Side Effects, risks, and why you need the close medical supervision we provide at VIVA Wellness
Weight loss has changed since your mother’s generation. Since it was FDA-approved in 2021, semaglutide (brand names Wegovy and Ozempic) has been in extremely high demand, even causing shortages in some areas. These drugs are being dubbed a “miracle drug” by some due to the many cases of dramatic weight loss. But of course, any medication that powerful also comes with risks.
At VIVA Wellness, we believe in the power of medication to help lose weight and achieve overall wellness. Still, we also think that these medications should not be given without close medical supervision. That’s why our team of dedicated, caring nurse practitioners partner with each of our clients throughout their individualized weight loss program to set them on the road to success. While other weight loss clinics may promise fast and dramatic results, we will help you meet your goals without sacrificing your comfort and safety.
Many clients have come to us asking about Ozempic and related weight loss programs. Here are a few common questions we hear from our clients at VIVA Wellness:
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is an FDA-approved weekly injection (active ingredient semaglutide) designed for patients with Type 2 Diabetes to manage blood sugar, hunger, and cravings. While it is not primarily advertised as a weight loss medication, its effects on appetite can lower food intake and provide significant, sustained weight loss.
The non-stimulant effects of semaglutide target brain centers that reduce cravings and blood sugar levels. It also slows the emptying of food from the stomach to make you feel fuller for longer. This is what makes Ozempic an effective means of treating obesity in patients who also have Type 2 Diabetes without making drastic lifestyle changes or going on a restrictive diet. Semaglutide injection under the brand name Wegovy is approved for weight loss in non-diabetics.
Is Ozempic safe for weight loss?
The FDA has approved Ozempic as an effective diabetes medication and is generally considered safe for that purpose. We often prescribe Wegovy for individuals who would like to lose weight and who have a BMI of 27 or higher with one weight-related comorbidity (hypertension, fatty liver, sleep apnea, high cholesterol) or those who have a BMI of 30 or higher.
Ozempic and Type 2 diabetes
If you have diabetes and are taking medication for lowering blood sugar, be mindful of the potential for your blood sugar levels to drop too low. Regular check-ins on treatment progress with your VIVA Wellness team can help ensure that proper adjustments in medications and lifestyle changes occur. For example, suppose you experience hypoglycemia while taking semaglutide drugs, including the Ozempic semaglutide injections. In that case, we will adjust treatment and suggest changes to your routine to protect your health and well-being.
Off-label use of Ozempic
Because Ozempic is only approved as a diabetes medication, many clinics use Ozempic off-label for weight loss.
Issues that this “off-label” use can cause include:
- Risk of drug interactions for those taking Ozempic without medical supervision
- Serious side effects, including allergic reactions, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the eye), kidney failure and other kidney problems, increased thyroid cancer risk, gallstones, and swelling of the pancreas
- Regaining weight when no longer taking the medication if lifestyle changes haven’t been made
What to know about taking Ozempic for weight loss:
U.S. News and World Report recently interviewed Dr. Heather Martin, a family medicine physician based in Tennessee, and Dr. Neil Paulvin, a board-certified doctor in family practice and regenerative medicine in New York City. Here’s what they think you need to know:
Start at a lower dose and increase as necessary
Starting at a lower dose and slowly increasing the dosage could help reduce the risk of common side effects. Your VIVA Wellness nurse practitioner will make adjustments and work you up to a higher dose as necessary to balance side effects with effectiveness.
Adjust your diet and way of eating
Dr. Paulvin recommends that people taking Ozempic and other semaglutide-containing products should aim to eat “two or three smaller meals a day.” It is common for people to eat about two-thirds of the amount of food they normally would, but fasting entirely is not recommended. Most people see better results by eating a lower-carb, higher-protein diet to sustain weight loss when taking Ozempic. Our nutritional counselors will help you with healthy food choices that complement your weight loss protocol.
Be prepared for “Ozempic face” (it’s NOT what you think)
You may have heard of a condition called “Ozempic face.” While the term may seem frightening, it refers to cosmetic changes to the face that occur with significant weight loss.
Vogue magazine recently covered the phenomenon. “Rapid weight loss leads to volume loss in the face, but can also affect the collagen and elastin in the skin,” says Dr. Levine, a plastic surgeon from New York. “Ozempic face can look gaunt, deflated, and saggy.” It is important to note that it is not the semaglutide itself that is responsible for these skin changes but the weight loss effects.
If you experience Ozempic face, our Glow Up Drip can help. The blend of Biotin, Vitamin C, B vitamins, and amino acids supports your skin from the inside out. It works by flooding the cardiovascular system with nutrients and rich antioxidants to help your skin look and feel brighter and healthier. The amino acid blend supports the skin’s structure and boosts collagen production. The drip is completed with a glutathione IV push—a potent liver detoxifier—which has a strong correlation to overall skin health.
What are the risks of semaglutide?
The most common side effects of Ozempic® may include gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation.
Serious side effects of Ozempic® include:
- Inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis).
- Changes in vision. Let us know right away if you have changes in vision during treatment.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Your risk of getting low blood sugar may be higher if you use Ozempic® with another medicine that can cause low blood sugar like insulin. Your VIVA Wellness NP will make note of your other medications to analyze if this will be a risk for you. If you are taking other medications affecting blood sugar, your VIVA Wellness team will ask you to closely monitor your blood sugar levels and report any symptoms.
