Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea are common symptoms you may experience after discontinuing benzodiazepines. Also known as “benzo belly,” these stomach and digestive problems that occur when quitting benzos can be difficult to manage and cope with —especially if they persist long after you’ve withdrawn from your medication. Fortunately, many benzodiazepine detox treatments include nutrition management to help patients cope with benzo belly while recovering from drug dependence and addiction.
Here’s a closer look at benzo belly, why it happens, and what you can do next if you need help withdrawing from benzodiazepines.
What is “Benzo Belly,” and What Are Its Symptoms?
Benzo belly is the collective term used to describe the stomach and digestive symptoms you may experience after quitting benzodiazepines. Symptoms will differ from one patient to the next, as well as their severity levels. Benzo belly symptoms may include:
- Abdominal and stomach pain
- Upset stomach
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Changes in appetite
Factors that can affect the way each patient experiences benzo belly include metabolism, diet, physical activity level, sleep patterns, and existing medical conditions. For example, a person who eats lots of high-fiber foods may experience fewer problems with constipation than a person who eats high amounts of sugar. A person who already suffers from a digestive condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may experience more severe benzo belly symptoms than a person without an existing digestive condition.
Why Does Benzo Belly Happen After Quitting Benzos?
Benzodiazepines belong to a class of medications called central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which work by slowing or “depressing” the CNS to help people feel more calm and relaxed, and fall asleep more easily. Benzos slow down a wide range of bodily processes including movement, speech, thinking, breathing, heart rate, and the digestive system. Constipation is a common adverse effect of benzodiazepines, according to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Benzo belly occurs after quitting benzos due to the way the CNS suddenly speeds up. After a long period of benzo use, the body eventually adjusts to the presence of these drugs. Therefore, when a person abruptly quits using benzos, their heart rate and digestive system speed up to cause an upset stomach, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other related symptoms.
Benzo belly tends to be more common in people who quit these drugs after becoming physically dependent on them or who use them for longer than a few weeks. These symptoms may be accompanied by other benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, and muscle tension.
How Long Will I Experience Benzo Belly?
Symptoms of benzo belly usually last for a few weeks after stopping benzos but may last up to eight weeks or longer in tandem with other withdrawal symptoms. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the withdrawal period may last two to four weeks or longer for those using short-acting benzos (oxazepam, alprazolam, or temazepam), and two to eight weeks or longer for those using long-acting benzos (diazepam and nitrazepam).
Benzo belly usually resolves on its own over time as the body heals and restabilizes after having been dependent on these drugs. The same factors that affect the severity of benzo belly (such as metabolism, diet, and physical activity level) are usually the same factors that affect the amount of time its symptoms will last. Doctors will work closely with patients during benzodiazepine detox to assess the severity of symptoms and develop a healthy lifestyle plan that helps reduce and relieve symptoms as best as possible.
Can Certain Foods and Supplements Eliminate Benzo Belly?
Many patients in recovery from drug and alcohol dependence suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, many residential and inpatient benzo detox centers offer nutrition services to patients recovering from drug dependence. Patients are usually provided with highly nutritious prepared meals that help boost their immune systems and overall health as they progress through recovery.
In a study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers found that the majority of 67 patients undergoing substance abuse detox treatment (including for benzodiazepine dependence) suffered from deficiencies in iron, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that vitamin D deficiency was a common adverse reaction to benzodiazepine use.
Doctors and nutritionists usually develop customized nutrition plans for each patient going through benzo detox. Blood tests and evaluations may be conducted to identify specific nutritional deficiencies so patients can receive foods and supplementation to correct and improve their deficiencies.
Foods and supplements that may help improve symptoms of benzo belly include probiotics like yogurt, kimchi, and kefir, as well as healthy whole foods packed with nutrients and fiber including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Probiotics add higher amounts of “good” bacteria to the gut to help destroy “bad” bacteria contributing to digestive problems, while other healthy whole foods can improve nutritional deficiencies and help make bowel movements more regular and comfortable.
What Other Lifestyle Changes Can Relieve Benzo Belly?
Other things you can do to relieve benzo belly while going through benzo detox include exercising regularly, spending more time in the sun, and getting plenty of quality sleep.
Rebound insomnia is a common and problematic benzodiazepine withdrawal symptom that may be difficult for you to overcome in the beginning. However, early-morning sunshine exposure and regular exercise can help combat the issue. Additionally, sunlight can increase your body’s production of vitamin D to improve your immune system, while exercise can help normalize and rebalance your brain chemicals and regulate digestive processes.
When researching your options for benzodiazepine detox centers, look for facilities that offer plenty of amenities and can help you increase your activity level and sunshine exposure. Swimming pools, jacuzzis, outdoor sports courts, fitness centers, gardens, and lounge areas are some amenities to look for, along with activities such as yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation. Location is also important, as you may want to choose benzodiazepine detox in Florida or another sunny locale as opposed to a facility located in the northwest part of the U.S. where the weather may be rainy and overcast.
Can Benzo Detox and Rehab Treat Benzo Belly?
Benzo belly can be effectively addressed and treated with detox at most inpatient and residential benzodiazepine rehab centers. The doctors and medical staff at addiction treatment centers such as these are trained and experienced to work with people recovering from benzodiazepines and can anticipate your symptoms before they present. Detox and rehab centers usually have sound protocols in place for treating digestive problems such as benzo belly and will work closely with you to ease your discomfort and help you experience a safe recovery.
Benzo detox treatments involve the act of tapering, which is when a doctor gradually reduces your daily dosage of benzos over some time until you no longer experience withdrawal symptoms — including benzo belly. Tapering helps reduce the risk of withdrawal-related complications such as seizures, along with the severity of other uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety.
Where To Find Safe Benzodiazepine Detox
Summer House Detox Center offers safe, effective benzodiazepine detox in Florida for those who need help fighting and recovering from benzo dependence. We offer a wide range of quality, luxurious amenities that support a healthy lifestyle, along with nutritious full course meals prepared by our four-star chef that will boost your immunity after recovering from addiction.
If you need help recovering from benzo dependence and addiction, contact Summer House Detox Center today at 800-719-1090 to find out whether our detox treatments and services can be covered by your health plan.
If you or someone you know is in need of addiction treatment in Fort Lauderdale, give Summer House Detox Center a call to schedule a FREE consultation or visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.