Is Manuka Honey Good For IBS?

What is IBS?

IBS or Irritiable Bowel Syndrome is a collection of symptoms related to your digestive system.

People with IBS often suffer from excessive gas, abdominal cramps and stomach pain. People with IBS also experience irregular or inconsistent bowel movements – for example, they may suffer both constipation and diarrhea during different periods.

According the Mayo Clinic, the exact causes of IBS are unknown, but some likely contributors are inflammation in the gut, severe infection from bacteria or virus, or imbalance or unhealthy gut flora.

The good news is, manuka honey has been shown in studies to help with several of these:

Manuka Honey has strong antibacterial compounds due to its high concentration of methylglyoxal (MGO).

This study from 2018 found:

Manuka honey can be safely used as an alternative natural antibiotic, which exerts a stimulating effect on macrophages to release mediators needed for tissue healing and reducing microbial infections.

This is why many have found Manuka honey to be effective at clearing harmful bacteria in the gut that can lead to stomach problems.

This also suggests that Manuka honey could be helpful in rebalancing gut bacteria after a dose of antibiotics or infection. Manuka honey is also classed as a prebiotic, which is essential for long term gut health.

Inflammation in the gut can also be helped with Manuka Honey.

This study from 2014 found:

The research found that kanuka and manuka honeys have an important role in modulating the inflammatory response associated with wound healing, through a pathway-specific effect. The phenolic content of honey correlates with its effectiveness, although the specific compounds involved remain to be determined.

Not only does this mean Manuka honey may help with reducing inflammation in the gut, it also suggests it may be helpful in the treatment of stomach ulcers too.

However, one study out of China found the manuka honey can actually make IBS symptoms worse. The 2014 study performed on rates found:

Methylglyoxal could induce diarrhea, visceral hypersensitivity, headache as well as depression-like behaviors in rats, and might be the key role in triggering systemic symptoms of IBS.

Therefore, we cannot definitively say that Manuka honey will be helpful in treating IBS in all people. With the agreement of your doctor, however, it is generally a safe and nutritious food that could be worth trying and has shown positive effects in others.

Which Manuka Honey is Best for IBS?

Generally, a higher UMF score is better.

UMF helps to determine the potency of the honey, based on its level of MGO or methyglyoxal, among other compounds.

You can read more about manuka honey grading systems here.

This study which looked into Manuka honey’s effect on gut health also clearly found that UMF grading mattered:

Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), which depends on methylglyoxal content is also important for honey’s antibacterial activity. 

When using Manuka honey for general health and wellness, we generally say that even a UMF score of 10 is sufficient, but wen using Manuka honey to help alleviate health issues, we generally recommend a higher UMF score.

UMF 20 is good, but ideally UMF 24 and above is best.

Our favourite UMF 24 honey is this Manuka honey by NZ Honey Co. They also have a UMF 26 honey which is significantly more expensive, but if your budget allows for it, it will offer a higher level of potency.

Who are we?

I'm Erin, and my husband and I have been raising bees in Northern New Zealand for over 30 years. We no longer raise bees on Manuka flowers, but it remains one of our favorites, and we eat it daily, among other honeys like Kamahi and Rata. Since Manuka has grown in popularity overseas in recent years, we thought we should educate people on the true benefits of Manuka and how to find quality Manuka honey. Above is our guide, written by us and designed by our brilliant computer whiz of a son, Byron. We hope you find it helpful! Learn more about us here.