If you are a regular smoker, you have probably already experienced the 'munchies.' That irresistible urge to gobble down everything you see around you. You feel ravenously hungry even though you had just eaten to your fill before you hit a blunt. What could be the cause of this hunger? In this article, we are going to look at it from two perspectives; the science behind this and how your body reacts normally.
The simple explanation
Picture your body as a car; when the gas tank is full you can drive for a long time without a worry. That's until the gas light comes on and you have to refuel. Once you do, the process starts all over again. The same idea applies to your body.
When you feel hungry, the brain sends triggers that you need to eat something. That’s refuelling. Then the light goes off and the process starts again.
The stomach will produce a hormone known as ghrelin which then sends triggers to the brain that you need to eat something. After you eat, another hormone called leptin is released and this tells the brain that you need to stop eating because you are full.
The scientific explanation
A 2015 study conducted at Yale University, led by Tamas Horvath, tried to break down the exact reason why people get hungry after they smoke some weed. The experiment was conducted on a number of mice in a laboratory where one set was given weed and the other set were not.
The group of mice that were high ate more food when compared to the set that was sober. According to Tamas, the cannabis was tricking the brains of these rodents into thinking that they were starving, even when they were full. Cannabis activated the neurons that were supposed to shut down eating.
"By observing how the appetite center of the brain responds to marijuana, we were able to see what drives the hunger brought about by cannabis and how that same mechanism that normally turns off feeding becomes a driver of eating," said Horvath.
"It's like pressing a car's brakes and accelerating instead," he said. "We were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating, were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It fools the brain's central feeding system."
The brain produces lipids that are instrumental in controlling our moods, memory, pain reception and yes, appetite. These cannabinoids are called endocannobinoids and they have cannabis receptors 1 (CB1) in the brain.
The cannabinoids produced by marijuana interact with the receptors and flips some switches in the brain. It tricks the brain into thinking that we are hungry, even if we just ate.
Have you ever noticed how food smelled and tasted so good after smoking some weed?
The pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons are the main drivers and factors that influence how we eat. When we are full, they send a trigger telling the body that we are full and we should reduce eating.
After smoking weed, these neurons are interfered with and they do not function as required. Instead, they tell the body the exact opposite: You are hungry and you need to eat.
Is this a good or bad thing?
It depends entirely on how you look at it. While we are struggling to bring the obesity ratio in the US and across the world down, this is certainly not a good thing and you would need to figure out how to take care of the munchies.
On the other hand, the increase in appetite has been welcomed in the medical field, particularly in the treatment of cancer. Cancer patients find it hard to eat or keep food in their body. Because they need the calories that would be best delivered through food, they can smoke some weed to increase their appetite. In this case, smoking weed brings in a number of benefits including the reduction of nausea, ensuring they keep in what they take in.
How do you stop the munchies?
Since you want to keep smoking without piling up the pounds, what can you do to stop the munchies?
Exercise While High
This might not sound cool but it could work. By teaching your brain to do some form of physical activity after you get high, you will be distracting it from the possible munchies after you smoke.
Ensure that you have vegetables and other healthy food on hand. If you are going to eat anyway, you better eat healthy, right?
Try a Different Strain
Different strains deliver a different highs. Try experimenting with a number of them and see what happens. You might find one that gives you a high you like without directing you to the kitchen.
Keep Some Distance Between You and Food
Take a walk after you get high - just not to a burger joint. Try activities that will keep you from eating and try to remain focused.
The good thing is the feeling does not happen all the time. So in some cases, you can decide to give in to your body desires and feed the addiction. A few snacks now and then will not make the buttons of your jeans pop out.