Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be a challenging experience, accompanied by various symptoms such as nerve, bone, and muscle pain. Opioids are not recommended for benzo withdrawal-induced pain, especially if you are still on a benzo; as combined, they can cause respiratory distress. Over-the-counter pain meds have their own dangers. Ibuprofen is more prone to rev-up benzo withdrawal symptoms than acetaminophen, and ibuprofen is harder on the kidneys. (Acetaminophen doesn’t have the same effect on the COX pathway as ibuprofen.) Aspirin penetrates the blood-brain barrier and inhibits the action of GABA, causing possible hyperactivity in the brain.

In this blog post, we delve into the science behind how various plant-based foods can naturally help reduce pain during benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, algae, and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with nerve pain. These fatty acids work by inhibiting the production of inflammatory markers, potentially helping with neuropathic symptoms. There are also plant-based supplements that can help you meet your daily requirements. Avoid fish oil as it contains toxins, is often rancid, and has been linked to certain cancers. Fish get their omegas from algae. We can cut out the ‘middle man’ and do the same.

Foods: Flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, algae

Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for nerve and muscle function. A deficiency in this mineral can exacerbate muscle spasms and nerve pain. Spinach, pumpkin seeds, and black beans are excellent plant-based sources of magnesium that may help with muscle tightness and nerve pain during withdrawal. Taking a magnesium supplement can rev up symptoms, so be careful. If you have been taking a magnesium supplement with no increase in symptoms, you are probably fine to continue. If you need to take magnesium during benzo withdrawal, you can slowly taper up to a therapeutic dose to reduce the risk of increased symptoms. Magnesium is GABAregic. It’s best to not cold turkey off of it if you are in benzo withdrawal, but rather taper off to minimize any increase in symptoms.

Foods: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, black beans

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is critical for bone health, and its deficiency could possibly exacerbate bone pain during withdrawal. Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts are high in Vitamin K, promoting calcium binding in bones and other tissues, thereby strengthening bones and potentially reducing pain. If you are on a blood thinner, you will need to speak with your doctor about these foods as they may interfere with the medication.

Foods: Kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, cabbage

Potassium

Potassium is an essential mineral that plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, most notably in muscle function and nerve signaling. Here’s a deeper look into how sufficient potassium intake could help reduce some withdrawal symptoms related to muscles and nerves.

Muscle Function

Potassium is critical for muscle contraction and relaxation. During withdrawal, it’s not uncommon to experience muscle spasms and cramps. These symptoms can be intensely uncomfortable, affecting one’s quality of life and general well-being. By maintaining the appropriate potassium levels in your body, you help to ensure that your muscle cells can function properly. This proper function can potentially translate into fewer muscle spasms and cramps.

Nerve Signaling

Beyond its role in muscle function, potassium is also vital for nerve cell communication. It aids in transmitting signals between nerve cells, a process that’s crucial for almost all bodily functions, including movement and sensation. During withdrawal, one might experience heightened nerve sensitivity or even pain. Optimal potassium levels can help ensure nerve cells are functioning efficiently, which might work to reduce some nerve-related symptoms experienced during withdrawal.

Worth Noting

Excessive potassium can lead to its own set of health problems, including hyperkalemia, a condition characterized by too much potassium in the blood. Therefore, it’s crucial to strike a balance and aim for an adequate yet not excessive intake of this essential mineral.

Foods: Bananas, oranges, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, honeydew, dried fruits (raisins and apricots), beans, lentils, winter squash, broccoli, avocado

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for various physiological functions in the body. It’s widely recognized for its antioxidant properties, role in collagen synthesis, and contribution to immune function. While vitamin C’s role in pain reduction is not yet fully understood, several mechanisms have been proposed to explain its potential effects.

Antioxidant Properties

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that scavenges free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress, characterized by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, has been linked to various pain types, including neuropathic and inflammatory pain. Vitamin C may help alleviate pain in these conditions by reducing oxidative stress. Vitamin C has been shown to inhibit certain pathways involved in the inflammatory process, potentially reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This anti-inflammatory action may help alleviate symptoms of pain.

Collagen Synthesis

Vitamin C is crucial for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that helps form connective tissues like skin, tendons, and ligaments. Proper collagen formation can contribute to joint health and may reduce pain during benzo withdrawal.

Neurotransmitter Modulation

Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, which are essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. While the direct link between vitamin C and pain through neurotransmitter modulation is not fully known, some research suggests that vitamin C could influence pain perception through this pathway. A word of caution: high doses of vitamin C in supplement form can cause gastrointestinal issues.

Foods: Citrus foods, Red bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi

Quercetin

Quercetin is a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is found in foods like onions, apples, and grapes. Quercetin can be beneficial for nerve health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, which often exacerbate withdrawal symptoms.

Foods: Onions, apples, grapes

Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatories

Anthocyanins and Betalains

These antioxidants are known for their robust anti-inflammatory effects. During benzodiazepine withdrawal, oxidative stress and inflammation are often elevated, contributing to symptoms like nerve pain and muscle discomfort. Anthocyanins and betalains help to neutralize this imbalance, providing potential relief.

Foods: Onions, apples, grapes

Carotenoids and Lignans

Carotenoids such as lycopene and beta-carotene are found in colorful fruits and vegetables. Like anthocyanins and betalains, these phytonutrients serve dual roles as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Their presence can support general wellness, mitigate oxidative stress, and tamp down inflammation, all of which could be particularly beneficial during the withdrawal phase.

Foods: Carrots, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Conclusion: The Power of Food in Managing Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

In summary, the natural world offers an array of options for those seeking to manage the discomforts associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. From the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties found in blueberries and cherries to the muscle and nerve function support provided by potassium-rich foods, your diet can be a valuable ally in this challenging journey. Incorporating these nutrient-dense, plant-based foods into your daily life nourishes your body and equips it with the essential tools needed to potentially ease withdrawal symptoms. While food is not a magic bullet, it serves as a fundamental pillar to help us heal.

Note: The information in this blog post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.