- Kidney problems, up to and including kidney failure. If you already have kidney problems, gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may cause a loss of fluids (dehydration), which may make kidney problems worse. It is important for you to drink fluids to help reduce your chance of dehydration.
- Serious allergic reactions. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction may include swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, problems breathing or swallowing, severe rash or itching, dizziness, fainting, or very rapid heartbeat.
- Gallbladder problems. Let us know immediately if you get symptoms of gallbladder problems which may include pain in your upper stomach (abdomen), fever, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), or clay-colored stools.
Can you take Ozempic long-term?
Dr. Christopher McGowan, M.D., a gastroenterologist specializing in obesity medicine, spoke to Forbes about the long-term safety of Ozempic. “GLP-1 medications [like Ozempic] are designed to be taken long-term,” explains Dr. McGowan. “They are chronic medications for the treatment of chronic conditions (both diabetes and obesity).”
Long-term benefits of semaglutide
Clinical studies on semaglutide have shown it to be an effective medication for treating obesity over time. A study published in 2021 showed that 40% of participants who continued semaglutide lost an additional 10% of body weight during the study, supporting its use for long-term treatment of obesity. Furthermore, 64% of those who took semaglutide for 68 weeks lost at least 15% of their total body weight.
Findings from another 2-year study suggest that the drug’s weight loss benefits can be sustained. In the trial, adults with overweight and obesity treated with weekly semaglutide injections lost an average of more than 15% of their body weight through 104 weeks.
Long-term risks of Ozempic
Ozempic has a boxed warning about the possible risk of thyroid cancer. Ozempic has caused thyroid cancer in animals, but it’s unclear if this drug also increases thyroid cancer risk in humans.
When you start your journey with your healthcare professional at VIVA Wellness, we will ask about your health history to lower the possible risk of long-term effects like thyroid cancer. You are not recommended to use Ozempic if you have a rare genetic condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 or if a family member has had medullary thyroid cancer.
Who should not take semaglutide?
When we begin our journey together, we will make note of any history of chronic diseases since people with the following conditions should avoid using Ozempic:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Under 18 years of age
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Problems with the pancreas or kidneys
- Family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)
- Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), an endocrine system condition
What is the safest and fastest weight loss?
When you come to our Brookfield clinic, our VIVA Wellness team will get to know you on a personal level. The best way for you to lose weight may not look the same as for someone else. A once-weekly injection protocol is a great option for many people, but it is not for everyone. That’s why we offer other weight loss medications and nutritional counseling to help you find the weight loss program that’s right for you.
Once we discuss your overall health and family history, we will devise a plan to reach your optimal body weight. While other clinics may focus on losing weight as quickly as possible and sacrifice your overall health and well-being, we care too much to do that. Instead, our treatment programs focus on your overall wellness, which will come with gradual and sustainable weight loss.
Once you reach your goal, we will make sure you are on the road to success in maintaining any weight lost, whether that means taking semaglutide long-term or stopping semaglutide and altering your program for maintenance.
How does VIVA Wellness use Ozempic for weight loss?
Our semaglutide (Ozempic) protocol uses a weekly protocol of semaglutide injected subcutaneously into the abdomen, arm, or thigh fat with our unique blend of other supportive items. You and your dedicated NP may choose to complement your semaglutide injections with other intramuscular (IM) injections and oral supplements to help aid weight loss and ease side effects. As our patient, you can expect consistent, sustained results over time.
At VIVA Wellness, your dedicated NP may proactively mitigate side effects by automatically prescribing anti-nausea relief medications and supplements that support metabolic health and detoxification pathways. Through our weekly check-ins, we will adjust your dose and overall program based on real-time feedback from your body and your mental, emotional, and physical status. Your plan is tailored to you and your individual body.
How will VIVA Wellness make sure I stay safe while taking Ozempic or other weight loss medications?
Don’t choose an in-and-out clinic that won’t take the time to discuss your safety concerns. We know that supporting whole-body health means the drug will be tolerated more easily. Because every client is different, there is no “typical” or “guaranteed” result of using Ozempic. However, with proper care for every aspect of your health, including the emotional, mental, and nutritional, the effects of your weight loss program will be amplified. Many patients regain weight with other programs that don’t take the time and energy to invest in their clients. We are in it with you every step of the way until you reach the goal that you decide on from the beginning.
If you are considering starting a medical weight loss program involving Ozempic or another semaglutide product, let VIVA be a part of your team.
If you are looking for help with your weight goals and overall wellness, then rest assured that we have a variety of services to choose from. Many patients add other treatments within VIVA Wellness to achieve even greater results, like colonics, lymphatic drainage, and cavitation. Our expert team is here to support everyone’s journey in the way they feel best suits them. Our services offer complete flexibility, giving you freedom of choice regarding how and when we can help.
If ever you have a question that needs answering along the way, our staff will always have time to guide you. You are a whole person in need of comprehensive care. We’ve designed our clinic to improve and support all our clients’ overall health and wellness. Our services are available to everyone who wants to safely make their health goals a reality. Contact us and let us join you to create the best version of yourself you can be.