How medical marijuana can affect your digestion

One of the medically less known effects of medical marijuana is the effect it can have on your digestion and appetite in general. Although you might be familiar with the term ‘munchies’, referring to the insatiable appetite you might experience when using cannabis, there are also other, less know medical effects of cannabis on your digestion.

Feeling hungry?

The most profound effect of using medical effect might be the ‘munchies’, which is caused by the stimulation of a hunger hormone called ghrelin by THC, the substance in marijuana that gives you a ‘high’ feeling. Ghrelin is what causes you to feel hungry, and drives you to find food. This is not the whole story however: besides making you feel hungry by releasing ghrelin THC also releases dopamine, which you might know as the ‘pleasure hormone’. The release of dopamine combined with the release of ghrelin causes you to get more pleasure from eating food. This is why patients with a wasting syndrome (the high loss of muscle and fat tissue due to some condition such as HIV or cancer) will get described synthetic THC, in order to get them to eat enough.

Effects on stomach acid

There are some studies that have shown that THC can reduce stomach acid, such as a study from the 1970s that found that those using cannabis more than twice a week had lowered stomach acid output. For some this might be beneficial, but most healthy people do not need the acidic level of their stomach lowered. There is surprisingly little research done on this topic and so it is difficult to know the actual impact of medical marijuana usage on stomach acid.

Intestinal inflammation

Medical marijuana is also a well-known treatment for intestinal inflammation. The herb reduces the inflammation and helps calms intestinal cramping. All this is great news for those with intestinal diseases such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease. An added bonus for these patients is that the usage of medical marijuana also would help with weight gain, which is often needed for patients with intestinal issues. The fact that medical marijuana helps with diarrhea-like symptoms does however means that is less effective in stopping constipation. Most studies point to marijuana in fact slowing down motility (the ability of your digestive tract to move food through your body).

Feeling nauseous?

Another well-known effect of marijuana is its potent anti-nausea effects. Because medical marijuana has such a profound effect on the central nervous system it is also capable of calming down nauseous feelings. This makes marijuana a very useful drug for helping cancer patients during chemotherapy. There are however also some signs that THC might actually induce nausea and vomiting, with signs pointing to the way it is processed in your liver as the culprit. There also some early signs of a disease called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which is caused by long term marijuana usage. Patients suffering from CHS experience recurrent, severe bouts of vomiting and nausea, but the actual cause of this illness has not yet been determined. There are signs that it is linked to long term marijuana usage, but there is not enough research to actually confirm this.


So to sum up: marijuana can be used to treat a number of different digestive issues. Most prominently is the usage of marijuana in order to gain weight, but other medical uses such as lowering stomach acid or treating intestinal inflammation are also becoming more popular. It is always important to keep these effects of marijuana in mind, even if you are not suffering from any of the conditions written above. And if you are suffering from some of the conditions described here it is certainly worth your while to talk to your doctor about using medical marijuana.