It’s that time of year - the weather cools, the days start to get shorter, and viruses begin to fly around. Your immune system should do a good job of seeing them off but an extra helping hand never goes amiss.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate your immune system – because it is pretty amazing. It consists of many cells, organs, proteins and tissues throughout the body, and it's job is to watch out for invaders and attack those that shouldn’t be there, such as bacteria and viruses. It also constantly works to move dead and defective cells out of your body, while leaving healthy tissue alone.
There are different types of immunity, chiefly innate immunity, which is in-built from birth and includes skin and mucous membranes, those physical barriers against pathogens, and also adaptive immunity. Your immune system meets various pathogens as you go through life. It remembers them so it can mount a defence the next time you come into contact with them (this is how vaccines work too). Adaptive immunity is the reason you’re unlikely to catch certain illnesses, such as chicken pox, more than once. The same is true of colds and flu – but if you’re wondering why you’re always coming down with them, that’s because there are so many types of cold and flu virus and even slight mutations in a virus changes it enough to allow it to get a grip in your body.
Your body’s ability to resist bugs is partly genetic and partly linked to previous exposure. But there are lots of ways you can support your immune system to do its work. Some of these ways involve simple lifestyle steps, such as managing stress, getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy, balanced diet that delivers key nutrients such as vitamins C, D and B12, selenium and zinc. If you’re strung out, tired and missing out on nutrients, your immune system just won’t have the tools it needs. And in the autumn, as we gear up for virus season, it’s especially important to arm it well. That’s why some people look for extra ways to build its defences. And one of those could be Manuka honey.
How Manuka might help
It’s all about the MGO – methylglyoxal, to give it its full name – which is unique to Manuka honey. One recent lab-based study found MGO may inhibit the virus that causes Covid-19 – researchers found MGO boosted levels of powerful immune system cells to fight the virus while keeping potentially dangerous inflammation at bay. Some previous research also found Manuka honey could have antiviral properties. The research into Manuka honey for helping the body mount a defence against viruses is admittedly very limited at the moment. But we know it has other beneficial properties, including being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial.   So it could be worth adding it to your wellness-support toolkit. And if you’re going for Manuka honey, choose a reputable brand such as Manuka Doctor. It meets all the criteria for quality Manuka honey as defined by the New Zealand government, and every jar comes with full traceability and transparency.
3 ways to get the benefits
So you want to use Manuka honey to shore up your defences this autumn? Here are some ideas of uber-healthy ways to get it into your diet…
Make an immunity smoothie
Try whizzing up mixed berries (frozen berries are fine), packed with vitamin C and fibre, with plant milk, a banana and a dollop of Manuka honey.
Tuck into an immune-boosting breakfast bowl
Blend berries or other fruit of your choice with a couple of tablespoons of oats and enough liquid for the mixture to form a thick, gloopy consistency. Spoon into a bowl and scatter with vit-packed whole berries, chopped walnuts and chia seeds (both high in zinc) and a drizzle of Manuka honey.
Warm up with a healthy hot drink
Ideal if you have a sore or tickly throat – or if you just want the comfort of a healing hot drink on a chilly day. Squeeze half a lemon into a mug along with some grated ginger – use about 2cm of ginger root, or adjust to your taste. Pour in hot – not boiling – water, and stir in a teaspoon of Manuka honey. Put your feet up and enjoy.
Take your pick from Manuka Doctor’s range of fabulous Manuka honey.
 Watanabe K et al. Anti-influenza Viral Effects of Honey In Vitro: Potent High Activity of Manuka Honey. Archives of Medical Research, Volume 45, Issue 6, August 2014, Pages 516
 Wang H. The study of the antioxidant activity of phenolic components of Manuka Honey (thesis, University of Waikato) https://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/5696/thesis.pdf?sequence=3