Picture the classic stoner stereotype: a bit of cannabis and suddenly you’re calm, happy, and headed towards the fridge. Stereotypes don’t emerge from nothing, and cannabis’s impacts on the appetite are legendary. But before you take it too far this holiday season and dash your wellness goals, we dive into the science of “munchies” and look into why some strains make you hungrier than others.
First off, cannabinoids. These active compounds, including CBD and THC, are responsible for those famous effects on your body and mind. These compounds interact with your body’s unique sensors to make the magic marijuana is known for. Cannabinoid receptors, located throughout the body, are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.
A recent study out of Yale looked into why certain strains lead to a heightened appetite. Researchers discovered that certain cannabinoid receptors affect neurons that are also responsible for sending a chemical signal to the brain to stop eating when you are full.
The study’s lead researcher, Tamas Horvath, compared the chemical effect to switching your foot from a gentle tap of the brakes to rapidly accelerating instead. It fools your brain’s central feeding system and suddenly you feel ravenous, even if you’ve just eaten.
The Myth of Munchies
It’s no wonder that cannabis’s association with eating has become common knowledge. But it turns out that not all cannabis strains create this unstoppable hunger. Just as various strains create different effects, impacts on hunger can vary greatly, depending on the chemical composition of a strain. For example, strains high in THC are reputed for causing hunger. And indeed, most consumers—especially those who are just beginning to experiment with the benefits of cannabis—have only been exposed to strains high in THC, hence the stereotypical “munchies.”
Hunger has its Benefits
Make no mistake; many medical marijuana patients consume cannabis specifically to induce hunger. Cancer patients, for example, need help boosting their appetites following chemotherapy or strong medications. For them, and others, marijuana’s appetite-stimulating properties can be lifesaving.
But for those of us working hard to stick to wellness goals and trying to eat mindfully, a cannabis-induced binge can be a real downside. Extra calories can lead to weight gain, while late-night snacking can also cause heartburn, indigestion, and poor sleep.
So, how can you keep the munchies in check and make sure you are getting the cannabis benefits you want and skipping the less desirable side effects? Switching strains or finding tools to manage cravings might be the answer.
Banishing the Munchies
If you are unable to manage your cravings, try a new strain or two to find one better suited to your lifestyle goals. Specifically, strains high in CBD and THCV are great for this – reach out to us or check with your local budtender to help you a good fit.
Alternatively, below are useful tips to limit over-indulging:
- Eat a proper meal before partaking – being hungry before you consume can make overindulgence or unhealthy foods inevitable
- Keep boredom at bay – this is true with and without cannabis! Bored snacking is a recipe for overdoing it
- Get rid of temptations – Those cupcakes and chips will be downright irresistible under certain conditions. Help yourself out and remove temptations
- Keep healthy snacks on hand – Having healthy alternatives available is a set up for success and keep those less nutritious options at bay
Wherever the holidays take you this year, we hope they will be happy, healthy, and delicious!
*The following guidelines apply in general for most people. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, seek qualified help today.