Lactoferrin coordinating the human cellular immune response Up-Regulating Immune Function

First Food for Life  Jerry Stine

Lactoferrin is a relatively new supplement that has generated an unusual amount of interest in the last year and a half due to a number of health articles touting its application to cancer therapy. This has obviously provoked an overwhelming amount of excitement that I must try to deal with as a nutritional consultant. To understand what all the fuss is about, I'll first describe what lactoferrin is, what it does, and then explore its relevance to cancer and other health conditions.

Cytokine-Coordinated Responses
Lactoferrin is a substance belonging to a family of chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines are responsible for coordinating the human cellular immune response that protects us from most infections, cancers and tumors. A deficit of cytokines can lead to a suppressed immune system and an excess of cytokines can create an over-active immune response. Lactoferrin works by regulating the cellular immune response on several different levels. In healthy individuals lactoferrin is a front-line defensive system that protects our body openings, such as eyes, mouth, nose and other orifices from infectious invasion.

A second aspect of lactoferrin is its unique ability to bind to iron, an essential mineral used by a wide array of pathogens and tumors for reproduction and growth. Presented with an infectious challenge or tumor, a healthy body will respond by producing Lactoferrin in copious quantities in the vicinity of the infection or tumor.

Lactoferrin will then bind with iron and render it unavailable to the bacteria or the tumor, provoking a malnutrition situation and effectively starving the bacteria or the tumor. Lactoferrin does not remove iron from the body itself, and over time degrades to release the iron back into the body.

A third and important level of activity is that special sections of lactoferrin molecules are themselves directly toxic to bacteria, yeast and molds. It also appears that lactoferrin inhibits replication of some viruses, including HIV and some of the herpes family of viruses. So this is quite a remarkable substance.

There is a good deal of research regarding the function of lactoferrin, as well as research into the levels of lactoferrin in sick individuals. Lactoferrin first came to prominence as a result of an excellent paper written by an AIDS researcher discussing the role of lactoferrin in AIDS. It was this initial study that really provoked the production of lactoferrin as a nutritional supplement

Up-Regulating Immune Function
More recently a widely-read health newsletter article focused on one amazing case in which lactoferrin was used in the treatment of mesothelioma, a kind of lung cancer associated with asbestos. The patient, a friend of the author of the article, was treated by Dr. Corsello in New York.

The article made it sound as if the patient was simply given lactoferrin and then got well. Sounds simple, but that isnt exactly the situation. Its also unfortunate because a number of people have contacted me in my capacity of technical consultant seeking information on the lactoferrin cancer treatment, but lactoferrin is in no sense a cancer treatment at all.

The full story on Corsellos patient was that she was on a full program of alternative medical intervention, including vitamin C drips and things of that sort. They werent really getting particularly good results until they added lactoferrin to the program. The end result was a fairly complete recovery from a kind of cancer that is extremely virulent. Now this was quite wonderful, but I sincerely doubt that lactoferrin by itself could have provoked as dramatic an outcome as they reported.

The bottom line here is that lactoferrin is a very reasonable and important component of immuno-therapy. Individuals with cancer are almost uniformly immuno-suppressed and unfortunately, conventional cancer therapy doesnt tend to pay much attention to improving immune function. In fact, most traditional cancer therapies are immuno-suppressing in their own right.

The importance of lactoferrin and other substances that up-regulate immune function in this very dangerous disease is not commonly addressed. One of the chief things I do as a nutritional consultant is to combine conventional therapy with immuno-supporting nutritional supplements. By organizing a comprehensive program around each individuals specific needs, tailored to their illness and the kind of conventional therapy they are receiving, the results we have gotten have been very, very impressive.


Other areas where lactoferrin supplementation may be relevant are in cases of HIV and chronic viral infections, including chronic fatigue. Ive used lactoferrin in low doses on individuals who could not be categorized as suffering from chronic fatigue or any distinct illness, but were experiencing low energy and had food allergies. I found that these individuals seemed to feel a bit better, and have more energy after taking lactoferrin.

Recommended Dosages
It doesnt take a very large dose of lactoferrin to see results. Improvement of immune regulation calls for a dosage ranging from 200 to 400 milligrams taken in one dose at bedtime. This is the most common time to take this for immune regulation purposes and will not interfere with sleep in any way.

I havent run across doses higher than 1400 milligrams a day except in cases where a doctor was going after an actual infection. One interesting example of this was with a patient suffering from gastritis that was likely caused by h-pylori bacteria. After a course of treatment with high-dose lactoferrin, there was a complete clearance of all symptoms.

While we havent seen any problems with taking larger doses, one animal study using very large doses led to some damage to the gastro mucosa. In terms of human feed-back, lactoferrin is a relatively benign substance, though if one takes too much it could lead to some diarrhea or a drop in energy. Reduce the dose if this occurs.

Where does lactoferrin come from? Lactoferrin comes from colostrum which is the first fluid that comes out of the mother?s breast after a baby is born. For anywhere from a day-and-a-half to three days, the mother produces a fluid that is not milk, but a mixture of immunoglobulins and about 15-20% lactoferrin. Our lactoferrin source is extracted from cows colostrum, is highly purified and is not allergically reactive even in individuals who are extremely milk allergic. Where some individuals may have a reaction to whole colostrum, lactoferrin is so well filtered and purified that none of the andogen sensitive components of milk are present.

To recap, lactoferrin is an extremely powerful and important tool in improving cellular immune function. But in serious illnesses I would strongly recommend getting in touch with a nutritionist or a nutritionally-oriented physician of some sort to develop a comprehensive program.

See also

Lactoferrin Reduces Viral Load in Hep-C Patients

Lactoferrin Nature's Premier Immune-Boosting Protein

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