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Cannabis and Appetite: Everything You Need to Know

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The term “the munchies” seems to carry less-than-positive connotations. At least, one could argue how such terminology is somewhat reductive.  

Ask anyone who’s dabbled in cannabis and felt the related hunger. The experience isn’t adequately described when calling it the “munchies.” Instead, at its best, a cannabis-heightened appetite can be a boon to the tastebuds. This hunger-inducing response is an opportunity to experiment with new flavors, thus, broadening your horizons.  

Furthermore, cannabis-induced hunger benefits go beyond a more satiating mealtime. It can help people, some with severe medical conditions, who struggle to eat enough and receive the appropriate nutrients by activating their hunger. 

None of the above statements are meant to imply that hunger stemming from cannabis use is 100% positive. Overeating comes with risks and adverse responses in both the brain and body

We’ll explore this nuanced topic in further detail below.

Introducing THC: Appetite Stimulant

Why does cannabis make you hungry?

For one, Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is an appetite stimulant.

The science is as such: cannabinoids are produced by our brains. They’re lipids that control our memory, mood, pain reception, and, you guessed it, appetite. When you consume cannabis, the THC attaches to your cannabinoid receptors and mirrors their chemicals. 

Scholars hypothesize that leptin (the chemicals communicating your fullness to your hypothalamus) gets neutralized by THC. Leptin controls your appetite. Upon consuming cannabis, leptin is replaced by neurons that trick your hypothalamus into thinking you’re hungry. 

As a cautionary note, this reaction can be conducive to over-eating. After cannabis use, it’s entirely possible and relatively typical to feel hungry after a full-sized family dinner. Even Mom’s famous pot roast might not be enough.

That said, cannabis-induced hunger isn’t the same for everyone. Some consumers can easily control their appetite after smoking or ingesting cannabis.

In further answering “why do you get hungry after smoking?”, we’ll point out that cannabis appears to alter your cannabinoid receptors in the olfactory bulb. Thus, it intensifies food’s smell and taste. This reaction likely impacts how much we eat. 

It is worth noting that the studies and information referenced here are based on lab experiments with mice. While mice’s reactions can be highly indicative of our own, more research is needed to say this is 100% the case with humans.

Are The Stereotypes True About Hunger And Cannabis?

We won’t lie; there is a possibility that after consuming cannabis, your hunger could be insatiable, and you’ll overeat. 

Now, the cliche version of “the munchies” is something we’ve all seen on television. An example that comes to mind is when, in an episode of Frasier, Frasier’s dad Martin, a former cop, accidentally eats a THC brownie. 

A few scenes later, Martin is dipping potato chips into BBQ sauce. He’s utterly blown away by the results, thinking he’s hit the culinary jackpot, unaware of his hilarious mistaken dosage. Cue laughter.

Is this ridiculous, albeit enjoyable, example of sitcom hijinx an accurate representation of cannabis-induced hunger? Does everybody who’s smoked a joint act like Cheech and Chong digging into the nearest bag of Funions? 

The answer isn’t a straightforward one. There’s always some truth in cliches. Yet, many nuances exist in cannabis and our various reactions to it. Levels of and responses to the related hunger can depend on the type of cannabis consumed, how much an individual consumes, and the THC tolerances of the adult user in question. 

Acknowledging The Versatility Of A Cannabis-Induced Appetite

Cannabis can be versatile in the experiences it offers. When you do your due diligence, find the right products, and are proactive with your usage, you’ll be amazed at the results.

Also, many adult cannabis users might relish the idea of dipping potato chips into BBQ sauce or Crackerjacks into cottage cheese. Getting creative with food while under the influence of a potent kush could be how you wind down and relax after a long hard week at work. 

Maybe, eating an entire meat lover’s supreme pizza while in the throes of an indica-induced haze is your form of self-care. 

The point is we’re not here to judge. 

But it’s equally as important to realize that after consuming cannabis, you’re as likely to enjoy a 5-star meal at the trendiest gourmet spot in the heart of the city. You can explore all ends of this year’s food truck festival and take that one step closer to culinary heaven. 

Or, perhaps, your cannabis-induced appetite could encourage you to experiment in the kitchen and flex your chef-muscles. You may add a touch of paprika to your Mom’s famous pasta dish or balance out your stir fry with a dash of honey. 

