Honey During Pregnancy – Benefits and Side Effects
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Honey is a great substitute for refined sugar and tastes delicious. It is a good source of antioxidants, and amino acids and is used for medicinal purposes too. But it also contains a certain type of bacteria that may lead to botulism in infants. And as a baby’s digestive system is not developed enough to deal with the bacteria in raw honey, doctors recommend that babies younger than 1 year of age should not be given honey. You must have known this already, but if you are pregnant, you might question whether or not you can have honey, for the fear that it might reach the baby. So what’s the truth? Find out!
Is It Safe to Eat Honey During Pregnancy?
Yes, honey is safe for consumption during pregnancy, and you can include it in your pregnancy diet unless your doctor suggests otherwise. If you are pregnant, know that it is safe for you because your gut can handle the bacteria in honey. The biggest concern with regards to consuming honey during pregnancy is ‘botulism’ – a rare but serious illness that is caused by contaminated honey containing Clostridium spores, a harmful bacteria. But the chances of being affected by them are less as your natural immune system can fight the infection. During pregnancy, there is no risk of these spores or its toxin affecting the foetus as the bacteria is stopped by the placenta. It doesn’t allow these harmful antigens to crossover and reach the baby, thus shielding him from any potential infection.
Honey is generally recommended as a substitute for sugar, and one needn’t worry about it affecting one’s health when consumed judiciously.
Benefits of Honey During Pregnancy
Honey has numerous health benefits owing to its various medicinal properties. Its importance and benefits have been written about in ancient Indian scriptures. There are several health benefits that you may derive from eating honey. Some of them are explained below.
1. Strengthens the immune system.
During pregnancy, you need to have a strong immune system to stave off any disease-causing agents during this delicate phase as any major complication may have an adverse impact on your baby. The antioxidants and antibacterial properties of honey help boost the immune system and fight infections. So you can include honey in your diet to keep your immune system working!
2. Helps ease a sore throat and cough.
Honey, if taken with ginger or lemon tea, has a soothing effect on the throat due to its anti-inflammatory properties. This is traditionally known to provide relief from cough and help one recover from a sore throat.
3. Helps fight cold.
The anti-viral properties and immune-strengthening properties of honey help provide relief from cold and flu quickly. Pregnant women can consume honey in various forms (like with tea or with lukewarm water) to ensure that they do not catch the flu.
4. May help cure ulcers.
Regular consumption of honey can heal stomach ulcers of patients with gastritis at a faster rate. And it is particularly effective against duodenal ulcers, a type of peptic ulcer, caused by H.pylori infection. Ulcers can be very dangerous as they affect the stomach lining which is located very close to the womb where the baby is. So you must consume honey after consulting with your doctor.
5. May provide relief from insomnia.
Consuming honey is one of the simplest and safest ways to improve the quality of sleep. Honey, when consumed with milk just before bedtime, is known to have stress-relieving properties. And no stress means better sleep. So if you have trouble falling or staying asleep during pregnancy, you can have warm milk with honey before going to bed. You never know, it may help you will stress and insomnia during pregnancy.
6. May help prevent allergies.
The presence of pollen in some of the local varieties of honey is known to improve resistance to seasonal allergies over time. Regular intake of honey helps the body build immunity against antigens that can act up during pregnancy. However, if you are allergic to pollen, you should consult your doctor before consuming honey.
7. Promotes healthy scalp.
Due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, topical application of honey helps treat cuts, wounds, and scalp conditions. Applying honey diluted with warm water on the scalp can ease dandruff and an itchy scalp.
How Much Honey Should Pregnant Women Consume?
As is the case with any food, moderation is the key. If you’re looking for a safe way to eat honey while pregnant, try to keep a count of how many tablespoons of honey you consume every day. Three to five tablespoons is enough for the day so the calorie count remains around 180 to 200 calories.
Since honey is high in sugars such as fructose, glucose and maltose, just one tablespoon of it will contain approximately 60 calories. And calorie intake from simple sugars during pregnancy shouldn’t exceed 10 per cent of the total calorie requirement per day, which would be about 1800 to 2400 calories. So, four tablespoons should do just fine.
Side Effects of Consuming Honey During Pregnancy
Though mostly safe for consumption, there are exceptional cases where honey can have side effects. Those with concerns about having honey while pregnant should get themselves checked for gestational diabetes. Some women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy and have to keep a constant watch on their blood sugar levels. Since honey has glucose in it, it comes under the list of carbohydrates and sugars that should be avoided in such cases. The same rule applies for women with type-2 diabetes or insulin resistance.
Although the chances of developing an allergy because of the consumption of honey are rare, excessive consumption can lead to stomach cramps, irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, diarrhoea, bloating and stomach problems in some women. Make sure the honey you consume is pure and from a trusted brand.
How to Choose Original or Pure Honey
Pregnant women may face a dilemma while choosing between processed and raw honey. Many women ask if they can have raw honey.
As raw honey is unpasteurized, it retains all the essential enzymes, antioxidants, minerals and useful compounds with which the goodness of honey is associated. However, it also carries some risk due to the presence of pollen, impurities, and potentially harmful microbes, so you must obtain it from a good source. The best way to have pure honey is to buy it straight from a bee farm. If possible, try to source manuka honey as it is tasty and has medicinal properties that can do wonders for you.
Adulterated honey, on the other hand, can have additives such as corn syrup, starch, flour, sugar syrup, and other substances which make it look identical to pure ones but can be discerned with tests. If you are unsure about the quality of honey, check this table to understand the difference between pure and adulterated honey.
|Pure Honey||Adulterated Honey|
It is not sticky when rubbed between fingers.
Fairly sticky due to the presence of added sweeteners and additives.
It is viscous and takes time to move around the jar, when poured.
It is light and moves freely around the jar, when poured.
Takes time to dissolve in water and settles at the bottom as a lump while being stirred for a while.
Dissolves readily in water.
Impurities such as pollen and other suspended particles are present.
No signs of impurities and looks clear.
Does not get absorbed easily when a few drops are poured on a blotting paper.
Gets absorbed on a blotting paper.
Honey from good brands is almost always pasteurised and is safe for everybody. Organic honey undergoes minimal processing and retains most of its nutrients.
Precautions You Should Take While Consuming Honey
Although honey is safe for consumption during pregnancy, the way you include it in your diet will decide whether it will provide you with benefits or not. So, to get the maximum benefits possible, here are some tips you should follow:
Do not add it to hot water as it might destroy some of the useful enzymes and nutrients.
Foods rich in Vitamin C and D lose their nutrient value when taken with honey as some of the minerals present in honey tend to nullify the benefits of these vitamins.
Honey mixed with bean curd can cause indigestion and stomach upset and hence should not be taken together.
1. How Does Honey Help Strengthen the Immune System?
Honey has a low shelf life but when stored in a sealed container, it can last for several years as most microbial organisms cannot grow and cultivate in it. Its anti-microbial properties come from hydrogen peroxide among other components and ensure protection against infections by boosting immunity. Thus, one can consume honey in moderation while pregnancy.
2. Who Should Avoid Eating Honey During Pregnancy?
Although honey is safe for consumption, it should be avoided by pregnant women who have gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). They must consult their doctors first before include honey in their pregnancy diet.
You can include honey in your diet as it does not pose any health risk to you or to your unborn baby. You can add a tablespoon of honey in your cup of tea or in warm water, and gain its benefits. Try to obtain it from reputed sources and eat it with delight. Have a healthy pregnancy!
References and Resources: verywellfamily