Taking a benzodiazepine, even as prescribed, can cause chemical dependency, which includes a withdrawal syndrome. Benzo Belly is a term used to describe gastrointestinal issues during benzo withdrawal. In this blog post, we’ll explore the probable causes of Benzo Belly, ways to cope with it, and what to avoid making it worse.

Probable Causes of Benzo Belly

Benzo Belly symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain. Your stomach may protrude and be hard to the touch, much like a pregnant woman’s belly. While the exact cause of Benzo Belly is not fully understood, several factors may contribute to it.

One of the main factors is the impact of benzodiazepine on the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines enhance the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps calm the brain, nervous system, and body. If you become chemically dependent on your benzo (called tolerance), your brain and nervous system can become overstimulated due to a lack of functional GABA receptors, leading to various physical symptoms, including gastrointestinal issues such as Benzo Belly.

Another factor that may contribute to Benzo Belly is stress. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be a stressful experience, and stress has been shown to impact the digestive system significantly. When you’re under stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system and lead to gastrointestinal issues. Stress can also impact gut motility and also cause gut permeability (leaky gut).

Histamine issues may be causing some of Benzo Belly’s distress. All benzodiazepines can cause mild (or not-so-mild) temporary histamine tolerance issues. However, Valium is often the most offensive as it impairs the body’s ability to create DAO, an enzyme that naturally breaks down histamine.

Ways to Cope with Benzo Belly

While Benzo Belly can be a challenging symptom to manage, there are several strategies you can use to cope with it. Here are a few tips:

  1. Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet is essential for digestive health. Focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats (seeds, nuts, and avocados). Avoid processed foods, sugary snacks, and foods high in fat, which can exacerbate digestive issues. A whole-foods, plant-based diet has been proven to be the healthiest for all stages of life. It is the only diet shown to reverse heart disease (and others). A WFPB diet nourishes the gut. Researchers report that we are only as healthy as our gut.
  2. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential for supporting digestive health. Aim to drink enough water daily so that your urine is clear or very pale yellow. Avoid sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol, which can rev up withdrawal symptoms, dehydrate the body and worsen digestive issues.
  3. Exercise enough: Exercise can help reduce stress and improve digestive function. Walking, swimming, and yoga are good choices. Do not over-exercise as it can increase stress hormones in the body and exacerbate benzo withdrawal/BIND symptoms and Benzo Belly.
  4. Practice stress-reducing techniques: Managing stress is crucial for minimizing the impact of Benzo Belly. Techniques like slow breathing, meditation (guided, sitting, walking), yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can all help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  5. Use a weighted blanket: Resting under a weighted blanket can help relax you and calm down your Benzo Belly symptoms.
  6. Use hot and cold: some people find relief with a heating pad, while others feel an ice pack helps their pain. Test and learn what may be helpful for you.
  7. Get a massage: Gentle massage (clockwise motion on the stomach) can help with Benzo Belly pain. A full-body Swedish-type massage can reduce stress and pain. Avoid deep tissue or trigger points as they can exacerbate benzo withdrawal symptoms and worsen Benzo Belly.
  8. Taper slowly: To minimize the risk of acquiring Benzo Belly or increasing Benzo Belly symptoms, taper off your benzodiazepine slowly. Tapering too fast can increase the risk of symptoms or increase their severity.
  9. Practice patience: Benzodiazepine withdrawal/BIND symptoms, including Benzo Belly, can take weeks, months, and sometimes years to fully fade away. Be patient. You will recover. Patience keeps us from adding fuel to the fire of our dysregulated nervous system due to damaged GABA receptors.

What to Avoid During Benzo Withdrawal

While you can use several strategies to cope with Benzo Belly, you should also avoid some things during benzo withdrawal. Here are a few examples:

  1. Avoid caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can exacerbate anxiety and disrupt digestive function. Avoiding caffeine during benzo withdrawal can help to reduce stress and minimize digestive symptoms.
  2. Avoid alcohol: Alcohol works on GABA receptors and should be avoided during benzo withdrawal/BIND and for a few months or more after we feel healed.
  3. Avoid processed foods: Processed foods are often high in sugar, fat, and other additives (preservatives and colorings) that can exacerbate digestive issues. Instead, focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods that are easier for the body to digest.
  4. Avoid over-the-counter medications: Some over-the-counter medications, such as antacids and laxatives, can worsen digestive issues during benzo withdrawal. Avoid using these medications unless recommended by your healthcare provider. (Glyercine suppositories help with constipation with minimal impact on symptoms.) Tylenol is more tolerated than Advil during benzo withdrawal/BIND if you must take something for pain.
  5. Limit smoking: Smoking can worsen anxiety and disrupt digestive function. Limit your smoking if you are a smoker. Quitting smoking during benzo withdrawal can make symptoms worse. Consider a cessation plan for when you recover since smoking harms your health. Do not start smoking if you are not a smoker.
  6. Avoid too many supplements: Some supplements that may tout benefits for digestion may increase benzo withdrawal symptoms. Some probiotics may make Benzo Belly worse, as do some digestive enzymes.
  7. Avoid air intake: Swallowing air can make Benzo Belly worse. Avoid using a straw, chewing gum, or talking rapidly or during intense emotions. Chew your food carefully. Limit or avoid carbonated water or sodas.

In Conclusion

Benzo Belly is a common symptom of benzo withdrawal/BIND that can be challenging to manage. However, by focusing on a healthy diet, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and practicing stress-reducing techniques, you can minimize the impact of this symptom. Additionally, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, over-the-counter medications, and smoking can help to support digestive health during benzo withdrawal. Seek medical attention if your symptoms become severe or persistent. By taking a proactive approach to managing Benzo Belly, you can help minimize this symptom’s impact and promote overall health and well-being.

I experienced Benzo Belly during my recovery. I had excess gas, severe constipation, pain, and bloating. As I healed, my Benzo Belly went away. Your’s will too. Are you experiencing Benzo Belly? Tell us about your experience and what, if anything, helps you. Join the conversation by leaving a comment.