Cannabis provides some incredible benefits. It can help to alleviate pain, lessen anxiety, increase focus, or promote relaxation. No matter what your reason for using cannabis, however, there’s one effect that isn’t always so desirable – the munchies.
What Are the Munchies?
The “munchies” is a term that refers to the sudden urge to eat that often comes along with smoking cannabis. Typically, most people crave sweet, salty, fatty, carbohydrate-rich foods that aren’t necessarily the healthiest options.
While the munchies are commonly joked about, they’re not always the most desirable effect associated with cannabis. All the extra calories, particularly those from unhealthy snacking options, can lead to unwanted weight gain, indigestion, and sleep disruptions.
Why Cannabis Makes You Hungry
As it turns out, there’s a reason why cannabis makes you hungry. One of the main reasons is that THC can trigger the release of ghrelin. Also called the hunger hormone, ghrelin is responsible for triggering your appetite and increasing your food intake.
Normally, the hormone is regulated by how much you eat, increasing before mealtimes, and decreasing when you’re full. When THC binds with CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus, though, ghrelin production may begin.
Another reason why cannabis can cause the munchies is that THC can stimulate the olfactory bulb in your brain. As a result, food smells better than it normally does. In a study out of the University of Bordeaux, neuroscientists found that THC supercharged the smell-detection of mice, which caused them to eat more.
THC can also bind to CB1 receptors in the nucleus accumbens region of the brain, which can increase the release of dopamine. The brain naturally releases dopamine when eating, so the additional dopamine released when using cannabis can enhance the pleasure of the experience.
Can the Munchies Be Beneficial?
For most, the munchies are an undesirable side effect of cannabis use. In some situations, however, appetite stimulation can be a good thing.
Since cannabis can stimulate appetite, it can be a particularly beneficial therapy for cancer patients dealing with nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite as a result of chemo. It can also help HIV patients with wasting syndrome or cachexia.
What to Do If You Want to Avoid the Munchies
If you’re looking to avoid the unwanted calories from the munchies, but still want to enjoy your favorite strain of cannabis, there are a few things that you can do. Some tips to help avoid the munchies include:
- Eat regular meals and snacks during the day. The more sated you are, the less likely you’ll be to give in to the munchies.
- Stay busy. Focus on something else like videogames or a favorite pastime to keep your mind occupied.
- Stock up on healthy snacks. If the munchies are going to happen, limit the amount of junk food in your house, or eliminate it altogether, and keep healthier alternatives available.
- Exercise. Exercise can help to burn some extra calories, which may justify a little snacking. As a better option, pair exercise with keeping healthy snacks around.
- Try a different strain. Not all strains cause the munchies. If you’re finding it hard to control your eating habits with your current variety, try switching to a different one.
The munchies are a common side effect associated with cannabis. While it’s not always the desired outcome, it can be beneficial for certain individuals. If you’re looking to avoid the extra snacking, speak with a budtender at your local dispensary for suggestions for strains that are less likely to stimulate your appetite.