The chemical compound found in cannabis is being added to food and beverages. How will it affect appetite? Since CBD and THC are both compounds found in cannabis, many people incorrectly assume that they cause similar effects. In fact, it has been proven over and over again that, unlike THC, CBD doesn't make you high. But does CBD make you hungry? Let's find out. Does CBD Make You Hungry? If there's one thing THC is known f
Marijuana gives you the munchies. What about CBD?
As a dietitian, I always receive an influx of New Year’s emails predicting upcoming food trends. This year, several experts have forecast an increase in foods and beverages containing cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in cannabis plants. More colloquially called CBD, cannabidiol has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat some forms of epilepsy and shows potential in treating pain, nausea, anxiety and depression — without making users high.
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But what about its effect on hunger? After all, smoking or ingesting cannabis is associated with the munchies. So, I wondered: Does CBD have the same effect? Could a trend toward CBD-infused foods lead to weight gain? And how might CBD affect people who have conditions that make it difficult to keep weight on (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, eating disorders or depression)? I decided to consult some experts.
To understand their answers to these questions, first, a quick tutorial. Cannabis plants contain more than 100 cannabinoids, although the therapeutic and psychoactive effects of most of them aren’t yet known. The two most-researched cannabinoids are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid. THC makes you high; CBD doesn’t. And, it turns out, they affect appetite in different ways.
THC produces the well-known cravings for sweet and fatty foods through several mechanisms, according to the experts I consulted. First, “THC increases the hormone ghrelin, which causes you to feel hungry,” says Janice Newell Bissex, a registered dietitian and holistic cannabis practitioner in Melrose, Mass. If your stomach is empty, she says, you produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which tells the brain to generate the sensation of hunger. But THC can increase ghrelin and trigger the feeling of hunger even if your stomach isn’t empty.
Second, THC hits a part of the brain that controls hunger. “The appetite-promoting effect of THC is mediated by CB1 receptors located in areas of the brain involved in appetite control,” explains George Kunos, scientific director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
And third, THC boosts dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in the brain, “so you get more pleasure from eating,” Bissex says. “THC can increase the sense of smell and taste, so people are more inclined to want to eat.”
Does CBD Make You Hungry?
Since CBD and THC are both compounds found in cannabis, many people incorrectly assume that they cause similar effects. In fact, it has been proven over and over again that, unlike THC, CBD doesn’t make you high. But does CBD make you hungry?
Does CBD Make You Hungry?
If there’s one thing THC is known for, other than making you high, is its ability to make you hungry. Often called the “munchies,” most people are aware that consuming THC often makes you want to consume copious amounts of food. even if you weren’t particularly peckish in the first place.
However, THC is just one of over 100 cannabinoids contained in cannabis. Research suggests that CBD may influence the metabolism, but can it make people ravenous like THC typically does? To get a better understanding of this, let’s first take a look at why consuming THC stimulates appetite.
It all deals with how each cannabinoid interacts with the endocannabinoid system. As with most things, there’s actually science behind the munchies. Check it out below:
Why Does THC Stimulate Appetite?
It’s not a new fact that humans have used cannabis for thousands of years. There are even records that indicate that people were aware that cannabis could cause hunger as early as 300 AD!
THC is the most abundantly found cannabinoid in cannabis and is also the cannabinoid that’s responsible for stimulating the appetite. The reason people get the munchies is because THC binds to and activates the cannabinoid-1 (CB1) receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain, but are also in smaller concentrations in some other areas of the body. These receptors play a significant role in hunger and appetite.
CB1 receptors are found in a few areas of the brain that are involved in the way we feel about and perceive food. For one, they’re present in the hypothalamus, which is considered the primary regulator of appetite and controls biological functions like hunger and thirst. CB1 receptors are also present in the basal ganglia, which is associated with your internal reward system and may stimulate the pleasure we get from eating.
THC also stimulates the appetite by increasing the levels of a hormone known as ghrelin, which causes an increase in appetite. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone and when the stomach is empty, you produce more of it, which in turn signals the brain to create a feeling of hunger. Since THC increases ghrelin, it can cause you to feel hungry even if you’re not.
Overall, there’s some serious science behind getting the munchies when THC is consumed. CBD, however, doesn’t interact with CB1 receptors in the same way as THC. This is why CBD doesn’t get you high. and also why it likely won’t lead to the munchies.
The Influence of the Endocannabinoid System on Gut Health and Digestive Function
It’s likely you’ve heard that gut health is important for maintaining your overall health and well-being. The gut isn’t just where our food is digested; it also communicates directly with the brain and is connected to immune function, inflammation management, mood level and more. Did you know, for example, that 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut?
Obviously, diet affects gut health, but so does stress, lack of sleep and excessive alcohol consumption. So how do you know when your gut health is suffering? The following are some clear signs that the health of your gut could use some fine-tuning:
- Digestive issues like bloating and cramps
- Loose bowel movements
- Food allergies
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling exhausted
Gut inflammation can manifest in several ways. Irregular menstrual periods, fatigue, unexplained nausea, bloating, constipation, mood swings and more are all potential indicators of an inflamed gut. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors can help regulate inflammation.
Like we mentioned earlier, healthy digestion is crucial for overall health and well-being. When the food we eat moves freely through the digestive tract, we are better able to absorb the nutrients it contains and mitigate issues such as nausea, upset stomach, constipation and excess stomach acid. Stimulation of cannabinoid receptors in the gut might have a positive impact on the gastrointestinal tract.
Improved Gut/Brain Communication
The gut and the brain have an intimate relationship. When the brain isn’t functioning properly due to stress, lack of sleep or anything else, the gut is affected. Likewise, when the gut isn’t functioning as it should, the brain is also affected. What’s responsible for communication between the two?
Because the endocannabinoid system is responsible for the communication between your gut and your brain, by maintaining homeostasis of the endocannabinoid system, this communication is notably improved.
CBD Might Not Make You Hungry, But It Might Make You Feel Like Eating
If you’re looking for a cannabinoid to help increase your appetite, CBD likely won’t be your best bet. While many people think that CBD will have the same effect on their appetite as THC, the cannabinoids influence the body in clearly different ways.
Notably, CBD can support homeostasis in the body, which in turn could help improve gut health and balance out your appetite.
While CBD doesn’t have the same effect on one’s appetite as THC, it may help the body maintain its digestive health. If you’re still wondering if CBD makes you hungry, the short answer is no. It could, however, help your body maintain homeostasis, which in turn might support a regular appetite. For many, fine-tuning and balancing out the endocannabinoid system is precisely what it takes to achieve optimal metabolic health.
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Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.