manuka honey in irritable bowel syndrome

Do not eat manuka honey in IBS!

Do not eat manuka honey if you have irritable bowel syndrome. Or the disease.

The question whether a person with irritable bowel syndrome can eat honey or not has already been discussed in the article Can I have honey in IBS? The answer is a definite NO when the person is in the acute phases of the disease and yes, under certain conditions. These imply the type of honey, which should contain an equal amount of fructose and glucose, or honey with a higher glucose content. To see which are them see Sugars in honey and why honey is so sweet.

But when it comes to manuka honey, people expect it to do miracles. And that’s because the marketing behind it really did miracles in people’s subconscious. It was and still is considered to be a panacea, a miracle drug that can heal everything. And this happened because manuka honey was able to kill Staphylococcus Aureus, where conventional antibiotics failed.

It is however important to know that this happened on skin wound and not inside our body. We can extent it, of course, and think that if it was able to kill it on our skin it can kill it everywhere. Only that the inside of our body is so complex that things can take a different turn.

Manuka honey it a powerful antimicrobial.

Which sometimes is advertised as antibacterial or as natural antibiotic. All of them are true. Microbes include bacteria among other microorganisms. And antimicrobial products include antibiotics and other 2 main classes: disinfectants and antiseptics.

It is more correct to say that manuka honey is antimicrobial, as besides its antibiotic factors, the antiviral factors are also included.

But the fact that manuka honey is antimicrobial doesn’t mean it is our best friend. The word antibiotic comes from the word “anti” meaning “against” and the ancient Greek “bios” meaning “life” or “alive”.

An antimicrobial kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms. 

And the truth is, a human is made of more bacteria than cells! We are the host of good and bad bacteria alike. We cannot possibly live without any of them. All these bacteria are part of our body, of ourselves. Do we want to kill parts of us?

manuka honey can kill bacteria

Methylglyoxal – the substance in manuka honey with antimicrobial properties!

Manuka honey is an effective antimicrobial product due to its high content of methylglyoxal (MGO or MG).
MGO is a toxic substance that kills and inhibits the growth of microorganisms.
A toxic substance that is produced in our body and that we also ingest from different food such as coffee or soy sauce, or inhale it as tobacco smoke.

A toxic substance that leads to AGEs – harmful compounds that can affect nearly every type of cell and molecule in the body and represent one factor in aging and in some age-related chronic diseases. These substances can lead to the development or worsening of many degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, eye cataracts and cancer. They are also believed to play a causative role in the blood-vessel complications of diabetes mellitus. AGEs speed up oxidative damage to cells and alters their normal behavior.
A toxic substance that is eliminated by our body – when it is found in normal quantities.

Due to this toxicity, MGO is the main factor that gives manuka honey its antimicrobial properties.

further reading: Is Manuka Honey safe to eat?

How do I know if I have IBS?

Abdominal pain and spasms, diarrhea, flatulence, altered bowel habits, headache, fatigue, loss of concentration, depression and heart palpitations.
If after the tests, all the other organic diseases (including lactose and food intolerance) have been excluded, then you’ll probably have IBS – irritable bowel syndrome.

How does this IBS happen?
There are some theories, a final conclusion has not yet been reached.
· Elie Metchnikoff, (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1908) said that bacteria in the colon could be the source of “toxicants” and toxic substances would lead to illness and aging.
· A.K. Campbell et al. continued this theory and said that carbohydrates and other foods that were not completely digested or absorbed in the small intestine, reached the colon and were anaerobically digested by gut bacteria and decomposed into hydrogen gas and other metabolites such as methylglyoxal, methane, diacetyl, aldehydes and ketones. Methylglyoxal is mainly derived from glucose and fructose metabolism.
Here is what these toxins do in our body:

1. Kill bacteria. These toxins induce calcium signals in bacteria and affect their growth, thereby acting to modify the balance of microflora in the gut. Previous studies have shown that “methylglyoxal (0.1–10 mM) inhibits the growth of wild type E. coli cells via inducing rapid increase of cytosolic free Ca2+, followed by altered expression of at least 90 genes”.
It was reported that Methylglyoxal has pharmacological potential of antiviral, antimalarial and antibacterial activities (D. Talukdar et al. in 2009).

So yes, too much carbohydrates and other food in the gut, are digested by bacteria and turned into toxins which will  subsequently destroy gut bacteria. MGO is therefore good to kill bad bacteria but we should not forget it also kills good bacteria. If you need to take MGO large quantities, via manuka honey or other products, always supplement with probiotics.

