Consider this — of the people you know who enjoy cannabis, how many of them are overweight? If you are like most people, your answer will be, “not many” or “none at all.” This may be an unscientific observation, but there are studies that indicate that people who smoke cannabis recreationally and those who use it to treat specific medical conditions tend to maintain a healthy weight.
To understand how Cannabis affects appetite, it is also necessary to understand the body’s endocannabinoid system. Our bodies are receptive to the numerous chemical components of cannabis, primarily delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) because although plant-based, they are “bio-identical” to the cannabinoids produced by our own bodies. In fact, all mammals have an endocannabinoid system. THC and CBD are recognized and used by many of the cells in our body including brain cells, (the limbic forebrain and the hypothalamus), the stomach, and the intestines. Cannabinoid receptor CB1 is located in the stomach and intestines, while Cannabinoid receptor CB2 is found in the brain.
Scientists have been studying the effects of cannabis on the appetite for many years. In patients who have cancer, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and Alzheimer’s, cannabis regulates and stimulates appetite. It could be said that it is helping patients achieve a healthier body weight by making them want to eat more, which could, in turn, have its own potential benefits.
In healthy people, certain strains of cannabis seem to suppress appetite which is a contradictory result from what we mentioned above but is caused by THC instead of CBD. THC, the cannabinoid that causes intoxication, is itself an appetite suppressant. Even though people who binge eat after consuming cannabis, they are still less likely to gain weight than those who do not use cannabis. It is thought that increases within the metabolism is responsible for this.
It seems counterintuitive that cannabis can promote both weight-loss and weight gain . This twofold quality is due to the human body’s ability to recognize the endocannabinoid properties of cannabis and to send them to the appropriate cannabinoid receptors which in turn increases appetite for those suffering from the side-effects of chemotherapy for example. Whereas it can also reduce appetite for those who struggle with cravings and overeating. Once again showing how effective our own endocannabinoid system can be when additional cannabinoids or opioids are introduced.
In two studies of adults who used cannabis at least three days a week as opposed to adults who did not use cannabis at all, users of cannabis were less likely to suffer from morbid obesity.
If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone. The results were puzzling even for scientists, but they found the answer in the ability of cannabis to counteract insulin resistance. People who are insulin resistant have cells that do not respond normally to the insulin hormone. The body requires insulin to remove excess sugar and blood glucose out of the bloodstream and cells. The pancreas produces insulin and other hormones that regulate both sugar and salt. When the body becomes insulin resistant, the pancreas works overtime to produce even more insulin but because the cells no longer react in a normal way, diabetes (type 2), can be the devastating result.
The power of cannabis to control insulin resistance cannot be underestimated. According to the American Diabetes Association, over 30 million Americans are affected by this disease. The cost of diabetes both in terms of the damage it does to the body and the treatments used to control it is staggering. Diabetes is the seventh most prevalent cause of death in this country. The tragedy is that it is a preventable disease in many cases. If the current trend in the study of cannabis’ efficacy in preventing diabetes continues, cannabis may become a treatment option that is safer than most pharmaceutical drugs used today.
While cannabis can be helpful in lowering blood sugar and plaque build-up in your arteries, it is not a miracle cure. To lose weight, you must improve your diet and start or continue an exercise program. If you want to experiment with cannabis for weight loss here are some tips:
Strains like Pineapple Purps and Doug’s Varin contain tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). THCV is an appetite suppressant that has been found to be particularly helpful for those who want to avoid binge eating and reduce cravings. Expect to feel energized and productive, not anxious or wound up. THCV has anti-anxiety properties and is sometimes used to reduce panic attacks. In addition to its appetite suppressant qualities, THCV may be helpful in preventing diabetes because it regulates blood sugar and reduces insulin-resistance. Take Pineapple Purps and Doug’s Varin in the early morning or during the day.
Both Pineapple Purps and Doug’s Varin are high in a terpene, called, “Humulene.” Terpenes are oils that are secreted with cannabinoids like CBD and THC. These oils are what give different strains of cannabis their unique scent. Humulene is also an appetite suppressant. To lose weight, consider strains that are high in THCV and Humulene.
If you want something more calming and still effective for weight loss, try a strain that contains a higher amount of CBD. These strains include Charlotte’s Web and Harlequin.
If you don’t want to smoke cannabis, try a chewable. Chewable cannabis and CBD are effective for weight loss and taste like candy. Another popular choice is juicing with the raw cannabis plant. “The chemicals THC-A and CBD-A, which change into THC and CBD once you burn them, are nutrients that help your body with cravings and hunger. These nutrients, however, are only found in the raw form of the plant.” Try these delicious smoothies.
To kickstart a weight loss regimen, some people choose to use a cannabis detox. “Like juicing, cannabis detoxes are a one-day detox that gets rid of all of the chemical toxins that are trapped in the body. These toxins attribute to bloating, diarrhea, overeating, and weight gain.”
Rid your cupboards of foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. That means getting rid of most packaged snacks that are usually laden with all these weight loss antagonists. Make sure you have healthy snacks such as apples, almonds, grapes, tuna fish, turkey slices, and hummus to stave off the munchies if they occur.
Exercise works a lot like cannabis in your brain. That runner’s high is your endocannabinoid system helping you to feel good. Go slow at first and build up your endurance, especially if you are a couch potato. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five days a week is sufficient to start out. Experiment with different cannabis strains to see which one works best for you. According to an article in Men’s Health, two 5mg cannabis chewables 30 minutes before exercise had the following beneficial effects:
Losing weight is challenging no matter what strategy you choose. You have to experiment with different strains and different methods of consuming cannabis when you first start out. Including cannabis as part of achieving your weight loss goals may help you reduce blood sugar and give you stamina, but nothing can replace a healthy diet and positive attitude. Also, be careful about exercising while high. Always consider your safety and that of others.
After a tough workout, try something relaxing like Harlequin that is high in CBD or a soothing indica. Indica strains are recommended for relaxation. They have a sedative effect and are helpful if you have insomnia or need pain relief. CBD or cannabis lotion is quite effective for sore post-workout muscle pain. To calm the mind, after taking cannabis, try Yoga or Pilates, both of which require mindful breathing exercises.
Mindfulness, a meditation practice, can be useful in many areas of your life, including if you struggle with weight loss. By catching yourself when you begin to think negatively about your body and what you are eating, you will be able to forgive yourself for occasional slips and bypass temptation more easily.
Even though there is anecdotal evidence regarding the effectiveness of cannabis in promoting weight loss, there is much more scientific research needed to discover how cannabis interacts with the brain and the digestive system. Studies performed in the last few years show promise particularly in the areas of blood sugar control and insulin resistance.