Updated on January 31, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Nausea affects anorexia patients of all kinds. Both subtypes of the eating disorder can experience it, as well as patients with reduced appetites due to medical reasons. Having this symptom makes recovery much harder. To relieve anorexia, you have to eat, but nausea makes eating unpleasant and unappealing. And when you do keep something down, vomiting can make you lose the nutrients you just took in.
Patients who have anorexia-related nausea can take an anti-nausea medicine, or anti-emetic, to feel better. However, anti-emetic drugs can have a wide range of side effects, and they only address nausea. Because of these drawbacks, many people with chronic nausea try medical marijuana instead.
Most folks know about the weakness and loss of weight associated with anorexia. But, nausea can also happen. When someone with anorexia loses even 10-20 pounds due to calorie restriction, their gastrointestinal system slows down. Along with early fullness, bloating and acid reflux comes nausea and vomiting. These symptoms discourage the patient from eating.
Even though you feel nausea in your stomach, anti-emetic medications actually work with your brain. While there are four types of anti-emetics, they all block receptors in your brain. The kind you get depends on the source of the symptoms in your brain. You could receive blockers for serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine or histamine. So, anti-emetics can take trial and error to prescribe, and they don’t always work for everyone.
Meanwhile, cannabinoids use a different method to provide benefits. They activate CB1 receptors, cell receptors that function as a part of your endocannabinoid system (ECS). These receptors send signals to the rest of your body that relieve nausea. Scientists aren’t sure where in the body the cell activation happens. It could occur in the parts of the brain responsible for vomiting or the intestines.
Both of the most well-known cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have been shown to relieve nausea. We don’t have much evidence regarding what ratios of the two components work best, but we can look at anecdotal accounts from patients. If you have other anorexia symptoms treatable with cannabis medicine, you might want to try a strain that also addresses those issues. When in doubt, consult with a doctor or dispensary budtender.
Indica strains make you feel mellow and sleepy. They tend to have a higher CBD:THC ratio than sativa strains do. Here are some indica strains you can use for anorexia-related nausea:
Sativa strains increase your energy and improve your mood. Compared to indica strains, they have a higher THC:CBD ratio. Check out these sativa strains that help patients soothe their stomachs:
The term “hybrid” refers to any kind of strain crossbred from two others. When you crossbreed indica and sativa strains equally, you can get a hybrid variety with traits from both categories. Balanced hybrid strains that relieve nausea include:
Work with medical marijuana professionals to get the perfect medication for your needs. Get a recommendation from a marijuana-certified doctor to obtain safe, legal access to medicine. Once you have one, you can visit a dispensary near you to purchase cannabis medicine.