Chances are good that you’ve heard of the hunger-inducing marijuana side effect lovingly referred to as weed munchies. Marijuana munchies aren’t just an urban legend; in fact, this common side effect makes medical marijuana incredibly beneficial to those undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or who are managing other illnesses that cause nausea and/or reduce appetite. There’s actually some pretty neat science behind the phenomenon, and we’ve got the deets below (cause we’re swell like that).
Weird Science: Marijuana Munchies
Although it’s complicated (and not fully comprehended by modern science) researchers believe that an effect on neurons, which control appetite as well as stimulate a heightened sensitivity to smell, taste and pleasure, are behind the weed munchies. Basically, the main ingredient of marijuana, THC, stimulates the smell and taste of food, making you hungry. Recent studies have shown that THC affects the cells responsible for sending a satisfied and full signal to the brain. When THC interacts with these neurons they stimulate appetite rather than shutting it down. THC is thought to increase the release of dopamine, which creates a heightened sense of pleasure, so eating physically feels better.
Heightening of your senses is just one of the positive effects medical marijuana has on patients with illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, the treatments for which decrease appetite. THC acts on the same pathways of the brain that make us feel like we are hungry, basically tricking your brain into thinking it’s starving.
While grabbing an edible sounds like a win-win, if you’re dealing with acute nausea and vomiting, edibles aren’t the best bet as they can take some time to work (see the Swell blog post about edibles). Vaping works well for quick relief, but if you’re unable to smoke, tinctures and pills are a great option as they are discreet and work quickly. If you’re interested in learning about products that will stimulate your appetite, Swell budtenders are knowledgable and can make suggestions for which strains are ideal for your unique situation.
Alternatives to Medical Marijuana to Increase Appetite
Doctors can prescribe a variety of drugs that, although designed to treat other illnesses, also tend to increase appetite as a side effect. The two most common types of drugs prescribed for this purpose are antihistamines and antidepressants. Some supplements such as plum extract and echinacea have proven effective, as well. In addition, there are practical steps you can take when you just don’t feel like eating. First, smaller meals are easier to manage; eat light and often. If you can’t eat, choose nutritious liquids like juice, smoothies, soy, dairy, or almond milk. Next, simmer or bake foods that fill the house with a strong, mouthwatering smell. Last, snack on high calorie, high nutrition foods such as nut butters, nuts, cheese, and dried fruit.
Will the Munchies Make Me Fat?
Probably not. Some recent findings show that when marijuana is legalized, obesity rates go down. In older patients, or those with chronic pain, medical marijuana provides relief to improve mobility and increase activity. If you need medical marijuana’s effects for illnesses not related to appetite, but are concerned about how the marijuana munchies will impact your waistline, stock your pantry with satisfying and flavorful healthy options instead of cookies and ice cream. Fruits like grapes, berries and cherries will satisfy a sweet tooth; sour foods like pickles, citrus fruits, and sauerkraut are good for a kick; crunchy munchies like popcorn, low-fat pretzels and tortilla chips will are perfect for the savory fix; and mustards, salsa, and peppers will curb your spicy craving.
If you need the appetite boost, make sure to keep easy foods around that don’t just satisfy, but add nutrients. If you don’t need the extra weight, plan ahead for tasty foods that won’t leave you with a calorie hangover.
Contact us if you’d like more information about our products or stop by to chat with one of our friendly and knowledgeable budtenders.