Does CBD Make You Hungry - Can it Increase Appetite?
This is a common question we get but and generally from two different directions.
Many people are worried about weight and assume that CBD might be like THC in terms of increasing appetite.
Others are dealing with health issues where they don't want to reduce appetite.
Let's face it...the majority are in the first camp (I'm a camp leader) so let's get into what research is showing for CBD and hunger.
The actual results are much more nuanced as we'll see below.
We'll cover these areas below:
- The players of appetite
- Does CBD make you hungry
- CBD versus THC for appetite
- What does CBD do to appetite
- CBD and food "addiction"
- Can CBD cause bloating
- Best CBD for appetite suppression or stimulation
Let's get into now!
The players of appetite
Before we look at CBD, we have to get acquainted with the chemicals in our brain and body that drive appetite.
What we're going to find is that an imbalance of these players can drive a great deal of issues with either too much or too little appetite.
Of course, a balance is ideal (and that's the exciting piece with CBD).
Most of these players are hormones that operate in cycles:
- Ghrelin - hormone that stimulates hunger (and release of neuropeptide Y)
- Leptin - hormones that stimulates satiety or feeling full
- Neuropeptide Y - the messenger of hunger - "Eat NOW!"
- These are higher-up managers with a range of different players (especially in the gut) that fine-tune the process.
The key point is this:
The regulation of feeding, energy intake and expenditure, and body weight is a homeostatic process
Homeostatic just means one that's based on balance.
There may be ebbs and flows (hungry and full) but always back to balance when the system is working correctly.
That's really important for our discussion since the endocannabinoid system (where CBD operates) is tasked with balancing other key systems:
- Nervous system - neurotransmitters like GABA (see CBD and GABA) or Serotonin (CBD and Serotonin)
- Immune system - inflammatory agents
- Endocrine system - Hormones!!! Leptin, Ghrelin, Neuropeptide Y, etc!
I hope you caught the last one. It's our wheelhouse for hunger.
As for endocannabinoid system and appetite:
It is now confirmed that endocannabinoids, acting at brain CB1 cannabinoid receptors, stimulate appetite and ingestive behaviors, partly through interactions with more established orexigenic and anorexigenic signals.
- Orexigenetic just means to increase appetite
- Anorexigenic means to decrease appetite
Those "signals" are the players we talked about above plus a cascade of bit roles (mainly in the gut).
Interestingly, the master control hub for most of this resides in the hypothalamus within our brain.
It's an almond-shaped part of our "reptilian" brain...the oldest regions evolutionarily speaking.
Of course, basic pathways of survival like hunger will be there!
We share it with all other living animals.
Really, hunger is just a middle-man for energy and there's an even more complicated system that governs energy production and usage (see Will CBD make me feel tired).
In theory, fat cells should release leptin when there's sufficient energy which signals to the hypothalamus (master controller) to cut-off hunger by releasing ghrelin.
That's the feedback system and when it goes awry, we can have issues with appetite.
Remember...the goal is balance.
Obviously, this is simplistic with many other issues at play:
- Issues such as diabetes or thyroid problems (which skew the signaling for appetite)
- Stress and anxiety
- Many medications (such as SSRIs - see CBD versus SSRIs) can affect appetite
That last one is especially important as we'll see below.
Let's get to the question at hand and we'll cover other related topics.
Does CBD make you hungry
The answer from research is No. Depending on your state.
This is a really important fact to look at since it pops up across many different pathways.
For example with cancer:
- Healthy cell with low inflammation - CBD has no effect
- Healthy cell with high inflammation - CBD is anti-inflammatory
- Cancerous cell - CBD INCREASES inflammation!
Understand that a spike in inflammation is how the body naturally kills cancerous (and more important, pre-cancerous) cells.
That's essentially what chemo and radiation do...a massive spike in inflammation or ROS (See CBD and inflammation here).
So...what about the hungry side of things?
Studies on other issues (depression, seizures, etc) have shown that in general, CBD reduces appetite.
An open-label trial with 214 patients suffering from treatment-resistant epilepsy showed decreased appetite in 32 cases.
There are other studies that show a mixed result between increase or decrease.
Again...depending on the state.
Interestingly, big Pharma tried to cash in on this effect of CBD with the drug rimonabant which is essentially a synthetic version of CBD that can be patented.
What's is the main effect?
It's an anti-obesity, anorectic drug!
