Lactoferrin Can Bind Microplastics in Humans

Lactoferrin Can Bind Microplastics in Humans

Kiran Krishnan is a microbiologist who is passionate about capabilities of microbial ecosystems and for our health and wellbeing. He has a special interest in probiotics and prebiotics to modulate the immune system and believes that Lactoferrin – a hero ingredient of Leapfrog Remedies’ supplements – has a vital part to play in achieving optimum gut health, including its superpower in binding microplastics.

Microplastics - plastics less than 5mm across - are found in all corners of the world, from the top of Mount Everest to the depths of the Mariana Trench. Researchers have also found microplastics in the human body, and more recently in the blood. While the risks are not yet known, there is cause for concern, and the knowledge that Lactoferrin can naturally bind microplastics is cause for celebration.

Leapfrog founder Stephanie Drax interviewed Kiran to find out more about gut issues, how to improve our microbiome and how Lactoferrin supplementation can be a powerful tool for our overall health.


Are we all born with perfect guts and given the huge issues with our microbiomes and the associated diseases, where have we been going wrong?

Over one hundred and fifty years ago people were born with relatively perfect guts. In the modern days we’re seldomly born with a perfect microbiome. We’ve failed in passing on an adequate microbiome to further generations: our parents failed to pass on a perfect microbiome to us and our generation is doing the same thing. We are not harbouring the ecosystem that we need to function. 33% of births (in the US) are C-section – this misses the important inoculation that occurs when passing through the vaginal canal. We also know that a lot of people don’t breastfeed long enough; we know that breast milk includes a lot of very important microbes, probiotics, immune complexes - like lactoferrin - and immunoglobulins. And then: everything around us kills microbes.

We are made up mostly of microbes: we have more microbial cells in our bodies than human cells. Everything we put on our bodies and in our system and around us kills microbes which makes it hard to harbour and create a significantly diverse ecosystem to pass on to the next generation. Indigenous tribes tend to have three to four more times the microbes than we do in the Westernised world and that’s because they have adequate exposure to all the microbes that affect the microbiome in a positive way, and because they have reduced exposure to all the chemistries that impact the microbiome in a negative way.

What can we do to repair regenerate and enhance our gut microbiome?

It’s a combination of reducing the exposure to things that decimate the ecosystem and then adding in things that we know would benefit it. Things that readily disrupt we want to reduce the exposure to; pesticides and herbicides, for example, that selectively kill good bacteria. We want to move towards more organic foods and growing what you can in the garden, like tomatoes and cucumbers. We need to eat as clean and as slow as possible. The more we eat things that come from a distance the more chemicals are used to preserve them. So, eat from local farmers markets, vegetables and meat fresh from the farm: it’s a better way to reduce exposure to those chemical products.

Think about your personal care products; we put lots of things on our bodies and in our bodies that harm our microbiome and eventually make us unhealthy – things like lotions, deodorants, toothpaste mouthwashes, and shampoos. We should find the cleanest version of those products. Also, your home environment: most people have the misconception that they need their homes sterilise their homes to be clean, so we’re bleaching and sterilising for a chemical lemon smell that’s indicative of being ‘clean’ but that’s very disruptive to our internal ecosystem. It compromises your immune system. Most surfaces in the home can be cleaned with water, and a couple of drops of essential oils if you’d like a smell. If you’ve got raw chicken or mildew then you can use chemicals there, but these are ways of starting to avoid them. Then it’s about reducing exposure to antibiotics. People take antibiotics when they don’t need them, and the antibiotics often can’t help (because its viral rather than bacterial). People demand them because they want to get well, but your body needs rest and needs to recover. So don’t push for antibiotics.

The simplest things to enhance the microbiome is diversity of diet: plant-based foods, meats and proteins. Getting adequate exposure to the outside environment, going for a hike in the woods, on the beach - a natural environment. Playing in the dirt. Dirt is a wonderful thing; we evolved growing up in the dirt.

