Admit it. Like many a stoner, you’ve at some point demolished an unnatural or inappropriate amount of food in one sitting.
Perhaps it was half an ice cream gallon, an entire pizza, 20-piece McNuggets from the drive-thru or even a full sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies. Either way, “the munchies” are a very real side effect of THC, and have led some smokers down a path of very naughty diet behaviors.
Marijuana is as good for the digestive system as a supplement can possibly get. Cannabinoids and terpenes within the plant calm the release of intestinal acids, aid in digestion, and ease painful spasms.
So why, exactly, does it often cause a ravenous hunger? What exactly is it about cannabis that causes the infamous munchies?
A Smithsonian piece tackled the question in 2014, citing several biochemical reasons for the reaction. Just as recreational and medicinal markets were getting really mainstream in the United States, a group of European researchers set out to analyze various effects of cannabis on the brains of mice.
When running tests on mice, scientists found that THC would bind to receptors located in the olfactory bulb — the part of the brain responsible for taste and smell. Dosing the mice with THC would significantly heighten these senses, leading to increased desire for foods. Coupled with releases of extra dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical that is already released when you eat, using cannabis can create an abundant cycle of hunger followed by extreme satisfaction.
Put quite simply, pot is a natural stimulant for your insides. Cannabis is an amazing metabolic regulator, as it mimics the chemicals released by the brain to keep everything moving smoothly in there. Ironically, this efficient regulation of the metabolism often results in stoners being thinner, not heavier, than non-smokers.
In other words, your chair is very lucky that cannabis causes your metabolism to dramatically outpace your caloric intake!
For this particular side effect, many factors depend on the strain consumed. Not every variety of cannabis will lead to a snack attack, and some cultivators are undertaking research to find out precisely which ones, even cross-breeding, to create the perfect “skinny strain.” It’s been found that such strains are typically higher in THCV, a cannabinoid which is an antagonist to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the intestinal tract.
The medical need for this kind of research is great. Strains with high munchie potential would be great for someone enduring chemotherapy or recovering from an eating disorder, whereas a less appetizing strain could help obese or overweight individuals who need pain relief but are also trying to lose weight for their health.
Just like specific strains work differently, people’s bodies work differently as well. A patient with a slow metabolism could potentially benefit from using cannabis as a supplement, but would have to find balance when choosing the proper strain in order to avoid the munchies.
Whenever you integrate a supplement into your plan for weight loss or gain, there should be a sense of balancing and finding what is right for you, rather than sticking to a strict regimen. Try listening to your body — if it needs fuel, it may be trying to tell you something. If you feel that the munchies are becoming a serious detriment to your health, you can always increase the quality of snacks in your house. Overeating on fresh veggies with hummus is a lot better than killing bags of chips and other salted carbs.
Many might be wondering which strains to choose for the desired effect. To get hungry fast, most strains that produce a body high will also spike appetite; think Purple Kush, Cookies variants and other indica-dominant strains. To avoid the munchies altogether, you can try a cerebral sativa-dominant strain like XJ-13 or Durban Poison. Results are not guaranteed, though — every cannabis experience is diverse.
No matter what happens, we think you look adorable with nacho cheese all over your chin.