Research Studies Explore Manuka Honey’s Potential For Treating UTI and IC
Honey offers a natural sweetener for food as well other popular uses like soothing sore throats, coughs and burns. However, recent studies out of the U.K. have found that Manuka honey can have therapeutic benefits specifically for the bladder.(1) (2) Manuka honey is produced by bees who pollinate the Manuka bush in New Zealand.(3)
In the late 1800’s, researchers first discovered the antibacterial properties of the honey. New studies have since confirmed that Manuka honey can kill and/or restrict the growth of multiple pathogens, bacterial biofilms and, most importantly, inhibit the development of drug resistant infections. Manuka honey has been found to have a synergistic effect when used in combination with a systemic antibiotic when applied topically to wounds.(4)
Last year, researchers from the U.K. also found that diluted Manuka honey can stop some bacteria from forming biofilms on hard plastic surfaces thus raising the possibility that it might be used to inhibit infections from urinary catheters. Would flushing the catheter with honey prevent a catheter acquired urinary tract infection (CAUTI)? More research is needed to determine the effect of honey on the bladder itself but it does open up a potential new therapy. (1)
One research team has also explored the use of Manuka honey for IC. Back in 2011, a team of U.K. researchers found that the honey, which is also marketed under names like Medihoney and Comvita, worked as an antihistamine and reduced the damage to cells in rat bladders. Antihistamine and anti-inflammatories work hand-in-hand, so reducing histamine in the bladder means reducing inflammation, which means reducing symptoms. An interesting theory but more research is needed to determine if it can be safely instilled into the bladder. Research is also needed to isolate the active ingredient responsible for the anti-histamine property in Manuka honey to then be able to formulate a better medicine for IC bladders.(2)
And all of that leaves patients wondering whether eating Manuka honey could help. Honey is certainly considered IC friendly when consumed in small amounts. IC patients have shared a variety of experiences after eating honey in general. Most tolerate it quite well according to a discussion in the ICN Support Forum.
ICN Member Jane wrote “We have bee hives and I ate a lot of honey a year ago when I was feeling my worst, and it never bothered me. In fact, I thought it helped me heal. I still eat our honey frequently with no problems.” Donna, a diabetic, offered “I have eaten honey all of my life and it’s actually one of my safe things to put on toast — and I’m diabetic! I just have to watch how much sugar I ingest. I would never discourage anyone from eating it.”
However, two patients shared that they did react to honey. Jade turned to honey when she was 19 years old because she thought that it’s healing properties could help her bladder. Though quite thin, she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and her IC pain worsened dramatically over time. She wrote “I was eating tons of honey in the last 6 months and the pain just wouldn’t stop.” After going without honey for a couple of days she noticed that her pain improved. She believes that the honey had been gradually irritating her bladder over time and now urges patients to be cautious.
Another ICN member, pmlov, shared that honey also triggered her IC. Though reactions to honey are rare, some patients may have a rare allergy or sensitivity to a component in honey or perhaps even the type of honey they were consuming.
There is still considerable discussion and debate about the use of Manuka honey when taken by mouth but atleast one major study found that it did not maintain an antibiotic effect.(5) That said, you’ll find glowing reviews about honey and specifically Manuka honey in many health discussions online. Researchers just have to figure out how to best utilize it and its properties to help IC patients. And patients, of course, need to listen to their bodies to determine if it is either improving or worsening their IC symptoms.
- Emineke S., et al. Diluted honey inhibits biofilm formation: potential application in urinary catheter management?. J Clin Pathol Feb. 2017 Volume 70, Issue 2, Pages 140-144.
- Allen P. Interstitial cystitis treatment may be aided by component in honey. Urology Times Nov. 1, 2011.
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Mānuka honey.
- Carter et al. Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative. Front Microbiol. 2016; 7: 569. (EXCELLENT ARTICLE!!!)
- Rosendale D. et al. Consumption of antimicrobial manuka honey does not significantly perturb the microbiota in the hind gut of mice. Peer J 2016 Volume 4, Published online 2016 Dec. 20.