How to Avoid Getting the Munchies

How to Avoid Getting the Munchies

Published on 7/27/21

Getting high and raiding the pantry, cabinet, refrigerator and/or drive-thru to satisfy the sudden onslaught of hunger is an age-old tradition that has been glorified by pop culture. From Cheech & Chong to Harald & Kumar and Pineapple Express, food is the necessary complement to a good smoking session. When you're high everything just tastes, well, better. But what if you don't want the weed munchies? What if you want to avoid all of those extra calories that get thrown down the hatch when the cravings hit and steer clear of any chance of unpleasant heartburn and indigestion? 

Why Does Weed Give You the Munchies?


To understand why marijuana munchies are often a part of cannabis use, we need to take a look at how cannabis affects the brain and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS works to maintain the body's homeostasis that keeps a balanced internal state regardless of any external changes and influences. When cannabis is smoked, cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) attach to receptors in the brain and other parts of the body and alter how the ECS operates.
The cannabinoid receptors are so prevalent that they produce the wide dynamic of often contradictory effects that cannabis users have come to expect like changes to memory, euphoria, increased anxiety, fatigue, energy, altered judgment, and increased appetite. What prompts appetite arousal, though? Why does weed make you hungry? Why do you get the munchies specifically? 

The results of several studies have been published over the last few years that indicate a few possible reasons. A section of the brain called the hypothalamus is most likely to blame. In a 2015 study published in Nature, neuroscientists from Yale University found that a small group of neurons in the hypothalamus known as the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons are normally responsible for suppressing appetite.  

"By observing how the appetite center of the brain responds to marijuana, we were able to see what drives the hunger brought about by cannabis and how that same mechanism that normally turns off feeding becomes a driver of eating," said Tamas Horvath, Director of the Yale Program in Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism and lead author of the study. Horvath and his colleagues monitored the brain circuitry that normally promotes eating by selectively manipulating the cellular pathway that mediates marijuana's action on the brains of transgenic mice. They found that the POMC neurons that would normally turn off feeding urge switched to promote increased appetite when exposed to cannabis.

While this might be the core reason for the brain's creation of eating urges, there are also other complementary processes in play. In 2011, researchers discovered that cannabinoids affect the brain's olfactory receptors that increase smell sensitivity, making mice more inclined to want to eat. The same study confirmed that cannabinoids increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. That neurotransmitter regulates how the body experiences pleasure and is a direct link to seeking food to provide gratification and joy after consuming cannabis.

How to Not Get the Munchies When High


There is no surefire way to avoid getting the munchies but there are several options for avoiding the urge to consume everything in front of you after lighting up. (Or eating, for that matter. Do edibles give you munchies? Absolutely. The THC in edibles acts the same as in flower when activated.)

Choose your strains wisely. If you are wondering how to stop the munchies before they kick in, this is probably the best way to proceed. Search for strains with high levels of CBD and low levels of THC like Cannatonic and Lifter. CBD binds to the same receptors as THC, but tempers the signals that THC sends to the brain that prompt food cravings. Studies also indicate that the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is an appetite suppressant. Reach for high THCV strains such as Durban Poison or Platinum Girl Scout Cookies. 

  • Go to a museum, a movie, or hang out with a friend. Keeping your mind focused on something else will help you keep your mind from thinking about food. 
  • Exercise or workout. Anything that requires physical activity and focus will help to keep the munchies from taking over. 
  • Drink tea or water. Green tea and its caffeine are particularly effective against the urge to eat.
  • Keep healthy snacks around. While you might not be able to avoid the munchies fully, keeping healthy snacks in reach will help you avoid eating the entire bag of chips (again). 
  • Eat ginger. A small amount of this spicy plant is known to work as an appetite suppressant
  • Brush your teeth or swish with mouthwash. These simple activities will leave your mouth feeling fresh and clean and make you less likely to want to ruin the freshness by eating.

If they cannot be avoided, you can at least change the munchies meaning when you smoke marijuana. Work toward focusing on creating healthy munchies when high by planning your post-smoke eating frenzy ahead of time. Select foods that are healthy and good for you and avoid junk foods and candy.

Updated: 1/23/2023

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Goeff Caldwell
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