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—does cannabis cause bloating?
We’ve received this question from a few of our members at HelloMD and set out to find the answer. Here’s what we found.
A Real-Life Question About Bloating From Cannabis
While bloating isn’t a particularly common side effect from cannabis, it does happen. Take, for example, this account from a HelloMD member:
“I’ve experienced severe bloating in my abdomen every time I use [cannabis], especially if I smoke it. It’s like my stomach swells up like a balloon and feels like it’s gonna pop. I’m feeling the pressure in my chest now, too. I usually use the vape pens, and I make my own cannabis- infused coconut oil, that I also use to make edibles. The swelling is less with those.”
And this account wasn’t the only one. A few other folks chimed in as well, sharing that they too experienced bloating in the stomach (that sometimes rose to include their chest and/or throat).
So, what could be the cause of this strange phenomenon? Well, it’s hard to say for sure, in part because there are multiple reasons you may experience bloating with cannabis. But if you end up with a bloated stomach after smoking cannabis, there are a few possibilities for what may be going on.
Bloating Could Be Caused by Too Much Food or Water
The first possibility to consider is that you’re one of those people who loves to eat after smoking cannabis. Marijuana is known to produce an effect called “the munchies,” where cannabis stimulates your appetite. Many spend the time right after smoking eating, and they may overeat or eat at a faster pace than usual, which can lead to bloating. This effect may also encourage drinking more.
One HelloMD member reported, “I also feel the need to drink a lot of water when I am smoking marijuana, so that contributed to the bloated stomach.” And indeed, many people get dry mouth from smoking cannabis, so they may be drinking more water than usual.
If you experience bloating, make sure it’s not from one of these causes first. It’s easy to rule out by refraining from eating or drinking for just one smoke session. Then, if you still get the bloating, you know it’s not because of your food or water intake.
Swallowing Marijuana Smoke Could Be the Cause of Bloating
Another possibility is that you’re swallowing smoke. Dr. Perry Solomon suggests that this could be the reason the person who posted the original question above is having stomach bloating. “It sounds as if you are having some of the cannabis smoke entering your stomach, in essence swallowing the smoke,” Dr. Solomon explains, adding: “This may result is some burping as you release it. With the other methods you spoke of, the amount of smoke that enters your stomach may be less.”
Another HelloMD member agreed with Dr. Solomon’s assessment, adding their own story: “I do recall a few times before when I would 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,” they explained. “It’s happened a few times, and I’m pretty sure it was from swallowing the smoke. So, he’s right, cannabis can cause bloating.”
Pay careful attention to your inhale and see if you can reduce the amount of smoke you swallow. If this helps the bloating, swallowing smoke may be the cause. You can also consume via methods other than smoking if you have a hard time ensuring you don’t swallow on the inhale. This is what seems to help our original poster lessen the bloating.
Biphasic Gut Inflammation May Lead to Stomach Bloating
Another possibility is that you’re having a reaction to cannabis’s gut-altering effects. Cannabis is known to produce a variety of helpful effects for treating stomach conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease and more.
In part, this is because of how it reduces stomach inflammation. While normally cannabis would ease inflammation, cannabis is known for its biphasic effects. In other words, when cannabis can cause an effect in one direction, it can often cause it in the other direction as well because of a dose that’s too big. For some, it’s possible that cannabis is actually triggering gut inflammation, but more studies would need to be done to confirm this possibility.
Watch Out for the Rare Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome
Beyond this, bloating could be related to a condition called cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). This sometimes-severe condition is rare a reaction to chronic cannabis consumption. People with CHS usually present with uncontrollable cyclic vomiting that only hot baths or showers can relieve. Another way to stop CHS symptoms is by stopping cannabis consumption entirely.
In some cases of CHS, bloating has been noted as a symptom, so it’s possible that those with bloating alone may be experiencing a mild or early form of this condition. CHS is a serious illness that has led to fatalities from to dehydration due to uncontrolled vomiting when left untreated.
If this is the problem, you’ll probably experience bloating from any methods of cannabis consumption, not just inhaled methods, so that’s one clue to look for.
If you experience any vomiting along with your bloating or find your symptoms ease after bathing or showering in hot water, you should consult a medical professional immediately; you may be one of the rare people with this serious condition. Unfortunately, stopping cannabis entirely is the only sure way to treat this. Continuing to consume cannabis with CHS will likely worsen symptoms.
Still unsure of what’s causing your bloating? Talk to a doctor to see if you can pinpoint what’s going on. You can consult with one HelloMD’s knowledgeable doctors in person or online if your state allows it.
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