Everyone lately has been discussing the immune stimulating benefits of colostrum as one of the best supplements that can be made from dairy.1 I do not agree with this blanket statement, because there is some research that colostrum intake may be rendered useless by stomach acid and digestion and, therefore, colostrum would not stimulate the immune system.2 Lactoferrin ingestion, on the other hand, can survive digestion3 and can be very beneficial for improving one’s health if they are ill. Lactoferrin is a multifunctional protein that is one of the many components of an animal’s innate immune system. 4 Lactoferrin exhibits strong anti-microbial activity and can easily be extracted from most mammals milk (mainly from cows, goats, and sheep). Lactoferrin may also help improve bone strength and function.5 Finally, supplementation increases tear production in people afflicted with Sjogren’s syndrome.6

Anti-Bacterial Properties

Lactoferrin has strong anti-bacterial properties; it can destroy both opportunistic bacteria itself and the biofilm that some bacteria love to use as armor from antibacterials. Lactoferrin scavenges free iron in the body7 and also binds to lipopolysaccharides in the bacterial cell walls. These reactions cause bacteria not to be able to use iron for respiration that is necessary for bacteria growth and function.8 When lactoferrin binds to lipopolysaccharides in bacterial cell walls, the oxidized bonded iron scavenged, creates excessive oxidative damage, harming the overgrowth.9 In addition, lactoferrin damages the bacterial cell membranes causing them to lose permeability.10 Finally; lactoferrin stimulates the immune system by increasing the phagocytosis ability of white blood cells.11

Some bacteria produce protective biofilms (one of the most common examples of a biofilm is the “film” on your teeth when you have not brushed for awhile) that make eradication sometimes with antibacterial agents very difficult. Biofilm protects the bacteria from elimination by antibiotic treatments, natural antibacterial agents, bactericides, and probiotics.12 To eliminate the opportunistic bacteria you have to also destroy the biofilm that it is hiding behind. Lactoferrin breaks down bacterial biofilm by chelating iron out of the biofilm cell walls, so that the biofilm breaks down and dissolves.13 The immune system and antibacterial agents are now free to eliminate the opportunistic bacteria.

Finally, lactoferrin may help prevent the attachment of H. pylori to the stomach lining, leading to its eventual elimination from the body.14

Anti-Viral Properties

Lactoferrin is used in the treatment of Hepatitis C15 and other viral infections because it also possesses strong anti-viral properties. Lactoferrin binds to lipoproteins in vitro and prevents viruses from entering a cell for replication. Lactoferrin may also bind to viruses, directly blocking them from being able to bind to host cells in the body for replication.16 Viruses without a proper cell host are eventually eliminated by the body’s innate immune system. Finally, it may suppress cellular viral replication once a cell has been infected to further hinder a viral infection.17

Iron-free apolactoferrin might be the best form to eliminate viruses because the iron binding action of standard lactoferrin is useless in combating viral infections.18 I would use apolactoferrin for a period of time if I had a cold or the flu, to shorten the duration. Research apolactoferrin to see if its use applies to your health condition.

Anti-Yeast Properties

Lactoferrin has been shown to have anti fungal and yeast activity, but the mechanism is not yet known.19 There is a theory proposed that it can destroy the yeast’s cell walls and bind to the plasma membrane of Candida albicans.20 Lactoferrin have been shown to help control yeast infections in quite a few in vivo/in vitro studies.21 22 23

Supplementation and Side Effects

Lactoferrin might be able to be supplemented on a low dose of 100 mg on a daily basis long term safely if needed. Honestly, though I would only supplement lactoferrin if I had an infection or believed that I may be getting an infection. The average dosage that would be taken if you are ill ranges from 250 mg – 1,000 mg a day, depending on the severity of the infection. Always take lactoferrin in divided doses throughout the day with food.

The only known side effect of my knowledge with supplementation is that a rare systemic allergic reaction may occur (you may be more susceptible to a reaction if you are allergic to cow’s milk, which most lactoferrin is produced from.)

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