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4 things that happen when you stop taking a GLP-1

1 min Read
stop taking a GLP-1

GLP-1 weight-loss medications have revolutionized the field of weight loss. But all good things must come to an end. Because the truth is … most people are not going to take a GLP-1 forever. With that in mind, it’s important for you to understand what changes may happen in your body when you stop taking a GLP-1.

Now, there are many different reasons why someone might decide to stop taking their medication. Some people might be experiencing side effects. Others get tired of regular injections. Some patients want to get pregnant – and taking a GLP-1 could inhibit that process. In the ideal scenario, a person has reached their target weight and is beginning to think about their life post-medication.

So what do they need to know?

The basics: How GLP-1s work

To understand what happens when you quit a GLP-1, it’s helpful to have a multifaceted understanding of how these medications work. GLP-1 medications work by mimicking the GLP-1 hormone in the body. This hormone helps to spur the production of insulin and suppresses glucagon. (Glucogen can increase blood sugar, while insulin helps decrease blood sugar.) So GLP-1 medications are helpful at leveling out the blood sugar of people with type 2 diabetes.

GLP-1s also act as an appetite suppressant. They slow gastric emptying, which increases a sense of satiety and fullness. This is one of the reasons they’re so effective at facilitating weight loss.

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While GLP-1s are incredibly effective and helpful, they aren’t magic, and they don’t act solely on their own. To be truly effective, you need to pair them with lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet and exercise. Don’t do that and you can make it a lot more difficult to lose weight. Eating foods that are high in fat and sugar can also worsen any side effects like nausea and vomiting. 

What happens when you stop taking a GLP-1?

Since GLP-1s have such an impact on the metabolic processes in the body, stopping them also causes significant changes in your body. Here are some things you should expect and prepare for. 

  1. Increased hunger and cravings.

Along with blood sugar spikes, when you stop taking a GLP-1 medication, you will likely experience an increase in hunger and cravings. One of the ways that GLP-1s work is by helping to suppress appetite by slowing gastric emptying. When that stops, you may lose the sense of fullness the medication might have brought you, which can increase your hunger. (Sorry!)

  1. Slower weight loss or weight regain.

You might regain at least some weight when you stop taking a GLP-1. If you and your doctor do decide to taper you off your medication, continuing lifestyle changes can make a huge difference on your outcomes. (Hint … that’s where NOOM can help!)

  1. Potential rebound in blood sugar. 

When you stop taking a GLP-1, the work it was doing to regulate your blood sugar stops. People with type 2 diabetes may experience intense blood sugar spikes (which, not surprisingly can be really uncomfortable), causing symptoms like blurry vision, fatigue, excessive thirst and urination. As you taper off the drug, your clinician may decide to help manage blood sugar spikes by changing what you eat, or adding other medications to your treatment plan that can control blood sugar. 

4. Disappearance of side effects.

We’ve talked through the bad news. There’s no sugar coating (pun intended) the fact that many of the good things GLP-1s do for your health and weight loss are suspended when you stop taking a GLP-1. But there’s also potential good news. If you were experiencing any side effects on your medication, those will likely come to a close as well.

Some of these side effects — which include persistent nausea, vomiting, and other issues — can be really uncomfortable. For some, while GLP-1s help them lose weight, they might find that the side effects negatively impact the quality of their lives. If you’re in this boat, your clinician can likely work with you to see if there’s a different drug or type of intervention that can help you on this journey. 

A review

GLP-1s can have a significant impact on your quality of life — helping to modify your metabolic processes and allowing you to lose the weight you’ve wanted to lose for years.

And that doesn’t have to come to an end when it’s time to transition off these medications! To combat any negative changes post-GLP-1, it’s highly recommended that you keep up with the healthy lifestyle changes you started while taking a GLP-1. Plus, continue communicating with your clinician so that you can work on individualizing a long-term treatment plan that’s right for you.

Note: GLP-1s, like Ozempic, are not FDA approved to treat obesity or for weight loss.

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Linda Anegawa, MD is Noom’s Chief Medical Officer where she brings decades of experience in academic primary care, bariatrics, advisory board service, and leadership in digital health. She is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.