 60 g of colostrum daily during a 4 weeks’ period had no impact on the content of IGF-1 in the blood or urine [9]. However, the WADA is aware of the fact that colostrum has a high natural content of growth promoting substances, which may influence the result of anti-doping tests.

Sources
[1] Gleeson M. et al. (2011) The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise: mechanisms and implications for the prevention and treatment of disease. Nature Reviews 11: 607-615.
[2] Walsh N.P. et al (2011) Position statement. Part one: immune function and exercise. Exercise Immunology Review.
[3] Pakkanen R & Aalto J (1997) Growth factors and antimicrobial factors of bovine colostrum. International Dairy Journal 7: 285-297.
[4] Davison G. & Diment B.C. (2010) Bovine colostrum supplementation attenuates the decrease of salivary lysozyme and enhances the recovery of neutrophil function after prolonged exercise. British Journal of Nutrition 103: 1425-1432.
[5] Davison G. (2013) Bovine colostrum and immune function after exercise. Medicine and Sport Science 59: 62-69.
[6] Lambert G.P. (2008) Intestinal barrier dysfunction, endotoxemia and gastrointestinal symptoms during exercise-heat stress. Medicine and Sport Science 53:61-73.
[7] Marchbank et al. (2011) The nutriceutical bovine colostrum truncates the increase in gut permeability caused by heavy exercise in athletes. American Journal of Physiology 300: G477-G484.
[8] Rathe M. et al. (2014) Clinical applications of bovine colostrum therapy: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews 72: 237-254.
[9] Kuipers H. (2002) Effects of oral bovine colostrum supplementation on serum Insuline-like Growth Factor-I levels. Nutrition 18:566-567.

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