Mounjaro is a relatively new medication used to help manage blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
People use this potent prescription medication to lose or maintain weight and to help lower A1C levels.
However, many people are unclear about the side effects of this medication and how it may affect their everyday life.
This article will explain everything you need to know about the side effects of Mounjaro.
What is Mounjaro?
Mounjaro is an injectable prescription medication for people with type 2 diabetes.
It was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2022 and it is the brand name for the drug tirzepatide. It is produced by Eli Lilly.
Mounjaro is a unique medication because it activates both the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonist and GIP receptors in the body.
This medication is to be taken once per week along with diet, exercise, and other diabetes medications like insulin.
How does Mounjaro work?
Mounjaro works in a few different ways to help lower blood sugar levels and help people lose weight.
Increases insulin production in the pancreas
Mounjaro increases the amount of insulin the pancreas releases, but only when it detects high blood sugar levels.
This helps to keep blood sugars within a healthy range while also preventing low blood sugars.
Mounjaro also stops your liver from releasing glucose (glucagon) into the bloodstream.
Mounjaro slows digestion, helping to make people feel fuller for longer.
While it is not FDA-approved as a weight loss drug, this does lower one’s appetite and helps many people lose weight.
In clinical trials, people taking Mounjaro at the maximum dose of 15 mg per week lost:
- 12 pounds more than participants on the GLP-1 medication (semaglutide)
- 29 pounds more than those on insulin degludec
- 27 pounds more than those on insulin glargine
It is currently in clinical trials to be approved as a stand-alone weight loss drug due to its powerful effects on weight.
Improves heart health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in people with diabetes.
Mounjaro can be very beneficial to help protect against heart disease.
Studies report that after one year of consistent use, people on the maximum dose of Mounjaro (15 mg per week):
- Lowered their total cholesterol by about 5.6 percent
- Lowered their triglycerides by 22.5 percent
- Lowered their LDL cholesterol by 7.9 percent
- Lowered their VLDL by 21.8 percent
- Increased their HDL by 10.8 percent
Combining Mounjaro with an improved diet and an increased amount of physical activity can go a long way to improving your heart health.
What are the side effects of Mounjaro?
Mounjaro can have some major side effects, especially when you first start taking the medication.
The following are common side effects that may range from mild to moderate to severe:
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- Rapid heart rate
Although rare, more severe complications may include:
- Thyroid tumors, including cancer
- Gallbladder disease
- Low blood sugar levels, if you take insulin
- Serious allergic reactions
Several of these more severe side effects can lead to permanent health complications and death if not treated quickly.
Call your doctor or seek emergency medical attention if you:
- Develop a fever
- Experience changes or worsening of your vision
- If you are feeling weak or in pain after taking the medication
- If you think you’re having an allergic reaction and are experiencing trouble breathing or a rash after taking the medication
How can you decrease the side effects of Mounjaro?
After starting Mounjaro, it’s normal to experience mild to moderate side effects—especially during the first few weeks.
Lower your dose or find an alternative medication
Talk to your doctor if the side effects you’re experiencing are severe enough to disrupt your daily life.
If you cannot go to school, work, or conduct normal activities, your doctor may suggest either weaning your dose or finding you an alternative medication
Stay hydrated and keep blood sugars within a healthy range
If you’re struggling with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, make sure that you’re staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and getting electrolytes.
Being dehydrated increases the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be fatal if not treated quickly.
Test your blood sugar often to make sure that your blood sugar levels are staying within a healthy range.
Continue to take all other diabetes medications as prescribed.
Seek medical attention immediately if you’re so nauseous that you’re not able to keep down food or drink. Untreated low blood sugar can be extremely dangerous, especially if you take insulin.
Stick to bland foods in the beginning
Manage nausea by sticking to bland foods such as toast, rice, bananas, and applesauce.
Drink plenty of clear liquids, such as warm soups and broths.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals
You may also find it helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Stop eating once you are full, even if you seem to be eating less than normal.
Learn more: What Foods to Avoid on Mounjaro
Opt for over-the-counter medications
You can also take over-the-counter nausea medication such as Dramamine or get a prescription for Zofran until your side effects subside.
Does taking more Mounjaro make side effects worse?
Mounjaro is dose-responsive. This means that more of the medication will have a bigger effect on your blood sugar levels and weight.
However, this also means that you may be more likely to experience side effects the more you take.
You should never take more Mounjaro than you’re prescribed, especially when you first start taking the medication.
Your doctor may increase your dose as your body gets used to the medication but never do so without consulting them first.
Are side effects expected?
Unfortunately, most people do experience one or more side effects when taking Mounjaro.
In the clinical trials, nearly one in five participants experienced either nausea, diarrhea, or decreased appetite when taking the medication.
Other side effects such as vomiting and constipation were less common.
Talk to your doctor if your side effects last more than a few weeks or get worse.
Your doctor can work with you to lower your dose or find an alternative medication.
Do you have to take Mounjaro with food?
No. Unlike insulin, Mounjaro does not cause acute low blood sugars and can be taken either with or without food.
The important thing is that you take your Mounjaro on the same day at the same time each week.
Who should not take Mounjaro?
Do not take Mounjaro if you have not been prescribed Mounjaro by your doctor.
Do not take Mounjaro if you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding.
It is not recommended for people without diabetes, with prediabetes, or with type 1 diabetes without the guidance of a physician.
Mounjaro is only FDA-approved for people 18 years and older.
Do not use Mounjaro if you or any of your family members have ever had medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), or if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).
Do not use Mounjaro if you are allergic to tirzepatide.
Talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about taking Mounjaro or if you’ve been diagnosed with any new health conditions after starting Mounjaro.
Are there alternatives to Mounjaro?
Yes! Check in with your doctor if Mounjaro is not working out for you.
There are many alternatives you can try including other GLP-1 agonists or even sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors such as: