Is Ozempic Safe for Weight Loss and Insulin Resistance
Unless you’ve been living off the grid, you’ve probably heard about the latest popular approach to weight loss — using the diabetes medicine Semaglutide (brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus) along with a healthy diet and exercise.
You’ve likely also heard about a few potential adverse side effects — reports of people developing “Ozempic face” (aka facial aging) due to reduced fat in the face or, more seriously, the increased risk of intestinal obstruction requiring surgery.
In any event, if you or a loved one is using one of these medications (or considering using it) for weight loss or to help manage diabetes or pre-diabetes, you probably have questions or concerns about its use.
Here at the BioDesign Wellness Center in Tampa, Fla., we offer Semaglutide as a treatment option for patients with insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, or weight-loss resistance.
In this post, we will help you determine if Semaglutide is right for you by answering some common questions and concerns about this medication.
What is Semaglutide?
Semaglutide is the generic name of the brand name medications Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus. It is an injectable medication, typically prescribed in combination with diet and exercise, to help with blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes and with weight management.
Semaglutide works by mimicking the action of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a naturally occurring hormone that has the following effects:
- Stimulates insulin production to help regulate blood sugar
- Inhibits glucagon release, slowing the release of sugar into the blood, causing the body to burn more fat
- Slows gastric emptying to make you feel full longer
- Reduces appetite (because you feel full)
Together, these effects can help you slow the conversion of sugar to fat, burn more fat, feel less hungry, and adhere to a healthy diet, all of which make managing weight and blood sugar easier.
Is Semaglutide the same as insulin?
No. Semaglutide does not take the place of insulin and is not effective in people with type 1 diabetes. However, it may be used along with insulin to help people with type 1 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.
Is Semaglutide safe?
According to the FDA, studies have shown that when taken as prescribed, Semaglutide is a safe medication, has low risks of severe adverse events, and can be taken by most individuals. As with most medications, Semaglutide poses a higher risk for people with certain medical conditions, including the following:
- Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC)
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2
- Type 1 diabetes
Semaglutide should be used cautiously on those already taking medications that lower blood sugar.
Does Semaglutide have any adverse side effects?
Semaglutide may produce the following adverse side effects:
- Stomach pain
- Acid reflux
If you experience these or other adverse side effects, contact your healthcare provider. Here are some options you may want to discuss with your provider:
- For nausea, you can use an over-the-counter anti-nausea product like Dramamine or Nauszene.
- For acid reflux and heartburn, you can use Tums. Avoid taking H2 blockers, such as Zantac, Pepcid, and Tagamet, which can do more harm than good. We have digestive restoration protocols that can help alleviate acid reflux and heartburn.
- To avoid and alleviate constipation use a sugar-free powdered fiber supplement like Metamucil at 1 or 2 teaspoons per day. Again, our digestive restoration protocols can help alleviate constipation.
What about “facial aging?”
Facial aging is an unwanted side effect of rapid weight loss. (Facial fat can make a person appear younger.) We help clients avoid this potential side effect through proper dosing and by taking a personalized approach so that any weight loss is gradual.
It’s important to increase the dose slowly, as explained later in this post. Many people are using Semaglutide on their own for weight loss and using too much, or increasing the dosage too quickly and losing weight too rapidly, which places them at an increased risk of facial aging.
Are there any serious health risks associated with using Semaglutide?
Semaglutide does pose some serious health risks. However, remember that being overweight or having chronically high blood glucose levels poses serious health risks. The goal is to use the medication to improve health and well-being overall while minimizing the risks.
When taking Semaglutide, you should be aware of the following health risks associated with it:
Prolonged vomiting: If vomiting lasts more than a day, stop taking Semaglutide and call your prescriber.
Semaglutide has been associated with gastroparesis — weakened contractions of the stomach muscles that cause food and liquid to remain in the stomach for a prolonged period. This can lead to nausea and vomiting, resulting in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas): If you have severe stomach (and sometimes back) pain, with or without vomiting, stop taking Semaglutide and contact your prescriber.
Changes in vision: If you have changes in vision while taking Semaglutide, contact your prescriber.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar include dizziness or lightheadedness, blurred vision, anxiety, irritability, mood changes, sweating, slurred speech, hunger, confusion, drowsiness, shakiness, weakness, headache, fast heartbeat, and feeling jittery.
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your prescriber. Note that using Semaglutide with another medicine that lowers blood sugar, such as sulfonylurea or insulin, increases the risk.
Kidney problems: If you have existing kidney problems, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may cause dehydration, which can worsen your condition and possibly result in kidney failure. It is important for you to drink sufficient fluids while taking Semaglutide to prevent dehydration.
Allergic reactions: Symptoms of an allergic reaction include swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat; problems breathing or swallowing; rash or itching; fainting or feeling dizzy; or rapid heartbeat.
If you have any of these symptoms while taking Semaglutide, seek immediate medical attention.
Can I drink alcoholic beverages when taking Semaglutide?
Limit your alcohol consumption when taking Semaglutide, especially if you have diabetes. Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Remember that alcohol not only makes it harder for your body to control blood sugar levels but also dehydrates and can irritate the stomach.
Are there any medicine interactions I need to be aware of?
Semaglutide slows down gastric emptying, which can impact the absorption and effects of any oral medication you’re taking. Trials haven’t shown this effect to be significant with Semaglutide, but make sure all your doctors know about all your medications, including Semaglutide.
Do I need to make any changes regarding activity/exercise?
Semaglutide works best when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. Work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a diet and exercise routine that’s realistic and optimal for you.
With respect to exercise, that usually involves at least 30 minutes of exercise — cardio and weight/resistance training — most days of the week. Too much exercise or an imbalance of cardio and weight/resistance training can be just as bad as too little, so seek professional guidance.
How much water should I be drinking?
You want to remain hydrated when taking Semaglutide. You’re probably getting enough fluids if your urine is clear or nearly clear. If it’s dark, you’re not getting enough.
Generally, most people should drink about 64 fluid ounces (a half gallon) of pure water daily, but that can vary considerably on your activity level, environment, and other factors.
How do I use Semaglutide?
Semaglutide is administered via injection into belly fat once weekly (every 6 to 7 days). Most patients can self-inject at home.
Patients at higher risk for complications may be required to have the injections in the office. Patients are monitored via phone or virtual visits.
We start each client at a low dose and carefully monitor weekly to see if an increase is needed. We increase the dose until the client starts to respond and then adjust the dose, as needed, based on the individual’s response.
The idea is to use the lowest dose possible to achieve the desired results while minimizing the risk of any adverse side effects.
Do you recommend any other treatments to use with Semaglutide?
We may recommend one or more of the following supports:
- Dietary changes to help control blood sugar and address any food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies
- B vitamins in either injectable or liquid form to reduce potential adverse side effects
- Fiber supplement (10 grams daily) to support motility and prevent constipation
The take-home message here is that Semaglutide is a safe and effective medication for helping to control blood sugar and manage weight, but it must be used only under close medical supervision.
We recommend working closely with a functional medicine practice that offers Semaglutide as a treatment option. If you are in or near Tampa, Florida, contact us to schedule a consultation. Our weight loss patients share their experiences here!
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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about Semaglutide is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.