You’ve just finished smoking a joint and suddenly you aren’t feeling so good. Your stomach is distended, and you’re wondering what’s going on. You were hoping cannabis was going to make you feel better, but now you’re feeling terrible, and you’re wondering— could it be the cannabis causing that bloated feeling?
While bloating isn’t a particularly well-known side effect from using cannabis, it can happen. Cannabis consumers have reported a variety of unpleasant gastric side effects when they use cannabis, especially when smoking.
“I’ve experienced severe bloating in my abdomen every time I use cannabis, especially if I smoke it,” says one user. “It’s like my stomach swells up like a balloon and feels like it’s going to pop. I’m feeling the pressure in my chest now, too.”
This user’s experience isn’t unique. Others chimed in with similar accounts of bloating in the stomach, which sometimes affects even the chest and throat. So, what could be the cause of this strange but common phenomenon?
There are multiple reasons you may experience bloating with cannabis—and the weed itself may not be the culprit. But if you end up with a bloated stomach after smoking marijuana, here are a few explanations for what may be going on.
Food or Water Can Cause Bloating
Marijuana is known to produce an effect called “the munchies.” Cannabis affects receptors in the brain that control sensations of hunger and satiation, so smoking cannabis often stimulates the appetite. Because of that, many people want to eat right after smoking. That can lead to overeating, or eating faster than usual, which can cause air to get trapped in the stomach.
If you’re experiencing bloating after smoking, make sure it’s not from one of these causes first. It’s easy to rule out the bloating effects of food and drink for just one smoke session. Then, if bloating still happens, you’ll know it’s not because of your food or water intake.
Swallowing Marijuana Smoke Could Cause Bloating
Swallowing smoke is another explanation for bloating, according to Dr. Perry Solomon. “It sounds as if you are having some of the cannabis smoke entering your stomach”. Dr. Solomon explains, adding, “This may result in some burping as you release it. With the other methods of using cannabis, the amount of smoke that enters your stomach may be less.”
Another HelloMD member agreed with Dr. Solomon’s assessment, adding, “I do recall a few times before when I’d keep in the vapor/smoke too long and sometimes swallow it, and it made me feel excessive bloating, more than what I feel from smoking daily today. It’s happened a few times, and I’m pretty sure it was from swallowing the smoke.”
Biphasic Gut Inflammation May Lead to Stomach Bloating
Another possibility is that you’re having a reaction to the many gut-altering effects of cannabis. Cannabis is known to produce a variety of helpful effects for treating stomach conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease and more. That’s because of the effects of cannabis on endocannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestinal tract.
The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a network of cell receptors found in tissues and organs throughout the body. This network plays a major role in maintaining balance, or homeostasis, among the body’s many subsystems, and it’s activated by both natural cannabinoid chemicals and the cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant.
In that way, compounds such as THC and CBD (cannabidiol) can help to reduce stomach inflammation, improve bowel motility and support the health of the gut microbiome.
But cannabis is known for its biphasic effects. When cannabis can cause an effect in one direction, it also has the potential to cause the opposite effect, especially when taken in too large a dose. For example, while cannabis might normally ease stomach inflammation, consuming too much could actually trigger inflammation instead. But more research is needed to confirm this possibility.
Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is a Rare Possibility
Bloating could also be related to a condition called cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). This sometimes-severe condition is a relatively rare reaction to chronic cannabis consumption. People with CHS usually present with uncontrollable cyclic vomiting that can be relieved only by hot baths or showers.
CHS is a serious illness that has led to fatalities from dehydration caused by both the uncontrolled vomiting and lengthy exposure to hot baths or showers. The main risk factor for CHS is chronic cannabis use over a period of years, but medical experts warn that any amount of cannabis use can cause this condition, or worsen its symptoms.
In some cases of CHS, bloating has been noted as a symptom, so those with bloating alone could be experiencing a mild or early form of this condition. If this is the problem, you’ll probably experience bloating from any method of cannabis consumption, not just inhaled methods, so that’s one clue to look for. But if you’re experiencing vomiting along with bloating, and you feel better after a lengthy hot bath or shower, it’s important to seek medical attention.