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How Food Intake Impacts Cannabis Consumption and Effects

November 24, 2020 11:30 am ET
How Food Intake Impacts Cannabis Consumption and Effects

Being a regular cannabis consumer, you get used to conversations around the best ways to consume cannabis which may include things like “eating food before consuming cannabis will leave you with lesser effects” but more often than not, the truth to cannabis is more complicated. In light of such conversations, let’s discuss whether one should eat food before or after consuming cannabis. While eating before or after cannabis consumption is going to be relative to each individual, it also depends on multiple factors. 

How the Brain Controls Appetite

When we get hungry, our body lets us know that it is time to eat. Your body sends signals to the brain that the stomach is in need of some fuel, which is when you start to feel your stomach growl or the hunger pangs. The hypothalamus is that part of the brain partly responsible for controlling hunger, glucose levels, and how empty your stomach and intestines are experienced. Feeling hungry is a normal sensation that makes you want to eat and when you do so, you experience feelings of fullness which means your stomach has been satisfied. After eating, your brain receives signals indicating that your body is full. The hypothalamus is also partly in control of feelings of fullness. When you find yourself desiring or wanting for food, it is called having an appetite. Appetite is usually stimulated after having seen, smelt, or thinking of food. You can even have an appetite after your body is already feeling full. Now that you have a basic understanding of feeling hungry, full, and having an appetite, let’s look at the relation between eating and cannabis. 

How Cannabis Stimulates Appetite

In order to understand the effects of eating food before or after consuming cannabis, one needs to understand how cannabis stimulates appetite, which then gives us the munchies (the desire to eat…and a lot). Our bodies are filled with endocannabinoids located in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for maintaining harmony in the body including regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. When we consume cannabis, its cannabinoids stimulate appetite, even if you were full before consuming cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a cannabinoid that binds to the ECS, which then stimulates the ghrelin hormone, which is responsible for making you feel hungry. When our stomachs are empty, it sends the ghrelin hormone to the brain to send an “I’m hungry” message.

 

Additionally, the cannabinoids influence the olfactory bulb, which is the primary smell portion of our brains. This means that the THC stimulates the olfactory bulb to enhance your sense of smell. This is significant because the sense of smell is directly related to hunger and they can’t be separated. The munchies brought on by cannabis can also speed up the metabolism, which means that you would not gain weight with the extra eating. In fact, cannabis consumers have been recorded as having smaller waist sizes than those who don’t consume cannabis, despite eating more. 

So now that we know cannabis stimulates appetite after consumption, especially when THC is involved, is it better to eat before or after cannabis consumption? Let’s find out.  

Eating Before or After Cannabis Consumption

There is no straightforward answer as to whether we should eat before or after consuming cannabis. The food you eat before or after consuming cannabis can influence the effects of cannabis depending on what the food is made of. The chemical composition of cannabis strains varies which also impacts the manner in which you respond to its consumption, the same can be said for any kind of food you consume. 

Eating Before Cannabis Consumption Eating After Cannabis Consumption
Eating before cannabis consumption can prevent the adverse effects of feeling light-headed from hunger, which can worsen after cannabis consumption since it stimulates appetite.  Smoking before eating can lead to munchies, which seem to never come to an end for some. 
There is a general consensus that smoking on an empty stomach would enhance the “high” but many people consuming cannabis are only after the medical benefits. Eating before smoking would then reduce the high but still allows for the medical benefits to be given- assuming the individual does not need immediate action.   This article suggests that for the goal of medicinal purposes, cannabis taken orally should be taken before eating, so that it may serve its purpose faster. 
Eating food before consuming cannabis in the form of an edible would mean that the edible takes longer to kick in since the digestive system is already processing what was in the stomach already.  Smoking before eating can stimulate the senses, making the food more appetizing and enjoyable. Eating after smoking cannabis may reduce the “high” but there are foods that can also improve the high.
This study found that eating food high in fat can increase the absorption rates of the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD). Which is largely used for its medical benefits.  Eating after smoking can mean that your body processes the food faster as the metabolism is sped up and that you can eat more, without fear of gaining extra weight from the increased food intake.  

Its’ all circumstantial, which means that there will be times when eating before is better, while there are times were eating after is better. But whether to eat before or after cannabis largely depends upon:

  • Why you are consuming cannabis.
  • How hungry you are before deciding to eat or consume cannabis first.
  • What food you have decided to eat.
  • What form of cannabis are you consuming.

Foods Which Can Boost the Effects of Cannabis

The following foods have been reported to enhance the effects of cannabis when eaten after consuming cannabis. They also serve as healthy munchie options as opposed to the usual junk food preferred by many regular cannabis consumers. 

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

Perhaps the biggest question is, does food intake impact the absorption of cannabinoids? For instance, if one was to eat too much food, would the cannabinoids be absorbed in the same or smaller quantities? Let’s explore.

Food Intake Impact on Cannabinoid Absorption

A study found that eating before consuming THC can impact the absorption, which then impacts the effects and duration. The same study found that consuming a high-fat meal delayed the onset of THC but that it enhanced the overall effects. This study did not mention whether eating too much would impact absorption but they did mention that being in a fasted condition allowed for quicker cannabinoid absorption, but with lesser effects. 

Unfortunately, there is no research available at this time that is specifically focused on the impact of food intake on cannabinoids, in the sense of eating too much or not enough. However, there is enough research to know that fatty-foods paired with cannabis consumption delivers the best effects, although delayed. It is also probable that cannabinoid absorption will be impacted by your body weight, what you eat and the foods’ fatty content as well as what cannabis strain you are consuming, and how you consume it. So, if you ate too much food before consuming cannabis, the effects of the cannabinoids may be delayed but could be boosted if your food was fatty. 

It is best to hone in on what your body is telling you to do. If you are hungry before consuming cannabis, it may be wise to eat before consuming cannabis to avoid any feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness. If you want to boost the rate of your metabolism, smoking after could be the way to go but if it’s the munchies you’re after, smoking before eating would be best. Ultimately, you need to decide what you’re after and what your personal preference is. Finding your preference may necessitate some experimentation but hopefully, this article provides you with some guidance on whether to try eating before or after consumption. You may even find that eating something before and after is more satisfactory to your personal preferences. 

We would love to know what your experience is with eating before or after cannabis in the comment section below!

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