Honey and Pancreatitis: Can You Include It in Your Diet?

Honey is a natural sweetener that offers several health and anti-inflammatory benefits. For pancreatitis patients in particular, honey can be a helpful source of energy (calories) for those who struggle to eat enough food, are malnourished, or are unintentionally losing weight.

On the other hand, when it comes to pancreatitis, it is always important to be cautious when it comes to your dietary needs. Unfortunately, many people with pancreatitis have diabetes or are at high risk for the disease. This may leave many pancreatitis patients wondering, “Can I eat honey with pancreatitis?”

In this blog post, guided by advice from Dr. Sinead Duggan, an expert in nutrition and pancreatic disease at Trinity College Dublin, we will explore the relationship between honey and pancreatitis and whether it should be included in a pancreatitis-friendly diet.

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas, an organ located in the abdomen and behind the liver, becomes inflamed. The pancreas plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels and produces important enzymes that allow the body to digest nutrients from the food we eat. There are 3 types of pancreatitis, which are determined by how long it lasts and if there is any permanent damage to the pancreas. Acute pancreatitis (single episode) is the inflammation of the pancreas for a short period of time (typically days to a week). Recurrent acute pancreatitis (RAP) consists of recurring episodes of inflammation. Chronic pancreatitis is when inflammation of the pancreas causes long-term scarring to the pancreas. This can cause ongoing digestive problems and may eventually lead to type 3c diabetes.

Learn more about chronic pancreatitis.

Understanding Pancreatitis Dietary Restrictions

Diet and nutrition play a key role in managing pancreatitis and pancreatitis-related pain. Experts recommend a well-balanced, low-fat, high-protein diet. Depending on personal nutritional needs, experts also recommend limiting your fat intake to 30 to 50 grams per day (in the U.S.). This can sometimes mean cutting out fat, sugars, and processed food from your diet. In addition, it is not recommended to consume alcohol, butter, or oils with pancreatitis.

Some patients with pancreatitis may also have type 3c diabetes. It is recommended that those with type 3c diabetes avoid consuming processed sugars, which can disrupt blood sugar levels. 

Learn more about nutrition for pancreatitis.

Understanding The Nutritional Contents of Honey

Honey is a natural sweetener made by honeybees from the nectar of flowering plants. While the nutritional contents of honey may change depending on the type of honey, nectar source, and brand, the ingredients within honey are typically the same. These ingredients include fructose, glucose, and sucrose (all types of sugar), along with water and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

There are two main types of honey: raw and processed. Raw honey comes directly from a beehive and has not been pasteurized. Processed honey is raw honey that has been pasteurized to remove potentially harmful bacteria and pathogens. During pasteurization, processed honey may lose much of its nutritional benefits.

Is honey good for pancreatitis?

Generally speaking, honey can be an okay choice for people with pancreatitis; however, there are some risks involved. Some pancreatitis patients may need to limit how much honey they eat due to its sugar content to avoid high blood sugar spikes, especially if they have type 3c diabetes (pancreatogenic diabetes).

As a result, whether someone with pancreatitis should include honey in their diet depends on their own personal health situation and careful consideration (with a doctor’s guidance) of the risks and benefits of doing so.

Potential Benefits of Honey with Pancreatitis

While research on the effects of honey specifically on the pancreas is limited, there are certain aspects of honey that could be beneficial for pancreatitis patients. 

These benefits include:


  • Energy and Nutrition. Many pancreatitis patients struggle to get enough calories, which may lead to malnutrition and weight loss. Honey can be an easy way to add more calories and nutrients to your diet, as it contains small amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, iron, and zinc.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Honey is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which may protect against oxidative stress. This means that honey may offer some protection to the pancreas by preventing it from becoming damaged by harmful molecules called “free radicals.” However, more research on the pancreas is needed to confirm this.

Potential Risks of Honey with Pancreatitis

Although honey may offer some benefits, it’s still important to consider the risks before deciding whether or not to include it in your diet.

These risks include:

  • Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). Because honey is a simple sugar, it can cause hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is when there is too much sugar in your blood (also referred to as high blood sugar spikes). Hyperglycemia is especially risky for those with diabetes, which pancreatitis patients are at high risk of developing.
  • Diabetes-Related Complications. Having too much sugar in your blood can also lead to diabetes-related complications. These complications include cardiovascular disease, eye problems (such as retinopathy), and foot problems (such as diabetic ulcers).

According to Dr. Duggan, whether or not honey causes less of a blood sugar spike than other sources of sugar is untested in chronic pancreatitis. Additionally, there are likely to be individual variations in blood sugar spikes from patient to patient.

It’s important to note that certain honey brands may add additional sugar and sugar syrups to their honey, such as high-fructose corn syrup. These types of honey may raise blood sugar levels more than pure honey, so it’s important to read the label carefully if you’re concerned about hyperglycemia.

Additional Concerns


If you have diabetes, you will need to restrict your intake of certain simple sugars and carbs to avoid hyperglycemia; this includes limiting the amount of honey you eat.


Do not give honey to a child younger than 12 months old, regardless of whether they do or do not have pancreatitis. Honey can contain a bacteria that causes infant botulism, a potentially life-threatening condition in which toxins are released inside a baby’s gastrointestinal tract.


Honey should not be consumed by those with an allergy to bee pollen. It can cause severe allergic reactions, including nausea, vomiting, and trouble breathing.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is a type of raw honey that comes from the nectar of the Manuka tree in New Zealand. It is known for its high levels of methylglyoxal, which is a chemical compound that makes this honey’s nutritional contents particularly good at killing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi. As a result, manuka honey has been thought to be beneficial for those who want to eat honey for health benefits. However, a 2016 study found that methylglyoxal increased the production of reactive oxygen species, which are important signaling molecules that can sometimes cause damage to a cell’s DNA or proteins. High levels of reactive oxygen species can cause damage to pancreatic beta cells, which are responsible for making and releasing insulin. While it is unclear whether Manuka honey can lead to pancreatitis, methylglyoxal has been proven to damage pancreatic beta cells and prevent them from releasing insulin. If you are someone who struggles with insulin and blood sugar levels, ask your doctor about whether manuka honey is right for you.

Our Advice

It’s important to talk to your doctor about the right foods for you. Your doctor can give you personalized advice to help you make the best food choices and manage your pancreatitis effectively.

If you have pancreatitis and want to include honey in your diet, consider the following tips:

  • Avoid overly processed honey that can contain high levels of sugar, which can strain the pancreas, particularly for those with diabetes. 
  • Do not consume manuka honey if you struggle with blood sugar and insulin levels. Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal which may decrease the release of insulin in the pancreas.
  • Consume honey in small amounts. Start small and limit yourself to one tablespoon per day. If this does not irritate your body, you can experiment with eating more. It is recommended to consume no more than 4 tablespoons per day. Check with your doctor to see what amount of honey is right for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Honey can be a helpful source of energy (calories) and nutrition for pancreatitis patients struggling with eating enough, malnutrition, and weight loss; however, pancreatitis patients affected by diabetes may need to limit or avoid honey
  • Potential benefits of honey for pancreatitis include energy, nutrition, and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Potential risks of honey for pancreatitis include hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) and diabetes-related complications
  • Diabetes, age-related restrictions (avoiding honey for infants under 12 months), allergies (especially bee pollen allergy), and the risks of Manuka honey (which contains methylglyoxal) should be considered before eating honey
  • Those who want to include honey in their diet should consider speaking to their doctor and consider the nutritional contents of honey before doing so

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