Ozempic, known as semaglutide, is a medication commonly prescribed for managing type 2 diabetes. It works by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1), which helps regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin production and reducing the amount of sugar released by the liver. In addition to its primary use for diabetes, Ozempic has gained popularity for its off-label use in weight management. This is because it also slows down gastric emptying and helps reduce appetite, leading to weight loss.

Like many medications, Ozempic can cause side effects. Gastrointestinal issues are among the most common, with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation frequently reported by users. Constipation, in particular, can be uncomfortable and bothersome. Understanding how to manage and alleviate this side effect is crucial for those who rely on this medication for their health needs.

In this article, you will learn about the relationship between Ozempic and constipation, why it happens, and effective strategies to prevent and relieve it.

Key Takeaways

  • Ozempic, a medication for type 2 diabetes and used off-lable for weight management, can cause constipation in some individuals, affecting approximately 5% to 10% of patients.
  • Ozempic’s constipating effects stem from its impact on digestive processes, particularly its ability to slow down gastric emptying. This leads to harder stools and decreased frequency of bowel movements.
  • Individuals using Ozempic can manage constipation by staying well-hydrated, aiming for 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily, as increased water intake can improve stool consistency and frequency.
  • Following a high-fiber diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can help relieve constipation associated with Ozempic use by adding bulk to the stool and speeding up its passage through the digestive system.
  • Constipation caused by Ozempic often resolves over time, with individuals usually experiencing it for about 47 days on average. However, the duration can vary based on individual health factors and adherence to the prescribed treatment regimen.
  • Effective management of constipation caused by Ozempic involves lifestyle and dietary adjustments, and understanding the relationship between Ozempic and constipation is crucial for those relying on this medication for their health needs.

Does Ozempic Cause Constipation?

Yes, Ozempic can cause constipation in some individuals. Clinical trials and patient reports have shown that gastrointestinal side effects, including constipation, are relatively common when using Ozempic. Specifically, studies have indicated that constipation can occur in approximately 5% to 10% of patients taking Ozempic for type 2 diabetes management and weight loss.

While not overwhelming, this rate is notable enough to warrant consideration when prescribing and using this medication. While not everyone taking Ozempic will experience constipation, patients need to be aware of this potential side effect, especially if they have a history of bowel movement issues.

Why Does Ozempic Cause Constipation?

Ozempic causes constipation primarily due to its impact on digestive processes. As mentioned earlier, Ozempic mimics the incretin hormone GLP-1, crucial in regulating blood sugar levels. One way it does this is by slowing gastric emptying, the process by which food exits the stomach and enters the small intestine. This slower transit time allows for better absorption of nutrients and a more prolonged sensation of fullness, which is beneficial for weight management and blood sugar control.

However, this slowed gastric emptying also means that waste movement through the digestive system is less frequent and slower. As a result, the colon absorbs more water from the waste, making the stool harder and more difficult to pass, leading to constipation. Additionally, because Ozempic can reduce appetite, users might eat less, which can decrease the overall fiber intake if not carefully managed.

Fiber is essential for bowel health as it helps to keep stools soft and regular. Therefore, reducing fiber combined with slower digestion can significantly increase the risk of constipation. Here are some common symptoms of constipation that may occur when starting treatment with Ozempic:

  • Stools that are hard and lumpy.
  • Difficulty during at least 25% of bowel movements.
  • A sensation that you haven’t completely emptied your bowels in over 25% of bathroom visits.

Research indicates that while constipation is a notable side effect, it often resolves over time. On average, individuals experience constipation for about 47 days when using Ozempic. This duration can vary based on individual health factors and adherence to the prescribed treatment regimen.

Ozempic Constipation Treatment

different variants of fiber in a wooden table

Finding relief from constipation caused by Ozempic involves several effective strategies, primarily focusing on adjusting lifestyle and dietary habits. As constipation is a common side effect for those using Ozempic, especially when starting the medication or adjusting the dose, knowing how to manage this symptom can significantly improve comfort and the overall effectiveness of the treatment. Here are 8 tips to help manage constipation caused by Ozempic:

Stay Hydrated

Staying well-hydrated is crucial in managing constipation, particularly for individuals on medications like Ozempic that can slow gastrointestinal motility. Water helps to soften stools, making them easier to pass. A study found that increasing water intake in a person’s diet can significantly improve stool consistency and frequency, particularly in individuals who are generally low on fluids. The research suggests aiming for approximately 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily, as sufficient hydration can help mitigate the constipating effects of medications like Ozempic.

Follow a High-Fiber Diet

Incorporating a high-fiber diet is another effective strategy to relieve constipation associated with Ozempic use. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and speeds up its passage through the digestive system, reducing the chances of constipation. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. According to a study, individuals who consume at least 25-30 grams of fiber daily experience significant improvements in bowel movement regularity and consistency.

