Get the munchies by smoking some weed. Although this stoner stereotype is often used in comedic contexts, it does a disservice to the potential efficacy of medicinal marijuana in the treatment of anorexia and bulimia. It’s well knowledge that marijuana may stimulate appetite, making it a useful treatment for preventing the malnutrition that often accompany diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer.
However, there is more to the story for the estimated 30 million Americans who may struggle with an eating problem at some point in their lives and might benefit from cannabis therapy.
The term “eating disorders” doesn’t seem to accurately describe the problem.
When it comes to eating, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that those who suffer from an eating disorder “suffer from diseases characterized by pervasive abnormalities in eating habits and associated thoughts and feelings.” These diseases include, but are not limited to:
The most prevalent kind of eating disorder in the USA is binge eating. It’s when you keep eating even after you’re full, despite the fact that it’s making you uncomfortable. Guilt and embarrassment often accompany binge eating episodes. It’s possible that this illness might bring on obesity.
Binge eating and then purging via methods like self-induced vomiting, laxatives, or compensatory behaviors like fasting or over-exercising characterize the disorder known as bulimia nervosa. People with this condition might range in weight from slightly underweight to normal or even overweight.
Though less frequent than the other two main diseases, anorexia nervosa has the greatest mortality rate of any mental illness. Affected individuals believe they are overweight while being dangerously underweight. Because of this, many starve themselves and lose a lot of weight.
Other, less prevalent eating disorders include rumination disorder, in which food is regurgitated without any compensatory actions, pica, in which non-nutritious or no-food items are consumed, and restricted food intake, in which under-eating occurs without the body image difficulties of anoxia.
DISEASES OF THE MIND AND BODY RELATED TO OVEREATING
The belief that poor choices and/or a lack of willpower are to blame for eating disorders is widespread yet incorrect. In actuality, however, these diseases are seen by the medical and mental health sectors as being caused by a number of variables, including genetics, environment, and upbringing. Eating problems have been linked to genes, according to studies. The realization that many eating disorders have both psychological and biological elements allows for the exploration of cannabis-based treatments that aim to treat both of these dimensions.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and eating problems have been shown to go hand in hand by experts in the field of mental health. Anxiety disorders and OCD both occur in over 40% of people with eating problems, according to the International OCD Foundation. It follows that treatments for anxiety and OCD may also help with eating problems.
Earlier this year, researchers published a paper with the intriguing title, “The Endocannabinoid System: A New Treatment Target for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?”
Anxiety, dread, and compulsive behaviors have been linked to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), according to a growing amount of academic and clinical studies. While some case studies show individuals whose OCD symptoms improved after being treated with cannabinoids, anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis smoking may provide some relief for people with OCD who are experiencing symptoms and anxiety.
Together, these results point to the ECS as a possible target for future innovative treatments of obsessive compulsive disorder.
Cannabis’ Effects on Appetite and Metabolism
Marijuana and cannabis derivatives may trigger some physiological changes that may mitigate both the onset and the consequences of eating disorders, in addition to their potential role in providing relief from the anxieties and compulsions often associated with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
Female patients with bulimia nervosa showed decreased endocannabinoid system activity as compared to healthy females utilizing positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Synthetic THC was administered to young women with anorexia nervosa for a period of four weeks in a separate clinical investigation. The participants benefited from a substantial weight increase after receiving this treatment.
Researchers hypothesized that changes to the endocannabinoid system, such as imbalances of anandamide and leptin, might be implicated in eating disorders, and their findings were reported in the journal Neuropyschopharmacology. (Leptin operates to regulate food intake and manage energy expenditure, while anandamide plays a function in the regulation of eating behavior.) The findings of the trials supported the hypothesized link between these imbalances and eating disorders such anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
Leptin levels and anandamide release are two processes that cannabis has been proven to influence. According to a paper published by the UCLA School of Medicine, marijuana may have a regulatory impact in addition to stimulating hunger.
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More study into marijuana’s potential impact in the leptin pathway of hunger stimulation might lead to new approaches to treating and preventing obesity.
This similar modulatory potential may be useful in resetting hunger and fullness cues, which could serve as a physical countermeasure against eating disorders like binge eating.
A phenomenon we have previously reported on at length, namely that cannabis users typically have a lower body mass index (BMI) than the general population and maintain this lower BMI despite eating a higher daily caloric intake, may be explained by marijuana’s ability to regulate key metabolic processes.
There’s mounting evidence that medical marijuana may be a useful tool for people with eating disorders, whether it’s used to calm nerves and urges to binge, increase the appetite, reset the body’s food signals, or affect the metabolic process. CannaMD promises to keep you informed of the latest developments in this area of study.