- What is Wegovy (Semaglutide)?
- How does Wegovy work?
- How long do you stay on Wegovy?
- What are the side effects of Wegovy?
- How long do Wegovy side effects last?
- Will the side effects of Wegovy go away?
- Ways to reduce the side effects of Wegovy
- Things to avoid while taking Wegovy
- What are the side effects of stopping Wegovy?
According to surveys, it’s estimated that almost half of the population has tried to lose weight at any given time (at least in the United States!) in the past year.
Not only can weight loss improve mobility and comfort if you were considered overweight to begin with, but it can also help alleviate symptoms of certain health conditions and reduce your risk of developing other health issues.
Maintaining long-term weight loss can be challenging, which may lead you to look for additional support.
Certain weight loss medications are approved to help aid in weight loss efforts – but they don’t come without risks of side effects.
In this article, we’ll review the side effects of Wegovy, one of the weight loss medications on the market.
What is Wegovy (Semaglutide)?
Wegovy is a prescription weight loss medication. It’s an injectable medication with once-weekly dosing, and it shares the same active ingredient (semaglutide) as Ozempic, a medication for type 2 diabetes.
The United States Food and Drug Administration approved Wegovy in 2021 for weight management and weight loss.
Wegovy is meant for people ages 18 and older with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher, which indicates being “overweight” (a BMI of 30 or greater indicates obesity).
Wegovy dosages start at 0.25 milligrams per week and can be increased to a maximum of 2.4 milligrams per week.
How does Wegovy work?
Wegovy is in a class of medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists. GLP-1 receptor agonists promote weight loss in several ways.
First, Wegovy slows down digestion time, which means you feel full for a longer period after you eat. This increase in satiety can help you eat fewer calories, which promotes weight loss.
Wegovy also alters hormones that can impact hunger and satiety. Studies show that appetite hormones can be altered in people who are obese, which means you might feel more hungry compared to lean subjects.
In obese subjects, GLP-1 receptor agonists like Wegovy appear to restore a hormone activation pattern more similar to lean patients, which helps with weight loss.
How long do you stay on Wegovy?
Wegovy is meant to be used long-term, so you can stay on it as long as it remains beneficial. Studies on Wegovy lasted as long as 68 weeks, with no current indication that taking it long-term could be harmful.
If you’re experiencing side effects or adverse reactions from taking Wegovy, you might need to discontinue it even if it’s been helpful in your weight loss journey.
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What are the side effects of Wegovy?
The most common potential side effects of Wegovy include:
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Dyspepsia (indigestion)
- Abdominal distension
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in patients with type 2 diabetes
- Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), most commonly referred to as heartburn
Other safety concerns
Wegovy causes thyroid tumors and cancer in rodents, and it’s unknown if it will likely cause thyroid tumors in humans.
You should avoid taking Wegovy if you have a history (personal or family) of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), a type of thyroid cancer.
If you develop a lump or swelling in your neck, tenderness in your neck, or a hoarse voice, you should seek medical attention right away, since these can be a sign of a thyroid tumor.
It’s unknown if Wegovy is safe to take if you have a history of pancreatitis. If you have symptoms of pancreatitis, you should discontinue Wegovy and consult your healthcare provider.
Pancreatitis symptoms include:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
- Tenderness when touching your abdomen
- Rapid pulse
You should avoid taking Wegovy while breastfeeding since there isn’t currently enough data on its safety while breastfeeding.
You should take extreme caution if you’re breastfeeding a preterm or newborn baby since any adverse side effects could be greater in small babies.
How long do Wegovy side effects last?
How long Wegovy side effects last will depend on your dose and how long you’ve been taking it.
You’re more likely to experience side effects in the first few weeks after taking Wegovy, as well as following any dose increases.
Side effects vary greatly among individuals, so it’s difficult to estimate how severe or how long side effects might last.
In general, if you’re still experiencing side effects that are disrupting your quality of life for a month after taking your goal dose, then you should speak to your healthcare provider.
Will the side effects of Wegovy go away?
