Description: brain ‘seizures’ when groups of brain cells are stimulated out of control causing unusual sensations, emotions, ‘fits’ or seizures and sometimes loss of consciousness. In some cases abnormal brain development or childhood infections may be the cause, some follow injury, brain tumours or drugs or substance abuse, however in most cases no underlying reason for the epilepsy can be found.
Watch this video on how to cope with an epileptic seizure click here
What doctors can do
- Investigations. Head scans such as CT or MRI, looking for abnormalities and an EEG to record the brain waves. Sometimes these may find the cause and can occasionally assist in the decision on what therapy to use.
- Drug therapy. There are a number of drugs which can be used to treat epilepsy, and sometimes the doctor may need to combine a number of combinations to control the episodes.There are different forms of epilepsy - each tend to have their own drugs. Most drugs do have side effects and these should be discussed with your doctor. If they are intolerable, ask for a change, or possibly use a lower dose or combination of a number of drugs in low doses. Many of the drugs can affect the foetus, so care needs to be made in women of childbearing age. Doctors can check the blood levels of drugs if they do not control the seizures (some people may absorb the drugs poorly or metabolise them faster than others.)
Because the effects in patients differ, there is no definite first choice of drug to use. Some interfere with warfarin and oral contraceptives (phenytoin, phenobarbital, carbamazepine) and this an come into the decision making. Carbamazepine, phenytoin, valproate, gabapentin, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine are commonly used initially and then replaced with another if unsuccessful, then combinations may be required - but this is a skilled decision which should be made by a neurologist.
Note drugs can have significant side effects - drowsiness, dizziness, double vision, imbalance, slowed thinking processes, weight gain and some can also create suicidal tendencies. Discuss with your doctor if any of these are a problem.
What you can do
- Avoid being in dangerous situations if you are at risk of having a seizure, e.g. driving, climbing, heavy machinery, swimming alone.
- Driving restrictions - these vary from country to country. Most recommend a 6 - 12 month event free time before the patient is allowed to drive. This does cause problems if the patient wants to come off the drugs. Always, the drugs should be tapered and then stopped - never sudden cessation. Read the guidelines for whichever country or state you are in. NB - if you drive when you shouldn't, then you may not be covered by insurance.
- Sometimes a cause of the seizures is apparent – flashing lights, driving past stands of trees with the sun peeking through, foods (chocolate, shellfish), sleep deprivation, alcohol, emotional stress, hormonal changes; avoid these if you can.
- Always take your medication regularly and never stop without discussing with your doctor. If there are side effects you don't like, ask for another treatment. It is quite a good idea to have a seizure calendar - to see if there is any pattern to the turns, and it is also a good way of assessing the effectiveness of the drugs.
- Alcohol - up to 2 drinks usually does not affect epilepsy, but more can cause seizures, especially in the withdrawal phase - up to 48 hours post binge.
Diet - The ketogenic diet (high fat low or no carbohydrate) is effective in some people with diabetes, especially children , but never start one of these diets without carefully discussing them with your doctor, as they may interfere with some medicines or make the seizures worse.
Coconut oil - 2 tablespoons full per day can have a similar action to the ketogenic diet.
Cannabis oil (CPD) has been claimed to have anticonvulsant actions, but in many countries it is illegal and has yet to be proven. Speak to your doctor before trying these diets.
- A good multivitamin/multimineral makes sure that brain tissues have all the nutrients and minerals required to function perfectly – this is very important. Occasionally, the absence of a single element or vitamin may aggravate epilepsy, thus a good comprehensive multi-tablet can occasionally have major benefits.
- Calcium and magnesium, 800-1,000mg/day. Magnesium has a very calming effect, helps with sleep and enables people to cope better and frequently reduces the number of seizures.
- Vitamin D - a study in Philadelphia showed that over 1/2 of all epileptic patients were vitamin D deficient, but they were not sure if this affected the turns, or was just a side effect of their drugs, diet and lifestyle.
- Omega 3 fish oils or flax seed oils are very beneficial to the brain’s function and development. Also some people have found a reduction in epileptic seizures when taking high doses of omega 3 oils, 1-2 grams daily.
The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients
My recommendations for epileptic patients - USANA - Cellsentials *, Biomega, Active Calcium plus and vitamin D -
Other therapiesThere are a number of other therapies which you might like to look at. They have not been specifically included with this disease because some are a form of treatment which is applicable to most diseases and many focus on the mind, body, spirit, and the universe. These include - acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, naturopathy, prayer, visualisation and some people with this condition might like to look at these topics (I have described them more fully on another page on this website click here .) With my personal experience and reading, I do not think that I can comment of whether one or a number of these might help. They fit well with most conventional and complementary treatments and I suspect some or even all of them can be extremely powerful - if performed by an experienced practitioner. My only caveat is that if in the course of one of these therapies, you are given potions or herbs, do check with your health practitioner that they will not interfere with other treatments or drugs you are receiving.
Nutritional supplementsI believe in today's world that nutritional supplements are so necessary as to be an essential component of any form of both prevention and treatment. Not only is today's food lacking in nutrients because of the way it was grown and processed, but also most of us make the wrong choices in diet. It is virtually impossible to obtain optimal levels of most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients although many people try to do so, and even then fresh produce is not available all year round. *There are many quality supplements available on the market, including –Thorne, NFS, Douglas Labs, Xtend Life, True Star Health, USANA, and Metagenics. There are others, but do your due diligence before choosing one. USANA Health Sciences has added a new adjunct to its multivitamin and multi mineral called CellSentials. These are a patented blend of phyto-nutrients which they believe affects cell signaling and growth, and increases the production of preventative antioxidants within the cell. These should add to the value of the multi, so these are the multivitamin/mineral preparation I recommend.