Why Does Smoking Cannabis Make Me Hungry?

Could someone explain why I've just eaten 2 packs of chips, a chocolate bar and an ice cream?
11 January 2021
7 min read
Why Does Smoking Cannabis Make Me Hungry?

Contents:
  • 1. What are the munchies?
  • 2. How does the body signal hunger?
  • 2. a. What is appetite vs hunger?
  • 3. So, why exactly does thc give us this huge appetite boost?
  • 4. The munchies and their use in medicine
  • 5. Getting a hold of the munchies when they're out of control
  • 6. The bottom line

Ohhh so you've smoked a joint and flash forward you're sitting in the kitchen, you've displayed all of your cooking gear out because you were craving this very specific thing, and then this other one, and before you knew it you'd almost gone through all the different tastes, sweet, salty, sour and bitter all at once. That sounds... normal. 

It is no stranger that smoking weed makes us hungry, we see it in our own eyes from our personal experiences, and even in movies and TV being stereotyped all of the time. It's funny to think about those times when we were teenagers and came back home stoned off our heads and literally emptied the fridge but our parents couldn't even realize it. 

 

Is there a hole in my stomach? Cause I could eat them munchies non-stop.

Is there a hole in my stomach? Cause I could eat them munchies non-stop.
 

But did we ever stop to think about what are the reasons behind this gigantic hunger? We all know that it's the munchies behind all this, but what causes the munchies anyway?

1. What Are The Munchies?

In case you're sort of new in the stoner world, the term 'munchies' is used to refer to that starving side effect produced after marijuana consumption. These munchies are mainly produced by the psychoactive cannabinoid in the weed family, tetrahydrocannabinol, or as everyone knows it, THC. 

Related story
What is THC?
 

This cannabinoid has several effects on our perceptions and in many other aspects of our bodies, but few are as well known and as common as the munchies effect. Find out everything about THC in the article above. 

2. How Does The Body Signal Hunger?

When we're not under the effects of any substance, the body sends signs that it is hungry, which is the result of four different things, these are: 

  • How empty the stomach and the intestines are;
  • The current blood sugar levels;
  • Hormone levels;
  • And signs coming from a region in the brain called the hypothalamus.

These same four factors are the ones to signal when the body is too full as well. But hunger isn't precisely the same thing as appetite. 

What Is Appetite vs Hunger?

Have you ever walked by that bakery around the corner of your house, that one that always makes you crave some sweet cakes or cookies? Perhaps you were walking by with your stomach already too full, but still, that delicious scent made you crave some of those yummy baked goods.

That's appetite, you're not hungry, because the stomach is indeed full, but the simple thought and smell of whatever you've smelled made you want to make space for some more. At the same time, the appetite can be triggered by emotions as well. 

 

Appetite is feeling like eating, while hunger is needing to eat.

Appetite is feeling like eating, while hunger is needing to eat.
 

How many times have you chunked unnecessary amounts of food due to anxiety, nervousness, or as a way to address some other emotional imbalances? The typical post-breakup ice-cream-eating movie scene pops into head. And the same can go vice versa, you can be completely out of the will to eat due to some major shock. 

Therefore, considering that when we have the munchies we can eat loads of food, independent of the size and space in our stomachs, what THC is boosting isn't really hunger but appetite. 

3. So, Why Exactly Does THC Give Us This Huge Appetite Boost?

Well, when we consume marijuana we channel it through the receptors in our endocannabinoid system, which, among other things, takes part in controlling our appetite. Therefore, when it gets in touch with THC, it is just normal for the hunger to start to build up.

 

At the same time, THC also has shown to stimulate a hormone called ghrelin, which is known for making us hungry as well. This is a hormone that takes action in the appetite systems in the brain that boost hunger. 2

Furthermore, one of the reasons why THC produces this feeling of starvation is because, when it gets into contact with the receptors in the brain's olfactory bulb, a mass of tissue containing different types of nerve cells that take part in our sense of smell, it affects the way we perceive the sense of scent and taste. 

 

If you've just smelled those cookies blocks away, the munchies must be kicking in.

If you've just smelled those cookies blocks away, the munchies must be kicking in.
 

