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why does smoking weed make you poop

Does cannabis make you poo?

Have you ever sat down for a nice session but after a few tokes suddenly have to get up to hit the bathroom? I noticed a connection so I asked the internet, which provided abundant anecdotal evidence , proving I wasn’t alone in my pondering. After I started peeking into what science had to say on the matter, my curiosity only increased.

I did a deep dive into studies on the subject, as well as consulted a couple experts, and it turns out the connection between smoking a bowl and going #2 is no coincidence. Between cannabis calming our nerves, its effect on the gut’s microbiome, and the endocannabinoid system being involved in the activity in this department, it looks like weed can, indeed, make us doodie.

Too stressed to go

I spoke with medical cannabis exper t and integrative medicine physician Dustin Su lak, D.O. “ Endocannabinoids absolutely do affect motility, both directly and indirectly. The most powerful way in which cannabis could help a person defecate is by helping them to relax and get into a more parasympathetic state,” said Sulak.

Another way to think of a parasympathetic state is “rest and digest,” with defecation being part of the digest aspect. This is opposed to the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares the body to act quickly. There is an evolutionary reason for not being able to poo while in a fight-or-flight state enacted by the sympathetic nervous system: “If we’re escaping from a bear attacking us, we don’t want to have to defecate,” said Sulak.

He continued, “Conversely, when it’s time to relax and empty our bowels, we don’t want to feel threatened. That has to happen in a place where we feel comfortable. But, unfortunately, a lot of people are taking their stressors around with them, even into the bathroom, with their phones or just in their minds, remaining stressed out, feeling threatened in some way.”

But cannabis, and endocannabinoids that our bodies produce, can help. “Our inner pharmacy’s version of cannabis, the endocannabinoids, and herbal cannabis, have the ability to suppress this excessive sympathetic activity. So if the fight-or-flight response is turned on too strongly, the right dose of cannabis can suppress it. This is obvious to people who use cannabis to help them relax and find relief from anxiety. The same mechanism would allow someone to shift into rest and digest, or parasympathetic dominance, and get the job done,” he said.

The Goldilocks zone

Endocannabinoids help keep the body in balance. One of those endocannabinoids, 2-AG, is an important physiologic regulator of gastrointestinal motility —i.e., pooping—and behaves like THC. “That’s one of our body’s signaling molecules that mimics THC, or THC mimics it. 2-AG is active in regulating the sympathetic and parasympathetic influence on the gut, and in the gut itself, where it suppresses excessive activity and brings the system into balance,” said Sulak.

So in this way, cannabis could lead to a deuce by helping keep our nervous system and our gut in the “ Goldilocks zone ,” or the healthy range of activity.

Cannabis can also help someone get into the needed relaxed state by relieving pain. “When people are in chronic pain, even if it has nothing to do with the rectum—if it’s their foot or their leg or their head—that still creates a kind of threatening internal state. So it can be hard when in pain or feeling anxiety to relax enough to use the bathroom. Cannabis can be very useful for that,” said Sulak.

Dr. Sulak concluded with a word of caution: “For people with constipation not related to stress or pain, cannabis could potentially worsen the issue because it can suppress muscular contractions and secretion in the colon, the same ways in which it can help with diarrhea.”

More on cannabis and BMs

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is also integral to the brain-gut axis, which modulates activity in this realm, including helping people poop. This 2016 study says that the ECS is “ An important physiologic regulator of gastrointestinal motility,” meaning bowel movements.

F orem ost psychopharmacology researcher Ethan Russo, M.D., also told us, “ A lot of people note easier bowel movements after cannabis. This can alleviate both constipation or diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome, a presumptive clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. THC also positively alters the gut microbiome and this effect should not be discredited.”

Additionally, a 2019 study found that cannabis consumption was associated with a 30% decrease in constipation.

