Benzo Belly

'Benzo Belly’ is the term used to describe discomfort in the digestive system when withdrawing and recovering from benzos. This is due to the impact the drugs have on the gastrointestinal tract (GI system) which is lined with GABA- A receptors. The gut is sometimes referred to as the second brain.

What Causes Benzo Belly?

As Benzos are stopped, either suddenly or with a taper, the body has to readjust and part of this readjustment involves the stomach and GI system which have been disrupted by the drugs. This can occur at any time in recovery, either while tapering or after entering a protracted withdrawal when new symptoms may arise even several years off benzos. Symptoms do get better over time and are best left to do this as quickly as possible. Various antacids, PPI drugs and the such like can have little effect although often taken occasionally to calm digestive discomfort. If used continuously the stomach becomes tolerant to them and symptoms can persist. An alkaline diet, even for a short time, is a more reasonable option to try.

Symptoms of Benzo Belly

The most obvious are diarrhoea or constipation sometimes alternating and mimicking IBS. Pain in the upper or lower abdomen, appetite changes, nausea (occasionally vomiting), wind, indigestion and bloating due to water retention.

Is There a Cure?

As with all symptoms that occur during tapering or withdrawal there is no known cure that’s successful for everybody. As already said a more gentle alkaline or even liquid diet can help a little for a short time. Certain foods may aggravate the problem so best keep a food diary to identify a possible cause. A food allergy or histamine problems are often blamed as the cause but may only be a secondary effect and subside once full recovery from benzos is achieved.

Benzo Belly is a common and often misdiagnosed withdrawal symptom that leads to various tests such a colonoscopy and endoscopy which reveal no problems. Also the addition of new drugs. Over time the symptoms of GI distress do subside but may occur in repeated phases until full recovery.

Stages of Recovery

I watched a movie last night called ‘The Vanished’ (not recommended if sensitive but a good psychological thriller) and its underlying message was the need for Acceptance in order to move on.

Part way through there were some words from a therapist that really rung true for benzo withdrawal and I’ll try to remember them. In the movie they concerned coming to accept grief but for us they could be applied to the stages by which we come to accept symptoms and the passage of time needed for full recovery.

Here goes....
Every human being goes through five stages when grieving: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and finally acceptance. These don’t come in a particular order and sometimes people can go backwards and forwards through the different stages until they finally come to accept the new situation which in this case was the loss of a loved one. They may also get stuck at one stage which prevents final acceptance (the crux of the movie but I don’t want to spoil it for you).

Applied to Benzo Withdrawal:

Anger...I think everyone here would have at sometime been angry at a medical profession that prescribed the drugs that caused their present situation and then failed to help them taper safely.

Denial...Denying that recovery will happen because the symptoms are too bad could be another stage. Also denial that this is benzo withdrawal so there must be something else wrong.

Depression...just one of many common symptoms most recoverers suffer on the way through often caused by frustration at the situation.

Bargaining...what we do when looking for something to make things easier....’What can I take for such and such a symptom?”, “I’d do anything to make these symptoms go away”, “Please let me be my old self again,” and so forth.

Acceptance...a final stage having maybe experienced the other four and realised that surrendering and accepting ‘what is’ may be the best way forwards to a successful outcome.

When recovering from Benzos it’s obviously better not to get stuck in anyone or more stages but to accept what is happening for the time being and know that recovery awaits your understanding and perseverance.

I would say that most posts on the benzo group could fit into one of these five stages so reaching the final stage of Acceptance is when we add the label ‘Positive Post’ because this is the stage where others are helped as well as yourselves and big or little successes are celebrated and your recovery unfolds without a backward glance! More positive posts here please.

Love and Support ❤️

Helpful Healing Hints

Many questions come up again and again in benzo Withdrawal and  I thought it’s maybe a good idea to write a brief summary of what I have learnt over the several years of my own recovery to help towards healing from these drugs. 

 

Symptoms are numerous and constantly changing but they indicate healing.

Withdrawal can be made more difficult by the addition of more drugs especially psychoactive drugs. Drugs may be necessary for other illnesses though.

Supplements have the power to cause setbacks for some people and may also unbalance the system further. Always be tested for deficiencies before adding anything.

Food sensitivities are common but diet should be kept healthy and free of sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods.

Insomnia is common but better pushed through so the brain can ‘relearn’ how to sleep again naturally.

Avoid stress as far as you can as this may increase symptoms temporarily.

Doctors rarely have the knowledge of how to correctly taper Benzos.

Detox Centres can whip patients off very fast and cause a longer recovery.

A slow, even taper over a period of time suitable to the patient is the way to remove the drug successfully.

Never cold turkey off the drugs as withdrawal symptoms could be prolonged.

Simple exercise without too much stress e.g. walking in nature helps lower cortisol. Over exercising will increase cortisol.

If in pain don’t be scared to try a low dose of a pain medication to help you. However, this may not be a lot of help for withdrawal pain.

Learning coping skills for the bad days e.g. mindfulness meditation will help calm the system.

Find your best way to distract from symptoms on the bad days e.g. music, funny tv progs, enjoying your pet...

Set yourself simple goals that you can achieve every day. It doesn’t matter how small these are but they will enable you to celebrate some success.

Try not to dwell on all negative ‘What ifs’ as they can only add stress.

Morning adrenaline rushes are common as cortisol increases from 3 am to wake us up. Just let these wash over you and try not react to them.

Don’t spend too much time on the internet and in the benzo groups absorbing negative information which will scare you and add stress.

Always remember what works for another person could harm you so never follow prescriptive advice.

The updated Ashton Manual is the best source of researched information to show your doctor.

Stay clear of people who fail to recognise benzo withdrawal or who try to create drama in your life.

Age and length of time on the drugs makes no difference to the speed of recovery.

Always get worrying symptoms checked by a doctor even if you think they are due to withdrawal. Reassurance that it’s nothing else helps.

Reinstating doesn’t always work after being off Benzos for over one month. The body and brain may not stabilise.

Updosing is not always effective as tolerance to the drug can be reached sooner.

Recovery for each person is entirely individual and can’t be compared to another.

Recovery takes as long as it takes but only a few enter a protracted withdrawal. Most recover within the first 18 months off.

Try and accept all the weird symptoms that can crop up and don’t fight them. Better to go along with them, surrender to them and accept best you can. Warrior means fighting, you are not fighting this but allowing the symptoms to happen to bring you to healing. Be a pacifist!

Once recovered from withdrawal and leading a normal life benzos should never be taken again as you may be more sensitive to their effects.

Remember once recovered the world becomes a brighter, happier place and you feel much stronger and more aware of yourself and the needs of others.