Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is usually characterized by a burning sensation in the chest and may also be accompanied by a bitter taste in the mouth. It occurs when acid leaves the stomach (where it is supposed to remain) and travels up the esophagus. Heartburn symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe and may be caused or triggered by a wide variety of different conditions and circumstances. Unsurprisingly, heartburn is something most people prefer to avoid altogether.
If you are currently taking Ozempic or considering starting on the injectable Type 2 Diabetes medication, you’re likely aware that its most common side effects are gastrointestinal in nature. The possibilities of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain have all been well-documented and publicized, but what about heartburn? Is this condition also something you may need to prepare for and contend with?
Below, we’ve compiled what is known about Ozempic and heartburn and considered some possible lifestyle and diet changes that may reduce your likelihood of experiencing reflux symptoms while on the drug. For specific information about Ozempic and heartburn as it relates to your personal health and circumstances, it’s critical to speak directly with your doctor or healthcare provider.
- Ozempic is an injectable GLP-1 medication that is indicated for regulating blood sugar levels in adults with Type 2 Diabetes.
- It has been associated with heartburn in a small percentage of patients (2.7%-3.5%).
- The exact link between Ozempic and heartburn is unknown but is likely related to slowed stomach emptying.
- The recommended strategies for managing Ozempic-related heartburn are the same as those for managing heartburn in general. They include straightforward lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and the possible use of over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Does Ozempic Cause Heartburn?
According to Novo Nordisk’s prescribing information for Ozempic, dyspepsia (which can include heartburn) was reported as a side effect of the drug during clinical trials in 3.5% of patients taking the 1 mg weekly dose and 2.7% of patients taking the 0.5 mg weekly dose. Interestingly, more patients experienced dyspepsia at the lower dose of the drug, which is unusual. The reason for this anomaly is unknown. Also worth noting is that 1.9% of clinical trial patients who received placebo injections also reported dyspepsia, meaning that the difference between all three groups was actually relatively small.
The most common symptoms of dyspepsia reported during Ozempic clinical trials included chest discomfort, indigestion, stomach pain, and burping.
How Long Does Heartburn From Ozempic Last?
Ozempic clinical trials did not track the length of time during which patients experienced heartburn—only whether or not this symptom was present.
That being said, for many patients, Ozempic’s gastrointestinal side effects have been known to reduce or dissipate altogether as the body adjusts to the drug (though they sometimes reappear as doses are increased). Heartburn may follow a similar trajectory in many cases but will be different for each individual patient. People who are prone to heartburn before starting on Ozempic may be more likely to experience this side effect on an ongoing basis.
Why Ozempic Causes Heartburn
The exact link between Ozempic and heartburn has not been clearly identified, but it likely has some connection to the slowed stomach emptying caused by semaglutide (Ozempic’s active ingredient) and other medications in the same drug class of GLP-1 receptor agonists.
Here are some possible causes of Ozempic-related heartburn:
- Pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve between the esophagus and stomach) can result in heartburn symptoms. Such pressure may be caused by food remaining in the stomach for a prolonged period of time.
- Frequent burping (a well-documented Ozempic side effect) can exacerbate heartburn.
- Stomach acid is produced in response to the presence of food and may naturally increase when food isn’t digested at its normal rate.
How To Manage Heartburn
The recommended strategies for managing Ozempic-related heartburn are the same as the strategies for managing any other form of heartburn. They can include the following:
- Healthy weight loss (to reduce pressure in the abdomen and on the lower esophageal sphincter)
- Staying upright after meals and avoiding eating before bed (for people taking Ozempic, this may mean eating a small early supper whenever possible to mitigate the impacts of delayed gastric emptying)
- Avoiding large, spicy, or high-fat meals
- Eating a balanced diet and eliminating foods that trigger reflux symptoms (see below)
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Exercising regularly (though not directly after a meal)
- Keeping a food diary to identify personal triggers for heartburn
- Elevating the head of the bed when resting
- Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications (with approval from your doctor or healthcare provider)
The vast majority of patients report that gastrointestinal side effects do not outweigh the overall benefits of Ozempic. That being said, if heartburn is negatively impacting your quality of life and none of the above strategies are helping, be sure to seek medical advice to properly treat and resolve the issue.
Foods That Help Alleviate Heartburn
Dietary triggers are different for every patient, but incorporating the following foods into your diet may help you reduce Ozempic heartburn:
Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties and is also well-known for its ability to combat nausea (another one of the common side effects of Ozempic). Try sipping ginger tea, taking ginger supplements, or adding fresh ginger to your cooking. However, note that ginger ale is not recommended while taking Ozempic due to its high sugar content.
This one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Vegetables are low in fat and sugar and high in healthy nutrients of all kinds overall. Try to incorporate at least two portions of vegetables into every meal while taking Ozempic (and even when not).
Egg yolks are a high-fat food that may contribute to reflux symptoms, but egg whites are a great alternative. They are an excellent low-fat source of protein and can also help you to lose weight while on Ozempic.
Oats are a natural whole grain and an excellent source of fiber, which is known to help reduce heartburn symptoms. Not only that, but they’re affordable, readily available, and easy to incorporate into breakfasts, baking, and healthy yet satisfying desserts in a variety of creative ways.
Lean Meats and Seafood
If you are experiencing Ozempic-related heartburn, lean meats, poultry, fish, and seafood will be the way to go. Try tasty recipes that involve grilling, roasting, or poaching instead of frying or deep-frying to get the most benefit both in terms of acid reflux reduction and weight loss.
Most fruits are an excellent addition to your diet while on Ozempic. But, if heartburn is a concern, avoid citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes.
Foods That Trigger Heartburn When Using Ozempic
While no one can predict your body’s exact response to consuming certain ingredients, the foods below are generally known to exacerbate acid reflux symptoms:
Avoid fatty foods such as creamy sauces and dressings, full-fat dairy products, deep-fried treats, highly processed snacks, and more.
Chocolate and Coffee
Chocolate and coffee both contain methylxanthines, naturally occurring compounds associated with the relaxing of the smooth muscle in the lower esophageal sphincter. Moderate consumption habits are recommended.
It may seem counterintuitive since mint is often thought of to be soothing and refreshing, but natural mint and mint-flavored products have been known to trigger heartburn.
Garlic, Onions, and Spicy Food
Garlic and onions may be delicious and flavorful, but they’re also associated with increased heartburn symptoms for many people. It’s worth tracking your reactions to these ingredients, as well as to other spicy foods if heartburn is a concern for you while taking Ozempic.
Tomatoes and Citrus
Tomatoes and citrus are both highly acidic. If you’re experiencing heartburn, it may be prudent to avoid these foods as well as sauces and juices made from them.
To conclude, Ozempic is a life-saving medication for many adults with Type 2 Diabetes but is also associated with gastrointestinal side effects, including heartburn (also known as acid reflux) in a small percentage of patients. The exact link between Ozempic and heartburn is unknown but is likely related to the fact that Ozempic causes delayed gastric emptying, thus potentially increasing pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
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