Milk, of course, is designed to promote growth- specifically, the building of baby mammals. Curiously, the process of repair often mimics growth, and that's undoubtedly how raw, grass-fed milk has earned its status as one of the world's most powerful healing foods.
Eminent Canadian physician, Sir William Osler ( below, right 1849-1919) recommended it as a valuable aid in treating many serious diseases, often calling it 'white blood.' Today, an incredible array of milk-derived supplements are available for those seeking relief from disease or to improve their health in general.
Missing here in America, however, is one special substance, immune milk, that could revolutionize medicine and healthcare, but which, like raw milk, is largely suppressed. We'll get to that in a bit, but first, some background on just how raw bovine milk products can foster growth and healing.
All mother mammals want their offspring to thrive- that's one of the basic laws of survival, but how nature assists with this is nothing short of remarkable. Depending on the species, mom either passes on a little or a lot of her immune system to junior via the first milk she produces. But not just any milk. There's a special name for the rich, yellowish broth of proteins, immunoglobulins (antibodies), lactose, growth factors and anti-microbial agents that make up baby's earliest meals: colostrum.
In the 1920's, Italian pediatrician Luigi Spolverini (below, right 1873-1965) echoing what millions of farm families had known for hundreds of years, advocated colostrum for use in treating infants.
Here's a partial list of some of the more biologically active ingredients identified in bovine colostrum that helps explain why it's such a potent tool for healing:
Immunoglobulins IgG, IgA, IgM, IgE, IgD: Large, complex sugar/protein (glycoprotein) molecules (also known as antibodies) used by the immune system to find and deactivate pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
Transforming Growth Factor Beta: Stimulates growth and repair of the gastro-intestinal tract.
Epidermal Growth Factor: Biochemically regulates cellular growth, cellular division and cell type. Fosters rapid tissue repair.
Glutathione: Powerful antioxidant that offers protection to cells from free radicals.
Interferons: Specialized proteins that inhibit replication of viruses within cells throughout the body.
Interleukins: A large group of signaling molecules that help regulate the immune system.
Oligosaccharides: Groups of 3-10 sugar molecules that protect against pathogens by competing for binding sites on the intestinal epithelium and provide support to friendly probiotic bacteria.
Proline-rich Polypeptide (PRP) or Colostrinin: Anti-inflammatory hormone that helps regulate immune system activity by stimulating the thymus gland.
Transferrin: Immune system glycoprotein that binds free iron, which, in turn, inhibits bacterial growth.
In cows, newborn calves import up to 90% of their immunity to pathogens and disease from the first 24 hours of suckling. Human newborns get the bulk of their mother's immunity transferred to them prior to birth (across the placenta) but still need that first colostrum to optimize their immune systems. Gentle reminder for all you mothers-to-be out there: whatever you do, make sure your infant gets its fill of your first milk, then continue to breast feed for as long as you can.
Fortunately for calves (and us), their mothers make a surplus of colostrum, roughly 6 gallons (22-24 liters) in the first 24 hours alone. After that, the concentration of antibodies and other factors tapers off quickly to the levels found in regular or 'mature' milk (see graph, below).