Manuka Honey 101

I am not adding a new item to my long list of expertise, okay? It just happens that Manuka Honey is the latest thing in my life and I have this crying need to share information with anybody who appreciates out-of-the-box matters. Of course, this could very well be like my coke-syrup-for-nausea advice. I thought it was valuable new information but turned out I was the last one to know!

Why am I suddenly so into Manuka honey? It’s because I’m like George Mallory, the British dude who in 1924 tried the first ascent to the world’s highest peak.  When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he replied, “Because it’s there.” I am consuming Manuka Honey because it’s there in the pantry.

My niece, her husband, and their two children, Filipino expatriates in New Zealand (NZ), recently toured the U.S. and brought “pasalubong” (arrival gift) for every relative on their to-visit list. I can imagine the deliberation that transpired between husband and wife to determine who should get which gifts. My stateside relatives are easy. They all received delicious NZ chocolates, peanut slabs and NZ-motif doodads.

“What about Aunt Celia? Shall we give her special NZ skin moisturizers?” I imagine the husband asking during the discussion.

“Not for my Aunt Celia!” My niece probably replied, indignantly. “Her timeless beauty needs no enhancements.”

I’m loving this imaginary conversation!

“How about NZ Manuka honey?  Aunt Celia has cancer. Manuka honey will be good for her.”

“Let’s do this!”

It happened.

And now in my pantry sits a 2″x2″x3″ glass jar packed with Airborne Manuka Honey weighing eight ounces. That’s half a pound jammed into a tiny container!  To visualize that kind of density, think two quarter-pounders of uncooked hamburger meat or two sticks of butter.  You get the drift.  Unlike regular honey, it doesn’t pour like thick gravy because Manuka honey  has the consistency of hot fudge. I have to use a teaspoon to scoop out an amount the size of a small gum ball for me to savor the honey’s “robust rich flavor with overtones of caramel and malt.” So the jar information label says. It is, in fact, yummy. At $60 per pound, it better be yummy.

To learn more about my latest gastronomic acquisition, I audited the course Manuka Honey 101 in my alma mater Google University (GU).

According to reliable GU experts, Manuka honey is produced when NZ bees pollinate NZ’s Manuka bush flowers.  Because of the uniqueness of Manuka honey, the NZ government tightly controls the market. At least it tries.  I don’t blame the NZ powers-that-be. From what I’ve read on the UK Daily Mail, there are three times more Manuka honey being sold around the world than being produced in NZ! Do the math. Buyer beware.

Manuka honey has a grading system.  While suntan lotions have Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating to determine which best prevents sunburn, Manuka honey has Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) to determine the amount of Manuka pollen necessary for antibacterial potency. The more Manuka pollen present, the more potent the honey.

I’m proud of my very own Manuka honey.  It came straight from the backyard of beekeepers and Manuka bush growers in NZ.  Authentic stuff! The jar label says it contains 76% Manuka pollen. The Manuka flower has a chemical component not present in other flowers pollinated by bees. Its antibacterial property is supposed to be potent against infections when applied directly on burns. I imagine that would be burns caused by minor stove cooking accidents. For open wounds, medical-grade honey is used. Manuka honey is also marketed to treat gastric problems. The WebMD website states that in 2010, the scientific steering committee of the National Cancer Institute approved a proposal for the use of Manuka honey for the reduction of inflammation of the esophagus associated with chemotherapy.

I presently don’t have wounds or gastric issues. I gave up Tarceva zits long ago. I haven’t had chemo or radiation so far. However, being with cancer albeit stable, I am acutely aware that all sorts of nasties are floating in my system. I don’t worry about them, but this jar of awesome Manuka honey is for the taking. So I do what every red-blooded lung cancer survivor will do: I consume it. Every morning, I stir one heaping teaspoon of Manuka honey in my steaming hot “Grande” coffee, which consists of two cups of strong Tanzania Peaberry or New Mexico pinon brew and one-half cup of half-and-half. Is that high standard of living or what! I’ll take whatever Manuka honey does to my system floaters. At the very least it adds a hint of unique sweetness to my morning java.  And when the jar is empty, I’ll wait for my niece’s next visit from NZ for my next jar of Manuka honey. Hope springs eternal!