Taking a probiotic can be beneficial and consuming fermented foods too – it’s not that the microbes in the food will live in the gut, but all the ferment can help enhance and balance your microbiome. 

If you add these things together it has a profound impact on improving your microbiome over time. The choices that we make can have significant consequences on our outcomes.

Should we be taking supplements?

Unfortunately, our environment is way too toxic - you need supplements. We haven’t evolved to exist properly in this environment today. The human system has not been exposed to microplastics and BPA for that long to be able to develop systems to adequately detoxify from that. We haven’t been exposed to the kinds of chemistries and at the levels we are exposed to – levels of radiation or antimicrobials – for long enough to be able to adapt to them. 

Our foods aren’t grown in soil that’s adequate to begin with. If you take the broccoli of today it has about half the nutritional value of broccoli that was grown 50 years ago. So, even through our food it’s very hard to get adequate nutrition. Given all those stressors and all those deficiencies that we find in our food supply and in our systems, we have to supplement, but we have to be smart about it.

What are your thoughts on the expanding probiotics market, given you have your own range of probiotics at Microbiome Labs?

Companies slap things together as if it has basis in science. When I started Microbiome Labs as a microbiologist, I looked at what was already in the marketplace and very few of them made sense – like having 50 strains of bacteria in one product. Probiotics – these biological entities - can compete with each other and don’t necessarily complement each other. We can’t just throw these things together, but that’s the nature of this industry. People are buying these products with their hard-earned income and they’re being deceived; companies don’t approach it with integrity and science.

Microbes are very powerful if the product is done correctly, but if it’s done wrong, it can compromise the industry as a whole. The finished product should have been studied in humans and the probiotic should demonstrate what is its impact on the microbiome. How does it impact the resident microbes? Studies have shown that if taken after antibiotics, these hodgepodge ‘kitchen sink’ formulas can slow down or prevent the regrowth of natural microbes. Also, your stomach acid is killing stuff and you’re sending bacterial debris through your system and that can influence an inflammatory system. 

What are your thoughts on Lactoferrin?

I’ve been a fan of lactoferrin for long time. I did a talk on it in 2009, when I was looking at colostrum and the part that interested me the most was the lactoferrin component. I started doing a deep dive into it and was impressed by the universal application of lactoferrin in terms of its ability to provide all kinds of protection in the human system. Our biology is so ingenious that it’s created this compound that has this capability of protecting us against such a myriad of things that would cause problems. It can bind heavy metals because it’s a glycoprotein with a cationic component to it and an iron binding capability. 

"Lactoferrin an interesting glycoprotein that can bind viruses, it can bind bacterial toxins, and at the same time it can bind plastics. It is a unique biological compound that can bind artificial chemistries because of its cationic nature. It has the capability of binding biological things but also manmade chemical compounds as well - there’s evidence that it can bind BPA."  

Lactoferrin is such a beautiful and elegant molecule and having it in secretory fluids in your body provides an amazing broad spectrum first line of defence. There’s a reason why the gut epithelium releases it; there’s a reason why your mucosal and respiratory epithelium releases it – you’ll find it in saliva, tears etc. Your body uses it as a coating defence mechanism. We live in an increasingly toxigenic world, and we need more and more of these kinds of universal neutralisers to be able to protect us from the toxigenic effects of viruses, bacteria but also the environmental toxins that we expose ourselves to: the plastics and heavy metals. It’s a wonderful compound. It’s similar to why I like immunoglobulins, but Lactoferrin has a bigger diversity to what it can bind.

Lactoferrin Leapfrog IMMUNE for better gut health supplement

How could Lactoferrin pair with your Megasporebiotic?

