Semaglutide, best known by the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy, is a medication that’s skyrocketed in popularity due to its ability to help people lose weight and manage diabetes.
Experts say it’s a valuable tool for patients.
“Semaglutide works by regulating blood sugar, slowing stomach emptying, and reducing hunger signals in the brain,” says Dr. Lauren Donnangelo, DABOM, a gastroenterologist and obesity medicine doctor at True You Weight Loss in Atlanta.
However, these mechanisms may also trigger uncomfortable side effects, including nausea, vomiting, bloating, and not wanting to eat at all. Some foods may trigger or worsen these side effects.
The good news?
“Through trial and error, people can find out which foods are most tolerable so they can get the important nutrients they need,” says Dr. Florence Comite, who has multiple specialties in endocrinology and founded the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health.
Though experts stress every person’s tolerance for foods is unique, they were able to share some insights and tips on reducing side effects from semaglutide through diet.
Semaglutide slows digestion, so it takes longer for food to leave the stomach.
The benefit of this slowing is that it keeps people feeling fuller longer, explains Dr. Patricia Pinto-Garcia, MPH, a medical editor at GoodRx.
Semaglutide may make some foods more challenging to tolerate. High-fat and greasy fare can slow digestion in the first place, while also causing GI upset, even in patents not taking semaglutide.
“Semaglutide slows down how fast the gut moves, which means these foods can hang around longer and cause symptoms,” Pinto-Garcia says. “These things can also trigger heartburn, which is a common symptom people experience when taking semaglutide.”
Pinto-Garcia says the longer time to digest can also leave patients constipated.
To minimize GI discomfort, experts suggest minimizing intake of certain types of food. Though every person is different, experts have noticed trends in patient complaints of side effects while taking semaglutide.
“High-fat foods — like fried or greasy foods — and alcohol are the two most important groups to avoid,” Pinto-Garcia says. “It’s also a good idea to avoid high glycemic index foods, ultra-processed foods, and high sugar foods and drinks because they can increase blood sugar.”
Examples of these foods include:
Pinto-Garcia adds that caffeine and spicy foods can also exacerbate heartburn.
There’s no denying that the mechanism of semaglutide can increase side effects and that some patients notice specific foods cause or worsen discomfort. However, experts stress that people shouldn’t feel as if there are any foods that should be off the table.
Further, certain foods, like broccoli and beans, have valuable nutrients.
“It is important to note that foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats are key parts of a balanced nutrition strategy for both overall health and weight loss,” Donnangelo says. “Restricting or eliminating these foods entirely is not recommended. Instead, patients’ nutritional needs should be closely supervised by obesity-trained physicians and registered dietitians while taking medications like semaglutide.”
Of course, shared decision-making is key, and a doctor doesn’t know precisely how you’re feeling after taking certain foods.
“Think about the foods that typically cause you some GI distress when you are not taking a medication,” Comite says. “So, if greasy burgers and fries do a number on your gut, you can expect those foods to give you problems when on semaglutide. If you are not used to eating high-fiber foods, and you eat fruits and vegetables while on semaglutide, you’ll likely find bloating and constipation or loose bowels to be worse.”
Just as experts are hesitant to tell patients to nix any food from their diet, they stress there’s no such thing as an “Ozempic diet.”
“I feel strongly that people should not follow diets,” Comite says. “Specific diets do not work for everyone as each person is different. And what may work for one person will not necessarily work for someone else, even if that someone else happens to be your identical twin.”
Therefore, providers hesitated to give many specific examples and preferred to speak more broadly.
“Foods that are least likely to cause side effects are lower in fiber, protein, and fat,” Donnangelo says. “These types of foods do not cause any further slowing of stomach emptying and are easier to digest.”
Pinto-Garcia adds it’s often good to look for foods lower on the glycemic index to keep blood sugar steady.
Novo Nordisk, which makes Ozempic, suggests:
Specific foods that will or won’t cause GI discomfort while taking semaglutide are hard to pinpoint universally. They are also just one piece of the puzzle for reducing uneasy stomachs.
Other ways to minimize side effects include the following tips:
If you’re experiencing uncomfortable side effects while on semaglutide, Donnangelo suggests speaking with a prescribing physician.
“Ideally, they should see a physician who is board-certified in obesity medicine and who has expertise in prescribing anti-obesity medications,” Donnangelo says. “In my practice, I also ensure that all of my patients work closely with a specialized registered dietitian in order to create tailored, personalized nutritional plans that best suit their individual needs and preferences.”
Eating certain foods while taking semaglutide may increase or cause GI-related side effects, such as nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.
The drug slows digestion, leaving patients feeling fuller longer. However, the longer foods stay in the stomach, the more likely it is that they’ll cause discomfort.
High-fat, ultra-processed, and high-sugar foods and drinks, such as red meat, soda, and alcohol, are common culprits. Additionally, high-fiber food like starchy vegetables can also increase side effects.
Bland foods and plain water are least likely to cause discomfort, but experts share that there’s no one-size-fits-all diet for patients taking these drugs.
It’s best to speak with a prescribing provider and dietitian about foods to create a plan that works and nourishes you.
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Sep 13, 2023
Written By
Beth Ann Mayer
Edited By
Jase Peeples
Fact Checked By
Jennifer Chesak, MSJ
Share this article