Suddenly, bam! You’ve struck recipe gold. 

Cannabis’s impact on your appetite isn’t cut and dry, much like the traits of cannabis consumers aren’t cut and dry. 

Gaining Control Over Your Cannabis-Induced Appetite

Insatiable hunger can be a gift if you’re participating in one of those ludicrous eating competitions. However, stuffing yourself to the brim can present less-than-ideal consequences unless you’ve been blessed with an iron stomach and a lightning-quick metabolism.

So, if you do find that you struggle to control how much you eat after consuming cannabis, follow the tips below to quell your ravenous hunger:

  • Consume cannabis at a friend’s house so that you’ll be more aware of what you’re eating, and you likely won’t have direct access to the snack pantry.
  • Listen to music to take your mind somewhere different than your hunger.
  • Consider going for a walk, working out (if you can do so safely), or doing any other type of exercise.
  • Make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your stomach full and body hydrated.

For some, avoiding cannabis-induced hunger is not a possibility. 

In the above case, we suggest stocking your pantry with healthier snacks–especially if you’re concerned about your nutritional intake. 

Sure, kale chips, veggie sticks, and dried fruit don’t quite scratch the craving itch like a bag of potato chips can. Still, THC often enhances our experience with food, including those healthier options. You might end up liking these nutritious alternatives more than you imagined because of your altered mental state.

There’s another way to control your cannabis-related hunger if you don’t want to stuff yourself while high, but we’ll discuss it in the next section.

Does CBD Stimulate Your Appetite?

There’s no debating that THC kicks your appetite up a few notches, but does CBD increase your appetite? 

No, it doesn’t appear to. Studies suggest that the opposite is the case and that CBD may, in fact, promote weight loss, although more research is required on the topic.

The above factoid leads into our next area of discussion; purchasing cannabis (and cannabis-adjacent) products that are less conducive to overeating.

CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis and can help offset the psychoactive triggers caused by THC. A belief exists in many circles that purchasing cannabis with lower THC levels and higher CBD won’t lead to an appetite increase.

Also, recent studies cite THCV strains as having appetite-suppressing effects. 

Otherwise known as Tetrahydrocannabivarin, the psychoactive cannabinoid THCV is most frequently present in Sativas. 

On top of its potential for hunger suppression, THCV is associated with a more energizing and motivated euphoria after consumption. Related strains are often classified as daytime cannabis because many believe they don’t disrupt productivity. 

The Benefits Of Increasing Your Appetite With Cannabis

We’ve discussed and provided helpful tips for avoiding or neutralizing the resulting hunger from cannabis use. So, it’s time that we venture to the other side of the spectrum. After all, as much as gorging on every snack in your fridge has ill effects, increasing one’s appetite can be life-changing for many people. 

For instance, THC is often prescribed to people with excessive appetite and weight loss resulting from anorexia nervosa and AIDs. Cancer patients also receive medical cannabis prescriptions to help offset their decreased appetites.

The above examples are undoubtedly more extreme. Such individuals need a hunger boost to help protect an already dwindling quality of life.

Still, people with debilitating physical illnesses aren’t the only ones who struggle to eat enough. Mood can also impact your hunger. While we can’t provide medical advice, it’s a fact that medicinal cannabis can be used to potentially help treat depression and anxiety. 

We can’t say the following statement is anything more than an educated guess. But we’d imagine the increased appetite caused by medicinal cannabis could be of tremendous help to someone with depression or any mood disorder.

Eating certain foods can bolster your mental state and help you feel better psychologically. Having one’s hunger sparked by cannabis could encourage one to have those foods. 

(Disclaimer: speak with your healthcare provider before using cannabis for medicinal purposes).

The Bottom Line

THC and hunger are forever linked. However, your budding appetite doesn’t have to dominate your experiences with cannabis.

Those who love going to town on their fridge and pantry can always rely on their pal mary-jane for some added help. Conversely, those who want to avoid overeating while high can use the tips and tricks suggested in this article to quell their appetite.

Also, consider the outside-the-box culinary options you can explore with a cannabis-induced appetite. It’s not a one-note type of thing. It’s a chance to take your mind and taste buds to exciting new places.

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