Key Takeaways

  1. Ozempic aids in weight loss but can also cause persistent side effects.
  2. Some foods can intensify Ozempic’s side effects, suggesting dietary adjustments might help.
  3. Ozempic mimics the hormone GLP-1, reducing hunger and slowing stomach emptying.
  4. Ozempic’s effects can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances, with nausea being a common manifestation.
  5. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping.
  6. Understanding how different foods digest can help users minimize discomfort.
  7. High-fat, sugary, and alcoholic foods can exacerbate Ozempic’s side effects.
  8. Differentiating between complex and simple carbs can help manage blood sugar spikes.
  9. Some fiber-rich vegetables, like broccoli, can cause gas and fullness.
  10. Adjusting to Ozempic’s physiological changes, especially through dietary changes, can enhance the quality of life for its users.

Life with Ozempic can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, semaglutide medications like Ozempic are capable weight loss agents for some obese and overweight patients. On the other hand, and as with any medication, Ozempic usage can cause an array of persistent and unpleasant side effects, even leading some to cease treatment altogether.

Fortunately, the quality of life on Ozempic is not entirely out of a patient’s control. It turns out that certain foods are likely to cause or exacerbate negative side effects for many Ozempic users, making dietary control one possible avenue for curbing some of the medication’s less-pleasant potential effects.

Let’s take a look under the hood to understand how Ozempic affects the physiology of digestion, to assess which foods may be a recipe for discomfort, and which may make the medication more tolerable.

Mechanisms of Action

Semaglutide medications like Ozempic promote weight loss by mimicking a naturally produced hormone called GLP-1. This causes a general increase in satiety and a decrease in hunger at the brain level, reducing patients’ desire to crave foods they otherwise would.

The medication also slows the rate at which ingested food empties from the stomach, physiologically extending the time during which a patient experiences a “full” sensation following a meal. The stomach may take several hours, or in some cases days, to fully empty its contents on Ozempic, though the magnitude of this effect varies with dosage and different types of food.

While Ozempic’s impacts on digestion can be productive for weight loss and blood sugar control, the disruptions to normal digestive function can manifest in uncomfortable gastrointestinal disturbances. Though patients generally seek to avoid such effects, scientists from the drug’s manufacturer Novo Nordisk have noted that common side effects like nausea may simply be how Ozempic’s effects manifest at a subjective level. In other words, food is typically the last thing on one’s mind when they feel sick to their stomach, and since reducing cravings is a major part of Ozempic’s function, this may be more of a feature than a bug.

Though this perspective may help patients re-frame their view of side effects, it must also be considered that many patients who discontinue their Ozempic treatment do so because they can no longer bear the significant ensuing discomfort. In such cases, discontinuation of the medication prevents it from achieving its aims, which means that better solutions are required for side effect management than simply re-framing how patients conceive of them. This is where a better understanding of the relationships between certain foods and the likelihood of side effects may be useful.

Please note that, in any case, the management of side effects on any medication should be approached only under a doctor’s guidance.

Side Effects

As previously noted, Ozempic’s most common side effects tend to implicate the gastrointestinal tract. The most commonly experienced adverse effect is nausea, which is reported by up to 20% of users. Runners-up include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping, which reportedly occur in the range of 5 – 10% of patients taking it.

Patients also commonly report a sensation of being overly full, likely owing to Ozempic’s tendency to keep food in the stomach for an extended period of time. Gassiness and belching are common, too, since the formation of gas from the digestive process has more time to occur.

Constipation is yet another unfortunate possibility with treatment, and yet again, this is owed to the tendency of Ozempic to altogether slow the digestive process. The reduced speed with which food is processed in the intestines can cause digested food to accumulate in the colon and make bowel movements more difficult.

Hacking the System

Understanding the link between Ozempic’s mechanisms of action and the side effects it sometimes produces should not necessarily be a cause for pessimism. As it turns out, the digestion of different foods is not impacted equally by Ozempic, and understanding how and why certain foods are more readily tolerated can help users develop a dietary strategy to minimize discomfort.

The longer a certain food takes to digest, the greater the chances are that that food will cause issues to Ozempic patients who consume it. This means that foods that are processed more quickly in the digestive tract may lead to fewer cases of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and other common adverse effects.

If you are experiencing significant side effects making it difficult to contemplate staying on the medication, avoiding certain troublesome foods and opting instead for more tolerable foods may be a helpful place to begin your troubleshooting journey. The severity and frequency of side effects may also increase proportionally with Ozempic dosage, so consulting your doctor about adjusting your dosage may also be advisable.

Foods to Avoid

First, the good news: when it comes to foods a patient can safely consume on Ozempic, there are generally no hard limits. Absent other individual health considerations, patients can generally eat whichever foods they can tolerate, enabling a great degree of flexibility around dietary choices. These guidelines can therefore serve as a helpful starting point for addressing possible dietary causes of discomfort but should not be seen as a list of absolute dos and don’ts.

Now for the bad news. Many of our favorite comfort foods – particularly those that are high in grease or other fats, sugars, or alcohol – tend to be the worst culprits for causing unpleasant Ozempic side effects. These foods tend to languish in the stomach for a particularly long time, creating a ripe environment for many of the unpleasant effects described above.

