We all want a good immune system.
It keeps us away from the doctor, stops us getting coughs and sniffles, helps us recover much faster when we do, but most importantly, it just makes us feel better on a daily basis.
According to Harvard Health, improving your immune system comes from lifestyle factors such as drinking less alcohol, sleeping earlier and for more hours, reducing stress, drinking more water and so on.
However, your diet is also a big factor in how your immune system operates.
Getting the right vitamins and minerals so your body can flourish will give a good boost to your immunity.
Another overlooked part of improving your immune system is the health of your gut.
According to UCLA, 70% of our immune system lives inside our gut.
Keeping this gut healthy with a thriving diversity of gut flora, free from bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth, and good daily intake of prebiotics and probiotics is essential in keeping our immune system happy.
So rather than asking can Manuka honey improve the immune system, the real question is – can Manuka honey help improve your diet, and can it help improve your gut health?
Manuka Honey Nutrition Profile
According to Harvard Health, the body requires 13 essential vitamins and 15 essential minerals to function healthily.
Manuka Honey fulfills a very wide range of this profile.
According to NZ Manuka producer Comvita, Manuka honey provides a full B-vitamin profile, as well as Vitamins C and K, plus ten different essential minerals.
The essential vitamins and minerals are listed below, the ones that Manuka honey contains are highlighted in yellow:
- Vitamin A (retinol)
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (Folate)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Of the 13 essential vitamins, Manuka honey contains 8.
Of the 15 essential minerals, Manuka honey contains 10.
Having a nutritious diet is one of the first steps to building a robust immune system. Without all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs, it’s very difficult for your body to maintain baseline good health.
Just a spoonful or two of Manuka honey per day can definitely help you do that!
Improving immunity in the gut
If 70% of our immune system lives in our gut, it is of utmost importance to keep the gut healthy.
Our gut requires a couple of things to flourish.
First – it needs a healthy microbiome of bacteria living in the gut.
According to Harvard Health, our microbiome helps us do many important things:
- Breaks down toxic food compounds
- Synthesizing vitamins and minerals from our food
- Breaks down food so we can digest it
- Protection from pathogens we might get from contaminated food or water
- Preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria
Manuka honey helps us develop a healthy gut in a few ways.
First, it’s antimicrobial action is well known. Manuka honey is very effective against various bacteria, including h pylori, which can be very harmful to our gut health.
This 2018 study found that:
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. Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), which depends on methylglyoxal content is also important for honey’s antibacterial activity. Other active components include hydrogen peroxide, acidic pH level, hyper-osmolality effect and bee defensin-1 etc.
This study stated:
Research has been conducted on manuka (L. scoparium) honey, which has been demonstrated to be effective against several human pathogens, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), Enterobacter aerogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, S. aureus.
By keeping bad bacteria in check, this allows the healthy bacteria in our gut to thrive.
This is one of the biggest benefits of adding Manuka honey to your diet – the antibacterial properties that act as pest control inside your gut, zapping all the bad bacteria that can cause you harm.
Manuka honey is also a known antifungal.
This study in Nature found that among Leptospermum origin honeys, Manuka honey (40%) was effective against T. rubrum and C. albicans.
Yeast overgrowth in the gut is extremely common, and most people don’t even realise they have an issue.
Adding Manuka honey to your diet can help keep any opportunistic yeast under control through antifungal action.
Finally, one of the biggest gut benefits of Manuka honey is its known to function as both a probiotic and prebiotic.
Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics – they introduce bacteria into your gut. These are generally the helpful bacteria that help you digest food, break down nutrients and ward of harmful bacteria.
Prebiotics are what probiotics feed on. These bacterias need things like fibres and enzymes to grow and thrive.
Manuka honey can provide you with both!
This study found that:
Honey contains oligosaccharides that can be utilized by the saccharolytic fermenters to yield beneficial metabolites that promote the prebiotic effect. There are numerous studies on the antimicrobial components and health effects of honey, and many have focused on the unique antibacterial activity of varieties such as Manuka.
This study found that:
Manuka honey was particularly effective at increasing probiotic growth and reducing pathogen growth, both alone and in combination with other food ingredients.
Finally, this study confirmed that:
Manuka honey has a potentially beneficial efficacy in growing specific types of probiotics (Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium lactis) and inhibiting other pathogens (Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and Staphylococcus aureus). Honey has shown potent probiotic properties when it is incubated, at maximum levels, with milk and/or selective growth media.
Daily prebiotic and probiotic intake is essential for keeping your gut balanced and functioning. Prebiotic foods include things like fibrous fruits and vegetables, and probiotics include things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. Now, you can add Manuka honey to that list!
Is Manuka Honey Good For Immunity and Your Immune System?
By adding over 70% of your daily essential vitamins and minerals, Manuka honey helps keep immunity robust by ensuring you have a rounded and wholly nutritious diet.
Through it’s antimicrobial and antifungal properties, it keeps your gut bacteria thriving, free from candida overgrowth, and wards off bad bacteria.
Through it’s prebiotic and probiotic effect, it creates the perfect environment for your microbiome to thrive, where 70% of your immune system lives and functions.
One to two teaspoons a day of Manuka honey (yes, straight out of the jar) is certain to help with keeping your immunity high and immune system strong.
Which Manuka honey should I eat for a strong Immune System?
We always like to recommend getting a Manuka honey with a UMF score above 20.
UMF is the official grading system for Manuka honey out of Manuka honey's homeland (and ours!) New Zealand.
It's the gold standard for Manuka honey grading. You can read more about it here.
Our favourite Manuka honey for general health and wellbeing is the UMF 24 from NZ Honey Co.
It's so delicious and has a distinct caramel flavour - we eat it daily.
It's very affordable too.
If your budget allows, however, we suggest you step up to the UMF 26 grade, which will definitely provide additional potency, though we don't think it's necessary for a honey you eat daily for general health.
Whichever you choose, just remember to stay consistent for the most benefit.
A spoonful in the morning at breakfast, a spoonful at night after dinner.
And of course, if you wish to eat it like normal honey, such as drizzling it on your oats or a piece of toast, that's great too!
We're sure you'll love it as much as our family has.
Sending you health!