2. Affect the entire body. These bacterial ‘toxins’ also affect signalling mechanisms in cells around the body, thereby explaining the wide range of symptoms in people with food intolerance. In addition to these, cytotoxicity of methylglyoxal was investigated in some researches indicating severe inhibition of DNA, RNA and protein syntheses.
Recent investigations (Lee BH et al. in 2013, Antognelli C et al. in 2013, Matafome P et al. in 2013) have suggested that methylglyoxal is involved in many diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and obesity, and can also disrupt barrier function of brain microvascular endothelial cells.

what does MGO in our bodypicture source

Why is manuka honey not recommended in IBS?

Because of its high content of MGO.
On one hand it has a higher fructose content which will ferment in your large intestine, meaning that your gut bacteria will turn it into MGO and other toxins (as explained before), but on the other hand because it contains a high MGO content – which alone can induce IBS symptoms even in healthy persons.

Nevertheless not all manuka honey contains MGO. A regular consumption of manuka honey with no or very low  MGO content is safe for a healthy person, even for an IBS person in non-flare periods.

The study Methylglyoxal Induces Systemic Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, by Shuang Zhang et al. from China, published in 2014, analyzed the correlation of methylglyoxal (MGO) and the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the diarrheal form. The study was done on rats.

Symptoms of IBS include:
diarrhea, abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, nausea, vomiting, headache, anxiety, depression and cognitive impairment.

How was the study done?
The researchers gave 5 groups of rats an enema infusion of saline and 30 mM, 60 mM, 90 mM, 120 mM and 150 mM methylglyoxal and a control group only saline. Then they analyzed the following IBS representative factors: fecal water content, visceral sensitivity, behavioral tests and serotonin – serum 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). 

is manuka honey safe to eat
Is manuka honey safe to eat?

The results:
– The fecal water contents of rats exposed to 60 mM, 90 mM, 120 mM and 150 mM methylglyoxal were significantly increased compared with controls.
– All rats performed more frequent head scratching and grooming activities than controls.
– The sucrose preference of the rats treated with 150 mM methylglyoxal (45%) decreased compared with controls
– Serotonin [serum 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)], an essential monoamine neurotransmitter mainly located in the enterochromaffin (EC) cells lining the intestinal mucosa, is also known as a key agent that accelerates intestinal peristalsis in IBS. Rats exposed to 30 mM, 60 mM, 90 mM MGO presented significantly higher serum 5-HT levels than controls (p<0.01) with a dose-dependent decline. Abnormal regulation of 5-HT results in unusual motility and secretory activities of alimentary tract, diarrhea, visceral hypersensitivity, chronic constipation, and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Studies said that methylglyoxal may stimulate serotonin release by induction of Ca2+ influx in EC cells.

The researchers’ conclusion: 
Methylglyoxal could induce diarrhea, visceral hypersensitivity (pain), headache as well as depression-like behaviors in rats, and might be the key role in triggering systemic symptoms of IBS.”

Where else can we find methylglyoxal?

Among the healthy natural food, manuka honey is the most abundant. It is surpassed only by berringa honey – from Australia (which is not so popular). Other types of honey may also contain it but even 1,000 times less.
The MGO content from honey raises in time in any honey. It also raises a lot during heating – a reason for which many naturists consider it to be toxic (if heated to be filtered or pasteurized). Also read Heating honey kills enzymes. But is boiled honey toxic?

With the exception of honey, MGO is present in many regular food, beverages and tobacco smoke.

Berringa honey:      up to 1750 mg/kg
Manuka honey:                   38 – 829+ mg/kg
Other honeys:                      0 – 135 mg/kg
Soft drinks containing high
fructose corn syrup:23.5 – 267 mg/L
Sweetened tea beverages:   32.1 – 98.1 mg/L
Diet tea beverages:             26.2 – 42.5 mg/L
Cheddar cheese:                 10.89 mg/kg
Soya sauce:                         8.7 mg/L
Brewed coffee:                     7 mg/L
Mozzarella:                          4.06 mg/kg
Rice, millet, mustard:           2.2 – 5.4 mg/kg
Swiss cheese:                      1.98 mg/kg
Bread:                                 0.79 mg/kg
Wine:                                  0.65 – 2.88 mg/L
Beer:                                  0.072 mg/L  [let’s drink for this number! :)]

Please remember that not all manuka honey contain MGO and that this toxic substance is not the only antimicrobial factor of manuka honey (though it is the main one). You can still have manuka honey if it doesn’t have a high MGO content, or has a low one. (like a UMF5+)

If you decided to still ingest a manuka honey with a higher UMF, do it for a short period of time and always take probiotic supplements.

