A healthy digestive system breaks down foods and liquids into carbohydrates, fats, and proteins so the body can absorb them as nutrients for growth and energy. It also contains much of the body’s immune system, protecting against pathogens or other toxic substances consumed in food or water. As with all complicated systems, the human digestive tract doesn’t always run smoothly. Problems caused by genetics, pathogenic microbes, or dysregulation of the immune system may cause gastrointestinal (GI) distress, resulting in symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, gas or diarrhea. A way to support a healthy GI system is to consume active immune factors from another immunologically ‘mature’ individual, and is best documented through the ingestion of breast milk containing high levels of immunoglobulins by a newborn infant.
The digestive system contains much of the body’s immune system, protecting against pathogens and other toxic substances consumed in food or water. Gut homeostasis is disrupted when microscopic inflammatory-producing antigens present in our GI tract penetrate the protective cell barrier of the lamina propria, triggering an immune response.
Intestinal homeostasis refers to the overall balance of a functioning, healthy intestinal tract, and is critical for optimal nutrient utilization and immune function. Immunoglobulins (IgG) help maintain intestinal homeostasis by supporting digestive function and maintaining a healthy mucosal immune system through mechanisms that involve antigen binding and strengthening gut barrier function. IgG binds and neutralizes toxic inflammatory-producing antigens, preventing translocation of the protective cell barrier, thus avoiding immune activation.
Bovine colostrum contains elevated levels of IgG proven to promote healthy immune support and intestinal homeostasis. But even the highest quality bovine colostrum supplements contain milk-based contaminates (substances proven to be poorly tolerated by portions of the general population). A more optimal form is derived from serum, making it a more pure and potent source of IgG supplementation for digestive health and immune support products.
Serum-derived bovine immunoglobulin/protein isolate (SBI) is a specially formulated protein preparation for oral administration. The composition of SBI is greater than 60% immunoglobulin and includes contributions from IgG, IgA, and IgM.
The mechanism by which immunoglobulins and other bioactive peptides found in serum-derived IgG help to maintain gut barrier function is believed to involve the direct binding of microbial components found naturally in the digestive tract. In vitro studies have demonstrated that serum-derived IgG binds to many potentially toxic microbial antigens that appear normally in the intestinal tract.
These microbial antigens (e.g., bacterial endotoxin) are present in the intestinal tract due to the normal breakdown and turnover of resident bacteria and/or result from the consumption of contaminated food or water. These molecules (microbial antigens) have the potential to activate the intestinal immune system if they pass through a damaged intestinal epithelium. By binding to these microbial antigens, SBI helps to create a complex so large that it has difficulty penetrating the intestinal epithelium, allowing instead for the antigenic complex to remain in the intestinal lumen and exit the intestinal tract following normal peristalsis.
To demonstrate this action, Detzel, et al. conducted a study using an in vitro cell culture model to show that binding of antigens by the immunoglobulins in SBI prevented translocation of the antigens across epithelial cells, which in turn avoided the production of inflammatory cytokines by adjacent immune cells. These results suggest that the binding action of immunoglobulins in SBI helps keep toxic antigens within the lumen of the intestinal tract and avoid their absorption into the bloodstream, which may help manage gut permeability and immune activation that occur with exposure to such antigens.
Immunoglobulin-containing serum protein preparations have been shown to consistently improve nutrient absorption and other nutritional parameters in a variety of animal species. One review summarized the results from over 70 animal studies showing that immunoglobulin-containing plasma protein preparations (like SBI) led to improvements in caloric intake and metabolism of nutrients following supplementation in healthy animals. This research has led to the extensive use of plasma protein isolates as an animal feed component since the 1980s to support and maintain health of weanling domesticated animals.
Animal models have been utilized to assess the effect of SBI on supporting gut barrier function. In a rodent model of intestinal inflammation SBI supplementation prevented unwanted changes to specific markers of gut barrier function. In another study of intestinal inflammation mice supplemented with SBI maintained colon mucosal height, cecal stromal structure, and colonic glandular tissue, when compared to mice treated similarly but supplemented with a placebo protein.
Human clinical studies have illustrated the nutritive effect of SBI supplementation on intestinal homeostasis. Animal models and human studies have evaluated the effect of SBI on intestinal immune function. Perez-Bosque and colleagues studied intestinal inflammation in mice and found SBI supplementation led to significant decreases in the expression of proinflammatory cytokines in gut mucosal tissue, while simultaneously increased levels of certain anti-inflammatory peptides. In another study involving mice, SBI resulted in significantly lower concentrations of serum markers for acute gut inflammation and epithelium damage.
SBI can also benefit athletes, boosting healthy muscle tissue recovery after strenuous training. Boosting recovery speed and protecting muscle tissue are priorities for recreational and competitive athletes alike. It’s also widely understood that two of the most powerful stimulators of skeletal muscle synthesis are resistance exercise and protein intake. Used in combination with an exercise program, SBI can help athletes achieve optimal results from their efforts.
Numerous animal and human studies have been conducted to provide evidence of the safety of SBI, including clinical trials involving over 234 subjects and published retrospective chart reviews describing the use of SBI by approximately 298 subjects. In total, over 530 subjects have been exposed to SBI in documented clinical studies for a minimum of 1 day to a maximum of 24 months with doses ranging from 5 g to 20 g per day. There are no known side effects associated with consumption of SBI and it meets FDA standards for a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) ingredient.
Due to its high immunoglobulin content, SBI is an excellent natural source of IgG for use in digestive health, immune support and sports nutrition.
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