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You’ve smoked some medical cannabis. You’re feeling great. Then all of a sudden you get the urge to eat everything in sight. You promised yourself the last time that that was the last time. The plan was to resist the temptation to gorge. But it just feels so right. Once everything edible in sight is out of sight (and into your belly), you ransack the food cupboards and the fridge. Things you would have never considered before are making their debuts. You’re creating gastronomical gems that would have Wolfgang Puck weeping with joy.
Then the effects of the medical cannabis start to fade and you’re left with the destruction of your gluttony: empty packets of the fattiest, sweetest junk food you never even knew you had litter the floor and stare up at you in judgment, and a protruding stomach follows you wherever you go. Yes, every smoker has been on the receiving end of cannabis’ most notorious effect: the munchies. And, though for many the binge may be minor – or desirable for certain ailments and diseases (anorexia or HIV/AIDS come to mind) -, many others are binging hard and putting on unwanted weight.
This article is directed toward the latter group. We will walk you through the science of marijuana-induced food cravings and provide a powerful method to curb those cravings. Before we begin, don’t forget to get your medical cannabis card online if you haven’t already! Alright, now onto the main content.
Smoking weed modifies two processes in the body that cause the munchies: olfaction (the capacity for smelling) and appetite regulation. We’ll discuss both processes and their weed-induced adaptations below.
Fasting from food for brief periods can increase the level of natural cannabinoids in the mammalian brain, which, in turn, triggers us to eat more when we’re hungry. What’s interesting is that it’s specifically the activation of cannabinoid receptors in the nose – specifically the olfactory bulb (the primary brain region controlling the sense of smell) – which leads to an acute sense of smell that causes the devouring of grub.
Studies have shown that endocannabinoids (cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems) can disinhibit circuits of the olfactory bulb when triggered. When these receptors are activated by external cannabinoids, such as those found in marijuana, the consumption rate goes up again. Research points to THC causing the increased sense of smell. So our main tip to curb your cravings: find a strain low in THC and high in CBD. Note: strains low in THC are non-psychoactive, so if that’s something you require for you ailment, use a combination of the tips below instead.
A connection exists between leptin and cannabinoids. Scientists have shown mice that don’t make leptin have oversized appetites and they have unusually high concentrations of cannabinoids in the hypothalamus (which deals with hunger control amongst other homeostatic systems). Young-Hwan Jo, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, took a look at slices of mouse hypothalamus. When he brought cannabinoid compound into contact with neurons, the neurons fired. But when he first added leptin (also known as the “hunger hormone”), the neurons did not activate. Leptin helps keep hunger at bay by ensuring that the cannabinoids in the brain and throughout the gut are not over-activating. So our second tip: eat foods that increase leptin sensitivity and induce proper utilization of the hormone. Creating a leptin diet is beyond the scope of this article, but lean proteins, oatmeal, green tea and fish are some great examples (do not under any circumstances combine them!).
Another great tip: don’t rely on willpower, be prepared. Don’t expect yourself to act in times of weakness the same as you do in times of strength. Willpower is a finite thing, so depend upon it as little as possible! Instead, simply get rid of the temptation, and willpower is no longer needed. This may mean clearing your house of all the junk food. Or, if you’re really a slave to your temptations, it may mean also giving your wallet to someone you can trust until the effects have worn off. In addition, either prepare healthy snacks beforehand to satiate the certain hunger, or just fast/lower calories approaching your smoke and binge guilt-free!
And that brings us to the end! Try out this method and let us know what you think, and don’t forget – you need a medical cannabis card in order to take advantage of the many unique health benefits of cannabis.