Loss of appetite and weight loss.
Don't rush out and ask for it since it had a nasty side profile (which CBD isolate does not have).
The means of action is similar but different is a subtle way in terms of activity on CB1 receptors (the primary signal pathway for endocannabinoids we naturally have in our nervous system).
- Rimonabant would block CB1 activity. It's a CB1 antagonist.
- CBD is called a CB1 inverse agonist. (we'll explain...we promise).
This means that it sends signal BACKWARDS to work like a feedback system...a constraint on both the low and high side of a given pathway.
This speaks to why you can't overdose on CBD (or it hasn't been recorded yet with studies up to 1500 mg (although 300 mg is showing as ideal maximum level for neurogenesis and other pathways).
Also, chronic use and high doses up to 1,500 mg/day of CBD are reportedly well tolerated in humans.
A great way to explain the difference is to look at CBD's cousin, THC, in terms of appetite.
You know...the munchies for cannabis.
CBD versus THC for appetite
We've compared the differences between these two cousin in-depth here:
- CBD versus THC for anxiety
- Why you need CBD to offset TCH
- Do you need THC to activate CBD
In most pathways, they have quite opposite effects.
These two cannabinoids have opposing effects both pharmacologically and behaviorally when administered in the laboratory.
What about appetite?
First, THC directly plugs into that CB1 receptor above.
As a result, you would expect it to increase appetite.
It has been known for decades that marijuana causes the “munchies,” i.e., a hunger for palatable food, and for more than 10 y that endocannabinoids (eCBs), in some ways marijuana's counterpart in the organism, are orexigenic mediators
Goodness...let's translate that.
Essentially, THC mimics a naturally occurring chemical called Anandamide in our brain.
That's really the basis for its effect...substitute for Anandamide.
Why does that matter for appetite?
Anandamide is called the "bliss' molecule, named after Anand, the goddess of Bliss.
Guess how it feels?
It's the basis for orgasms (see CBD and orgasms), runner's high, and a range of calming and pleasurable effects.
THC plugs into CB1 receptors just like anandamide and causes a (temporary) spike of "bliss".
Mother nature is pretty good at repurposing established tools and creates "pleasure" around eating to stimulate hunger.
THC mimics (with a turbo boost) this effect:
Cannabinoid drugs such as Delta9-THC are euphoric and rewarding, and also stimulate food intake in humans and animals.
Euphoric just means pleasurable.
Researchers can literally make good tasting things more pleasurable by injecting Anandamide into the hypothalamus:
Anandamide doubled the number of positive 'liking' reactions elicited by intraoral sucrose, without altering negative 'disliking' reactions to bitter quinine.
Before you go out and buy THC products for dinner, the brain's no fool.
It sees this artificial spike and will try to offset it by naturally suppressing CB1 activity!
With long term or chronic use, this a recipe for bliss disaster.
You're essentially borrowing from tomorrow's bliss!
So that's THC...what about CBD?
Let's look at the THC appetite increasing angle to show CBD's effect.
What does CBD do to appetite
An interesting study looked at ratios of THC to CBD for appetite and hunger.
As we noted, THC increases appetite.
The study found an interesting effect with high versus low CBD in cannabis.
When intoxicated, smokers of high CBD : THC strains showed a reduced attentional bias to drug and food stimuli compared with smokers of low CBD : THC.
Where THC increases the "liking" of food, CBD offset this effect.
We're not surprised as we see this opposing effect across many pathways.
They went on to say that CBD may be helpful in THC addiction (as well as other substances - see CBD and addiction here or CBD to help when you're greening out).
It essentially blunts the boost of CB1 activity from THC.
Remember how we said it acts as a constraint on the lower and upper bounds of many pathways?
Let's turn our attention to a powerful pathway CBD affects for appetite.
And you thought it was just for feeling good. Serotonin.
CBD and serotonin for appetite
We covered serotonin in-depth here:
- CBD versus SSRIs for serotonin
- A comprehensive view of CBD and serotonin
- Does CBD boost serotonin
The net net of all those reviews and the underlying NIH research is that CBD both supports and normalizes serotonin function.
Why does this matter for appetite?
Serotonin is nature's own appetite suppressant. This powerful brain chemical curbs cravings and shuts off appetite. It makes you feel satisfied even if your stomach is not full. The result is eating less and losing weight.
