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How Does the Brain Manage Appetite?

When we’re hungry, our body lets us know. Our brains receive specific signals, including stomach growls and hunger pains. These are elements of the hypothalamus, an area of the brain responsible for:

  • Controlling hunger
  • Emptiness of stomach and intestines
  • Glucose levels

Hunger sensations are normal. And when you do eat, feelings of fullness indicate your body is satisfied.

An appetite works a bit differently. They’re stimulated by various senses, including vision, smell, and thought. The biggest difference is appetites can occur even when you’re already full.

How Does Cannabis Stimulate Your Appetite?

It’s no secret cannabis consumption will leave you with the munchies (the desire to eat). This process has to do with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Chemical compounds found in cannabis (known as cannabinoids) largely replicate those found within our bodies (known as endocannabinoids). The most notable of these cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the chemical that produces a “high” in marijuana.

THC stimulates our ghrelin hormone, which is responsible for hungry sensations. This hormone naturally sends messages to our brain when we’re hungry. However, it also sends these messages when we’re under the influence of marijuana – even if we’re full.

On top of this, cannabis consumption will enhance the olfactory bulb (the part of our brain responsible for smell). In other words, food will smell better when you’re high and increase your appetite.

Luckily, these processes occur as THC speeds up your metabolism. Therefore, this extra eating usually doesn’t cause significant weight gain.

How Does Cannabis Stimulate Your Appetite?

Food Before and After Cannabis Consumption

Most people will tell you to eat after cannabis consumption because the food will naturally taste better. However, this can affect your high.

The effects food has on cannabis’s psychoactivity are dependent on what the food is made of. For example, food that’s rich in omega-3s will increase absorption rates of THC – therefore, decreasing your high.

To help you better understand the difference, here are some pros to consuming food before or after cannabis consumption:

Pros of Eating Before Cannabis

  • Can help prevent feeling light-headed due to hunger. This is important because cannabis can increase appetite, potentially making hunger-induced light-headedness worse.
  • It is generally agreed that smoking on an empty stomach can enhance the “high.” However, many cannabis users are primarily seeking medical benefits. Eating before smoking may reduce the high but still provides the medical benefits, assuming immediate effects are not necessary.
  • Eating food before consuming cannabis edibles will delay their effects, as the digestive system will first process the food already in the stomach.
  • A 2019 study found that consuming high-fat foods can increase the absorption rates of cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid primarily used for its medical benefits.

Pros of Eating After Cannabis

  • Smoking before eating can trigger an insatiable case of the munchies for some people.
  • A 2017 review suggests that for medicinal purposes, cannabis should be taken orally before eating to ensure it works more quickly.
  • Smoking before eating can enhance the senses, making food more appetizing and enjoyable. While eating after smoking cannabis might reduce the high, certain foods can enhance it.
  • Eating after smoking can speed up your metabolism, allowing your body to process food faster. This means you can eat more without worrying about gaining extra weight from the increased food intake.

So, Should You Eat Before or After Cannabis Consumption?

The answer to this question largely depends on what you’re looking for. Some things to consider include:

  • Why are you consuming cannabis?
  • How hungry are you before consuming cannabis?
  • What food are you going to eat?
  • How are you going to consume cannabis (i.e. smoking, edible, etc.)?

What Foods Increase the Effects of Cannabis?

If you’re looking to increase THC’s effects on the brain and body, keep the following foods in mind:

  • Broccoli
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Kombucha
  • Mango
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tea

Can Foods Decrease the Effects of Cannabis?

A 2019 study reveals that in most cases, eating before consuming cannabis will impact absorption, leading to limitations on its effects and duration. This same study also found that fasting allowed for quicker cannabis consumption, but with reduced effects.

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough research to pinpoint food’s impact on cannabinoids. We do know that high-fat foods will delay onset (when eaten beforehand), but increase the effects. We also know that your body weight and general diet play a major role in how cannabis is absorbed.

Still, the effects of cannabis are less determined by what you eat than by the strain of marijuana you are consuming. Not to mention, how much you’re consuming.

Final Word

It’s best not to think too much about how food consumption plays a role in cannabis’s effects. If you’re hungry, you should eat regardless of whether or not you’re about to get high.

It may help to eat before consuming cannabis. This can alleviate some of the adverse effects of THC, including lightheadedness, dizziness, and headaches.

On the other hand, if you want to boost your metabolism, it may help to eat after marijuana consumption.

Ultimately, it all comes down to your personal preferences. Experiment around with food and cannabis to figure out what’s right for you. And don’t think about the high too much, think about your body.

Cannabis and Eating FAQs