Lactoferrin reduces the toxigenic load on the body so there is less for the immune system to do. It’s very easy for your immune system to get overwhelmed in terms of having to neutralise all of these incoming things and especially if somebody already has a dysfunctional gut microbiome. If you have a dysfunctional gut microbiome you are absolutely not producing enough lactoferrin, as some of the key stimulators of lactoferrin production and secretion come from the microbiome. You need a diverse microbiome in order to stimulate the production of lactoferrin. You need things like butyrate which is a very important regulator of lactoferrin production and secretion, and you need bacterial by-products for that. So, if you have a dysfunctional gut, you are already not producing enough lactoferrin, your immune system is compromised, and you’ve got microbes that are driving more toxicity in your system. If you’re in that situation and you’ve got immune system issues like allergies, asthma or you get sick six times a year and have low energy, start taking a probiotic that enhances the gut and enhances the immune response. And at the same time, if you start taking Lactoferrin that reduces the load on your system and it becomes a really great situation to revamp your dysfunctional system. It can also bind LPS (endotoxins). Lactoferrin provides a great support to your system. After all, it’s an important part of babies first defence system.

If you start taking colostrum as a supplement you’re not getting adequate amounts of lactoferrin, so taking a concentrated form is a great advantage – it’s one of the things I love about taking lactoferrin as a supplement. 

How can Lactoferrin specifically help good gut bacteria? 

Lactoferrin enhances the growth of certain probiotic strains, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and in turn those microbes then stimulate the release of even more lactoferrin. Those microbes have transcriptional factors that can activate lactoferrin from intestinal epithelium cells, so it becomes a nice self-perpetuating cycle. The lactoferrin enhances their growth so that they then have capabilities of enhancing more lactoferrin so that they can then grow even further. So that is how the microbiome balances itself. It’s through this communication with the immune system that there’s a regulatory mechanism of maintaining the right level of microbes in the lining of your gut. 

Another reason why your intestinal epithelium is designed to secrete lactoferrin is because your gut is your biggest area of exposure of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and toxins. Lactoferrin is there as a first line of defence to protect against those things. It’s a powerful natural tool and it definitely enhances your gut microbiome. That’s another reason it plays well with a probiotic like Megasporebiotic.

How can Lactoferrin help with IBD?

If you’ve got inflammation in the lining of your colon, what you want to do is enhance short chain fatty acid production and reduce inflammation in the mucosal lining, so things like immunoglobulins and lactoferrin can help with that inflammatory environment in the mucosa. Then taking adequate amounts of a prebiotic like oligosaccharides will enhance the production of short chain fatty acids. These are things you can look at when you have IBD, and the key word here is inflammation. Crohns, colitis, microcolitis: these are all conditions of inflammation in nature. In the case of many of these diseases inflammation is driven by your own immune system because its inadvertently attacking tissues that it shouldn’t be attacking, but nonetheless anything that can reduce that inflammatory pathology can be helpful.

Lactoferrin soothes your bowel. It binds things that are going to drive inflammation and toxicity in the bowel and at the same time it’s soothing the bowel. It’s binding and neutralising things that are not good for you, but as it’s a compound that your immune system recognises and its part of your innate immune response it has that anti-inflammatory capability. It can shuttle your immune system through its processes. 

Neutrophils are some of the most common cells that make lactoferrin in your secretory fluids, and neutrophils are one of the first things that show up when there’s something wrong in an area. One of their main tools is that they secrete lactoferrin. Neutrophils may not specifically know what the problem is – they are from the innate immune system versus the adaptive immune system, in which B cells and T-cells that know exactly what the issue is. When neutrophils show up they just know that there is a problem and they coat the area with lactoferrin to fix it. So, we’re just taking the cue from nature which is giving ourselves some additional lactoferrin which does that neutralising, coding, and reducing inflammation. It’s such a wonderful biological compound.

Our Leapfrog lactoferrin is purposefully chewable to be better absorbed. Do you appreciate the advantages of that? 

I love the chewable format – it’s important to get it into the oral cavity. When you’re thinking about colds and flu and respiratory viral things, you want it in the oral mucosa. You want the lactoferrin in there; your body is supposed to be coating that area with lactoferrin to begin with so it’s nice that you (Leapfrog) start in the mouth and allow it then to be swallowed into the gut. That’s a cool format.

Find out more about Kiran's probiotic and prebiotic range here.

Watch the Insta Live replay of Kiran and Stephanie's interview here.