Do not eat manuka honey with a high number of UMF or MGO if you have IBS! if you do, your well-known IBS symptoms will return for sure.

If you need something to work against your internal bad bacteria, manuka honey with a high UMF grade, or MGO, is not the only one that can help you. Please read this article: What bacteria can honey kill? and What gives honey its antimicrobial power?

For external use, especially for the treatment on any type of skin wound Manuka honey is THE BEST to treat wounds, burns, skin infections. And is completely safe.

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25 thoughts on “Do not eat manuka honey in IBS!

  1. This is extremely nonfactual information and in fact dangerous. Like many other IBS/SIBO sufferers, after 12+ years of being brushed aside and misdiagnosed by doctors, bowl specialists, naturopaths, colonics, nutritionists, low fodmap and elimination diets, trying every supplement under the sun for SIBO, I have found nothing that works. Absolutely desperate and unable to have any quality of life or even work full time anymore, I was willing to try anything.
    Enter Manuka, which completely relieved all my symptoms, healed my leaky gut, stopped my heartburn and gave me quality of life after a decade of hopelessness.
    Thank god I never came across this drivel site. I wouldn’t buy Manuka from you if you were the last supplier on the planet, in fact, I think you should find another industry as you are clearly misinformed and spreading disinformation.
    I came looking for a supplier but you won’t get a dollar from me, charlatans.
    Please if you are suffering and reading this, ignore these hopelessly misinformed ignoramuses and try Manuka, look for a reputable supplier that is interested in supplying high MGO and helping people heal with honey, as they have for thousands of years.

    1. Hello SIBO sufferer,
      My nonfactual information as you call it, is based on scientific studies and research, with links available on page. Higher amounts of MGO are bad for health. It’s true that this substance behaves differently within manuka honey, however, the fact that MGO is potentially dangerous remains.
      However, from your information, you have tried everything under the sun for SIBO. For me, this means one thing: you didn’t have SIBO. You said it yourself: “after being misdiagnosed by doctors, bowl specialists etc, and I believed this was indeed the case here. Most probably there was a microbe that manuka honey managed to kill or decrease in number, anyway. Which is great and I’m happy for you. We are all different and there is no panacea that can heal us all from everything.
      It is not nice from you to talk like that about this site. I do not sell honey of any kind here, so no, I’m not a manuka honey supplier either. I only put some links to Amazon to offer a buying option. This is an informative website only. Based on scientific studies with links. Whenever I offer traditional info I mention that. You should read more carefully and not jump into offending conclusions.

  2. I was recommended Manuka honey by a friend. I started at the same time as coming off Pregabalin and begun having awful diarrhoea. Going to the loo up to 6 times a day for a month. That is a side effect of Pregabalin leaving the body but after being off those tablets for over a week I was hoping to see change. I then realised it was likely to be the Manuka honey when I stopped and had a break for a couple of days when I forgot to have some honey. I do have IBS and potentially undiagnosed BAM and I suffer with extreme fructose, soya and nut intolerances.
    There is mixed information out there that says it can be good for IBS but since stopping the Manuka honey (1tsp per day) the diarrhoea has calmed down. This could be a coincidence so I will try again but I believe my reaction was most likely to the honey. I went for a 500 GMO so I think this could be the cause for my symptoms. Ooops. Any advice welcome. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sophie,

      Extreme fructose intolerance? I would never recommend honey in this case. Yes, maybe one teaspoon per day won’t be the end of the world, just to enjoy the flavor of a specific honey. Manuka honey is recommended for stomach ulcer, not lower digestive system. MGO is NOT good for your intestines. Manuka honey contains MGO per se, and also contain fructose, which will ferment in your large intestine, meaning that your gut bacteria will turn it into MGO and other toxins.
      Change your eating habits. Eat only what’s good for you. Take probiotics and prebiotics. After so much diarrhea, you have an unbalanced bacteria there. And, as I said in this article, based on scientific studies, no manuka honey in IBS. Especially in flares.

  3. I have Ulcerative Colitis and I can say without question that Manuka Honey works. I don’t believe all IBS issues are the same and definitely don’t believe they are caused by an autoimmune disorder. I have meticulously documented my journey with UC since 2008. I have tried different medications, steroids, etc with zero impact when I’m in a flare. I recently had a flare for a little over a year and at the peak was the worst one I have ever had. I tried Manuka Honey from Kiva and within 6 days I was in remission. Absolutely nothing else was introduced to my diet and medications were not changed. Manuka honey was the only difference. I firmly believe that anyone suffering from Ulcerative Colitis should try it.

