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Medical Marijuana for Eating Disorders

  • Preliminary studies show that medical marijuana may help improve symptoms associated with eating disorders—particularly anorexia—through appetite stimulation and revitalizing the area of the brain responsible for relating food to satisfaction.
  • Marijuana can also ease the symptoms of anxiety, stress disorders, and other mental health conditions that may contribute to eating disorders.

Disordered eating casts a shadow over your daily life, but there is a path toward healing. With different tools, you can manage your symptoms and develop a healthier mindset surrounding food. Medical marijuana can be one of these tools.

Despite its negative media attention over the last century, medical marijuana boasts a storied history as a medicinal plant. Records on marijuana in medical settings date back to 2700 B.C.E., and communities across the globe have extensively documented its use.

Marijuana helps ease anxiety and fights other cognitive stressors linked to disordered eating. It’s also known to increase appetite, making it a potentially potent item in the arsenal against appetite loss and food restriction.

Today, we’ll look at the psychology behind disordered eating and how it ties to the use of medical marijuana for mental health.

Read on to see how marijuana can serve you through your healing journey and how you can start the medical marijuana card application process.

What to Know About Eating Disorders

The American Psychiatric Association defines an eating disorder as an illness causing disturbances in the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions around eating.

The three most well-known eating disorders are:

woman holding a tape measure

  • Anorexia nervosa: This disorder causes physical wasting and food restriction. Many people living with anorexia view themselves as overweight, despite being extremely underweight in actuality. This disorder, unfortunately, can be fatal.
  • Bulimia nervosa: This disorder involves episodes of binge eating followed by purging. Patients often overeat to the point of discomfort and then purge through self-induced vomiting, laxatives, periods of fasting, or over-exercise.
  • Binge eating: This is the most common eating disorder in America. It involves periods of excessive eating beyond the point of fullness, potentially to the point of pain. It’s often accompanied by intense feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

While cannabis isn’t always the best choice for people living with bulimia or binge eating (due to the nature of binge eating), preliminary studies focused on anorexia patients do show promise.

Medical Marijuana for Mental Health

There’s a high overlap between eating disorders and other mental health disorders, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Medicines targeting these issues—like medical marijuana—may also impact disordered eating. It’s a two-bird, one-stone scenario: treat one condition, and you may see improvement in both.

Historically, people have used marijuana to:

  • Ease feelings of stress
  • Reduce their anxiety levels
  • Address symptoms of panic disorders
  • Relieve symptoms of PTSD and other stress-related disorders

On top of that, research also shows that marijuana rekindles lost connections in the brain that incentivize proper eating. This research suggests that bulimia and anorexia may be tied to a chemical imbalance that reduces the fulfillment associated with eating.

To many, eating disorders are a way to control their bodies. This need for control can come from stress, anxiety, depression, or another mental health struggle. Understanding and treating the underlying issue may combat the effects of an eating disorder, too.

Ties Between Marijuana and Eating

The study referenced above also explores the endocannabinoid system: a network that processes natural cannabinoids found in the body and in marijuana.

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for:

  • Turning nerve signals that manage pain on and off
  • Altering and affecting your mood
  • Changing feeding behaviors and regulating your appetite

People with bulimia and anorexia have lower endocannabinoid activity levels in the area of the brain called the insula. The insula controls how hungry you feel. It also integrates the sensory experiences of eating—touch, taste, scent, sight, and sound—with feelings of fullness, satisfaction, and pleasure.

In short: people with eating disorders don’t feel rewarded by eating, making them more likely to develop unhealthy eating habits.

Another study posited that cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) play a role in food uptake, identifying a tie between imbalances of anandamide and leptin and eating disorders. Taking marijuana to increase these chemicals could stimulate your appetite. It could even regulate how your mind views the experience of eating and change it to a more positive one.

Cannabis and Appetite Stimulation

Marijuana users often experience “the munchies.”

