Cannabis has been known for being a substance that stimulates the appetite and it has been used to treat anorexia and other abnormal eating habits for thousands of years. Experts agree that unhealthy eating conditions are often based on psychological and physiological factors.
Classification of eating disorders
- Bulimia nervosa
It is described by the combination of binge eating and purging, as well as an excessive evaluation of corporal shape. In general, these patients consume high amount of calories in a very short time period. Afterwards laxatives, enemas, diuretics, over-exercising and self-induce vomiting are used to get rid of food.
- Anorexia nervosa (restricting type)
It is characterized by unnecessary weight loss and extreme diet restriction. The fear of being fat and the association of an irrational body image are the causes. Sometimes, the affected person hungers down to a very serious life-threatening point. Sufferers also avoid food-related activities, affecting interpersonal quality of life.
- Anorexia nervosa (binge-eating/purging type)
It is defined by people that typically do not eat large quantities of meal, yet they purge the small amount of food eaten. Besides people typically have a significant underweight. In contrast, those with bulimia tend to be within the range from normal to obese. In both circumstances the same feeling of guilt is present. Occasionally, binge-eating behaviour can be used as a means for loss body mass.
How can cannabis help with eating disorders?
Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone”, it is secreted when the stomach is empty, if the stomach is stretched, secretion stop. This hormone travels, through the blood flow, to the hypothalamus and ones here, it acts increasing gastrointestinal motility and gastric acid, preparing the body to food intake.
One of the psychoactive agents in cannabis called Tetrahidrocanabinol (THC), rises the production of ghrelin, making you hungry. In diseases such as AIDS or cancer, cannabis is already prescribed to achive this stimulation.
Thus, the use of medical cannabis can lead to a more positive perception of taste, making nutrients no longer being avoided. Finally, this drug has been proven safe and effective against nausea and vomiting.
A study showed that a significantly higher weight gain could be achieved in patients with anorexia who consumed synthetic THC (dronabinol). In some states of the USA, anorexia is one of the qualified diseases for medical cannabis programs. In conclusion, cannabis plays a very important role in the treatment of eating disorders but further studies are needed.