From diabetes drug to celebrity weight-loss secret to blockbuster drug, Ozempic has become a household name.
Just a year ago, my patients at Yale School of Medicine had never heard of Ozempic. Now, they come to me asking for it by name.
Ozempic (semaglutide) belongs to a new generation of medications called “nutrient-stimulated, hormone-based therapeutics,” which work by mimicking your body’s own hormones. Ozempic mimics a hormone called GLP-1, which is made naturally in your gut and kicks into action when you eat, telling your brain there is food in your intestines and you don't need any more now.
In response, the brain suppresses your appetite. It also slows down digestion, holding food in your stomach and intestines longer before being absorbed. Acting like GLP-1, Ozempic has these same effects.
Semaglutide has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for both type 2 diabetes (Ozempic) and obesity (Wegovy). It’s very effective for both. However, many patients experience side effects, including nausea and abdominal pain. Because it reduces appetite, patients on Ozempic also eat less. To prevent and manage these symptoms while maintaining optimal nutrition, it may be necessary to modify your diet.
Foods and drinks to avoid on Ozempic
Try to limit these foods and drinks while taking Ozempic:
Greasy and fried foods
Foods like french fries, onion rings and potato chips, of course, are high in fat. Frequently, more than half of the calories in these foods come from fat. When people lose weight on Ozempic, they’re not just losing body fat. They’re also losing muscle. This can be a big problem!
To prevent muscle loss, patients who are taking Ozempic should do resistance training like squats, pushups or lifting weights at least a couple of times a week. In addition, they should focus on eating high-protein foods instead of high-fat foods. Healthy high-protein foods include beans, lentils, nut butters and seafood.
For many Americans, refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, white pasta, crackers and desserts are part of their daily diet. These are what doctors call “calorie-dense, nutrient-poor” foods. This means that for the number of calories they have, they contain relatively few health-promoting nutrients -- vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.
Because people on Ozempic experience loss of appetite and consume less food in general, it’s important for them to eat foods that have lots of nutrients. When it comes to carbohydrates, opting for starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes, corn or peas) and whole grains (like whole wheat bread, brown rice and whole-grain pasta) is a better bet than refined grains. Supplement these foods in your diet with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, to keep your nutrient intake high.
Coffee and alcohol
It’s safe to consume these drinks while taking Ozempic, but it should be in limited quantities. Both coffee and alcohol can be hard on the stomach. If you’re susceptible to acid reflux and indigestion, drinking too much coffee or alcohol while on Ozempic could worsen your symptoms.
Ozempic causes food to stay in your stomach longer. This means that these harsh drinks will linger in your stomach, and you may be more likely to have symptoms like heartburn as a result. If you’re experiencing symptoms, try limiting coffee to two cups per day and alcohol to one drink per day. Ginger tea or water with sliced cucumbers and mint can help calm your stomach.
Because Ozempic slows down digestion, big meals can be tough on your digestive system. You may find that eating a big meal suddenly causes you to feel bloated, nauseated or overly full for a prolonged period. Instead, try eating several smaller meals and snacks throughout the day. For health-promoting snacks, focus on combinations of fruits and vegetables with a source of protein. Some examples of this include apples with peanut butter, carrots with hummus, or plain nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh berries.
Some people experience no side effects while on Ozempic. For many, the side effects are temporary. For everyone, eating foods that minimize uncomfortable symptoms while maximizing nutrition is good medicine.
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