Is there a connection between popular weight-loss drugs and a potentially serious gastric condition?

Gastroparesis is a chronic condition that affects the normal motility of the stomach. Gastroparesis occurs when the nerves and muscles of the stomach become “paralyzed.” This can lead to food sitting too long in the stomach or delayed gastric emptying. This disorder can be debilitating and may significantly impact a person's quality of life.

Symptoms of Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis symptoms may vary from mild to severe and can worsen over time. Common signs and symptoms include:

  1. Nausea and Vomiting: Individuals with gastroparesis often experience frequent and persistent nausea, which may be accompanied by vomiting, especially after eating.
  2. Feeling Full Quickly: Patients may feel full after consuming only a small amount of food, leading to reduced food intake and unintended weight loss.
  3. Bloating and Abdominal Distension: Gastroparesis can cause bloating and an uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the abdominal region.
  4. Heartburn or Acid Reflux: Delayed stomach emptying can result in the backup of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing heartburn or acid reflux.
  5. Fluctuations in Blood Sugar Levels: Gastroparesis can disrupt the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, leading to unstable blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes.
  6. Malnutrition and Dehydration: In severe cases, malnutrition and dehydration may occur due to inadequate food intake and fluid loss from vomiting.

GLP-1 Weight Loss Drugs and Gastroparesis

Ozempic (semaglutide) and other GLP-1 weight loss medications, have been associated with gastrointestinal side effects. These medications work by increasing insulin secretion, promoting satiety (feeling of fullness), and slowing down gastric emptying. As a result, some individuals taking these medications may experience symptoms similar to gastroparesis, such as nausea, vomiting, and delayed stomach emptying.

"While research on the direct link between GLP-1 agonist diabetes and weight loss drugs and gastroparesis is limited, some studies have shown the potential for gastrointestinal complications with these medications," explains Dr. Andres D. Mogollon.

"The reason GLP-1 agonist medications are successful in treating diabetes and weight loss is because they promote delayed gastric emptying, early satiety and decreased appetite. Although some patients may experience nausea and vomiting, these symptoms typically resolve in a few weeks".

Dr. Mogollon stresses these medications should be used with caution in patients with gastroparesis. “If you are currently taking any GLP-1 agonist and experience persistent gastrointestinal symptoms, talk to your doctor right away".

Treatment Options for Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis treatment aims to alleviate symptoms, improve stomach emptying, and manage any underlying conditions contributing to the disorder. The following treatment options may be recommended by your doctor:

  1. Dietary Changes: Eating smaller, more frequent meals and choosing easily digestible foods can help manage symptoms. A low-fiber and low-fat diet may also be beneficial.
  2. Medications: Prokinetic medications can stimulate stomach contractions and promote gastric emptying. Antiemetic drugs may be prescribed to control nausea and vomiting.
  3. Feeding Tubes: In severe cases, when oral intake is insufficient, a feeding tube may be inserted to provide necessary nutrition and hydration.
  4. Managing Underlying Conditions: Treating underlying conditions like diabetes or thyroid disorders can aid in controlling gastroparesis.
  5. Electrical Gastric Stimulation: This innovative therapy involves surgically implanting a device that stimulates the stomach muscles to improve motility.

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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) - Gastroparesis Information Page:

Mayo Clinic - Gastroparesis:

American College of Gastroenterology - Gastroparesis:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - Ozempic (semaglutide) Prescribing Information:

Bloomberg - FDA Warns of Gastroparesis Risk With Novo Nordisk's Ozempic:

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