Soluble fiber in foods like oats, apples, and beans helps absorb water and form a gel-like substance that eases stool passage. In contrast, insoluble fiber, found in whole wheat, brown rice, and nuts, adds bulk and aids in moving material through the intestines more efficiently. Adopting a fiber-rich diet can substantially alleviate the constipation discomfort for Ozempic users.

Gradual Dosing

Gradually increasing the dose of Ozempic can help manage and prevent constipation. Research indicates that when the dose of Ozempic is increased too quickly, individuals often experience a resurgence of constipation symptoms. Slowly adjusting the dosage gives your body more time to adapt to the medication, which can help minimize side effects like constipation.

This gradual approach reduces the risk of constipation and other gastrointestinal issues that might arise with sudden dose changes. Following your doctor’s instructions carefully and gradually increasing doses can lead to a more comfortable and effective treatment experience.

Consider a Fiber Supplement

Fiber supplements can be a helpful addition to your diet if you’re experiencing constipation due to Ozempic. Soluble fiber supplements, such as psyllium, assist in absorbing more water into the stool, making it easier to pass. Research shows that psyllium supplements can significantly improve stool frequency, with some studies indicating up to a 67% improvement.

However, it’s important to note that not all fiber supplements are equally effective. Psyllium-containing products are generally found to be the most effective for treating constipation. Since Ozempic slows digestion, ensuring you are well-hydrated before starting a fiber supplement is crucial for the supplement to work effectively. Adequate hydration enhances the benefits of fiber supplements and helps prevent any additional digestive issues.

Chew Your Food Well

One way to support the effectiveness of Ozempic and improve digestion is to chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. Chewing triggers the release of digestive enzymes in the mouth and signals the stomach to start producing hydrochloric acid, which helps break down food. By properly chewing your food, you can ensure that your digestive system is functioning optimally, enhancing nutrient absorption and the effectiveness of Ozempic.

Additionally, chewing your food well can help regulate blood sugar levels. When food is broken down into smaller particles, it is absorbed more slowly, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. This slower absorption also helps you feel fuller for longer, reducing the temptation to snack between meals. Proper chewing supports digestion and blood sugar management, making it an essential practice for those using Ozempic.

Manage Stress

Managing stress is another important strategy to help alleviate constipation caused by Ozempic. Stress can significantly impact your digestive system, potentially worsening constipation. A study analyzing 2,699 children found that 416 of them, or 15.4%, experienced constipation due to emotional stress. While this study focused on children, the impact of stress on digestion is relevant to all ages. Stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, regular exercise, and deep breathing exercises can help improve digestive health.

Consider a Laxative

If other methods do not provide sufficient relief, considering a laxative can be a helpful option for managing constipation caused by Ozempic. Over-the-counter laxatives come in various types, such as stool softeners, osmotic laxatives, and stimulant laxatives. Popular laxatives include:

  • Bisacodyl (Dulcolax)
  • Sennosides (Senna)
  • Polyethylene glycol (Miralax)
  • Docusate sodium (Colace)

Stool softeners help add moisture to stools, making them easier to pass. Osmotic laxatives draw water into the intestines to soften stools, while stimulant laxatives stimulate the bowel muscles to promote movement.

It’s essential to use laxatives as a short-term solution and follow usage instructions, as prolonged use can lead to dependency and other health issues.

Consider Probiotics

Incorporating probiotics into your diet can be beneficial for managing constipation. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that promote a healthy gut flora balance. These beneficial microorganisms help improve digestive health and alleviate constipation by enhancing bowel movements. Studies have shown that probiotics can significantly improve stool frequency and consistency, especially strains like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

Including probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi in your diet or taking probiotic supplements can support your digestive system. A study found that probiotic mixtures containing 3 billion colony-forming units (CFU) or 8 billion CFU per sachet effectively alleviated constipation symptoms.

Foods to Avoid While Taking Ozempic

When taking Ozempic, there are no specific foods that must be completely avoided. However, if you are experiencing constipation, there are certain foods you might want to limit to help manage this side effect. Here are some recommendations:

Fatty or Greasy Foods: These can be hard to digest and may worsen constipation. Examples include fried foods, fast food, and heavy, creamy dishes.

Spicy Foods: Spicy foods can irritate the digestive system and might contribute to discomfort. It’s a good idea to avoid hot peppers, spicy sauces, and heavily spiced meals.

Very Sweet Foods or Drinks: High sugar content can sometimes cause digestive issues. Try to limit desserts like cakes, candies, and sugary beverages.

Rich or High-Fat Dairy Products: While some dairy can be beneficial, rich and high-fat versions, like whole milk, cheese, and cream, can slow down digestion. Opt for low-fat or fat-free alternatives instead.

