“Benzo belly” is a long-lasting withdrawal symptom that affects the intestines. It can occur when someone quits using a benzodiazepine medication.

Benzo belly” is a slang term used to describe the long-term effects that benzodiazepine withdrawal can have on the intestines. The condition causes bloating and chronic gastrointestinal problems that can be very distressing. This side effect of benzodiazepine withdrawal can last for a year or longer in those who develop it.

How Do Benzodiazepines Affect the Body?

Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, stimulate receptors in the brain called GABA receptors. These receptors create brain signals that suppress other brain signals and calm the body. When benzos stimulate GABA receptors, it suppresses the neurological system and creates a feeling of calm and relaxation.

Benzos act on more than just emotions, however. The drugs also suppress other neurological functions, including the speed of digestion. Benzos will slow digestion in the body, potentially causing constipation.

Over prolonged periods of use, benzos can become addictive and rewire the brain to accommodate for the continual presence of the drug in the bloodstream. When benzos are stopped, the body must suddenly readjust to the absence of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms will occur until this readjustment is complete.

Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include: 

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Generalized achiness
  • Seizures
  • Palpitations

What Is “Benzo Belly?”

The term “benzo belly” is used to describe symptoms of benzo withdrawal that affect the intestines. Benzos slow down intestinal movements. During withdrawal, these movements are sped up until the body readjusts. The body can take a very long time — sometimes a year or more — to readjust the nerve cells in the intestines.

As the intestines struggle to adjust to the absence of benzos, distressing symptoms that last for several months can occur. One of these symptoms is bloating, which is likely the source of the name “benzo belly.”

Benzo Belly Symptoms

Benzo belly symptoms vary based on the individual and severity of withdrawal. Typically, benzo belly symptoms include:

  • Swelling and bloating of the belly
  • Excessive gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain

What Causes Benzo Belly?

Because benzo belly is relatively uncommon, its cause is not fully understood. However, most medical researchers believe that benzo belly occurs because the constant presence of benzos not only causes chemical changes but also physically rewires nerves in the intestines. 

When benzos are no longer present, the rewired nerves in the intestines no longer function as they did when benzos were available. This requires these nerves to alter their wiring in order to function how they did before benzos were used. The process can take several months to over a year.

How Long Does Benzo Belly Last?

The length of time that benzo belly symptoms last can vary, but it typically lasts for several months. Some cases of benzo belly have been reported to last for over a year. 

Although benzo belly can be a long-lasting symptom of benzo withdrawal, it is also important to note that benzo withdrawal often causes short-term stomach problems during acute withdrawal. Benzo belly only refers to stomach-related symptoms that last beyond the acute withdrawal period.

Benzo Belly Relief

Finding relief for benzo belly will be a top priority for those struggling with it. There are no medically proven treatments that can heal this condition — the only thing that will cure it is time, as the nerves in the intestines must slowly rewire themselves. However, there are some actions you can take to help optimize your recovery and potentially reduce the symptoms of benzo belly. The main change that can help with benzo belly involves altering your diet to be more friendly to your gut health.

Benzo Belly Diet

While there is no medically approved benzo belly diet, there are dietary changes that may help improve benzo belly symptoms. These changes include:

  • Reduce your intake of inflammatory foods like spicy foods, coffee and alcohol.
  • Avoid processed, sugary foods that may irritate your gut.
  • Take probiotics to help improve digestive health.
  • Use a high-fiber diet to help improve your overall digestive health.
  • Keep a food diary and use it to track which foods make your symptoms worse.
  • Avoid medications that irritate the belly, such as NSAIDs.

Find Treatment For Benzodiazepine Withdrawal in New Jersey

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can create many uncomfortable and even potentially dangerous symptoms. Getting professional treatment during benzo withdrawal can improve your safety and comfort, which helps make the process less unpleasant. It also improves the chances that you will successfully complete the withdrawal process. Professional treatment can also help you manage symptoms like benzo belly that may develop.

At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, we are dedicated to helping people in New Jersey have a safe, comfortable withdrawal experience that positions them for long-term success and sobriety. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve lasting freedom from benzo addiction.

Jonathan-Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Benjamin-Caleb-Williams
Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more
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Ziogas, George J. “Now Is a Good Time to Talk About the Dre[…]d “Benzo Belly.”” Medium, November 8, 2020. Accessed June 10, 2022.

Martinez, J., Fargeas, M.J., Bueno, L. “Gastrointestinal motor alterations induc[…]e withdrawal in rats.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, March 1992. Accessed June 10, 2022.

Longo, Lance P.; Johnson, Brian. “Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Sid[…]isk and Alternatives.” American Family Physician, 2000. Accessed June 10, 2022.

Beating Benzos. “Benzo Belly.” Accessed June 10, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.