Why Weight Loss Meds Cause Digestive Distress And What Can Help – Zenwise Why Weight Loss Meds Cause Digestive Distress And What Can Help – Zenwise
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Why Weight Loss Meds Cause Digestive Distress And What Can Help

The use of weight loss meds is rife with controversy, and we’re not about to advocate for or against them. We understand that some folks may choose this option under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Ozempic and other similar drugs belong to a class of medications known as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists. Four of the more popular GLP-1 medications — Ozempic and Mounjaro (approved for diabetes) and Wegovy and Zepbound (approved for weight loss) — have similar side effects.  The most common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and stomach pain.

In this blog, we'll delve into why weight loss medications can cause digestive upset and provide helpful tips for safely managing these potential side effects.

Weight loss medications function through diverse mechanisms, such as appetite suppression, metabolism enhancement, or fat absorption inhibition. While these mechanisms can aid in weight reduction, they may also impact the gastrointestinal tract, leading to discomfort and digestive disturbances. Let's explore some of the reasons why weight loss meds can cause digestive upset:

  1. Changes in Gastric Emptying: Some weight loss medications may slow the rate at which food empties from the stomach into the intestines. This delay can result in feelings of fullness, bloating, and indigestion.
  2. Altered Gut Hormones: Certain medications can affect the production and function of gut hormones that regulate appetite and digestion. These alterations may contribute to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  3. Gastrointestinal Sensitivity: Weight loss drugs can increase sensitivity to certain foods or food components, leading to adverse reactions in the digestive system. As a result, some people may experience symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, or diarrhea.
  4. Impact on Gut Microbiota: The balance of bacteria in the gut, known as the gut microbiota, plays a crucial role in digestion and overall health. Weight loss medications may disrupt this balance, potentially leading to gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or constipation.
  5. Changes in Digestive Enzymes: Certain weight loss medications can alter the production or function of digestive enzymes, which are essential for breaking down food. This disruption can result in symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea. For more info, read Digestive Enzymes Frequently Asked Questions.


While experiencing digestive upset while taking weight loss medications is not uncommon, there are strategies to help alleviate discomfort and manage these side effects effectively. Pro tip: the strategies below apply to a non-medicated approach to weight management as well.

  1. Hydrate: Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining digestive health. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and promote regular bowel movements. Limiting intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can also help minimize gastrointestinal irritation.
  2. Smaller, Frequent Meals: To ease digestion, avoid consuming large meals and opt for smaller, more frequent meals. This approach can prevent feelings of fullness and reduce the likelihood of gastrointestinal discomfort. “Eat slowly, chew your food well, and end your meal at the first sign of satisfaction, and don’t overdo it,” says Christine Santori, RDN, in a Healthline.com interview.
  3. Fiber-Rich Foods: Fiber is crucial in supporting digestive health and preventing constipation. Incorporate fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into your diet to promote regularity and alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms. If you’re new to a whole food-based diet, read How to Ease the Transition to Whole Foods.
  4. Probiotics: Consider incorporating probiotic supplements from Zenwise® or probiotic-rich foods into your diet to support a healthy gut microbiota. Probiotics can help restore balance to the digestive system and alleviate symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
  5. Consult Your Doc: If you experience persistent or severe digestive upset while taking weight loss medications, it's essential to consult your healthcare provider. It’s best to speak with a prescribing provider and dietitian about foods to create a plan that works and nourishes you.

Health experts say the bottom line is to have a conversation with your healthcare provider before starting these medications. “Side effects are always important to know, and [patients should] understand that there’s no miracle drug,” says bariatric surgeon Dr. Chetna Bakshi in an AARP interview. “Everything comes with a risk; everything comes with complications.”  


Whatever route you choose, don’t miss reading Gut Check: A Guide to Boosting Health on Your Weight Loss Journey. For digestive support advice, contact our customer service team, who can answer questions seven days a week at support@zenwise.com or M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (800) 940-1972. 

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