When my doctor put me on Lexapro (after a 10-minute consult) due to punishing perimenopause (see CBD for perimenopause), something interesting happened on my way to Serotonin Syndrome (way too much seroton
Nothing tasted good or felt good. Nothing. Food. sex. Just flatline.
That's Serotonin syndrome till it gets much worse.
Researchers have even pinpointed how serotonin (a master regulator) does this:
The study, which tested the effect of several drugs that alter serotonin levels in the brain, found that serotonin activates some neurons and melanocortin-4 receptors, or MC4Rs, to curb appetite and at the same time blocks other neurons that normally act to increase appetite.
This was partially the basis for fen-phen's appetite suppressing effect till it was found to be dangerous.
Now, the other side can be linked to depression, anxiety, and non-stop eating!
In fact, if you crave starchy, sugary foods, this may be a work-around push by the brain for more serotonin.
These substances are needed to transport tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier where it's the primary source of serotonin.
We covered Tryptophan and anxiety in-depth as it may act as resilience support in times of stress.
Check it out. Also, ladies...estradiol is a major supporter of serotonin which as we covered in our CBD and perimenopause weight gain here.
When estradiol goes, serotonin drops and appetite can increase.
Of course, appetite is only one pathway under the control of serotonin.
Almost all human behavior finds control there.
Read the reviews to see how CBD has been shown to boost serotonin when low but not too much (to serotonin syndrome).
Let's look at the addiction side of appetite.
CBD and food "addiction"
Remember how anandamide increases the pleasure of food. THC mimics this effect.
CBD is showing powerful effects across a range of addiction since the basis pathways are similar and involve the following:
- Normalization - spikes in key neurotransmitters which causes the brain to suppress those pathways
- Dopamine interaction - the "do that again" neurotransmitter is targetted
- Withdrawal - negative effects after the drug wears off and base level is increasingly suppressed (the normalization above)
- "Lock-in" pathways and an inability to re-wire the brain around the behavior.
The last one is really fascinating as some drugs actually go after the "plasticity" of the brain so it's hard to un-learn them.
This is similar to PTSD's effect.
CBD and addiction gives a broader review.
What about CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most abundant component of cannabis, is thought to modulate various neuronal circuits involved in drug addiction.
That's the normalization piece.
We also look at dopamine balancing in our CBD and schizophrenia review.
New studies are showing powerful effects on CBD and opioid withdrawal:
Study Finds CBD Can Help Dampen Cravings For Opioids, Potentially Adding Weapon In Fight Against Crisis
Finally, the brain plasticity piece. The ability to learn new tricks.
Maybe the most fascinating review is on Psilocybin and addiction here.
Let's look at practical questions now.
Can CBD cause bloating
CBD isolate (CBD by itself) does not show bloating or GI issues as a side effect.
However, the market is really pushing full spectrum CBD generally in hemp oil.
That's a totally different deal as many people may be allergic to plant material there and/or the small amount of THC allowed.
We don't want any THC unless we're trying to increase appetite and even then, the trade-offs are not great.
Many people complain of bloating or GI issues with full-spectrum which go away with CBD isolate.
That's why we focus on isolate where everyone's selling full spectrum.
40-60% of the population has histamine or allergy issues and all that plant material is not going to feel great.
That brings up a good question.
Best CBD for appetite suppression or stimulation
Some basic requirements:
- Organically grown in an FDA registered farm
- CO2 processed
- 3rd party tested:
- NO THC
- No pesticides
- No heavy metals
- No bacteria
- No mold
We test ours twice since our whole family uses it.
Research points to pure CBD isolate to suppress appetite (via serotonin and hormone balancing).
What about stimulating appetite?
Researchers are looking at THC for this but using CBD to temper its negatives:
There are strong indications that cannabis is better tolerated than THC alone because cannabis contains several additional cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD), which antagonize the psychotropic actions of THC but do not inhibit the appetite-stimulating effect.
This is for cachexia or wasting disease which generally occurs after another disease such as cancer or HIV.
Anorexia is a whole different deal. There's isn't much research on CBD there but psilocybin (review here) may be a fascinating option there.
Check out CBD and negative thoughts or rumination for more research on the psychological side there.
We also covered CBD and perimenopause appetite to get into the hormonal effects.
One note...the max level of CBD for neurogenesis is showing at 300 mg which is key to re-wiring brain pathways.
A test dosage is closer to 25-30 mg to see how your body responds and the level may be lower for you so test how your system responds.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.