Caffeine-containing foods and Drinks: Caffeine can contribute to dehydration, which can worsen constipation. This includes coffee, some teas, chocolate, and energy drinks.

Alcohol: Alcohol can dehydrate you, which may lead to or worsen constipation. It’s best to avoid or limit alcohol consumption while experiencing constipation.

Final Thoughts

Ozempic can cause constipation, but there are effective ways to manage and prevent it. Staying hydrated, eating a high-fiber diet, and gradually increasing your dose can help. Chewing food well, managing stress, and considering supplements like fiber or probiotics can also be beneficial. In some cases, a laxative might be needed. Avoid certain foods that can worsen constipation while taking Ozempic. By following these tips, you can minimize discomfort and maintain your health while using this medication.

FAQs About Ozempic and Constipation

Can Ozempic cause gastroparesis?

Yes, Ozempic can potentially cause gastroparesis. Gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis, is a condition in which the muscles of the stomach do not function properly, leading to delayed gastric emptying. This can result in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort. Studies have found that patients who take GLP-1 drugs are more likely to develop this condition.

How long do stomach issues last with Ozempic?

Stomach issues, such as nausea, vomiting, and constipation, are common when starting Ozempic. These side effects usually subside over time as your body adjusts to the medication. Most gastrointestinal issues tend to improve within a few weeks to a couple of months, with constipation often resolving in about 47 days on average.

What is the biggest side effect of Ozempic?

The most significant side effect of Ozempic is gastrointestinal discomfort, which includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Nausea is often reported as the most common and troublesome side effect, especially when starting the medication or increasing the dose.

Why can’t I poop on semaglutide?

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, slows down gastric emptying and gut motility, which can lead to constipation. This slowdown means that food moves more slowly through your digestive system, resulting in harder and less frequent stools.

Does Ozempic cause bowel obstruction?

While Ozempic can cause constipation, it is not commonly associated with bowel obstruction. Bowel obstruction is a serious condition and typically involves severe symptoms such as intense abdominal pain, vomiting, and inability to pass gas or stools. If you suspect a bowel obstruction, seek immediate medical attention.

How to stop constipation on Ozempic?

To relieve constipation caused by Ozempic, consider the following strategies:

  • Stay well-hydrated.
  • Follow a high-fiber diet.
  • Gradually increase your dosage to allow your body to adjust.
  • Use fiber supplements if needed.
  • Manage stress levels.
  • Consider taking laxatives under medical supervision.
  • Incorporate probiotics into your diet.

Should I take fiber while on Ozempic?

Yes, taking fiber can be beneficial while on Ozempic. Both dietary fiber and fiber supplements can help alleviate constipation by adding bulk to the stool and promoting regular bowel movements. Ensure you drink plenty of water to enhance the effectiveness of fiber.

Can Ozempic cause severe constipation?

In some cases, Ozempic can cause severe constipation, especially when the dosage is increased too quickly or if other predisposing factors for constipation are present. If you experience severe constipation, seek medical advice for appropriate management.

Does Ozempic cause diarrhea?

Yes, Ozempic can cause diarrhea as a side effect. This usually occurs during the initial phase of treatment or after a dose increase and often subsides as your body adjusts to the medication.

Does Ozempic cause stomach problems?

Yes, Ozempic is known to cause stomach problems, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. These gastrointestinal issues are common, especially when starting the medication or adjusting the dosage, and typically improve over time.

Can you take laxatives with Ozempic?

Yes, you can take laxatives with Ozempic if necessary to manage constipation. However, it’s important to use them under the guidance of a healthcare provider to avoid dependency and other potential complications. Laxatives should be considered a short-term solution while other longer-term strategies are implemented.

Sources

FDA. (2020). OZEMPIC (semaglutide) injection, for subcutaneous use: Medication Guide. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2020/209637s003lbl.pdf

National Center for Biotechnology Information. (n.d.). Gastrointestinal tolerability of once-weekly semaglutide 2.4 mg in adults with overweight or obesity, and the relationship between gastrointestinal adverse events and weight loss [Web page]. PubMed Central. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9293236/

Rosenberg, I. H., & D’Anci, K. E. (2011). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews, 69(8), 492–502. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/

Bove, M., & Rossi, A. (Year, Month Day). Chronic Constipation: Is a Nutritional Approach Reasonable? National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8538724/

Drysdale, C., Whelan, K., Dimidi, E. (2024, June 4). The Effect of Fiber Supplementation on Chronic Constipation in Adults: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials – PMC. PubMed Central. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9535527/

Fabiana Cristina Rosa Mitelmão, Marta Maria Duarte Carvalho Vila. (2022). The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: A randomized, double-blind controlled trial. Medicine (Baltimore), 101(43), e31185. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9622669/