There is increasing awareness that a broad range of gastrointestinal diseases, and some systemic diseases, are characterized by failure of the mucosal barrier. Bovine colostrum is a complex biological fluid replete with growth factors, nutrients, hormones, and paracrine factors which have a range of properties likely to contribute to mucosal healing in a wide range of infective, inflammatory, and injury conditions. In this review, we describe the anatomy and physiology of the intestinal barrier and how it may fail. We survey selected diseases in which disordered barrier function contributes to disease pathogenesis or progression, and review the evidence for or against efficacy of bovine colostrum in management. These disorders include enteropathy due to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), necrotizing enterocolitis, infectious diarrhea, intestinal failure, and damage due to cancer therapy. In animal models, bovine colostrum benefits NSAID enteropathy, IBD, and intestinal failure. In human trials, there is substantial evidence of efficacy of bovine colostrum in inflammatory bowel disease and in infectious diarrhea. Given the robust scientific rationale for using bovine colostrum as a promoter of mucosal healing, further work is needed to define its role in therapy.
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