People with Type 2 diabetes are prone to obesity, and Ozempic has been a game-changer in accelerating weight loss while managing blood sugar levels. The medication also reduces the risk of heart or blood vessel problems in diabetic adults.
However, Ozempic is food-sensitive, and many controversies exist regarding what and what not to eat while taking the medication. This article will get you up to speed regarding what Ozempic is all about, how it works, and foods to avoid while taking Ozempic, among other important details you should know before using the medication.
Foods You Should Avoid While Taking Ozempic
Although you don't have to avoid any particular foods entirely while on Ozempic, some foods can make it more challenging to control blood sugar levels and prevent obesity. Such foods also cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, similar to Ozempic's side effects. A few examples include the following:
Fried, Greasy Foods
Fried foods are high in trans fats, associated with an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, and other diabetes complications, which Ozempic is meant to prevent!
Greasy and fatty foods can cause nausea, constipation, bloating, and gas. Taking Ozempic with such foods can worsen these symptoms since the drug has similar side effects.
Sugary food and drinks
While sugary foods and drinks can be part of a healthy diet plan for type 2 diabetes patients, they should be consumed cautiously, especially while taking Ozempic. Most sugary foods and soft drinks contain added sugar, which can spike blood glucose levels exponentially. This can complicate blood sugar management even when taking your drugs regularly.
Too much soda, ice cream, candy, chocolates, and other desserts can also make weight maintenance or loss more difficult. So if you can't avoid these entirely, you must take them as directed by a dietician or health professional.
Although there is no known interaction between alcohol and Ozempic, you should monitor your alcohol intake while on the med. The reason is simple: Both Ozempic and alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, respectively. So taking them together could result in extremely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can be dangerous for people with diabetes.
Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, crackers, white pasta, bagels, or breakfast cereals are some of the numerous foods that may seem like healthy options. But these foods have high glycemic index scores, meaning that your body absorbs them quickly and converts them into glucose, which can cause your blood sugar level to rise sharply. This can make glycemic control extremely difficult even while on Ozempic.
Refined carbohydrates are usually not the best diet to manage diabetes or maintain healthy body weight.
High glycemic vegetables
As weird as it may sound, some vegetables are actually not healthy for diabetics. Vegetables like carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beetroots, and sweetcorn are tricky food options to improve blood sugar levels. This is because while these foods have genuine benefits, they also have high glycemic index scores and must be consumed as your doctor advises.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic (semaglutide) is a prescription medication for type 2 diabetes treatment. It is injected once weekly and can be an option when first-line treatments like Metformin and lifestyle changes fail to control high blood sugar.
Apart from helping diabetic patients achieve blood sugar control, Ozempic is also an off-label anti-obesity drug for weight management. It is also approved for Type 2 diabetes patients with higher risks of cardiovascular issues such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
How Does Ozempic Work?
Ozempic contains an active ingredient, "semaglutide," which mimics the effects of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the human body. GLP-1 is a naturally-occurring hormone produced in the gut in response to food intake. It triggers insulin release from the pancreas to maintain an optimum blood glucose level.
People with type 2 diabetes typically don't produce enough insulin or are insulin-resistant, leading to high blood glucose levels. Ozempic works by activating the GLP-1 receptors in the body, which increases insulin production, reduces glucose production in the liver and slows down glucose absorption in the intestines. This helps to lower blood sugar levels and improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. You may also notice a lower appetite and fuller stomach while on the drug, which are primary factors of weight management.
What are the Side Effects of Ozempic?
Like every medication, Ozempic has a few side effects, ranging from minor to severe. The most frequently reported side effects of Ozempic include the following:
Minor Side Effects of Ozempic
- Nausea and vomiting: Mild 0r severe nausea (often accompanied by vomiting) is a common side effect most users report during the first few weeks of taking Ozempic.
- Stomach upset: You may also have stomach pain, heartburn, burping, gas, bloating, constipation, and irregular bowel movements.
- Diarrhea: On some occasions, Ozempic can cause diarrhea. You can effectively manage this at home by rehydrating your body with oral electrolyte solutions.
- Weight loss: Ozempic is quite effective for chronic weight management. Sadly, not everyone taking the medication wants to lose weight. If that is the case, weight loss is one side effect you may have to expect while on Ozempic.
- Reduced appetite: Most patients taking Ozempic often experience reduced appetite due to how the medication works.