Fat

Avoiding fat and grease-laden foods is no easy feat in modern America. Fat is flavor, as the saying goes, and as a consequence, food vendors and manufacturers inject fat in various forms into many of our favorite fast food and snack options. There’s a good chance that most items at your favorite fast-food restaurant are either deep-fried in fatty oil, drizzled with fatty dressing, full of fatty ground meat, or some combination of the above. Avoiding or minimizing fast food can go a long way toward cutting out unnecessary and unhealthy fats that might be contributing to your Ozempic woes.

Even “healthy” or home-cooked foods can contain sizeable proportions of fat. Dairy products including butter, cheese, yogurt, and non-skim milk tend to contain significant levels of dairy fat. Cooking oils are also responsible for much of our fat intake, whether that’s vegetable oil for frying food, olive oil for a salad dressing, or oils that are marketed as healthy alternatives like coconut or avocado oil. So, what’s a health-conscious Ozempic patient to do?

It’s important to clarify that fat shouldn’t be seen as the enemy. Dietary fat critically supports a range of bodily functions, from hormonal regulation to cushioning your vital organs. However, different sources of fat are thought to vary in terms of their health value, and many people consume far more daily fat than is either necessary or advisable. Therefore, if you think fats might be reacting poorly in your gut, it may be worth taking stock of which fats you’re consuming and in which quantities, and assessing whether you can optimize your intake to reap the highest benefit-to-side-effect ratio possible.

Sugar and carbohydrates

Ozempic manufacturer Novo Nordisk has advised that Ozempic patients ought to avoid sugary foods since the resulting blood sugar spikes limit Ozempic’s efficacy at regulating insulin levels and may increase the likelihood of experiencing side effects. However, this is not the same as advising patients to avoid carbohydrates altogether. Rather, patients should understand how different carb sources vary, to prioritize the healthiest and least troublesome options.

Different carbohydrate sources vary in the speed at which they are processed in the body. Accordingly, carb-rich foods are assigned glycemic index (“GI”) numbers from 0 – 100 that indicate how quickly and drastically that food will increase a person’s blood sugar levels. Pure glucose is assigned the highest possible GI score of 100, while carb-free foods like fish are assigned a 0. Understanding carbohydrate sources by their GI scores can be helpful for Ozempic patients since foods with higher GI numbers are generally more likely to spike blood sugar and create potential issues.

Complex carbohydrates consist of many smaller molecules bound together in a chain. As a result, the digestion process takes longer to break these molecules down into glucose. Fibers are the most drastic example of a complex carbohydrate since their complexity prevents the body from breaking them down altogether. Beans, legumes, whole grains, and certain vegetables also fall lower on the GI scale.

In contrast, simple carbohydrates like refined sugars or simple starches have a much higher GI score and are digested quite readily into glucose by the body, causing a direct spike in blood glucose levels. Sugary syrups, candy, white bread, white rice, and sugary sodas are all prime examples of foods that will give your bloodstream a direct injection of glucose, spiking and destabilizing your blood sugar in turn.

Cruciferous and fibrous vegetables

A quick word of caution on the topic of vegetables: like carbohydrates, not all vegetables are created equally. And, while low GI foods tend to be a preferable choice for Ozempic patients, certain vegetables are so fiber-rich that they become problematic.

While a slower burn is ideal for carbohydrates, don’t forget that slow digestion also contributes to many of Ozempic’s unwanted effects. Vegetables that contain significant fibrous roughage, which often have a “stringy” texture, can sit around for ages in the gut, producing gases and causing fullness all the while.

In fact, it’s no secret even among the general population that these foods often cause flatulence and stomach gas; these effects are only magnified in patients taking Ozempic. Foods in this category would include pineapple, celery, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.

Alcohol

We might not think of alcohol as having any nutritional value, but alcoholic drinks tend to be packed full of sugar and calories. While alcohol itself contains no carbohydrates, it is also highly caloric, containing roughly 80 calories for a shot of 40% clear liquor like vodka. So, from a weight loss and blood sugar management perspective alone, there is already a good reason to moderate alcohol intake.

You may not have known, however, that alcohol also tends to irritate the lining of the stomach. While this is not generally an issue, alcohol consumed by Ozempic patients is likely to spend longer in the stomach, giving it more time to cause irritation. If you notice that your side effects tend to worsen after a night out, consider alcoholic beverages to be a prime suspect.

Coffee

Speaking of stomach irritants, the acidic nature of coffee can cause stomach trouble for some. While coffee has little nutritional content to speak of and should not impact stomach emptying, the healthy doses of cream, sugar, and other toppings many enjoy in their morning brew can slow things down, allowing the acidic coffee to wreak greater havoc in the stomach.

Additionally, and for reasons already described the high fat and/or sugar concentrations in many common coffee additives can place them squarely in side-effect territory. Ozempic patients may consider cutting back on their coffee intake or, at the very least, opting for less fatty or sugary additives like skim milk or natural sweeteners.

Conclusion

Ozempic is a potent medication that carries both the power to transform patients’ body weight and diabetes management and disrupt their digestive system’s normal function. Enjoying the most out of life while on Ozempic will likely entail some adjustment to the physiological changes invoked by the medication, particularly if those changes manifest at first as debilitating nausea or other gastrointestinal disturbances. Using the tips in this article to help eliminate potentially troublesome foods may be a good first step in this adjustment process that patients may wish to explore, with their doctors’ support.