Why Do I get the Munchies?

Munchies – some hate them, I love them.  At times, Chron’s can leave me with no appetite.  A meal goes from delectable to daunting, & for someone who loves food, it’s a terrible feeling.  Yet, thanks to cannabis, gone are the days I have to suffer.  A few hits, or an edible & *BOOM* 15 minutes to an hour later I’m actually enjoying lunch instead of having anxiety about it.  Why though?  I’ve always wondered how cannabis works such magic on my appetite, so I dug into the research & here’s what I found.

Tomas Horvath, a professor of neurobiology at Yale, & Marco Koch of the University of Leipzig got together to figure things out.  They discovered that a set of neurons in the brain, known as POMCs, literally become scrambled when exposed to marijuana (THC).  POMCs usually secrete a chemical, alpha-MSH, which is believed to play a role in feeling full.  But, when they exposed the mice to THC, the POMC neurons actually started releasing an entirely different chemical: beta-endorphins, which stimulate appetite & promote cravings.  Say whhhaaat?!  It seems that marijuana is actually rewiring our brain circuitry, even if only temporarily.

Another recent study suggested that marijuana could affect the olfactory bulb in the brain, essentially making food smell much better than it usually does.  This ultimately tells us that the munchies is most likely a complex physiological response that can’t be reduced to a single set of neurons, but likely a combination of things.

Does all this munching mean weight gain?  Not necessarily.  One of the study’s other key findings is that while the POMCs are secreting appetite stimulating beta-endorphins after consuming cannabinoids, the POMCs are still producing and storing the “full feeling” chemical alpha-MSH.  Once your high wears off, the POMCs are able to release the “full feeling” chemical alpha-MSH, which could cause a rebound phase where you eat less. It sort of balances itself out & may not contribute to elevated body weight—unless you eat & smoke nonstop.

What’s your favorite munchie?  Do you ever purposely smoke so you do get the munchies & food tastes better?  If they are unwanted, how do you combat them?

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