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.
Fructose intolerance causes diarrhea in humans
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.
Also, honey varies in the amount of fructose it contains, so some honey may cause diarrhea sooner than others. As a rule of thumb, tree honey has lots of fructose, which is why crystallization happens slowly. Honey from forbs (herbaceous flowering plants) often contains less fructose and granulates more quickly.
To prevent diarrhea, eat small quantities of honey at a time
If you’re not going to pig out on your honey, none of this matters much. If you eat honey in moderation, any floral source should be fine.
So, based on her descriptions—and remembering my own first harvest—I think the writer 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 to take it slow and easy. Savor the flavor. Don’t let your innards have the last word.
Honey Bee Suite