It's important to note that most of these minor side effects are usually experienced at the initial stages of the treatment and will wear off afterward. So there is nothing to worry about.
Serious Side Effects (When to Seek Medical Attention)
Apart from the common minor side effects highlighted above, Ozempic also poses some serious side effects that could warrant urgent medical attention.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Some patients on Ozempic complain of worsening diabetic retinopathy (impairment to the blood vessels in the retina). It's crucial to have regular eye exams while taking Ozempic to monitor for any changes in vision or eye health.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): While Ozempic is used to stabilize blood sugar levels, you may experience low blood sugar if you use it with insulin or other diabetes drugs. This condition is potentially life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
- Kidney problems: Ozempic has been associated with an increased risk of acute kidney injury and kidney failure. Signs of kidney damage may include swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet; decreased urine output; confusion, etc.
- Pancreatitis: Although those with diabetes are 174% more likely to develop acute pancreatitis and 140% more likely to suffer from chronic pancreatitis, the risk increases even more for those taking Ozempic.
- Serious allergic reactions: Some patients are allergic to semaglutide and may show symptoms like swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat; problems breathing or swallowing; severe rash or itching; fainting or feeling dizzy; or very rapid heartbeat. Stop using Ozempic® and consult your doctor if you have any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.
Ozempic and Thyroid Cancer (When to Avoid Ozempic)
There are concerns among researchers about the potential link between semaglutide and thyroid cancer after extensive animal studies have suggested a possible association. However, animal studies do not always directly translate to human outcomes. Further research and clinical trials are ongoing to confirm any potential link. But for safety and transparency, Ozempic has a boxed warning from the Food and Drug Administration about the risk of thyroid cancer.
People with a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (a type of thyroid cancer) should talk to their healthcare provider before taking Ozempic. In some cases, thyroid function tests may be recommended to monitor for any changes in thyroid function.
Also, your doctor won't likely prescribe Ozempic if you have or have had multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type-2 (MEN2). This rare endocrine condition can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer.
As with any medication, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider about any concerns or questions regarding using Ozempic. They are in the best position to weigh the potential benefits and risks of the medication and manage the possible side effects.
Tips for managing and minimizing side effects
Here are some tips for coping with the side effects of Ozempic (Semaglutide):
- Avoid foods that cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, similar to Ozempic's side effects. Examples of these foods include fried foods, alcohol, high glycemic vegetables, drinks with added sugar, refined carbs, etc.
- Eat bland, low-fat foods such as crackers, toast, or rice while on Ozempic. Also, eat more low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
- Ensure to stick to your dosing instructions (as directed by your healthcare provider). Ozempic is usually injected once a week, but the exact dosing instructions may vary depending on individual circumstances.
- Take your Ozempic injection at the same time each week to ensure consistent blood levels of the medication and reduce the chances of side effects.
- While on the Ozempic, remember to drink plenty of water to neutralize the effects of diarrhea and vomiting that may occur as part of the medication's side effects.
- Ozempic typically lowers high blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes patients. So it's critical to keep track of your blood sugar and ensure it is within the optimal range. This will help you avoid side effects related to hypoglycemia while taking Ozempic.
Who Can Take Ozempic?
Ozempic (semaglutide) is typically prescribed for adults with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar levels. People with Type 2 diabetes struggling to lose weight can also use Ozempic for chronic weight management.
However, your doctor may not prescribe Ozempic if,
- You have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (a type of thyroid cancer).
- You have severe gastrointestinal disease, including gastroparesis (a condition that affects stomach emptying).
- You have a history of pancreatitis.
- You have a history of hypersensitivity to Semaglutide or any of the ingredients in Ozempic.
- You have or have a history of hypoglycemia.
How Much Ozempic Should You Take?
The recommended starting dose of Ozempic is 0.25 mg, injected subcutaneously once a week for four weeks. At week 5, your healthcare provider may increase the dose to 0.5 mg weekly based on how your body responds to treatment.
For people with type 2 diabetes who need additional glycemic control, the dose can be further increased to 1 mg once a week. However, the maximum recommended dose of Ozempic is 2 mg weekly. Higher doses than this have yet to be clinically evaluated.
It's crucial to always stick to the dosing instructions provided by your doctor.
Which Foods Should I Eat While Taking Ozempic?
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods is paramount while taking Ozempic.
While no specific foods are strictly recommended for people on Ozempic, sticking to diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats is fundamental.
