Does honey cause diarrhea?

Forget honey bee dysentery, I’m talking about humans here. Today my heart went out to a regular reader who wrote:

Earlier in the week I crushed and strained a couple of frames of honey I had stored from the late summer surplus. It was the first time I’ve harvested any honey from the bees I keep. Wow. It tasted fabulous. I spooned it up and chewed wax throughout the day like gum. Yummy.

I sterilized the jars and lids, but I didn’t do a pressure seal after I strained the honey into them, all the while licking, chewing, slurping, and generally making a pig of myself with the honey and comb. About 32 hours later I started to have stomach pain which evolved into cramps, and then I had the runs. A classic case of food poisoning. I hadn’t eaten anything else in the previous 72 hours that might have caused it, so I assume it was the honey. The comb was dark, but I didn’t think that made a difference in the quality of the honey.

She wanted to know if I thought the honey was bad or if she had just eaten too much. She also wanted to know if it was safe to give away or if she should save it for people she doesn’t like. A girl after my own heart.

I remembered reading that too much sugar can cause diarrhea, but once I got on the web I found many references to fructose intolerance. It seems that we humans are not all that good at digesting fructose, but we are fine with small quantities, especially when it is mixed with other foods. But eaten in excess, any food high in fructose—including honey, fruit juices, and drinks with high-fructose corn syrup—can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. And, as with most things, some individuals are more sensitive than others.

So, based on her descriptions—and remembering my own first harvest—I think she just ate too much all at once and probably didn’t eat enough other stuff with it. No doubt her honey is just fine and she doesn’t have to save it for anyone in particular. In fact, if she were looking for guinea pig tasters, I’d be the first to volunteer.

Since there are lots of first-time harvesters out there, I thought this issue was worth a mention. The moral of the story is take it slow and easy. Savor the flavor. Don’t let your innards have the last word.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Larry
Reply

Yup, been there and done that.

Bob
Reply

Good answer, Rusty. Too much of a good thing.

phil gladding
Reply

Interesting, but I can understand why she consumed too much since she had not ate anything for 3 days.

Nancy
Reply

Phil – it doesn’t say she hadn’t eaten, it said she hadn’t eaten anything that could have caused diarrhea, for 72 hours.

simon cavill
Reply

Don’t forget that many hives can contain botulism to which the bees are immune but you are not…

Your problems with dysentery are why it’s strongly advised that small children under 1 year old are not given honey. You have a mature immune system that can deal with botulism – eventually. Small children don’t hence the warnings…

It’s also the reason why it’s important to immediately treat any cuts you may get on or near a bee hive as there have been cases of beekeepers almost dying from blood poisoning from botulism that gets into a cut.

Rusty
Reply

Honey may contain botulism spores, but adults are not affected by these because the digestive tract keeps them in check. In children under one year, the spores may grow in the intestine and produce botulism toxin, but not in adults. Also, the writer didn’t have dysentery, she had diarrhea. Different. Also, botulism doesn’t cause diarrhea, but is apt to cause constipation.

Botulism is a very common bacteria that is everywhere in the soil. It is the toxin, produced under anaerobic conditions, not the spore, that causes problems. Although spores can enter a wound and grow there, is no more likely to happen to beekeepers than gardeners, campers, farmers, or just about anyone working outside. Botulism spores cannot grow into toxin-producing bacteria in honey. In fact, honey is used on wounds to prevent such things.

Janet Wilson
Reply

When I was a tad, I loved roaming the sugar bushes in the spring, but was always warned not to drink too much sap from the sap collecting buckets (it is delicious, like clear, cold, sweet water) as it would cause gastric distress and diarrhea. Mercifully I was immune and guzzled freely…my younger brother could not without suffering the threatened gastric consequences. Ingesting large amounts of sugars is an old remedy for constipation.

nouse
Reply

Woo! I just googled this because I gulped down almost a full jar of honey yesterday and [deleted] it’s like Niagara Falls now (sorry to be graphic). But [deleted] I guess I know what to do about constipation from now on.

Rusty
Reply

I wonder if bears that raid bee hives have the same problem.

bruce
Reply

Rusty,

I won’t dispute the effects of too much fructose, but she also mentions chewing wax throughout the day. Did she swallow some or all of it? Indigestable, what are the effects of too much wax?

Rusty
Reply

No clue.

Sean
Reply

On the toilet right now, just a few hours after eating a big spoon of honey. This article helps a little.

eddy
Reply

I too had a tablespoon of honey with half a litre of redbush tea right before bedtime. Around
4 a.m. I was farting a fair few times and went to the toilet not too long after.

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