Side effects from medications generally dissipate as you get used to the medication. You might experience side effects the entire time you’re taking Wegovy, though they might not be as intense or severe as when you first started taking it.
If your side effects don’t go away after being at your goal dose of Wegovy for several weeks, then you might need to reduce the dose or stop taking Wegovy.
There aren’t any safety concerns about continuing Wegovy if your side effects are mild.
If you ever experience side effects that are indicative of more serious health issues (pancreatitis, thyroid tumors, etc.), you should discontinue Wegovy immediately and consult your healthcare provider.
Ways to reduce the side effects of Wegovy
- Take Wegovy as prescribed. If you take a higher dose than prescribed, you’re more likely to experience side effects.
- Gradually increasing your Wegovy dose can help minimize the intensity of any side effects. The recommended dosing schedule for Wegovy is to start at 0.25 milligrams and increase the dose every four weeks as needed.
- The dosing schedule to get to the maximum dose of 2.4 milligrams weekly would look like this:
- 0.25 milligrams once weekly for the first month
- 0.5 milligrams weekly for the second month
- 1 milligram weekly for the third month
- 1.7 milligrams weekly for the fourth month
- 2.4 milligrams weekly for the fifth month and beyond
Things to avoid while taking Wegovy
Fried foods/high-fat foods
One of the most common side effects of Wegovy is nausea, which is partly due to delayed stomach emptying.
Eating greasy, high-fat foods can worsen nausea since they take longer to digest and can prolong stomach emptying.
In addition, fatty foods are higher in energy (calories), so cutting back on them can better support your weight loss goals while taking Wegovy.
Other things that can help ease nausea while taking Wegovy include eating bland, dry foods, choosing cold foods over hot foods, and eating smaller meals throughout the day.
Eating large meals
You might find that you get full sooner than you usually do while taking Wegovy.
This is perfectly normal and is one of the ways Wegovy helps you lose weight.
Avoiding large meals can help reduce side effects like nausea and vomiting, and can also help if you experience reflux (heartburn) while taking Wegovy.
Foods and drinks high in added sugar
Sugar is added to many processed foods, with sugary drinks being the primary source of added sugar.
Sugar is added to foods that might otherwise seem healthy, like yogurt, some types of dried fruit, nutrition bars, and granola, to name a few. Added sugar is also sound in savory foods to boost palatability.
Added sugar doesn’t always come in the form of table sugar or corn syrup. It can also come from natural sources like honey and agave nectar, among many other sources.
Eating foods and drinks high in added sugar contributes extra calories to your diet, which can thwart weight loss efforts.
Not only can it be harmful to your weight, but there are potential serious implications for your health as well.
A diet high in added sugar is linked with obesity due to increased calorie consumption, as well as chronic diseases, including heart disease, liver disease, and certain types of cancers.
To help maximize Wegovy’s effectiveness, aim to keep your added sugar intake below 30 grams per day.
To help you stay on track, check the nutrition facts label and try to keep track of how much added sugar you’re eating in a typical day.
What are the side effects of stopping Wegovy?
The most likely side effect of stopping Wegovy is that you might stop losing weight, or you might regain some of the weight you lost.
You might be less likely to have weight regain if you also made healthy lifestyle changes while taking Wegovy, which generally is recommended while taking any type of weight loss medication.
If you were experiencing any adverse side effects from taking Wegovy, they will likely dissipate soon after you stop taking it.
If your blood sugar was on the higher end (such as having prediabetes) when you started taking Wegovy, your blood sugar levels might rise higher than they were while you were taking it.
Even though Wegovy isn’t a diabetes medication, it might lower your blood sugar if you didn’t have normal blood sugar levels before starting it.
Wegovy is a weight loss medication that has been approved by the US FDA since 2021. Its drug name is semaglutide.
The most common side effects of taking Wegovy include nausea, vomiting, and stomach discomfort, among others.
These side effects are most prevalent when you begin taking Wegovy and when you increase your dose.
The most effective way to reduce side effects from Wegovy is to take it as prescribed, increase your dose gradually, and practice lifestyle tips to help alleviate any side effects, particularly nausea and vomiting.