Published: November 1st, 2017
Categories: Cannabis Info
Nearly every person who uses cannabis in some form or the other has experienced this before: "The munchies". You smoke some fine bud, vaporize it or eat a space cake and after a while you crave for the fridge or your snack drawer to ingest piles of food. And let's be honest - in most cases food here means junk food. For some, this doesn't matter at all because, for them, the munchies are part of the experience that marijuana gives them.
For others, this can be very annoying if they don't want to lose control and gain weight by eating unhealthy stuff. And for a third party, this effect of cannabis consumption could easily be a lifesaver. Patients that undergo chemotherapy or suffer from some kind of eating disorder are dependent on the munchies to stimulate their appetite. For them, it is one of the biggest benefits that weed can have.
In this article, we show the causes for this phenomenon and the (possible) science behind it. We also provide you with some simple ideas to fight the munchies if you are the kind of smoker who doesn't know what to do about it.
This well-known effect of marijuana has been studied in the last few years from different researches. One of them is a study that was published in "Nature Neuroscience" and conducted by Giovanni Marsicano at the University of Bordeaux. They found that in mice, THC fits with their olfactory bulb and significantly increased their ability to smell food, thus making them eat more. The research indicates that after the intake of marijuana, you can smell and taste food more intensely.
But how can THC do this to our brain? It has to do with the endocannabinoid system. This system controls emotions, memory, pain sensitivity and - you guessed it - appetite. Therefore, THC can dock onto these receptors and alter these factors dramatically. This way, the cannabinoid THC increases our appetite by making us more sensitive to the smells of food. As a result, and because scent and taste are so closely related, it may allow us to taste flavours better and more acutely.
But that's just one piece of the puzzle. Another previous research shows that cannabis also interacts with receptors in a region of the brain which is called the nucleus accumbens. Here, cannabis increases the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which produces our feeling of pleasure. And pleasure is what you feel when you get high.
Further research suggests that THC interacts with receptors in the hypothalamus. This leads to the release of the hormone ghrelin which, again, stimulates appetite.
Tamas Horvath, a neurobiology professor at Yale, and Marco Koch from the University of Leipzig, published a paper in "Nature" that discusses their findings. Together they discovered that cannabis interacts with receptors in the hypothalamus and that this causes them to scramble. These receptors are known as pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) prohormones and they tell you when you have eaten enough. They explain how these POMCs completely change their behaviour when exposed to marijuana. They then increase your appetite. So, cannabinoids could, even if it's only temporarily, flip the function of neurons and rewire your brain's circuitry.
What these findings basically have in common is that they involve different receptors and the natural endocannabinoid system of your body. Marijuana's THC manipulates the pathways that the brain uses to regulate our senses. Eventually, THC appears to give us the munchies by convincing our brains that our body needs food.
Indeed, most scientists agree that the phenomenon of the munchies is most likely a complex physiological response which can't be reduced to a single set of neurons. This means that all the above-mentioned studies and findings play their role in creating this feeling of the munchies, instead of only one of them being the proven cause.
If you are that kind of person who does enjoy cannabis but not the after-effect of the munchies, then we have compiled some easy ways to control your starving stomach while high.
Let's face it, in one way or the other you will desperately feel the urge to eat something after smoking. One solution for this is to get rid of all junk food and snacks in your kitchen and to simply not buy them anymore. But that's more of a tough advice because we all like to snack while watching a movie, totally stoned out of our minds. The other, more realistic solution is to replace unhealthy junk with actually healthy food. Be prepared for the munchies with nuts, fruits, green juices and veggie sticks. This way, you not only satisfy the craving that the munchies are, but you will eat healthier foods and do so consciously, lowering the risk of obesity and diabetes.
The next time you want to go to the freezer to grab that frozen pizza, go for a walk instead. Distracting yourself from your hunger can work wonders if done right. The idea behind this is to keep your mind entertained and motivated. Find activities you enjoy that spark your interest so they naturally stimulate your dopamine levels. Outdoor hiking or meeting up with friends in the city are good examples of this method.
Prevent the munchies by using the right strain. Because not all of them will get you in munchie mode. This may, of course, be different from person to person but finding the right strain for you can prevent you from looting your fridge. Ask your local budtender or your friends what their experiences are with different genetics and you might be surprised how high you can get without feeling the urge for food. Blue Dream is an example of a strain that is said to make you forget about food and conquer your personal desires. Unfortunately, this advice is really only applicable if you live in a country where weed is legal or you grow your own.
If none of the above is the right thing for you, you can still simply work out to counteract the effect of the munchies. Some people even enjoy working out high a lot. Others like to do their training and smoke some weed after it as a reward. In a way, this point goes hand in hand with the second one because working out is also some kind of distraction for mind and body. It is definitely a way to work against those guilty thoughts when you've gone through a whole bag of chips again, after you smoked some potent bud.