What is Ozempic?

Ozempic injection pens have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults. It is administered as a weekly injection, working to minimize blood sugar by assisting the pancreas in creating more insulin. Likewise, it also lowers cardiovascular risk in those with diabetes via blood sugar management.

Though the medication is approved for diabetes, it also demonstrates significant efficacy in weight loss. Thus, Ozempic has gained traction as a weight loss solution in recent years, causing it to be prescribed off-label for weight management in addition to diet and exercise. The manufacturer of Ozempic, Novo Nordisk, also markets semaglutide under a different brand name Wegovy for weight loss treatment. which is FDA-approved at a higher dose for individuals who are obese or overweight. Healthcare providers therefore can prescribe either Ozempic or Wegovy depending on a patients needs.

The active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide, is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. This means that it acts like the natural GLP-1 found in the body, which is a hormone that activates insulin release, managing blood sugar levels. Ozempic also works by delaying gastric emptying, making you feel full. By increasing satiety, you lower your appetite, eat less, and lose weight.

What are the side effects of Ozempic?

Like any drug, Ozempic can cause several side effects. These are particularly prevalent when it comes to starting therapy or increasing your dose. The most common side effects are related to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract due to Ozempic’s effects on gastric emptying. Roughly three to four percent of individuals in Ozempic clinical trials needed to discontinue treatment due to these effects. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Low blood sugar (usually in individuals taking insulin)

Sometimes, these side effects make it hard for individuals to eat enough food. For example, if you experience something like nausea, you may not have much of an appetite at all. Therefore, some people have trouble getting adequate nutrition while taking Ozempic. This emphasizes the importance of managing these side effects so that you can continue treatment and experience maximal efficacy. We will discuss later in this article how to deal with these effects, particularly nausea.

Some side effects are not as common but can still occur. The following issues happen in less than five percent of individuals who take Ozempic:

  • Burping
  • Gas
  • Indigestion
  • Acid reflux
  • Stomach inflammation
  • Gallstones
  • Drowsiness
  • Pancreatitis
  • Changes in taste

It is important to report any concerning side effects to your doctor while on treatment. Certain side effects may warrant a lower dose or discontinuation of treatment altogether.

Why does nausea occur with Ozempic?

As mentioned above, nausea is a common side effect of Ozempic. In fact, clinical trials reported that roughly 20 percent of individuals experienced nausea. Between 5 and 10 percent of individuals experienced other GI-related side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, and upset stomach.

Experts do not fully understand why Ozempic causes nausea. The frequency of nausea is related to Ozempic’s influence on stomach emptying. It affects digestion by slowing down the speed at which food leaves your stomach, causing GI-related effects like nausea. Though people may feel nauseous with Ozempic, nausea does not necessarily cause vomiting.

Does nausea contribute to weight loss?

It is also important to note that while nausea is a bothersome side effect of Ozempic, it may also contribute to Ozempic’s efficacy. If you are nauseous, you are less likely to eat food. Over time, lower caloric consumption due to nausea can cause weight loss. One study found that obese individuals taking liraglutide, another GLP-1 agonist, who experience nausea had about 2.9 kilograms (kg) more weight loss than those who did not have GI side effects. Other studies have not found an effect of nausea on weight loss; thus, findings are inconclusive.

Regardless, Ozempic is still effective with or without nausea. If bothersome, proper management of this uncomfortable symptom is essential.

How do I minimize nausea with Ozempic?

There are several ways to prevent or ease nausea associated with Ozempic. Implement one or more of these strategies to help find relief so that you can achieve maximal results.

Use the right dose

There are a few doses that you can take with Ozempic, and what dose your doctor starts you on will depend on your individual health history. In the context of nausea, it is best to start with the lowest dose possible. Research demonstrates that higher doses are associated with increased nausea symptoms, thus, a lower dose may help you avoid this symptom. The typical starting dose for Ozempic is 0.25 mg once weekly, so you will likely start there.

If your blood sugar is still not well controlled at the lowest dose, discuss with your provider increasing your dose. If you up your dose, be sure to titrate it gradually. Dose increases can cause nausea, so it is best to increase it slowly. After four weeks at the 0.25 mg dose, the dose can be increased to 0.5 mg weekly. From there, the dose can be increased in increments of 0.5 mg every four weeks.

Watch what you eat

Certain foods can make your nausea better or worse. While there are no foods that you absolutely must avoid while on Ozempic, an upset stomach can be mitigated by avoiding the following foods:

  • Foods high in fat. This includes greasy and fried food in addition to high-fat dairy products.
  • Overly processed carbs. These include things like white rice, bread, and flour.
  • Food and drinks high in sugar. It is particularly important to limit sugar if you have diabetes but also if you experience nausea with Ozempic. Avoid things like candy, soda, pastries, and juice.
  • Alcohol can upset your stomach, adding to nausea symptoms.

In addition to avoiding certain foods, you can also implement other foods that are not irritating to nausea. These can include foods that are soft and low in fiber, such as fish, tofu, potatoes, and yogurt.

When it comes to what you drink, try to drink something clear and ice-cold, like water. Avoid drinks that are high in sugar. It is particularly important to up your fluid intake to rehydrate if you also experience vomiting in addition to nausea.

Watch how you eat

Nausea can be further relieved by changing how you eat. You are more prone to nausea when you have an empty stomach, so eating more consistently throughout the day in reasonable amounts can help. Thus, try eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day instead of larger meals. Try to also slow down while you eat, allowing you to savor your meal gradually. Stop eating once you are satiated, and do not lie down after eating. Additionally, avoid eating right before bed. You want to allow your body time to digest before going to sleep.

When it comes to drinks, make sure you drink plenty of water. However, ensure you are taking small sips to prevent feeling overly full. Try not to use a straw and instead drink straight from a glass.

Home remedies

There are numerous home remedies that can help to minimize upset stomach. Ginger is a great natural option for providing stomach relief. You can incorporate ginger into your diet by taking straight ginger, drinking ginger tea, or having a ginger supplement. Make sure to avoid ginger ale, as this is a soda very high in sugar which can cause blood sugar spikes and make nausea worse.

Medication

If nausea becomes particularly unmanageable with at-home remedies and lifestyle changes, discuss with your doctor other options. There are some prescription medications available that can reduce upset stomach, such as ondansetron (Zofran) and metoclopramide (Reglan). These are used particularly for nausea related to motion sickness; however, they may be helpful in the context of Ozempic-related nausea.

Additionally, your provider might decide to switch you from Ozempic to another GLP-1 medicine. Other GLP-1s are effective in weight loss, such as with Saxenda or Mounjaro. While these might also cause GI side effects, Ozempic has been shown to have increased nausea symptoms than other GLP-1s. Thus, trying out a different drug in the same class can provide similar efficacy with potentially improved nausea symptoms.

Conclusion

In summary, Ozempic is a safe and effective medication for weight loss. Despite its success in the weight management space, it can also cause GI-related side effects. Nausea is particularly troublesome for many, affecting up to 20 percent of individuals taking Ozempic. To help relieve your nausea, try implementing the following:

  • Starting at a low dose
  • Increasing your dose gradually only if needed
  • Watching what and how you eat
  • Implementing home remedies, such as ginger
  • Talking to your doctor about taking prescription medication for nausea
  • Trying to switch to another GLP-1