Among giggles and happiness, hunger is one of the most common feelings to come with smoking weed. It’s pretty common knowledge that when you get high, you get the munchies… but its reasoning is not so widely known; why does weed make you hungry?
Many things go on behind the scenes in our bodies when it’s time to take in nutrients, and the way weed binds to our brain has a lot in common with those processes!
To understand why weed increases appetite, let’s look at what happens when we’re hungry, what happens when we smoke, and how those two things end up with similar results.
We’ve all gotten hangry at one point; some of us may get this way more than others. This portmanteau of “hungry” and “angry” describes the common occurrence of one being so hungry that one becomes irritable. Irritability happens as just one result of the unpleasant hunger signals that our bodies send to let us know it is time to get some more nutrients in our systems.
When your body realizes that it’s time for your next meal, typically after a few hours without food, your stomach releases the ghrelin hormone to let you know it’s time to eat.
Ghrelin informs you of this need by stimulating the hypothalamus, the part of your brain in charge of appetite, and causing stomach contractions. We recognize these contractions as hunger and, ideally, eat some food.
If we don’t, our guts will go as far as to signal our hunger aloud by growling. Stomach growls are caused by our digestive systems doing what they always do except, when your stomach is empty, there’s nothing to muffle the natural sound; allowing it to escape your body and make those unflattering noises that are audible to everyone around you.
For many people, it doesn’t stop at some growling and cramping in the stomach. Sometimes a person’s blood sugar will drop when they go too long without consuming anything substantial, causing weakness, tiredness, brain fog, and, as we mentioned, irritability.
After Smoking Weed
Did you know our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids and have receptors for them in our brains? THC binds to our natural cannabinoid receptors when we smoke weed, but at a much higher level than those produced naturally.
THC also stimulates the hypothalamus like the ghrelin hormone because the neurons in that part of the brain are accustomed to interacting with our natural cannabinoids. When THC hits the hypothalamus, it flips the switch, so to speak, from full to hungry.
In addition to acting similarly to ghrelin, weed can release more ghrelin for the extra intensity of your hunger symptoms.
When you’re hungry, you may have noticed that you crave junk food; this is because junk food is often the easiest to consume and has the highest reward as it is tasty and packed with calories. This is why you usually see people who are super high munching on cheeseburgers instead of salads.
Weight and Weed
It seems a logical conclusion that the munchies are a critical step between smoking weed and becoming overweight, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Luckily, while weed is tricking your brain into believing you’re hungry, it is also tricking your body into using more energy for a lower level of activity.
Even after one use, smoking weed boosts your metabolism for weeks. The way weed allows you to burn through your excessive snacks doesn’t just even the score; stoners are actually proven to have statistically lower BMIs than people who don’t smoke weed.
A healthy sleep schedule is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight. When we don’t get enough sleep, we get extra hungry because our bodies require energy from outside sources. As we described, excessive hunger makes people crave unhealthy foods. Plus, when we’re sleep-deprived, our bodies don’t burn through those extra calories quickly enough.
Since most cannabis species act as sleep aids, they indirectly help to keep you from gaining weight.
Naturally, when we get stressed or anxious, we’re prone to excessive snacking. Consciously, we feel drawn to tasty, unhealthy food to serve as comfort when we’re in emotional distress.
But, we don’t notice that our bodies also release a hormone called cortisol when we get stressed, which makes us crave hearty food. This is because our brain understands the release of this hormone from a threat and concludes that we need fuel for our defense.
Since weed is known to lower anxiety and stress, it minimizes the appetite spikes caused by those feelings.
How Do I Stop the Stoner Munchies?
There are a few short-term solutions to the munchies that you can do right now. The easiest option is to get your mind off of food. Do something to distract yourself, such as watching TV, listening to music, getting productive, or taking on creative activities.
If that doesn’t help, try getting something in your mouth that has a strong flavor but that you don’t swallow. Gum is an excellent option for this or, even better for your oral health, brush your teeth with some super minty toothpaste!
The best long-term solution for the munchies is to eat on a regular schedule. As mentioned before, ghrelin is produced when your body senses that it is meal time, indicating that our bodies are very receptive to normal eating habits. If you develop a regular meal schedule, your body is less likely to get confused about when you should be eating.
Our tendency to devour any junk food in our path comes down to how our bodies let our brains know we’re hungry and how weed takes similar action even when we’re full.
While you can take steps to combat your munchies, they aren’t the worst thing. Our bodies use more energy when high, which sufficiently combats the extra calorie intake.
So, while it isn’t healthy to eat an entire pizza yourself, don’t feel too bad if you did just that the last time you were high!