Why Does Marijuana Make You Hungry?

Why Does Marijuana Make You Hungry

One of the more curious side effects of cannabis is how it gives users “the munchies.” Pot-induced hunger is often laughed about and is the butt of many marijuana-based jokes. However, if you’re not used to this side effect, it can be disquieting. Having an insatiable appetite may make you feel out of sorts and could also cause weight gain.

Don’t fret — in general, this side effect is not serious and will fade away as you continue your medical marijuana treatment.

For many, this hunger-inducing side effect is one of the reasons medical marijuana is so sought after. Certain illnesses result in decreased appetite, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy or those with AIDS. This can lead to serious complications like weight loss and malnutrition which can hinder the body’s ability to heal. Cannabis is one of the only medications that can be used to increase a patient’s appetite both safely and effectively.

What Causes Pot Induced Hunger?

You may be wondering why you’re so ravenous when you use marijuana. There appears to be a combination of contributing factors that make cannabis users so hungry:

  • Increased Sense of Smell: Your sense of smell and taste are closely tied. Pot gives you a keener ability to smell, which, in turn, makes food taste better.
  • Surge of Dopamine: Dopamine is a chemical which functions as a neurotransmitter, carrying signals between brain cells. It’s released when we perform pleasurable physiological activities, like eating.
  • Release of Ghrelin: When your stomach is empty, your body secretes a hormone called ghrelin. Also called “the hunger hormone,” ghrelin induces your appetite and prepares your body for food intake.

The reason marijuana can affect the body in these ways is because our endocannabinoid system (ECS) reacts strongly to the cannabinoids found in cannabis, specifically THC. The ECS acts as a bridge between our mind and body because it contains many receptor sites throughout our nervous system. It regulates certain physiological functions, like emotions, sensations of pain and hunger.

Cannabinoids like THC mimic the ECS and bind themselves to receptor sites. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells that tells your body to stop eating, specifically when you’ve had enough to eat. It also counteracts another neurotransmitter that induces hunger, anandamide. THC binds itself to the same receptor sites as anandamide, increasing appetite.

With all these hormones and neurotransmitters getting released, you’re left with a very clear thought — “I’m starving.”

Are There Negative Side Effects to Getting the Munchies?

With the combination of increased ghrelin, which prepares your gastrointestinal system for the intake of food, and an increased sense of smell, the munchies aren’t all bad. In fact, when you have pot-induced hunger, food tastes amazing. That’s why it’s such an effective treatment for patients who have nausea or trouble eating due to illness.

But you may be concerned that there are long-term negative side effects of the munchies. The only thing that should be regulated is the tendency to overeat when feeling the effects of medical marijuana. Even if you’ve just eaten, cannabis can kick-start your appetite into overdrive. For those looking to stay healthy, it’s important to be aware of this side effect ahead of time and try some simple preventative measures.

How Do I Alleviate the Munchies?

If you’re concerned about marijuana’s hunger-inducing properties ruining your diet or causing unwanted overeating, here are a few things you can do to minimize the munchies:

  • Have regular meals times which include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between. If you’re sated before consuming cannabis, you’ll be less likely to overdo it with food when the munchies hit.
  • Make sure to get rid of all food that you’ll regret eating and stock up on healthy snacks. You can even use it to your advantage by eating healthy foods that you usually hate.
  • Exercise before taking your cannabis medication. That way, you’ll get a workout before the munchies set in.
  • Find a safe activity you can do to take your mind off your appetite. This could include watching a movie, video games or playing music — whatever interests you.
  • Brushing your teeth is good for you for many reasons. Not only is it basic hygiene, but the minty flavors of toothpaste will cause other foods not to taste as good.
  • If the hunger pangs become too much for you, you may want to consider a different strain. Those high in CBD or THCV don’t usually have this symptom.

Talk to Your Marijuana Doctor

All medications and pharmaceuticals have potential side effects, but we choose to use them anyway when the benefits outweigh the risks — the same is true for medical marijuana. Although there are some potential unwanted side effects, the help that it’s brought to countless individuals is incredible.

If you’re considering pursuing a medical marijuana license in your state, our advice should not replace that of a doctor or budtender. Your situation is unique, which is why you should consult a marijuana doctor in your state to discuss treatment options for your condition. Local dispensaries can also be contacted if you need help picking a strain.