Having honey while pregnant is supposed to be beneficial for your health. Honey is known to contain small amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can be beneficial for both the expectant mother and the developing fetus. Be it a cough, cold, or sore throat, honey is a go-to. But is too much honey bad? Read on to know the benefits of honey during pregnancy and the possible side effects.
Is Honey Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?
Honey is safe during pregnancy, provided it is pasteurized (1). Also, it should come from government certified authority.
One cause of concern about raw honey is that it can cause botulism (2). However, it only affects babies less than a year old as their digestive system is immature. The gastrointestinal system in adults contains bacteria that prevent botulinum toxin, and it is rare for a pregnant woman to get colonization botulism (3). However, precaution is better than cure, and therefore, it is wise to use only pasteurized honey during pregnancy.
Benefits Of Honey During Pregnancy
Honey is mainly comprised of water (17%) and two simple sugars, fructose (38%) and glucose (31%). In addition, it has certain bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties. However, the concentration of these compounds is very low, and they may not have any significant effect on health (4).
Still, honey has a special place in traditional medicine, as it is considered to have therapeutic properties that could be considered beneficial during pregnancy.
- Immune system: Ancient literature shows that honey has potential antibacterial and antioxidant properties that aid in immune development. It is also considered to have effective wound healing properties. Its topical application can help treat cuts, wounds, and minor burns, while its oral consumption is believed to provide relief from heartburn (5).
- Insomnia: The use of honey for insomnia is an age-old practice in Ayurveda. According to ayurvedic literature, honey is considered to have a hypnotic action that could help overcome insomnia. Drinking a glass of milk mixed with a spoon of honey before bedtime is believed to promote undisturbed sleep (6).
- Cold and cough: The use of honey with ginger or lemon is a common home remedy to treat acute cough. With its antiviral properties, honey is believed to inhibit the viral activity in the body, preventing common cold and thus, providing relief from cough as well (7) (8).
- Sore throat: Ancient Greeks used honey to treat a sore throat (6), which can be due to a bacterial or viral infection. In both cases, honey is considered to provide some symptomatic relief, as it is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. You can try adding honey to ginger or lemon tea and drink it warm to relieve a sore throat (9).
- Ulcers: A research has shown that regular consumption of honey could possibly decrease the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, responsible for causing duodenal ulcers (10). However, some studies recommend more randomized clinical trials to prove the efficacy of honey in treating different types of ulcers.
- Scalp health: A research study showed that the antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidative nature of honey could support in getting rid of dandruff and itchy scalp. Dilute some honey in warm water and apply it to the scalp to treat such hair conditions (11).
- Allergies: It is believed that regular oral consumption of honey could make the body immune to pollen and seasonal allergies. However, research studies on the subject are inconclusive (12).
Side Effects Of Honey During Pregnancy
It is good to have all foods in moderation, as an excess of anything may have side-effects. Likewise, excessive consumption of honey can lead to certain side effects, as mentioned below.
- Could aggravate insulin sensitivity: One tablespoon of honey has almost 64 Kcal that primarily comes from simple sugars like fructose and glucose present in it. Excessive consumption of honey could raise blood sugar levels and worsen insulin resistance (13). This could lead to insulin sensitivity during pregnancy, thereby posing a risk of the development of gestational diabetes and blood lipid imbalances (14).
- Cramps: Honey contains high amounts of fructose that could cause gastrointestinal issues such as cramping, bloating, and diarrhea (15). This is why honey is considered a source of FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols). FODMAPs are a group of poorly digested sugars that can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps when consumed in excess (16)
- Dental health: The high levels of sugar in honey could cause dental cavities and tooth erosion.
- Weight gain: One tablespoon of honey has more calories than one tablespoon of refined sugar. Hence, overconsumption of honey, in terms of total calorie intake, could be a potential cause of weight gain (with other relevant factors, such as activity levels, added).
How Much Honey Is Safe During Pregnancy?
There is no documented safe limit for the consumption of honey, especially for pregnant ladies. Therefore, it is wise to consult a nutritionist to determine your safe limit.
When you try to gauge the safe limit, remember that calories from simple sugars should not exceed more than 10% of the total calorie requirement during pregnancy (which is around 1800 to 2400 calories per day).
Precautions To Take While Eating Honey
There are some ways in which honey should not be taken:
- Do not add honey in hot water or beverages as it might eliminate its healthy enzymes. You may add it to lukewarm water.
- Avoid mixing honey to bean curd as it can reverse the benefits and lead to indigestion.
Tips For Choosing Honey
If the quality of honey is good, consumption should not be an issue, even for pregnant women.
- Double-check if the honey is pasteurized. Almost all brands sell pasteurized honey. However, the honey purchased from roadside sellers, bee farms, or local markets will mostly be raw and hence must be avoided.
- Choose trusted, organic honey as it undergoes minimal processing.
If you are unsure of which honey to eat, discuss it with your medical practitioner.
Can You Take Manuka Honey When Pregnant?
Manuka honey is safe to take unless you are allergic to it. It is natural and healthy, and there is also no evidence that manuka is unsafe for consumption during pregnancy. However, you should check with your doctor or a nutritionist before using it, since there is limited information about its safety (17).
Consuming honey while pregnant is beneficial for both the expectant mother and the baby. It is safe during pregnancy and comes with various health benefits. For example, it helps improve the immune system, prevent insomnia, and cure cold and cough. However, ensure you consume honey in moderation since overconsumption may lead to health complications. Also, buy from trusted brands that sell pasteurized honey since adulterated honey can negatively affect your body. In addition, avoid mixing honey in hot water and beverages since it may reduce its effectiveness.
1.Eating well in pregnancy; NHS
2.Infant botulism; Medline Plus; U.S National Library of Medicine
3.Carolyn Tam et al.; Food-borne illnesses during pregnancy; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2010)
4.Waris A et al.; Randomised Double Blind Study To Compare Effectiveness Of Honey Salbutamol And Placeb In Treatment Of Cough In Children With Common Cold; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2014)
5.Dr. Bassam Zeina et al.; Effect of Honey versus Thyme on Rubella Virus Survival in Vitro; Liebert Pub
6.Tahereh Eteraf-Oskouei and Moslem Najafi; Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review; National Center For Biotechnology Information
7.Manisha Deb Mandal and Shyamapada Mandal; Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity; National Center For Biotechnology Information
8.Honey for health?; Harvard Health Publishing
9.Seasonal Allergies and Complementary Health Approaches: What the Science Says; National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
10.Al-Waili NS; Therapeutic and prophylactic effects of crude honey on chronic seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
11.Basil C Nzeako and Faiza Al-Namaani; The Antibacterial Activity of Honey on Helicobacter Pylori; National Center For Biotechnology Information
12.E. R. H. S. S. Ediriweera and N. Y. S. Premarathna; Medicinal and cosmetic uses of Bee’s Honey – A review; National Center For Biotechnology Information
13.Nataly Martini; Manuka Honey; CSIRO
14.Is something in your diet causing diarrhea?; Harvard Health Publishing
15.Eat Right; American Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics
16.Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM); Johns Hopkins Medicine
17.Salwa W Rizkalla; Health implications of fructose consumption:A review of recent data; National Center For Biotechnology Information