Bovine colostrum for diarrhea


Diarrhea is a widespread condition and commonly related by some malfunction in the gut mucosa caused by an infection from pathogens. Bovine colostrum provided as daily diet supplement is found to have positive effect on different cases of diarrhea: chronic, HIV/AIDS-related, together with pediatric and sport-related.



Diarrhea is generally defined as the condition of having three or more loose or liquid stools per day. It is usually a symptom of an infection in the gastrointestinal tract, and is related to malfunction in the gut mucosa and high permeability. It is commonly caused by bacteria, viruses, microbes or other enteric pathogens. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, and diarrheal diseases are acknowledged as a major threat to human diseases on a global scale. Besides being a disease in itself, diarrhea is also a symptom of several diseases and disorders, where the mucosal integrity in the gut has been compromised (WHO, 2017).


Bovine colostrum against diarrhea

Studies on the effect from bovine colostrum as diet supplement against diarrhea, all report markedly improvements (Korhonen et al., 2000; Playford et al., 2000; Kelly, 2003; Struff & Sprotte, 2008; Elfstrand & Flóren, 2010; Feasey et al., 2011; Marchbank et al., 2011; Rathe et al., 2014). The effects most likely come from the range of bioactive factors with immunological, antibacterial, -viral, and –microbial effects found in bovine colostrum (Pakkanen & Aalto, 1997). Since the 1980’s, an increasing number clinical studies on the efficiency of immune compounds from bovine colostrum on bacterial gastrointestinal infections, oral infections, viral infections, cryptosporidium infections have all provided positive results (Korhonen et al., 2000).


Chronic diarrhea

Most cases of infective diarrhea resolve spontaneously and only occasionally require a short course of antibiotics. However, persons with immune deficiency syndromes often experience chronic diarrhea, often caused by infection by the enteric pathogen Cryptosporidium parvum. Several case reports and clinical trials highlight that persons with immune deficiency syndromes suffering from chronic diarrhea may benefit from intake of bovine colostrum. Supplementation generally resulted in decreased stool frequency and increased stool volume. Also, in some immune-compromised persons, supplementation also resulted in complete resolution of previously non-responsive diarrhea (Playford et al., 2000; Kelly, 2003).


HIV and diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common complication from HIV infections and is often based on a multifactorial etiology. HIV infections may lead to loss of CD4+ cell from the gut mucosa, compromising its epithelial barrier function, thereby enabling microbial translocation which result in gastrointestinal and systemic immune activation. HIV-associated diarrhea may thus not only result in discomfort, dehydration and malnutrition, but may also affect the immunological and inflammatory status of the patients (Rathe et al., 2014).


Patients infected by HIV often suffer from chronic diarrhea, and bovine colostrum has been reported to give clinical significant benefits with no side-effects for the duration of the therapy (Rump et al., 1992). Studies generally suggest a positive effects from bovine colostrum supplementation on HIV-associated diarrhea. The effect is likely based on direct antimicrobial and endotoxin neutralizing effects, suppression of gut inflammation and promotion of mucosal integrity and tissue repair (Elfstrand & Flóren, 2010; Feasey et al., 2011).


Diarrhea in AIDS patients

Diarrhea is a common complication in AIDS patients and is present in 50% of the patients. The efficiency of orally administrated bovine antibodies has been documented in numerous studies. Uncontrolled trials using bovine colostrum against diarrhea in immune-compromised individuals, such as AIDS patients, are promising and warrant follow up in controlled clinical trials (Korhonen et al., 2000; Kelly, 2003). Therapy using bovine colostrum was reported to be beneficial, with lower daily stool frequency and long-lasting normalization (Stephan et al. 1990; Rump et al., 1992). The effect may last after ended treatment for several weeks (Kelly, 2003).


Pediatric patients with diarrhea

Studies on pediatric patients with bloody diarrhea, reported significantly decreased stool frequency and improved life quality after oral ingestion of bovine colostrum. Another study on children with prolonged diarrhea also reported positive results from diet supplementation with bovine colostrum (Fernandez et al., 1973). Such results point to the feasibility of bovine colostrum as a safe therapy, especially when treatment with antibiotics is controversial (Korhonen et al., 2000; Thapa, 2005; Struff & Sprotte, 2008).


Runner’s diarrhea

"Runner's diarrhea" is a known and feared phenomenon among marathon runners, partly caused by the combination of extreme physical stress and an increased body temperature (Lambert, 2008). Studies have shown that gut permeability may increase as much as two- to threefold during intensive training, but ingestion of bovine colostrum may stabilize the gut and significantly counteract this tendency (Marchbank et al., 2011).




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World Health Organisation (WHO) (2017) Diarrheal disease, fact sheet.