Understanding Benzo Belly: The Uncomfortable Reality of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

benzo belly

Living with anxiety and stress can lead to a lot of health issues. People try to solve this problem by taking prescription medications that can do more harm than good when misused.

Benzo belly is the common name for what people experience when they stop using Benzodiazepines, which are used to treat different mental health conditions. But quitting the drug can be extremely uncomfortable.

This article will explain what benzo belly is, how long it takes your body to get rid of the symptoms, and what you should do when you experience the annoying withdrawal effects. Keep reading to learn more about this topic.

What Is Benzo Belly?

Although Benzodiazepines are prescribed medications to treat anxiety and stress, they can quickly cause dependency and addiction. So, people try to quit these drugs independently, not knowing how they’ll manage the withdrawal symptoms.

When you stop taking anxiety drugs, your body shows annoying physical symptoms. The most common one of them is gastrointestinal discomfort and muscle cramps in the abdomen.

Some people experience muscle pain all over their bodies, but the pain in the stomach area is the most common side effect of stopping using your Benzodiazepine medication.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

These are prescription drugs that people take to treat anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and depression. They affect the central nervous system by acting as depressants that make you feel calm, sleepy, and drowsy.

Some types of Benzodiazepines include Xanax, Librium, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril, and Halcion. They enhance the dopamine levels in the brain, making you feel more relaxed and happier. Unfortunately, after using these drugs for a few weeks, your body will stop producing these hormones naturally.

Different drugs have different half-life durations, as some can last for less than 24 hours, while other long-acting compounds can last more than 48 hours in your system.

Benzodiazepines or benzos are highly addictive because the body quickly builds tolerance. This means that you need to take a larger dose to experience the same calming effect.

Patients who take these drugs become extraordinarily irritable and unable to function normally when they don’t take their usual dosage. They also psychologically associate the usage of the drug with stress relief, so they become dependent.

What Are the Side Effects of Benzodiazepines?

Benzos are perfectly safe when used in moderation as prescribed. Exceeding the dosage and using these drugs for long periods can lead to several annoying side effects. Here are some of them.

  • Sleepiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of balance
  • Unsteadiness
  • Lack of stability
  • Memory blackouts

What Are Benzo Belly Symptoms?

When you stop taking your Benzodiazepine medication, you’re likely to experience the withdrawal symptoms within a few hours, especially around the time you’re supposed to take the next dosage.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days or weeks. Yet, some people might not experience anything except a few of these symptoms. Here are the benzo belly or benzo withdrawal symptoms.

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Appetite changes
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Muscle tension
  • Cramps and spasms
  • Bloating
  • Water retention that leads to weight gain
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Nausea

How Do Benzo Belly Symptoms Progress?

Benzo detox takes varying periods in different people, depending on their age, their metabolism level, how long they’ve taken the drug, and other medications they use. So, if you’ve been using Benzodiazepines for an extended period, you’re more likely to experience the annoying symptoms for longer.

In general, benzo belly symptoms can be divided into three stages.

Early Withdrawal

You’re likely to experience these symptoms when you miss your first dosage. Some fast-acting medications can cause these symptoms within 24 hours.

These include anxiety, irritability, and sleep disturbance. Although the symptoms aren’t severe, people are more likely to experience a relapse during this period because they resemble the symptoms of anxiety and panic they might be taking the medication for.

Acute Withdrawal

The worst and most painful symptoms start within five to 19 days of taking your last dose. After the acute withdrawal phase, pain can last for a few months.

Some people report that drinking and eating usually worsen the pain. This explains why most people quit during the withdrawal period, as they can’t live normally. Moreover, these symptoms can cause anxiety and panic, making the patient feel worse after feeling better.

This is why gradual withdrawal with the supervision of a medical specialist is the best way to control your usage of Benzodiazepines. They can help you manage your symptoms, so you don’t have to consume larger amounts of the drug to feel better.

During this stage, patients can experience some psychotic episodes. These might have life-threatening effects.

Protracted Withdrawal

After the withdrawal symptoms have worn off, some people will experience a late onset of withdrawal symptoms. Although they’ve completed their treatment, they’re most likely to experience the symptoms because of the prolonged use of the drug.

These symptoms include motor and sensory issues. They also include learning disabilities from prolonged use.

Why Do You Get Benzo Belly?

Benzos affect the brain, but there has been a lot of research regarding why the withdrawal of these drugs affects the digestive tract when you quit them.

Some research suggests that the benzo belly is related to the brain-gut connection. The gut-brain axis relates to the connection between the emotional and cognitive areas in the brain to the digestive tract. This communication network connects these two areas in the body and might be the reason why you experience benzo belly.

Another theory suggests that benzo belly symptoms are associated with the chaos in your brain as you quit your drug. Benzodiazepines enhance the GABA receptors in the brain, while gut bacteria release GABA, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and fear.

When you take the drug, the bacteria’s functions are interrupted. As you stop taking it, the bacteria can excessively produce gas in the gastrointestinal tract, which explains the feeling of bloating and discomfort you will experience.

How Do You Manage Benzo Belly?

Understanding your condition and working with a doctor or medical specialist is the best way to tackle your benzo belly issue. It’s important to know that the discomfort can last for months, and you should have your heart set on quitting your benzo drug. Here are a few things you can do to manage the painful symptoms.

Eat Smaller Meals

Most people report that food and drinks are the main triggers for pain. Even after you’ve started feeling better, you might start experiencing the benzo belly symptoms every time you eat a big meal.

In most cases, people believe that benzo belly symptoms are very close to the discomfort you feel when you eat something heavy. So controlling your food intake might help with the pain.

Eating smaller meals and sticking to a healthy diet will make digestion easier. As a result, you’re less likely to experience pain and cramps.

Avoid Certain Foods

Some types of food can upset your stomach and cause more pain. These foods are challenging to digest and can make your benzo belly symptoms worse.

Fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, and sauces are more challenging to digest. Beans and other legumes take more time to digest, so you’re likely to experience more pain when you eat them. Moreover, you should avoid spicy, citrusy, and acidic food.

Take More Probiotics

Probiotics can help with digestion and help you feel better, even when experiencing benzo belly symptoms. Moreover, you’re more likely to experience these annoying symptoms for a shorter period, so you can get back to your life without relapse.

Talk to Your Doctor

Your primary care doctor should be aware of the withdrawal symptoms you’re experiencing. They can help you by suggesting food types to avoid to help you feel better when you experience benzo belly.

If you’re experiencing water retention, your doctor might prescribe a diuretic medication. Some herbal teas and medications can help with benzo withdrawal, but these should be taken under the doctor’s supervision to avoid creating another dependency.

  • Niacin can help accelerate benzo withdrawal symptoms.
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid mixed with vitamin C will help with bloating and gassiness.
  • Nervine can help with sleep disruption.
  • Chamomile tea will help with cramps and sleep disruption.
  • Carminative helps with bloating, nausea, and cramps.
  • Bacopa helps with memory blackouts, which are pretty common with higher doses of Benzodiazepines.

Wrap Up

Benzo belly refers to abdominal pain and discomfort that people experience when they decide to quit Benzodiazepines. Although there are fast-acting and slow-acting forms of these drugs to treat different symptoms of anxiety and stress, these drugs can lead to dependency.

People get addicted to the relief associated with these drugs and start experiencing some annoying symptoms when they decide to quit them. These symptoms include nausea, cramps, and abdominal pain, and some people are likely to experience worse symptoms than others.

Some patients can experience these symptoms for days and weeks, but they can last for months. In most cases, these annoying symptoms can be triggered by eating and drinking.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center

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