Do Edibles Work Less Well on a Full Stomach & Why?

Edibles offer plenty of advantages over smoking weed. 

Consumers who are concerned about their lung health, who want to achieve consistent dosing, and who are looking for a more covert way to enjoy their cannabis might all choose edibles over smoking a joint. Plus, edibles offer a full-body high that takes longer to set in but has an impressive duration. 

Just like folks who like to smoke their weed might have some troubleshooting to do, though, consuming edibles can also be a little glitchy at times, especially the home-made varieties. Ask us how we know.

Unlike pot smokers, who can count on the fact that all the goodness the cannabis plant is hiding within will hit their lungs — and then, their bloodstream — nearly right away, people who consume edibles have a gatekeeper to contend with: the digestive system. Before you can feel the benefits of the THC, CBD, and terpenes in your edibles, your body has to process all that stuff, first. 

Have you noticed that your edibles “work less well” if you have them for dessert? Are you not getting high if you enjoy edibles on an empty stomach? Here’s why.

empty vs full stomach edibles

What Happens When You Eat Edibles?

Each of the components of your digestive system — starting with your mouth — has evolved to help your body “harvest” the nutrients and other components you ingest. When you consume edibles, they have to pass through your mouth, where you chew them, your esophagus, and your esophageal sphincter, before they can reach your stomach. 

Once there, the stomach continues processing the edibles and adding digestive juices. When ready, the edibles will move into your small intestine. Your liver will absorb some of the active components and pass others into your bloodstream, while the rest of your GI tract continues to do the same. 

Unlike smoking weed, which allows the active components to reach your bloodstream pretty much immediately, this process takes time — for most people, anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. Edibles take much longer to kick in, but in return they also give you a more durable high. 

It’s also important to take into account that some of the active ingredients are lost during the digestive process, though. Because your liver has to metabolize the cannabis you consume when you eat edibles, some of its effects are lost. This is called the “first pass effect”, and the only way to get around it is to  use weed in a different way. 

eating edibles meme

How Does Eating Edibles on a Full Stomach Affect Your High?

Eating edibles on a full stomach will, in “science speak”, “retard your gastric emptying rate”. That means, in plain English, that it will take you longer to get high, and the effect will be weaker, too. Anyone who’s ever tried to get drunk fast on a full stomach will be quite familiar with this effect, as it happens when you’re drinking alcohol, too.

The food that’s already present in your stomach when the edibles enter the equation slows your digestive system down (because that food has to be processed first). As a result, your high will be less intense, and it’s going to take longer to kick in.

For folks who are new to edibles, or those who only want a milder high, that gastric retardation can actually be a good thing. Have you just received a brand new medical marijuana prescription to relieve your symptoms, and are you eager to try edibles? You will almost always be advised to take it slow. Start with a lower dose, and enjoy your edibles on a full stomach — as dessert, in other words, and not as your main meal. 

This ensures that your high will give you a good experience, and that you’ve got time to prepare. Because edibles typically give you a relaxing and full-body high, you might want to get into bed or onto the couch and get started on your favorite TV show or that new book.

More experienced cannabis enthusiasts who either aren’t getting as high as they want to after eating edibles, or who find that their high takes much too long to kick in for their liking, will, on the other hand, wonder if they can speed things up by making edibles their first course. 

taking edibles on an empty stomach

Can You (Safely) Take Edibles on an Empty Stomach?

Consuming the edibles of your choice on a full stomach will dampen their effects and delay your high. Is there an easy solution to this problem? Can you simply skip your main course and eat your edibles on an empty stomach?

You can — but there’s a caveat. If you consume edibles on an empty stomach, the time it takes for the effects of the cannabis to hit you full-on can be reduced by as much as 50 percent. Your high is going to be more intense if you do this, and it will also last much longer. Consider this your friendly warning!

While this is generally safe, it may not be enjoyable. If you are considering eating edibles on an empty stomach, your best bet is to slash your dose by 50 percent as well. This way, you’ll get the best of both worlds: a relatively speedy high that won’t be more intense than you can comfortably handle.

Start from there, and up your dose if you’d like a slightly stronger effect. But don’t underestimate the differences in eating edibles on an empty stomach vs with food. If you’ve ever drank a good amount of alcohol on an empty stomach then you’ll have an idea about how much faster and HARDER the arrival of your high will be.

What should I do if I’ve eaten too many edibles? We’ve written a guide about that too as any experimental home canna-baker will know, shit sometimes comes out stronger than you were anticipating lol.

We’ve consulted with multiple budtenders, all of which advised taking edibles with at least a moderate amount of food, if not just for the added security it provides and the sense of satiation which, if you know anything about the munchies, is a great feeling to have when high.

One budtender, who said he was on edibles as we asked him this question about edibles (yeah, meta, we know) said he ONLY eats edibles these days because of their long lasting effects and relative affordability if you make them yourself. He also ONLY eats them with food, says over the years he noticed he always had a better experience when he consumed them with food vs without.

To sum things up — you’re right! Edibles don’t work as “well”, that’s to say as strongly or quickly, on a full stomach. If you want to hit that sweet spot, though, you’ll have to work your way up from a lower dose to achieve the high you want from eating edibles on an empty stomach.

edibles hangover

Day After Eating Edibles: How to Recover

A lot of novice cannabis consumers often report still feeling the effects of edibles the day after they were originally ingested. Differentiating from remaining after-effects of the THC and the altered state of relaxation may be difficult.

For example, if your “edible hangover” feels more like brain frog and you feel more tired than usual than this could be classified more as a benefit than negative side effect of edible consumption. Simply drink some water, eat some good food, watch a few good cartoons or a good stoner film and take a cat nap, you’ll be renewed and recovered in no-time.

Recovering from a strong edible experience is pretty much the same as recovering from a big night drinking alcohol, with the main difference being you haven’t damaged your body in the process like alcohol can do to the liver. Just like alcohol, if you don’t normally consume, your “hangover” may last a little longer than it does for more experienced consumers.

Personally, whether ripping multiple big bongs or eating powerful edibles there is a halo effect the next day. You can either just get used to it (it feels like when you wake up a little groggy from an extra long daytime nap) or you can process your way through it by eating, drinking water, and napping.

Getting outside after a reset with sunshine, fresh air, and heck, some stimulants like coffee or an energy drink are another way to speed up your bodies own processes in terms of getting alert faster than just waiting it out.

For the most part we’re able to operate just fine and let the edible fog burn off naturally although we do feel like that fresh brewed cup of coffee the next morning does taste extra delicious after a long night of edibles fun.

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