You may be familiar with the term munchies, commonly associated with the use of cannabis or marijuana products. The specific compound contained in cannabis products that is largely responsible for stimulating appetite and causing food cravings is the cannabinoid called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Most CBD products do not contain more than 0.3% THC as this is the maximum legal amount allowed in any CBD product because of the psychoactive side-effects attributed to THC. This tiny amount of THC is believed to have little to no effects – including causing the munchies. However, there are a number of other cannabinoids in cannabis that may also have appetite-stimulating qualities – primarily CBD. So, is it possible for CBD and the other cannabinoids that are present in CBD products to act as an appetite stimulant?
Let’s first look at how appetite works and how it can be regulated and controlled:
How Does Appetite Work?
Hunger is one of the most basic survival instincts and is therefore primarily controlled by the brain. It tells us when we need to eat as well as what we need. When there is an intense craving for certain foods, it shows that the body may have a deficiency in a certain essential nutrient that is contained in that food.
Although appetite and hunger go hand-in-hand, they are different. Appetite refers to wanting to eat rather than needing to eat – like with hunger. It determines what we like to eat, when we eat, and how much we eat. But just like hunger, appetite is controlled by the brain.
The release of certain chemicals act on neurotransmitters in the brain to tell us when we are hungry and what we feel like eating. These chemicals may directly stimulate appetite or may encourage the production of other chemicals in the body such as Ghrelin.
However, other factors may also influence appetite. Mood, emotions, and feelings can all affect whether we want to eat or not and the type of foods that we crave. For example, eating comfort food is often associated with a sad event or a more serious mental health condition, depression. Anxiety, fear, and stress can all suppress appetite.
Environmental factors such as sights, smells, and even sound can also affect appetite. Healthy, happy people most often have a healthy appetite whereas those who are suffering from health or mental conditions may have a poor appetite.
CBD’s Potential as an Appetite Stimulant
How Might CBD Affect Appetite?
Of all the potential effects of CBD on the brain and body, its potential effect on appetite is one of the factors that has received a large amount of attention. However, there is still much to be learned about how exactly CBD might affect appetite.
Currently, CBD is thought to work with both CB-1 and CB-2 receptors that form part of the endocannabinoid system in the human body. CB-1 receptors are found in the brain, central nervous system (CNS), and throughout the body. CB-2 receptors focus on the immune and gastrointestinal systems of the body.
CBD’s Effect on CB-1 Receptors
How might CBD act on the CB-1 receptors in order to increase appetite? There are three different ways in which CBD may stimulate CB-1 transmitters in the brain and CNS:
- CBD may encourage the production of a hormone called Ghrelin which is associated with creating hunger. Ghrelin production is stimulated by the release of chemicals that act on neurotransmitters in the brain.
- CBD could potentially increase Dopamine production which is associated with the reward system in the brain. Eating is rewarding and therefore appetite is often increased along with increased Dopamine production.
- CBD may act on the serotonin receptors (5-HT) in order to regulate mood and therefore appetite. Mood often affects appetite. Sadness and depression can either result in a lack of appetite or increased cravings for comfort foods.
There is however some research that shows that CBD may not bind with CB-1 receptors and therefore cannot have the same appetite-stimulating effects as THC which only binds with CB-1 receptors. However, the latest research has shown that although CBD may not bind directly with CB-1 receptors, it can do so indirectly which might allow it to act as an appetite stimulant.
CBD’s Effect on CB-2 Receptors
How might CBD act on the CB-2 receptors in order to increase appetite? The CB-2 receptors that form part of the endocannabinoid system are commonly associated with the body’s immune system and therefore general health and well-being. However, these receptors are found dispersed throughout the gastrointestinal system and play a role in every aspect of eating and digestion including:
- Saliva production which is the start of the digestive process and is often stimulated when feeling hungry.
- Production of stomach acid.
- Peristalsis, which is the contraction and relaxation of the various digestive tracts in order to move food and stool along these tracts.
- Increases the absorption of essential food groups (protein, carbohydrates, fats) and nutrients including vitamins and minerals.
Other Ways CBD May Act as an Appetite Stimulant
Due to the fact that CBD may act on both the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, there are many other ways that the compound might have the potential to increase appetite:
- Mood has a direct relation to appetite and affects how and what we crave and therefore eat. A good mood or positive feelings and emotions can often stimulate appetite and vice versa. On the other hand, negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, and depression can reduce appetite.
- CBD may have the ability to reduce the symptoms of nausea and vomiting that have a negative impact on appetite. Nausea and/or vomiting can be the result of a health condition, medication, or other medical treatments and procedures. Research has found that it might have a significant impact on the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite that are often associated with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
- May help to reduce bloating and symptoms of indigestion such as acid reflux and constipation in order to increase appetite.
- May help regulate digestive health allowing food to be digested faster and more efficiently in order to stimulate appetite for the next meal.
Can CBD Suppress Appetite?
When CBD acts on the CB-1 receptors which are primarily located in the brain, it may have a regulatory effect and therefore could act either as an agonist or antagonist. An agonist binds to neuro-receptors in the brain to promote or stimulate the production of certain chemicals and hormones in the body. An antagonist has the opposite effect, slowing or preventing the production of chemicals and hormones.
In some cases, where excessive eating is of concern, CBD may help to reduce the production of Ghrelin (and therefore the feelings of hunger) and increase chemicals that are released to tell the body that it is full. This process may significantly reduce appetite.
This suggests that CBD products may be used as an appetite suppressant and result in weight loss in some cases. However, the compound is primarily advised to help stimulate appetite rather than act as a weight loss supplement.
Why Is Stimulating Appetite Important?
The human body needs nutrients to survive and thrive. These nutrients are made up of the three food groups as well as essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
The three food groups include:
- Proteins which are primarily the building blocks used to create each cell and build muscle and tissue.
- Carbohydrates which provide the fuel or energy to enable the body and brain to function optimally.
- Fats that aid in gastrointestinal function as well as the function of many other organs and systems within the body.
Vitamins and minerals (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc.) play a vital role in assisting the body, as well as the three food groups, with all the different systems in the body and functions of these systems. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can have a dire effect on overall health and well being.
A healthy appetite ensures that all three food groups and the other essential nutrients are consumed and absorbed by the body for overall health. CBD may have the ability to work with the brain and body to help stimulate appetite, improve digestion, and the absorption of essential nutrients.
This becomes especially important when the body is suffering from a health condition or is healing and recuperating from an injury. In the case of cancer, where lack of appetite is often a symptom of the disease as well as a side-effect of treatments, good nutrition is absolutely essential in order to fight the disease. Reducing the symptoms of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients has shown to be beneficial to their recovery and remission.
The Brain-Gut Connection
Recent research has firmly established a clear link between the gut (gastrointestinal system) and the brain. The above information suggests that if CBD stimulates Dopamine and Serotonin production, it may lead to increased appetite. However, what most people don’t know is that this process works in reverse.
A happy gut makes for a happier person. Ways to improve digestion and overall gastrointestinal health are now being used to help manage depression. The potential benefits of CBD for the gut and digestion may indirectly help with symptoms of depression, creating a cycle where happiness leads to improved appetite which results in better gastrointestinal health which makes you happier.
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