At the beginning of my recovery from the damage that benzodiazepines had caused, I researched every diet I could think of. I hoped that one of them would help me to heal faster, or at the very least, help me to feel better. The first diet I started on was the GAPS diet. I did my best to stick with it, even making bone broth. I didn’t know all the ins and outs about broth and mine tasted awful, plus, it stunk up my kitchen. (I wasn’t making it properly.) As my withdrawal symptoms got worse, I stopped adhering to the GAPS diet as I couldn’t take care of myself, and therefore I ate anything that my children dropped off for me. The only things I avoided were foods with gluten, a lot of sugar, MSG, additives or colorings, and of course, caffeine and alcohol.
As my withdrawal progressed, and time went by, I watched the movie Fat, Sick And Nearly Dead. I had seen it before, but this time, I took it to heart. I frequently juiced ten different fruits and vegetables in hopes that they would make me feel better. I have the MTHFR gene mutation, so I made sure I juiced a lot of dark green leafy vegetables (kale!). I can’t say that juicing was the magic elixir I had hoped it would be, but I did feel better knowing that I was at least trying to put healthy things into my body. I was still gluten-free (and am to this day) and very careful about MSG, additives, etc. And of course, no alcohol or caffeine.
Still unwell a great deal of time into my recovery, I decided to go vegan. I thought maybe ditching animal products was the ticket to better health. I had watched the movie Forks Over Knives and was ready to try embracing only plants as fuel for my body. A month into eating vegan and I was in worse shape. I went back to eating meat and soon felt better than while eating vegan. Next, I tried the Paleo diet but didn’t feel much change one way or the other. Eventually, I stopped following any diet protocol and ate what I liked, which are whole organic foods, good fats, meats, vegetables, and fruits. Sometimes, I’d have grains or legumes, but not often.
Last summer, when I had my setback, I bought the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. It became my handbook for nutrition. I learned a proper technique for making bone broth (it was delicious!) and enjoyed whole milk plain yogurt, as well as fermented foods and even beet Kvass. I can’t say that the diet made a difference in my symptoms, but psychologically I felt good knowing that I was feeding my body the fuel it needed. (Now, after gaining some weight from inactivity, I am ready to try a few weeks on the Keto diet. I’m curious to see the results of that diet.)
After trying many diets, here is what I’ve come to believe is the best diet in benzo withdrawal: It is the one that supports you nutritionally and doesn’t make you feel worse! Like everything else in benzo withdrawal, we all react differently to things. I felt like death when I went vegan, yet some people in withdrawal told me that they felt better after ditching animal products. I enjoy bone broth and fermented foods and juices while those foods make others feel terrible, most likely due to the high histamine levels of those foods. I feel awful if I eat pasta or bread, yet others eat it without any issues. We all have to find a healthy diet that works for us.
We may find that certain foods rev us up, but I don’t think we should abandon all of those. Some people become so scared of having their symptoms increase after eating that they are surviving (somehow) on three to five different foods only. There is no way, to my knowledge, (disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist or a dietician) that eating only a few different foods can give the proper nutrition that a body needs. I used to have an increase in my tingling and body anxiety when I ate salmon or garbanzo beans. But I didn’t give up either as I knew they were both nutritionally good for me. Of course, if a certain food makes you ill, you are probably better off avoiding it. I’m not suggesting that you drink bone broth, for example, if the histamine in it makes you feel sick. I’m saying eat a balanced diet, eat as clean (organic, no additives of any kind) as you can, make sure you are getting the fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you need, and don’t stress too much about it.
If there was a diet that allowed us to heal faster I’m sure we’d all have heard about it by now. Since it doesn’t appear to exists, all we can do is to eat healthy so that we know we are giving our body what it needs to heal and to ultimately thrive. (And that weight loss or weight gain you’re experiencing in withdrawal—no matter what you seem to eat or not eat? Know that your metabolism will sort itself out in time and you will most likely get back to your normal weight. Feed your body the fuel it needs and don’t worry too much about the scale.)