Benzo Belly | Causes, Symptoms, & Withdrawal Treatment
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous, with the possibility of seizures and other health-related issues.
Benzo belly is a common withdrawal condition that is associated with bloating and constipation. Although there is limited research on benzo belly, it likely occurs because of a strong connection between your brain and gut.
There is no medication that specifically targets benzo belly but treating symptoms may help alleviate some discomfort.
If you think you or a loved one may be addicted to benzodiazepines (like Xanax or Klonopin), it is important to discuss treatment options. A detox program can help you safely manage withdrawal symptoms and set you up with long-term treatment.
What Is Benzo Belly?
Benzo belly is a condition that can occur during benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Benzo belly is characterized by a distended (swollen) stomach and abdominal pain.
Withdrawal affects everyone differently and you may or may not experience gastrointestinal problems. However, withdrawal-related digestion problems can last several months, with short periods of relief.
The most common symptoms of benzo belly include:
- stomach pain
Benzo belly usually occurs during the post-acute withdrawal phase and can linger for weeks or months. Although symptoms usually fade about a year after stopping benzodiazepines, some people may experience periods of digestion problems for years.
What Causes Benzo Belly?
Benzos are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that slow the body’s functions, including breathing and heart rate. They also enhance the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
GABA is responsible for managing stress and anxiety but is also associated with the digestive tract. In addition, scientists believe the brain and gut have a strong connection and can affect the health of one another.
The Gut-Brain Connection
If you have ever experienced a “gut feeling,” that is what scientists refer to as the gut-brain connection. This connection means your gut health can affect your brain health and vice versa.
When you take benzos for a long period of time, your body becomes accustomed to the increased activity of GABA. After stopping benzodiazepine treatment, your body may have a more difficult time adjusting to the change in brain and body chemistry.
This connection between the brain and gut may account for some of the digestion problems and bloating associated with benzo withdrawal. In addition, people who have been prescribed benzos for months or years are at the highest risk of developing long-term withdrawal symptoms.
Treating Benzo Belly
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment yet for benzo belly. However, you can discuss possible remedies for the symptoms of benzo belly with your doctor.
Possible treatments for the symptoms of benzo belly include:
- avoiding foods that can trigger gas
- eating slowly and in smaller portions
- avoiding carbonated drinks
- taking digestive supplements like probiotics
Benzo Withdrawal Treatment
Benzos are typically used for the short-term treatment of psychiatric conditions. This is because benzos have a high risk of tolerance and dependence. If you take benzos for more than four weeks, you increase your risk of becoming physically dependent.
Quitting benzos cold turkey can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. If you want to stop taking benzos, it is important to discuss your options with your prescribing doctor. While some doctors may recommend tapering off your medication, others may suggest a medical detox.
Tapering off benzos gradually gives your brain and body time to adjust to each decreasing dose. Your doctor will create a tapering schedule that depends on your specific needs, including the dose you currently take and the medication.
Your doctor may adjust your tapering schedule or the medication being used if you begin to experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes longer acting benzos and a longer tapering period can help reduce the likelihood of withdrawal.
Long-term use also increases the chance of becoming addicted, which can impact every area of your life. Addiction requires comprehensive care that may begin with a detox program and continue with long-term treatment and support groups.
Coming off of a medication you are physically or psychologically dependent on can be daunting.
A detox center or program provides you with supportive professionals that help you safely manage symptoms. Clinicians monitor your symptoms and vital signs regularly to ensure your safety and comfort.
If you or a loved one would like more information about benzo addiction treatment options, please contact Ark Behavioral Health to learn more.
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
Comprehensive Handbook of Drug & Alcohol Addiction 2004 - Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms From Benzodiazepines
Health Harvard Publishing - The Gut-Brain Connection
National Library Of Medicine - A Gut Feeling about GABA: Focus on GABAB Receptors
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Abdominal Bloating
The Journal Of Pharmaceutical And Experimental Therapeutics - Gastrointestinal Motor Alterations Induced By Precipitated Benzodiazepine Withdrawal In Rats
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