Ozempic’s side effects are getting nearly as much attention as the drug itself (maybe you’ve heard of Ozempic’s face). Intended for those with type 2 diabetes, Ozempic (which lists semaglutide as the main active ingredient) is an injectable drug that helps manage blood sugar. . The drug, which is part of a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) class of drugs, may reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack or death in adults with type 2 diabetes, along with heart and blood vessel disease.
Some patients taking the drug experience side effects while taking the drug. One of the most common side effects of Ozempic is weight loss, although it’s not intended for weight loss, according to its manufacturer, Novo Nordisk. The side effects of Ozempics can make it difficult for patients to maintain their treatment regimen. About 20% of my patients will discontinue use as they have difficulty tolerating Ozempic due to these side effects, she says Florence Comite, MDfounder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health.
But, for the remaining 80% of Dr. Comites’ patients, the side effects of the medications are much milder. Ahead, find everything you need to know about Ozempic side effects.
Common side effects of Ozempic
The most common side effects of Ozempic result from the slowing of peristalsis (choppy gastrointestinal waves that push contents through the intestines), explains Dr. Comet.
He says common side effects of Ozempic include:
- Gastrointestinal disturbances (stomach pain)
- Stomach ache
These symptoms occur in most people first, then resolve. However, symptoms can persist in a significant number of individuals, he says, even soon after taking the first dose. Others will see an increase with any increase in dose, which should decrease after taking the drug for two to three weeks.
Dr. Comite says another side effect of Ozempic is loss of muscle mass, which could have negative health implications. Several factors contribute to sarcopenia (muscle wasting), including weight loss, inadequate dietary protein, lack of desire to eat, little or no resistance exercise, or suboptimal hormones, particularly testosterone, he says. Muscle is the fountain of youth because it is vital to your metabolic health, strength, and prevents aging disorders, such as [type 2 diabetes], heart disease, stroke, osteopenia, memory and cognitive decline with advancing age. He says that while taking Ozempic, patients lose fat and muscle unless they take steps to preserve muscle mass by strength training, eating enough protein, and making sure they’re producing enough testosterone. Sufficient testosterone, an essential hormone that begins to decline by 1-3 percent in our 30s, is critical for muscle, she says.
Another side effect that has gotten a lot of attention lately is the Ozempic face, a sagging skin that occurs as a result of weight loss that affects the face. This is not specific to Ozempic, due to any weight loss it will impact facial skin.
Uncommon side effects of Ozempic
While typical side effects skew on the milder side, Novo Nordisk lists a number of Ozempic side effects, including possible thyroid tumors, thyroid cancer, and vision changes.
Dr. Comite also notes: Less common side effects include excess wind or gas in the stomach, belching, heartburn, indigestion, rapid heart rate, low blood sugar, low energy, fatigue, and gallstones.
Uncommon but serious side effects also include:
- Thyroid cancer
- Decreased kidney function
- Allergic reactions
If you experience severe or unexpected symptoms, see your prescribing doctor, says Dr. Comet.
Drugs to avoid while taking Ozempic
When in doubt, it is always best to consult your doctor. But there are some drugs that don’t go well with Ozempic. Medications to avoid include insulin and sulfonylureas as they can lower blood sugar levels. Explore with your doctor if you are taking these medications, as they may be changed if Ozempic is an option for you. Careful monitoring is important, says Dr. Comet.
Are there any foods to avoid while taking Ozempic?
In short, no. But there are foods you can forgo to avoid exacerbating Ozempic side effects. No food is off-limits per se while taking Ozempic, but there are foods to avoid, which can aggravate an upset stomach and make it difficult to manage [blood] sugar levels, including fried or fatty foods, sugary foods and beverages, highly processed foods, and refined carbohydrates, explains Dr. Comet. Limit your intake of high-sugar fruits and vegetables and decrease your alcohol consumption. It’s best to maintain a varied diet, rich in protein and unprocessed foods, with no extra sugar.
Can pregnant or breastfeeding women take Ozempic?
Ozempic is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as it can potentially affect fetal growth and development, says Dr. Comet. We generally advise our patients to stop Ozempic at least two months before trying to conceive. If you are diabetic, there are alternative medications that are safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Tips for managing side effects of Ozempic
Trying crackers or pita chips to settle your stomach is a good way to manage an upset stomach, says Dr. Comet. Be sure to drink plenty of water, eat your meals slowly, and use over-the-counter medications like Tums or Gas-X to ease nausea or gas pains. Eating small amounts of food, even when not hungry, can make a difference, she says.
As for muscle loss, Dr. Comite says it comes down to strength training exercises and diet. To avoid muscle loss, he starts each meal with lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, lean beef, tofu, beans, and nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, macadamias, brazilians, but not peanuts which are legumes). Protein, the essential building block of muscles, has a more favorable impact on metabolism, he says.
Emily Goldman is the senior editor of Prevention. She has spent the last few years editing and writing about health, wellness, beauty, food and more for Marthastewart.com and Bridalguide.com. She’s loved all things health and wellness since starting her bi-weekly podcast Pancreas Pals, a series about the ups and downs of life with type 1 diabetes. When she’s not podcasting, she spends most of her time curled up with a good book or watching a period piece on the BBC.
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