    1. Hi Tony,
      Wonderful news. Doctors would prescribe what they learned in schools, but people are so different and complex. We are not machines, to simply replace something and expect to work. Orientals have a more holistic approach and this works better. And plants have tons of compounds that work in synergy. However, nothing can be compared to one’s own experience. And you have found what works for your body.
      Thank you for sharing this with us. Others may learn from your experience.
      If only you had mentioned the dose… 3 spoons per day? Before meals? Alone or with water/tea?

    2. Hi Tony!
      I also have UC or (Crohns colitis) which is just a varient of UC.
      And I have purchased a strong version of manuka honey 24+ and 20+ with very high MGO levels. I would like to know your dosage and strength of honey, also I assume you took it oraly?

      Kind regards.

  4. I’ve had stomach pains, gas, diarrhoea for the last two weeks (not normal for me) and looking back through what I’ve eaten the only new introduction I can think of was manuka honey (high mgo content 100+)… so very interested to read this possible link!

    1. Hi Kevin,
      MGO100+ is not much, it should not cause any kind of problems to a healthy individual. Maybe the dose is not the right one, maybe you started with too much. Or, I’m sorry to say this but it is also possible, what you have is not real manuka honey.
      Check this list from here and correctly read the label (see what to look for).

  5. a full tablespoon each day was and is what i use ;
    a friend of mine had polyps in his colon shown on each colonoscopy which he did every 6 months ,since he began the manuka honey each day ,he is clean according the colonoscopy images !

    now back to the mgo issue
    “foods that were not completely digested or absorbed in the small intestine, reached the colon and were anaerobically digested by gut bacteria and decomposed into hydrogen gas and other metabolites such as methylglyoxal,

    still dietary mgo may be solely beneficial”
    analogous dietary cholesterol in all forms ,eggs ,butter,meat, is healthy ,although cholesterol produced by your metabolism is not at all forms healthy it depends the type of HDL and LDL …..

    1. Thanks Stern, the dose is important and people want to know.
      Our body is able to eliminate the MGO that produces itself and some other ingested amounts. Yet, it cannot handle too much of it. And too much of it is detrimental. At least this is what science says, at this point of evolution.

  6. please allow me to ask ,what’s your proof that mgo kills good bacteria along with the bad ?
    any natural anti bacterial like coptis ,hydrogen peroxide doesn’t do that
    tha only that does that are mold based like drug antibiotics

    1. Hi again Stern,
      Well, first of all, there is a very thin limit between what our science considers to be, at the moment, bad bacteria and good bacteria. There is need for bad bacteria in our gut just as we need the good ones. Some bad bacteria exist to facilitate good things.
      It is true that almost all studies are done on bad bacteria, from the need of eradicating them.

      IBS is now considered to appear because of incompletely digested food and an imbalance in our gut bacteria. And the symptoms of IBS appears because of the toxins they release. As I said in the article, “foods that were not completely digested or absorbed in the small intestine, reached the colon and were anaerobically digested by gut bacteria and decomposed into hydrogen gas and other metabolites such as methylglyoxal, methane, diacetyl, aldehydes and ketones. Methylglyoxal is mainly derived from glucose and fructose metabolism.”

      So, the main problem is that this MGO is a major cause of the disease. It is derived from glucose and fructose and ingested from instant coffee, soy sauce and so many other foods, and if we eat manuka honey, which has a huge amount of it compared to the others, we add this toxin to those that are already in the gut and worsen the symptoms.
      MGO is a reactive dicarbonyl intermediate and an AGE precursor and dietary AGE restriction was proved to result in gut microbiota changes. The exact mechanisms of how MGO affects microbiota is hard to determine and clinical trials are even harder to take. There were some trials that showed manuka honey was not able to kill H pylori, while in vitro studies it did. Things are not 100% clear and there is still need for more research.

  7. all i know ,last summer i had 3 months bloody diarrhea with cramps and spasm and nausea ,got anemic,and weak ,until finally one suggested me to try mgo 550 manuka along with bee propolis ,on an empty stomach ,after doing that 10-11 days
    all my symptoms came to a complete stop;
    two weeks ago with my intense hay fever i came down again with cramps and spasm and diarrhea i immediate begin again with the manuka honey ,after 4 days all got back to normal

    1. Hi Stern,
      Your story reminded me of another one read some time ago in a religious text, about a sick man with bloody diarrhea and vomiting. His wife went to their shaman and he recommended him to take honey. The man took it but he got worse. His wife again went to the shaman and again he recommended honey. This happened three times until the wife came back and said her husband was cured.

      Coming back to you, your symptoms do not fit those of IBS, sounds more serious to me (it would have been better to know a diagnosis). Honey is known to have excellent benefits for the digestive system, manuka or not. Of course, the antibiotic effect is increased in the manuka honey case, if a microbe is involved.
      As for propolis what can I say… I am continually amazed of its never-ending health properties, I read about another study made on propolis almost everyday. I am tempted to think that it was propolis, the major factor that cured you. It is considered that honey is more preventative and propolis more curative.

      It will be good for our readers if you could tell us what doses you used, on both manuka honey and propolis.
      And thank you for sharing your story here.
      All the best!

      1. i just read in another site
        ! Diabetics should stay far away from berringa honey or manuka honey with high concentrations of MGO. Their body already has elevate levels of MGO. Diabetic ketoacidosis and recovery phase increase even more the methylglyoxal level.

        here again things are much more complex
        a friend of mine had type two diabetes in a stage that the medicine barely worked ; he got advised from a naturopath to try pomegranate juice ; the first days his sugar went up to danger skyrocketing ,but after a week ,day by day it got more and more stable ,by now he is off completely his medication !
        the high antioxidant power overlapped the high sugar in it and set his pancreas under full control ;

        1. Hi Stern,
          Yes, I heard about the effect of pomegranate on diabetes, high blood pressure and liver injury. The oil extracted from the seeds is also recommended. Its component, punicic acid, seems to be the main factor for this amazing effect. Science offers many studies that sustain this and we can find the pomegranate seed oil available on the market.
          Thank God we have nature by our side! 🙂 Or, thank God we can finally notice that nature has all the answers!

      2. Just had an episode of bloody diarrhea 2 months ago that lasted for weeks. I didn’t use any honey, I was hospitalized and also anemic etc but they never found the cause before the bloody diarrhea stopped, so after all the testing I’ve been left there.
        This whole thing and the antibiotics really badly impacted my gut.
        I’m right now having tons of diarrhea, pains, whatever. Honey seems to help in my case too, because my gut is EXTREMELY irritated. I hope it will recover soon.

        By the way, because this seems important : if you ever get bloody diarrhea ALWAYS go to a doctor! You can attempt to treat that with honey if you wish to, but this doesn’t restrict you from visiting a medical professional !!! If you get ANY other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, chills, … with that interminable bloody diarrhea, please run to the hospital DO NOT stay home because this IS NOT IBS. Wish you the best!

  8. “IBS is mainly triggered by fructose malabsorbtion.”

    And exactly where is the science to back this claim up????

    1. Hi Michael,
      There is plenty of science to back this up. I’ll give you some examples, with links, do read them, please:
      1. Is Fructose Malabsorption a Cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?, by James J. DiNicolantonio et al., 2015 ;
      2. Irritable bowel syndrome: associations between FODMAPS intake, problematic foods, adiposity, and gastrointestinal symptoms., by Solar I et al., 2018
      3. Symptomatic fructose malabsorption in irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective study, by Melchior C et al., 2014
      All the best!

  9. I can see that taking Manuka Honey can be a bit of a double egde sword. It can kill harmful bacteria like C-Diff but also good bacteria as well.

    One thing I felt that wasn’t fully correct was saying that the sugars in the honey: glucose and fluctose feed bacteria which allows them to produce their toxins.

    According to Dr. Elaine Gottschall, who wrote in her book Breaking The Viscous Cycle, glucose and fluctose are single sugars (monosaccharides). Meaning that they are easily abosrbed by our body before bacteria can have any for themselves. Double sugars (disaccharides) such as Sucrose and Lactose are not easily absorbed and thus become food for bad bacteria.

    In the end, it certainly is a juggling act trying to achieve the right balance of biotics for people with IBS and IBD.

    1. Hi Anthony,
      IBS is mainly triggered by fructose malabsorbtion. Either because it is too much, or because something is working wrong in the small intestine, it is not digested and the fructose gets in the large intestine where it is eaten by our bacteria and turned into those harmful substances, which induce the specific symptoms. Some specialists say IBS is a modern disease because of too much fruits available today. Always there ready to be bought, easy to eat in large quantities due to our good juicers, and always preached to be healthy!
      Yes, our body turns glucose and fructose into glycogen immediately, but too much of it gets in the blood and causes diabetes, or ends up as fat cells for later use.
      Anyway, here is more about the effect of honey on IBS: Can I have honey in IBS?

      And manuka honey is indeed a double edge sward.
      All the best! Laura

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