Diabetes is a group of diseases that are associated with abnormally high levels of sugars in the bloodstream over a prolonged period of time.
Symptoms may include frequent urination, increased hunger and increased thirst. If left unchecked, diabetes can cause a number of complications such as foot ulcers, cardiovascular diseases, eye damage etc.
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What is manuka honey?
The honey obtained from the nectar secreted by wild Manuka trees found in New Zealand is called Manuka Honey.
Manuka honey has several naturally occurring properties that have a number of health benefits, and it is due to these properties that Manuka honey is considered a “wonderfood”.
There are several compounds present in Manuka honey that are not present in regular honey, but one of the most important of these is Methylglyoxal.
It is by the virtue of this compound that manuka honey possesses most of its properties, including its antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antiseptic functions.
How can manuka honey help in diabetes?
Manuka honey has therapeutic properties that are beneficial in diabetes, but one of the questions that arises is it safe to eat manuka honey when you have diabetes.
1.Manuka honey is safe to consume in diabetes
Manuka honey contains a number of flavonoids and sugars and due to this manuka honey can be used as a substitute for the regular processed sugar obtained from sugarcane. In fact, honey is actually sweeter than regular sugar.
It has been proved by studies that despite the presence of a number of sugar compounds in honey, it is actually healthier for people as people have a higher tolerance for the sugars contained in honey than regular glucose.
This study was conducted on September 2007, and looked into the tolerance level of patients to honey who already had impaired tolerance to glucose .
The results were extremely positive, showing that blood glucose levels after the consumption of honey peaked at 30-40 minutes and then has a rapid decline. This decline is not found when glucose is taken.
For diabetic patients, this is extremely important since it is important to regulate their blood sugar levels. Honey, in such as case acts as a substitute for sugar with the help of which diabetic patients can enjoy a healthy lifestyle while not having to compromise on taste.
Another study published in March of 2007, studied the effect of honey on weight gain and lipid levels in the blood as compared to sucrose (found in sugarcane) and other mixed sugars . In this study, 40 rats were fed either a sugar free diet (control group), 8% sucrose, 8% mixed sugars or a 10% honey diet.
It was observed that at the end of the study, the group which was fed a honey diet had significantly less amount of weight gain as well as blood sugar level compared to sucrose and mixed sugar even though the rats on the honey diet ate more.
Honey potentiates the activity of anti-diabetic drugs by means of its antioxidant action. A clinical trial demonstrated that long term honey consumption has beneficial effect on metabolic changes occurring in diabetes.
This study showed that long term consumption of honey led to reduction in body fat, cholesterol, blood sugar and inflammatory parameters in diabetes patients.
What it means?
Honey is sweeter to taste and a healthier alternative to processed sugar for diabetic patients due to the higher tolerance of our bodies to the different sugar compounds present in honey. Hower its best to consume honey in moderation.
2. Manuka honey has immune boosting effect
Manuka honey is known to give a boost to our immune system. A study that was conducted on January 2012 proved that this effect of manuka honey is due to the presence of certain compounds contained in manuka honey called Arabinogalactan proteins and Apisimin .
Once manuka honey is within the wound site, it stimulates monocytes, a type of white blood cells, to release TNF-alpha (Tumour Necrosis Factor Alpha). This compound is an important part of the immune system plays a role in initiating the healing process and it also regulates a number of immune cells and their function .
As manuka honey honey thus maintains the functioning of the immune system, it is very important in the case of diabetes as type 1 is caused generally due to the loss of the regular function of the immune system.
What it means?
Manuka honey provides a boost to our immune system and helps in maintaining the proper functioning of the immune system.
3.Manuka honey helps treat Diabetic Ulcers
One of the most common complications arising in patients of diabetes is the development of diabetic foot ulcers. It occurs in about 15% of diabetic patients and can lead to severe wounds and may even lead to amputation of the lower limbs.
A study that was published in June 2014 looked into the effect of dressings impregnated with manuka honey on the treatment and healing of neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers caused by type 2 diabetes as compared to regular dressings.
It was observed that with the use of manuka honey, the time taken for the wounds were significantly reduced. Within the first week itself, the percentage of the wounds that became sterile was almost double in the case of manuka honey when compared to the regular dressing.
Hence, manuka honey provides us with a promising option which can be used in the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers due to its effect on the wounds which significantly reduces healing time and rapidly disinfects the wound .
The combination of manuka honey and silver serves as anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agents in treatment of diabetic ulcer.
However some scientists state that high concentration of methylglyoxal in manuka honey may also impair wound healing and hence should be used with caution.
What it means?
Manuka honey can be used to treat diabetic wounds as it can effectively reduce the time taken for the wounds to heal while keeping the wound sterile due to its antimicrobial action.
How to use manuka honey in diabetes?
The potency of manuka honey is based on the amount of methylglyoxal present in it. UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) rating is an universal system that is followed world-wide and is used to determine the quality of store bought manuka honey. A rating of 10 or above is recommended for maximum benefits.
No specific dosage is given for manuka honey. A study conducted on people in the age group of 42-64 concluded that honey was safe for regular consumption and had no observable adverse effects on the normal health of the body .
For best results, it is recommended that 1 teaspoon manuka honey be taken daily 3 times a day in between meals .
While manuka honey can also be consumed by dissolving it in cold or lukewarm water, the most effective way to take it is straight from the spoon. Taking it with hot water is not a very good option, as the temperature degrades some of the beneficial compound present in the honey.
Despite being a healthier alternative, honey itself does also contain sugar and hence it is recommended that a strict check should be kept on the blood sugar levels to avoid complications.
For the treatment of diabetic wounds, dressings impregnated with honey should be used. Manuka honey impregnated dressings are commercially available, but it is also possible to make manuka honey dressings at home.
For this, manuka honey should be added onto the dressing, and not directly applied to the wound. A thick coat should be applied, though the exact amount of manuka honey honey varies for different wounds. This dressing should then be gently placed on the wound.
People with allergies for honey are not uncommon, and thus a patch test is recommended 48 hours before the consumption of manuka honey to ensure safety.
Botulism poisoning is a serious condition that can arise if manuka honey is given to children below the age of 12 months. Hence it is not recommended.
While it is perfectly safe for diabetic people to consume manuka honey, a strict check on blood glucose levels should be kept as manuka honey may increase sugar levels in your blood.
Manuka honey is a good alternative to sugar than can be used by diabetic patients to keep their blood sugar levels to remain in the accepted range without compromising on their diet.
Manuka honey has a unique boosting effect on the immune system which helps in the case of diabetes.
Diabetic wounds arising from complications in diabetic patients may also be treated readily with the use of manuka honey impregnated dressings.