Recently I was driving and listening to ABC Radio (which happens to be my main source of news, current affairs and popular culture these days) when I heard an interview with Science broadcaster Robyn Williams and Australian researcher Nural Cokcetin about her research into the benefits of Australian raw honey on gut health.
I was so excited – an interview on a topic combining two of my passions – gut health and food as medicine.
Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and more recently there has been a lot of research identifying why honey is thought to be medicinal and what makes it so. New Zealand’s Manuka Honey has been well researched for its unique benefits and now we are starting to see research on the properties of Australian honey as well as clinical trials delving more into some of the potential medical uses.
In Nural Cokcetin’s research she tested 25 Australian honeys to see if there was any science behind the popular theory that honey could help digestive issues.
She wanted to see if the complex sugars in honey acted like other prebiotics in the gut so she tested honeys first in an artificial gut she built, and then in a clinical study with 50 volunteers. She found that all the honeys boosted populations of beneficial bacteria and altered harmful bacteria to produce protective compounds.
These changes were achieved with just 20 grams (about 1 tablespoon) of honey consumed daily.
This is great news as many people are suffering from conditions directly or indirectly related to gut health. A simple food as medicine intervention like this could help to make a difference.
This research builds on other clinical studies showing that honey can help heal intestinal inflammation, be effective against resistant Staph infections, and improve wound healing, sore throats, gingivitis and periodontal disease to name a few.
When buying honey to supplement your diet as a health food, you need to look for a quality honey, preferably local and one that is raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized. Many honeys today are processed which means they have been heated and filtered since being gathered from the hive. Raw honey retains it nutritional value and medicinal properties whereas a processed honey loses all of those benefits.
A raw unfiltered and unpasteurized honey is generally a rich source of: amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.
Some honeys, like Manuka honey from New Zealand, have been studied for their medicinal properties. Manuka, for instance, has significantly higher levels of enzymes than regular honey and it is these enzymes that give Manuka honey it’s potent antibacterial effects. The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is the global standard for identifying and measuring the antibacterial strength of Manuka honey which means the UMF identifies the honey as being genuine and of medicinal quality. Look for a minimum UMF of 10+ if you are looking for antibacterial activity.
Your local farmers’ markets are likely to sell local raw honey for sale, as will health stores or you could cultivate and harvest your own! This gorgeous photo is from my friend Shannon Garson’s first harvest from her backyard beehive!
Don’t forget that honey is essentially a sugar so while eating it in moderation for health benefits gets a big tick, eating large quantities will be pushing up your daily sugar intake.
If you need help addressing your health concerns with a tailored, holistic approach or would like some advice on how to eat for health, please give me a call to book a consultation soon.