Side Effects and Dangers of the HCG DietSo you're interested in HCG diet drops and the HCG diet, but you're doing your research and you want to know about side effects. You've come to the right place. (Note however that this is not intended to be medical advice; this page is only for informational purposes.)
A lot depends on the type of HCG you are taking. As mentioned in our first article on this subject, the prescription form of HCG is the one most likely to cause serious, negative side effects -- but it is still rare. We wrote a whole article about it here.
Other types of HCG, including homeopathic HCG drops and true homeopathic substitutions, are much easier on your body. Unlike prescription HCG injections, homeopathic formulas have no known side effects, so you can take them without worry.
That leaves the diet itself. The HCG diet is usually a big change from your average, everyday diet. The HCG weight loss protocol calls for just 500 calories per day, taken from a specially chosen list of high-protein, high-nutrient foods. You'll be getting balanced nutrition—especially if you take a multivitamin as recommended. ("Vita-X" is a special multivitamin designed especially for the HCG diet, the only one we know of.) But the very low calories plus few calories from carbs does have an effect.
Possible side effects of the HCG diet eating plan may include:
You'll be eating a lot less than you're used to, and there will naturally be less to excrete. People on the HCG diet can have bowel movements as much as 3 or 4 days apart. This isn't considered to be true constipation unless you know you need to go but can't get it out. A mild sugar-free laxative should solve your troubles. Drink plenty of water as well to help smooth out the tract and soften things up.
During the first week of the HCG diet your body has to adjust, and you may experience headaches. This is probably the most common side effect. You can take any standard, over-the-counter painkiller to treat this problem. Also be sure to drink a lot of water every day of the HCG diet, ideally much more than the suggested 2 quarts. See a dcotor if you have a headache that lasts longer than 10 days.
Another fairly common, but temporary, side effect of the low calorie, low carb HCG diet plan is dizziness. It's usually mild and almost always goes away after the first week.
This is a rare side effect that's caused by the low levels of potassium you get on the HCG diet. It's easily treated by taking a potassium supplement. Even better, take a multivitamin (like the aforementioned Vita-X) that already includes potassium along with other important nutrients you'll need on the HCG diet.
Another rare side effect is skin rash. On the HCG diet, your body will be burning and consuming fat at an incredible speed. As fat cells are consumed, normal toxins are released into the body. If they build up, they will cause a skin rash. This problem can be minimized by drinking lots of water to help flush out those toxins.
Some dieters report hair thinning. If it happens, it is temporary. Note we are talking here about thinning hair, not hair loss in clumps or patches (that is alopecia and is not caused by dieting). Normally, hair thinning, if it happens, starts after 3 months of continuous dieting -- in other words it should not be a problem on the HCG diet. If you see it happening, you probably need to increase your protein intake. Insufficient vitamins and minerals may also be the cause which is one reason why it is good to take a multivitamin from the beginning.
The side effects mentioned above only occur in a small portion of HCG dieters, and as mentioned they can often be prevented, treated with common medications, or simply waited out.
Some concerns from any VLCD (very low calorie diet) include gallstone formation and heart issues like arrhythmias or palpitations. However, with gallstones, it takes a few months or more of constant dieting for a 12% to 25% chance of them forming, and they are typically small. In other words the HCG diet is very unlikely to cause any problems there.
Heart issues are naturally a more concerning subject, but it has to be dealt with. Our goal with this site is to be open and honest. The truth is that VLCD programs have not actually been proven to be a cause of reported heart issues. Some heart failure deaths over the past 65 years or so have occurred in conjunction with or after a very low calorie diet but there has never been any evidence that the diet was the cause. In addition, the majority of cases were on very long, continuous diets (average of 5 months), not short programs like a round of the HCG diet. Considering the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) who have either done the HCG diet or have even gone without eating at all (fasting) for long periods, your chances of being struck by lightning may be greater (1:700,000). Also consider that a very small percentage of athletes have died from heart failure. Does that mean you should never exercise because it is dangerous? Our opinion is that you have to weigh the benefits as well, and not live life by the chance of freak occurrences. Even so, obviously you should check with your doctor to see if you have the thumbs up to begin a strict regimen like the HCG diet.
As always, if you experience any symptom that concerns you while doing the diet -- unusual pains or anxieties or just having a bad experience -- you should stop the diet and consult a medical professional. The HCG diet is not meant for children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, or anyone with a preexisting medical condition.
The biggest takeaway here is that you are only on the diet for a handful weeks - it's not a lifestyle. If you've checked with your doctor, and you feel good during the program, what's not to feel safe about?
That said, once again this is not to be considered medical advice -- and you must do your due diligence. There are pros and cons, benefits and risks to everything. Only you can decide what is best for you.