Menopause and benzodiazepine (benzo) withdrawal can both present challenging symptoms, often overlapping and making it difficult to distinguish between the two. I was fifty-two when I started my benzo recovery journey, unaware of where my body was in the process of turning off my reproductive ability—my uterus had been removed when I was thirty-eight, most likely due to the Clonazepam I took. (Other women have reported having to have a hysterectomy due to their benzo.) However, I have coached many women who are perimenopausal and beyond who wonder if their dwindling hormone production or benzos are causing their symptoms. (Monthly hormone fluctuations of ovulation and menstruation can indeed cause increased symptoms.) 

Let’s explore how these two conditions can intersect and look at holistic coping strategies to manage symptoms. 

Menopause and Benzo Withdrawal: A Complex Intersection

Menopause and benzo withdrawal can share similar symptoms, such as:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Anxiety and mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Cognitive difficulties

Navigating these symptoms can be particularly challenging. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), commonly used to alleviate menopausal symptoms, can be problematic during benzo withdrawal due to its effects on GABA receptors. Progesterone, a component of HRT, is GABAergic, potentially complicating withdrawal symptoms. Similarly, fluctuations in estrogen levels can intensify symptoms for some women. If you decide to go on HRT for menopausal symptoms, progesterone can be very challenging to stop taking as it works on GABA and can cause benzo withdrawal-like symptoms when reducing the dose. (I’ve worked with women who are past benzo withdrawal and struggling to get off progesterone.)

It’s important to consider that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can have risks, including side effects and increased risk of certain conditions:
  • Side effects
    Your body may need time to adjust to the new hormone levels when you first start taking the medication. Side effects such as weight gain, fatigue, bloating, increased facial hair, spotting, cramps, acne, headaches, and breast tenderness can occur.
  • Increased risk of conditions
    Research studies have shown that HRT and BHRT can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and breast cancer. The risk level depends on your age, medical history, the hormones you take, and the delivery method. It is reported that transdermal estrogen patches may carry a lower risk of stroke and blood clots than oral estrogen. HRT for menopause symptoms is also not usually recommended for people who have had breast cancer because it may increase the risk of the cancer returning.
  • Unproven claims
    Some healthcare providers claim that BHRT is safer than traditional hormone therapy, but large research studies have not confirmed this. Compounded hormones may also contain undesirable additives or preservatives, and lack scientific safety and efficacy data

Natural Remedies are advertised for menopause symptoms, but use caution. Many of the teas, tinctures, herbs, and supplements work on GABA and can increase benzo withdrawal symptoms. Valerian, Kava, Chamomile, Passion Fruit, and others are best avoided. Some essential olis can flare benzo withdrawal symptoms as can Epsoms Salt due to its magnesium content.  (Here is a list of supplements best avoided in benzo withdrawal.)

Holistic Approaches to Symptom Management

Instead of relying solely on conventional medical interventions, holistic approaches can offer complementary support for managing both menopause and benzo withdrawal symptoms. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Whole Food, Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet: Emphasize a diet rich in antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and soy products. These foods can provide health-protective benefits and support hormone balance naturally. 
  • Cooling Techniques: To manage hot flashes, use cold packs, fans, or cool compresses. Deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques can also help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  • Avoid GABAergic Sleep Aids: Opt for natural sleep remedies that do not affect GABA receptors or relaxation techniques before bed. 
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in gentle exercise daily, such as yoga, walking, or swimming. Physical activity can alleviate stress, improve mood, and enhance sleep quality.
  • Mind-Body Practices: Explore techniques like meditation, tai chi, or acupuncture to promote overall well-being and manage symptoms like anxiety and mood swings.
  • Social Support and Counseling: Connect with supportive friends, family members, or join online communities for shared experiences and emotional support. Counseling or therapy can also provide tools to cope with emotional challenges during these transitions. You are welcome to join the Benzo Withdrawal Healing Academy to learn more skills to navigate benzo withdrawal and go forward when healed to be your best 
  • Hydration: Stay well-hydrated throughout the day, as dehydration can exacerbate symptoms like hot flashes and headaches.
  • Avoid Triggers: Identify and minimize triggers that worsen symptoms, such as sugar, processed foods, spicy foods, over-exertion, extreme heat or cold, certain supplements and medications, and stressful situations.
  • Journaling: Keep a journal to track symptoms, triggers, and responses to different coping strategies. This can help identify patterns and refine personalized approaches.
  • Heat Regulation: Wear layered clothing to manage temperature fluctuations and carry a small fan or portable cooling device when away from home.
  • Gratitude: Practicing gratitude shifts your focus from discomfort to the positive aspects of life, enhances mood, and promotes a sense of well-being; this can be done through daily gratitude journals or mindful reflections. It is a powerful way to rewire your brain for the better, causing your nervous system to be calmer.
  • Patience: Cultivating patience helps recognize that healing is a gradual process, reduces frustration, and maintains a calm, more positive mindset, encouraging persistence and resilience during tough times.
  • Acceptance: Embracing acceptance allows you to acknowledge and validate the withdrawal experience, reducing internal conflict and promoting emotional peace, and facilitates a non-judgmental attitude towards yourself and the world around you. Acceptance helps your nervous system shift into the parasympathetic ventral vagal state where we are healthier and happier.
  • Learning Something New: Engaging in learning new skills or hobbies stimulates the brain, provides a sense of achievement, and boosts dopamine levels, which can enhance mood and overall well-being.
  • Distraction: Utilizing distraction techniques diverts attention from symptoms, engages the mind in productive or enjoyable activities, and can include hobbies, physical exercise, socializing, or creative pursuits.

Conclusion

You can help manage symptoms and promote overall health by focusing on lifestyle modifications, dietary adjustments, and stress reduction techniques along with coping skills. Each women’s  journey is unique, and finding what works best may involve experimentation and adaptation over time.

Incorporating these strategies into daily life can foster resilience and empower you to manage symptoms effectively, promoting a sense of control and well-being throughout the menopausal and benzo withdrawal journey.

Add Your Voice

What coping mechanisms have worked best for you? Share your experiences with us.

 

*I am not a medical doctor (MD) and do not diagnose or treat any illness. This post is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for medical concerns or conditions. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, contact your doctor, go to the nearest hospital, or call emergency services (911). If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988).