Here are a few things to know about this phenomenon:

  • “The munchies” refers to an appetite increase that makes you more likely to kick back and grab a snack.
  • Many users claim that food tastes better and feels more satisfying to eat once marijuana takes effect.
  • Researchers still don’t fully understand the science behind the munchies, but new studies show that the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) activates your appetite after you smoke marijuana.

As studies narrow in on the exact parts of the brain affected by marijuana use, it’ll be even easier for researchers to unlock more of its secrets (and potential clinical applications) in the future.

Your Medical Marijuana Card

You’ve seen what marijuana can do for you, so what’s the next step? Applying for your medical marijuana card. Without it, you won’t be able to legally buy marijuana in Louisiana or any state with medical legalization only. (While Louisiana doesn’t issue physical medical cards, we’ll still use this term going forward.)

Today’s patients have access to tools and partners that can help them get the care they need: Cue TeleLeaf. We build a bridge between you and cannabis-informed providers who are ready and willing to be your advocate during the application process.

TeleLeaf offers:

  • One-on-one medical marijuana care and consultation—including a recommendation for medical cannabis—if you’re a good fit
  • Application support in states that require it
  • Treatment, advice, and recommendations without judgment or bias

Say goodbye to potential stigma: at TeleLeaf, you’ll have support through every step.

How a Community Is Healing

The disordered eating community is vibrant, strong, and full of survivors. The same can be said for the community of medical cannabis patients, many of whom have shared stories, support, and suggestions for others living through the same situations.

Marijuana users testify that taking cannabis:

  • Reduces swelling
  • Combats nerve pain
  • Lowers anxiety
  • Eases symptoms of stress-based disorders

Others note healing their relationships with intuitive eating and food thanks to medical marijuana.

woman at the beach eating watermelonOne woman speaks of her struggles with disordered eating: After trying marijuana for the first time for anxiety, she also found herself craving food without guilt for the first time in years. Through continued use of marijuana, she’s now reached a point where she can eat three meals a day and maintain a healthy weight.

Some marijuana supporters say they have a clearer picture of their health when they’re high. People living with anorexia report seeing their unhealthy thinness for what it is. Others use marijuana to draw their focus away from anxious thoughts during mealtime.

Others report that marijuana breaks them out of a mental rut or negative cycle. It illuminates the toxicity in their thought patterns.

And it’s not all in your head, either. A study showed that anorexia patients who took a synthetic THC pill for four weeks gained a pound and a half more than the patients on placebos. This shows wonderful promise for crucial weight gain. All in all, anecdotal evidence leans in marijuana’s favor.

Start Healing with TeleLeaf

Countless patients are already using medical marijuana for mental health with great success. It stimulates appetite, repairs the connections between joy and eating in the brain, and eases symptoms of anxiety and stress.

If this sounds like something you want to try and you’re ready to take the next step, it’s time to apply for your medical marijuana card.

TeleLeaf will walk with you every step of this journey. We host a vibrant and positive community of medical marijuana users, all finding their path to a whole and healed self.

Don’t worry about going on your journey alone. With us, you’ll have support from a caring community of patients who have been in your shoes before. Connect with a provider and discover what medical cannabis can do for your mind, body, and health.


Sources:

Americans for Safe Access. Patient’s History of Medical Cannabis
https://www.safeaccessnow.org/patients_history_of_medical_cannabis

American Psychiatric Association. What are Eating Disorders?
https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders

Journal of Eating Disorders. The Relationship Between Cannabis and Anorexia Nervosa: A Scoping Review
https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40337-023-00887-9

Psychology Today. The Connection Between Anorexia, Bulimia, and Marijuana
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-food/201204/the-connection-between-anorexia-bulimia-and-marijuana

Forbes. New Study Explains Why Cannabis Causes The ‘Munchies’
https://www.forbes.com/sites/dariosabaghi/2024/01/18/new-study-explains-why-cannabis-causes-the-munchies/?sh=5f0a69464ea0

VICE. Should Weed Be Used to Treat Eating Disorders?
https://www.vice.com/en/article/wd7jwx/should-weed-be-used-to-treat-eating-disorders-511

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