So, if you’ve ever wondered if there’s a connection between enjoying herb and needing to head for a #2—‘tis not in your imagination. Next time you need a little help, maybe try sparking up a doobie so you can dookie.

If you've ever had to run to the bathroom after sparking up a doob, there might be a reason. Read on to see why.

Why Marijuana’s Effect On Your Poop Affects Your Brain

One of the hot topics in neuroscience these days is the influence of the gut’s microbiome on the brain. While the microbiome is comprised of all the microorganisms in the body, it’s the bacteria that’s gaining the most focus. So you might ask: does marijuana effect the microbiome? And if so, what affect does it have on brain function?

Gut Bacteria and the Brain

The bacteria in the gut can have a substantial impact on brain function by modulating the enteric nervous system, which is a layer of nerve cells that line the intestinal tract from the esophagus to the rectum. This enteric nervous system communicates directly with the brain. Research has revealed that this “Gut-Brain Axis” can impact everything from brain development to psychological health by affecting immune function in the brain, producing hormones and neurotransmitters, and directly activating bundles of neurons that travel up to the brain.

Consequently, fecal transplants are gaining in popularity , not just for intestinal problems, but for ones involving the brain including Parkinson’s disease and autism.

By impacting the Gut-Brain Axis, bacteria may influence cognitive functioning in many ways. For one, it could modulate the efficiency of the organelles that serve as the body’s power plants. You may recall from high school biology that they’re called mitochondria. Mitochondria convert the energy from food, in the form of glucose, into a useable from of energy, called ATP. So altering the gut microbiome could negatively impact cognitive function by reducing mitochondrial function.

Marijuana’s Effect on Poop and Brain Function

Frequent use of THC-rich marijuana is also associated with cognitive problems, but it’s unclear if these problems are related to changes in the gut microbiome. A recent study published in the ‘Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology’ investigated the relationship between marijuana use, microbiome composition (assessed from stool samples), mitochondria function, and cognitive performance.

The study found that marijuana users had substantially different microbiomes than non-users, and the microbiomes of marijuana users were associated with reduced mitochondria function. Reduced mitochondria function generally means that less energy is produced for use by cells throughout the brain and body. It’s like going to a gas station and only filling your tank up three-quarters of the way. You just can’t drive as far and so you’ll arrive at your destination slower.

Interestingly, the microbiomes of non-users were comprised largely of a type of bacteria that’s consistent with a plant-based diet, while the bacteria of marijuana users were associated with an animal-based diet. The higher the ratio between plant-diet-based bacteria to animal-diet-based bacteria was associated with better performance on tests of attention, inhibitory control, and cognitive function in marijuana users. Therefore, the further that the marijuana user’s gut microbiome deviated from that of non-users, the worse their mitochondrial function and cognitive performance became.

These findings highlight the importance of diet and gut bacteria on cognitive performance in marijuana users. Fortunately, there are ways of improving your gut microbiome, even if you use marijuana. These include eating lots of fruits and vegetables, or consuming probiotics which you can get in everything from yogurt to kombucha to probiotic armies stuffed into pills.

One caveat is that this study did not assess if or how marijuana changed the microbiome. Future studies are needed to assess the impact of marijuana on the microbiome in a “cause-and-effect” manner, as opposed to simply looking at the “association” as this study employed. Further, future research should focus on identifying whether rescuing the microbiome through probiotic or dietary intervention can improve some of the cognitive deficits associated with frequent marijuana use.

Lastly, it’s unknown if cannabidiol or cannabidiol-rich marijuana could counter the effects of THC-rich marijuana on the gut’s microbiome. Cannabidiol is known to block the actions of THC, as well as directly activate serotonin receptors, which are even more prevalent in the gut than the brain. Either way, the Gut-Brain Axis represents an exciting new way to modulate both the positive and negative effects of marijuana on health.

Bacteria in the gut has a huge effect on the brain – what does pot do to this bacteria? Learn more about marijuana's effect on poop and how that might affect the brain.