Some examples of these healthy food choices include,
Low glycemic vegetables
For the best result, you can eat plenty of low carbs vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green beans, and lettuce! These vegetables don't raise blood sugar levels and can help improve insulin sensitivity.
However, if you are not used to eating plenty of vegetables, you may experience symptoms like bloating and gas since these veggies contain lots of fiber. But then your body will naturally adjust to this new feeding pattern shortly.
Low glycemic fruits
Low-glycemic fruits like coconut, avocado, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapefruit, cherries, and oranges can be a significant part of your healthy diet while on Ozempic since they spike blood sugars more slowly than higher glycemic fruits.
Pasta and brown rice can be a great addition to your diet since they are rich in whole grains. Although they are higher in carbs, they contain essential fiber that lowers their glycemic impact for people with diabetes. But moderation is always key.
Whole grains are also healthy for your heart and can help with nausea if you're experiencing adverse side effects associated with Ozempic.
Eggs, low-fat cheese, Greek yogurt, chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, tofu, and beans are great sources of lean proteins, which are low in saturated fats and generally healthier for diabetics.
As far as diabetic treatment is concerned, hydration is key—Not just because it helps in kidney function but also because drinking plenty of water and other hydrating beverages can help you feel fuller and prevent overeating.
What Happens if I Experience Nausea Taking Ozempic?
It is quite normal to experience nausea and mild stomach pain for a few weeks while taking Ozempic. This is because Ozempic works by slowing down stomach emptying. Of course, your body will adjust to this process in a few weeks, after which the side effects will wear off.
Understanding the Cause of Nausea With Ozempic
Understanding the cause of nausea while taking Ozempic will help you manage this particular side effect more effectively.
As I mentioned earlier, Ozempic works by slowing down the emptying of food from the stomach, reducing the amount of food that enters the small intestine. This process results in a feeling of fullness or bloating, which causes nausea.
How to Cope With Nausea While Taking Ozempic
The best way to cope with nausea caused by Ozempic is to take the medication (as prescribed by your doctor) in combination with healthy eating habits (as discussed earlier) and regular exercise. Following these measures will not only help you manage nausea but will also help you achieve your weight loss goal and a stable blood sugar level.
Tips for Preventing Nausea
Eating smaller meals
Eating smaller meals means you have less food in the stomach to be emptied. This can reduce your chances of feeling full or nauseous.
Drinking ginger tea
Ginger is an ancient root historically known for its numerous natural medicinal properties, particularly as an antiemetic. Hence, you can opt for ginger tea as an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting related to the Ozempic medication.
Avoiding trigger foods
One of the first pieces of advice you will get from your doctor if you complain of nausea is to avoid trigger foods like fatty, greasy, and fried foods, spicy foods, and foods with strong smells.
Ozempic vs Metformin: Which is Better for Weight Loss?
While both medications have proven to help in weight loss, Ozempic (semaglutide) provides better weight loss effects than Metformin, according to research.
A 2-year-long study investigated the effect of Ozempic in combination with healthy lifestyles. The participants lost about 4.3 kg in the group taking 1 mg of Ozempic, compared to 0.5 kg without the medication.
Another drug trial researched the effectiveness of once-weekly Semaglutide at a 2.4 mg dose in overweight or obese adults (with a BMI of 30 or above) and found that participants achieved at least 5% and up to 15-20% weight loss within 68 weeks compared to only 2.4% in the placebo group.
On the other hand, a clinical trial involving over 4,000 participants with type 2 diabetes reported that Metformin use led to around 2.9 kg of weight loss in 5 years.
If these studies highlighted above are anything to go by, then Ozempic is obviously more effective than Metformin regarding weight management.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Ozempic covered by insurance?
Ozempic is generally covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, but the exact coverage and cost may vary depending on the specific plan. However, you should note that when Ozempic is prescribed off-label for weight loss, it is often not covered by insurance. The Affordable Care Act doesn't mandate health insurers to cover obesity or overweight medications or surgeries.
Can you stay on Ozempic for life?
The simple answer is yes. Ozempic is manufactured to treat Type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease. So it is designed to be an ongoing (and perhaps a lifetime) medication.
How do I know if Ozempic is working for me?
Your blood sugar levels should almost be stable within the first week of using Ozempic (Semaglutide) at your regular maintenance dose. You should contact your doctor for a possible reassessment of your prescription if you don't get a significant result after a few weeks of using the medication.