Last week, we discussed the potential for semaglutide to cause diarrhea and ways to help get relief. Today, I want to talk about how semaglutide can cause constipation and everything you should know to manage your semaglutide-related constipation.
Why does semaglutide cause constipation?
Constipation can happen with semaglutide, but it tends to be less common than diarrhea. Up to 12% of people taking it for type 2 diabetes and 24% of people taking it for weight loss reported constipation in clinical trials. Understanding the causes of constipation from semaglutide and learning how to manage it is important for people using it.
Like diarrhea, you’re more likely to experience constipation with higher doses of semaglutide, and the good news is that this side effect usually goes away over time as your body gets used to the medication.
It’s not exactly clear why semaglutide causes constipation, but research suggests that it has to do with how the medication works. Because semaglutide slows down how fast food leaves your stomach, people feel fuller longer and tend to eat and drink less. Not getting enough fluid can cause constipation because there is less liquid in the stool, making it harder for you to have a bowel movement.
Semaglutide also causes your pancreas to release insulin, which lowers your blood glucose (sugar) and helps your cells use glucose from the food you’ve eaten. This is helpful because extra glucose your cells don’t use is stored as fat, which is why high blood sugar can lead to weight gain. But keep in mind that insulin also slows down your gut, which means you may have a bowel movement less often.
How do you manage constipation from semaglutide?
Dietary Changes: Add more fiber-rich foods like whole fruits (raspberries, apples, and bananas) and vegetables like broccoli, sweet potato, and lentils. It’s recommended to start with 2 servings per day. Most adults should aim for 25 to 30 grams or more every day. You’ll want to start slow because eating too much fiber can have the opposite effect and cause bloating, gassiness, and more constipation.
Stay active: Reduced physical activity can lead to constipation. Moving around can help get things moving in your gut and also relieve bloating. Try to get at least 15 minutes of physical activity during the day to help get your bowels moving.
Stay hydrated: Like diarrhea, constipation can happen if you’re dehydrated. Drinking water and clear fluids will help prevent your stools from becoming hard and dry.
You can also try using the bathroom at the same time each day and make sure not to hold your poop in when you have to use the bathroom. This will help your gut get into a good rhythm. It’s recommended to take your bathroom breaks about 30 minutes after you eat. This is when your gut is most active.
Over-the-counter (OTC) Remedies: Over-the-counter fiber supplements, laxatives, or stool
softeners can be used to manage constipation. These products can help soften stools and make them easier to pass. Popular products include Dulcolax (laxative), Colace (stool softener), and Metamucil (fiber supplement).
Probiotics: Probiotic supplements or probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables can help regulate gut health and promote regular bowel movements. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that support the natural balance of the digestive system. Popular probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Make sure to keep track of your constipation symptoms, including the frequency of bowel movements and any discomfort. This information can be valuable for your healthcare provider in adjusting your treatment plan. And let your provider know if you are unable to eat, have stomach pain, and experience vomiting.
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