My CO-1686: All About Blood Glucose

Okay, so the title is a tad exaggerated.  It should read …..All About Blood Glucose That I know, but that would not be as impressive.  I am not a hematologist – a physician specialized in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases related to the blood.  In fact all I know about glucose comes from experience and audits of classes at Google University on matters related only to my blood issue – hardly the stuff of legends meant to shock and awe.  In other words, nothing I say here is meant as a medical advice.

I’m on the “eve” – the 23nd month – of the second anniversary of my participation in the CO-1686 clinical trials.  Last January 26th, I had my 32nd blood draw. As usual, the blood was tested to determine red and white cell counts, chemistry, etc. and, as always, I zeroed in on the report’s fasting glucose number.  The ideal number, according to Google University authorities, should be from 72 to 108. The trials recommend 85 to 125.  Mine was 136.  No worries. What is an excess of 11 points among friends?  On other occasions, the numbers fell within the range.  I must confess: I do have a minor  blood glucose issue.

Blood glucose is the main sugar that the body makes from the food in the diet.  The human body, an awesome machine, produces glucose from protein, fat and, in largest part, carbohydrate of the food we eat.  Foods heavy on carbs include potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, and sweets.  Let’s not forget “nachos.”  Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to provide energy to all cells in the body.  Glucose is to the Senior Babe’s body as gasoline is to the Bentley’s engine.

My glucose issue has been with me long before cancer screamed “Surprise!”  When I was five years old, my blood sugar problem, which no one in the backwoods of the Philippines knew anything about, manifested at a social event.  My mother and I had been invited to a rich kid’s birthday party that featured ice cream and cake.  Mired in numbing poverty, I was exposed to ice cream for the first time.  I’ll never forget the precise moment when the ice-cold sweet sinful sensation tickled my palate and unleashed my taste for the good life. Gallons of ice cream awaited for the taking, so I did what a red-blooded future hedonist would do.  I stuffed ice cream in my face with wild abandon. Hey, I was a kid who’d never attended a tea-and-crumpets formal affair, how would I know about demure pretenses?  After an hour of ice cream gluttony, I felt weak and ebbing, and eventually passed out.  Yes, fainted, lost consciousness. The guests, led by Mother, fussed over me. They pinched my fat cheeks, sprinkled ice water on my face, and shook me until I came to. They blamed everything from the searing summer heat to the bogeyman. After the party, we all moved on with our lives.  When I started  zipping  away from statutory age, Mother would tell anybody who cared to listen that the fainting episode was the earliest indication of my flair for high drama.

It would be years later when I realized that the sugar in the ice cream caused my blood glucose to spike to a real high (hyperglycemia), then crash to a real low (hypoglycemia).  Other hyper/hypoglycemia episodes, few and far in between, happened again as I slogged through middle age.  Fortuitously soon after, Al Gore invented the internet.  I enrolled at Google University and loaded up on blood information.  I bought a blood glucose monitor and conducted my own clinical trials.  I monitored my glucose at all times of the day – before and after eating a huge chunk of cheesecake, before and after the Nordic Trac workout, before and after stressing my employees with sudden rush jobs.  In time I determined I was not a diabetic, but an otherwise healthy individual with impaired glucose tolerance.  At that point in time, the trial ended and I awarded the lone participant a Certificate of Appreciation for her selfless dedication to the advancement of blood glucose understanding.  It happens when the Principal Investigator owns a calligraphy pen.

Two decades later I joined the CO-1686 club.  I would rather have joined a Southern Orange County Country Club, but our needs did not match. The trial drug induced hyperglycemia in me, the only side effect I have experienced in the trials so far.  The drug Metformin and the lessons learned from my personal high-tech clinical trials managed the glucose numbers.  Then something wild happened to the eight-month-old hyperglycemia.  Normal glucose numbers returned after I had taken a three-day drug vacation.  Henceforth,  the hyperglycemia resolved and I dumped Metformin.  I should have taken that drug holiday sooner!

Three months ago, high glucose numbers  crept on me after I had gotten carried away with buttered corn on the cob and warm baguettes dunked in extra virgin olive oil blackened with ground fragrant Tellichery peppercorns.  I do occasionally egg on my inner hedonist to do her thing.  With some easing up on the carbs, portion reduction, yoga, and brisk walking, my glucose numbers returned to normal.

Conscientious monitoring also proved to me that stress and antibiotics can trigger the rise of blood glucose temporarily.  Those high-glucose events don’t bother me anymore. They work out eventually, the Glucose Guru proclaims.

I feel a new Title award coming.  I better dust the calligraphy pen.