So, once the THC gets in touch with this olfactory bulb, it binds with the receptors in it, resulting in an enhancement of the smell and taste of food, a.k.a. the biggest sign of the munchies taking place. No wonder why food seems to be more enjoyable when we're super high. 3

4. The Munchies And Their Use In Medicine

Nowadays, as the laws all around the world slowly take an approach towards the use of cannabis for medical purposes, whether we can or can not use the weed munchies for medical purposes is a question that normally slides into our curious heads.

Well, given that we can affirm the appetite stimulant activity of marijuana, it can, indeed, be used for patients who are having trouble with such issues, such as eating disorder patients, those who are dealing with cancer and chemotherapy, and more. 

 

When a patient with eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, is going through a recovery treatment, it can be quite hard for the people surrounding them to understand that what they're having to deal with is a mental issue. This means that, as much as their friends or family might try to encourage them to eat, most of the time, they achieve the complete opposite. 

Desperate attitudes towards mentally ill patients tend to only push them away from the solution because such attitudes cause them to stress and feel anxiety concerning eating situations, which is clearly a counteractive effect. 

This is where the weed comes in. On one hand, THC will naturally boost the appetite, and might even recover the feeling of joy while eating that most E.D. patients lose. CBD, at the same time, comes to save the day by reducing some of the anxiety of eating that most patients deal with. Marijuana is known for making us relax, and that's exactly what these patients, who tend to want to be in control of everything, need.

Besides, the fear of getting fat is also common among eating disorder patients, however, most stoners are average weight, independent of how much they indulge in the munchies. This is because it is believed that cannabis boosts our metabolism, helping us stay in shape too. 

5. Getting A Hold Of The Munchies When They're Out Of Control

While some people might need this extra push that the munchies produce in the appetite, sometimes we're looking for the opposite, especially when we're finally trying to diet to get rid of those few extra kilos, new year resolutions anyone?

Indeed fighting the munchies can be a tough war but it isn't an unbeatable one. In the first instance, we would recommend not to take a bite of anything while you're under the influence of them munchies. This is because as soon as you take even the smallest bite, you'll have already let out the beast of an appetite you have in you. 

 

Healthy munchies are still munchies! Keep your diet going!

Healthy munchies are still munchies! Keep your diet going!
 

It happens, right? You say to yourself "okay just a bite" and before you know it, you've emptied the whole pack of chips and going for the next snack. It's all about self-control, if you shake your head to snacking during the munchies, when you're finally sober again, you'll regain control over the amounts you eat. 

But we know sometimes sharing the munchies is also a fun part of the experience of smoking with friends, and we wouldn't want you to miss that, do we? Not all is doomed, there is something called eating healthy, and it hasn't killed anyone so far. 

Who ever said that munchies had to consist just of junk food? Stick to your diet like a champ or buy healthy food somewhere, you'll be able to enjoy the munchies just as much as your friends. Fruits, salads, nuts and popcorn are all a few examples of healthy munchies snacks you could eat.

6. The Bottom Line

When it comes to the effects of marijuana, we can't escape them. But it's the same as drinking alcohol and not expecting to be drunk, we can't deny the natural effects of the substances we consume. 

What we can do is be aware of them, and try to control it as much as possible. When we're well informed about the things close to us, everything, not cannabis-wise only, we actually become conscious users, allowing us to get the most out of every situation. 

The munchies can be both an ally or an enemy, but it's just up to you which one they'll be. We hope you can reach the point of pure satisfaction with them, and don't forget to comment on your favorite munchies snacks!

 

EXTERNAL REFERENCES

  1. "The Regulation of Food Intake in Humans" Mark Hopkins, John Blundell, Jason Halford, Neil King, and Graham Finlayson.
  2. "Effects of oral, smoked, and vaporized cannabis on endocrine pathways related to appetite and metabolism: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, human laboratory study" Mehdi Farokhnia, Gray R. McDiarmid, Matthew N. Newmeyer, Vikas Munjal, Osama A. Abulseoud, Marilyn A. Huestis, and Lorenzo Leggio.
  3. "Exploring the munchies: An online survey of users' experiences of cannabis effects on appetite and the development of a Cannabinoid Eating Experience Questionnaire" Carl A. Roberts, Gerry Jager, Paul Christiansen, and Tim C. Kirkham.
11 January 2021
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