Science Update

New study demonstrates bovine colostrum decreases intestinal permeability in athletes


An interesting study was just published 6 days ago in Nutrients on intestinal permeability and athletes. This is a compelling follow-up to a similar article I shared last July in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on heavy exercise-induced intestinal permeability in athletes.

When one thinks of nutritional supplements in athletes they usually think of nutrients that enhance energy and sports performance. However athletes commonly suffer from gut issues that are often not identified or addressed. 'Leaky gut' occurs from dysfunction in the intestinal barrier. This intestinal barrier in the gut is only one cell layer thick. It is essential for the absorption of nutrients and preventing large molecules and bacteria from getting into the blood stream. This is a particular problem for those taking part in heavy exercise or any form of vigorous strength training such as CrossFit athletes strongman competitors and powerlifters and can lead to gut issues in athletes as well as more serious conditions such as inflammatory bowel and autoimmune disorders.

In this new study researchers demonstrated that oral supplementation with colostrum decreased intestinal permeability which was seen with decreases of zonulin in stool samples.

This double-blind placebo-controlled study included 16 athletes during peak training of competition. The study compared supplementation for 20 days with 500 mg of bovine colostrum or placebo. Gut permeability was assessed by a lactulose and mannitol absorption test and stool zonulin concentrations. Initial results identified that 6 of the 8 athletes in the colostrum group had increased intestinal permeability. After supplementation the test results were within the normal range and were significantly lower than at baseline.

This is the first study to demonstrate that supplementation with bovine colostrum decreased and restored intestinal permeability in both urinary lactulose/mannitol ratio as well as fecal zonulin. Previous research demonstrated preventative colostrum supplementation on increased permeability associated with heavy exercise in athletes.

As a result researchers demonstrated that colostrum supplementation decreased previously elevated intestinal permeability and was able to restore it within three weeks of supplementation. 

These findings show the importance of colostrum not only in helping to prevent leaky gut associated with heavy exercise but also as an important overall nutrient to consider for athletes. When working with athletes there is often a disconnect between fitness and health. For those individuals who have a sensitivity to dairy I would consider serum-derived bovine immunoglobulin/protein isolate (SBI) to normalize the gut microbiota and decrease gut permeability. The other advantages of this for athletes (besides being dairy-free) is its additional protein content with BCAAs levels superior to whey along with its high levels of IgG which reduces inflammation and decreases mucosal damage.

I work with many of these athletes and understand firsthand their health and nutrition needs being a competitive powerlifter myself. Due to the stresses they put on their bodies and increased metabolic demands many often have debilitating gut issues and inflammatory bowel disorders.

By Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN CNS

Source: Halasa M. et al. Oral Supplementation with Bovine Colostrum Decreases Intestinal Permeability and Stool Concentrations of Zonulin in Athletes. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 8;9(4). pii: E370. doi: 10.3390/nu9040370.