Diabetes drug semaglutide is sometimes used for heart disease and weight loss. But it has a number of side effects that may make it risky to use for weight loss alone, including constipation.
Semaglutide — sold under the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus — is an injectable medication for type 2 diabetes that can help your body make more insulin when you eat.
While constipation caused by semaglutide can be mild and temporary, the risks of long-term or off-label use for this medication might outweigh the benefits.
Read on to learn more about why semaglutide can make you constipated, how to treat constipation while you’re taking semaglutide, and when to contact a doctor.
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How long constipation lasts while you’re taking semaglutide can depend on your overall diet and lifestyle. If you’re drinking plenty of water and eating fiber, you may only have constipation for a few days.
But on average, constipation can last for several weeks on semaglutide.
The researchers found that people on semaglutide had constipation for a median of 47 days, while people on the placebo were constipated for a median of 35 days.
Here are some ways you can get rid of constipation that happens when you take semaglutide.
Take it slow
A doctor may recommend you start by taking semaglutide at a low dose to know whether you’ll have any serious side effects.
If you don’t have constipation while taking a low dose, your doctor will start gradually increasing your dose over a few weeks. If you start having constipation at higher doses, reduce your dose again.
Drinking plenty of water can help reduce your chance of constipation from any cause. Having plenty of water in your body can help keep your bowel movements moist and easier to pass through your colon.
Try drinking about 11.5–15.5 cups of water per day, depending on your activity level.
Fiber helps move food through your digestive tract more easily and can help reduce constipation caused by semaglutide.
Eat at least 25–34 grams of fiber a day based on your age and activity level. If you already eat plenty of fiber, consider increasing your daily amount while you’re taking semaglutide.
Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate
Exercise can help keep your digestive tract moving smoothly by improving blood flow and stimulating muscle contractions in your intestines.
Other common side effects of semaglutide include:
Contact a doctor if you experience any of these possible severe side effects of semaglutide:
- intense abdominal pain, which could be a sign of pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, gallstones, or gallbladder inflammation
- changes in your vision that might be due to diabetic retinopathy
- extremely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- severe allergic reactions, such as your throat swelling (anaphylaxis)
- a lump in your throat or difficulty swallowing, which could be a sign of thyroid cancer
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about semaglutide and constipation.
Do Ozempic and Wegovy cause constipation?
Yes, Ozempic and Wegovy (two brand names for the same medication) can both cause constipation. The Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) reports that about 5% of people who take semaglutide will experience constipation or some other common side effect.
Can Ozempic or Wegovy cause a bowel blockage?
Long-term constipation caused by Ozemic or Wegovy can result in a bowel blockage. In 2023, the FDA updated its labeling for semaglutide to mention blocked intestines as a possible complication.
Constipation is a possible side effect of semaglutide.
And while semaglutide is a common treatment for type 2 diabetes, it can be risky when used for weight loss because of the complications of long-term constipation or other side effects.