A seizure is a condition involving the central nervous system and is said to arise due to a disruption in electrical activity in the brain. According to John Hopkins Medicine, “this causes temporary abnormalities in muscle tone or movements (stiffness, twitching or limpness), behaviors, sensations or states of awareness”.
Seizures can be quite frightening to experience and witness as they can involve convulsions that cause a person’s body to shake uncontrollably. However, seizures can be experienced with milder symptoms as there are different types of seizures that exist.
It is not always obvious if someone is experiencing a seizure as symptoms of seizures can be subtle and vary thus it’s important to be aware of them as they can potentially result in physical injuries and accidents.
Signs and symptoms of seizures may look like being confused, staring blankly, wandering aimlessly, abrupt movements, unresponsiveness, and changes in taste, smell, sight, hearing, or touch. Symptoms can also show up before the seizure takes place and may include anxiousness, dizziness, and headaches.
Most seizures last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes and do not cause lasting harm. If a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes this is considered a medical emergency and treatment should be sought after right away.
Seizures can arise after a stroke, head injury, alcohol withdrawal, electrolyte imbalance, extremely low blood sugar, infections such as meningitis, medications, high fever, but oftentimes the cause can be unknown.
In addition, there are often factors that can trigger epileptic episodes in patients with epilepsy such as high stress levels, fever, illness, sleep deprivation, bright lights, medications, alcohol, drugs, and skipping meals.
When a person has recurring seizures, this is known as epilepsy. Just as there are many different types of seizures there are also different types of epilepsy. Children and older adults tend to be more likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy and the condition affects at-least 50 million people around the world (1). It is also more common among males than females. Epilepsy is not an uncommon condition, in fact it is said to be the fourth most common neurological disorder.
Patients with epilepsy can be affected by this chronic disorder in different ways but the good news is there are many ways to control and reduce symptoms successfully with epilepsy treatments and therapies.
Natural Treatments for Epilepsy: Do They Work?
A balanced healthy diet is of course an essential and foundational part of managing any illness or condition.
Dietary changes may help people manage epilepsy and even reduce the frequency of seizures. More specifically, the ketogenic diet was actually initially intended as a natural therapy for children with epilepsy and has been positively associated with improvements in epilepsy cases.
Research even suggests that the keto diet might be a good alternative for non-surgical pharmacoresistant patients with epilepsy of any age. Though if you do want to give this diet a try we recommend being monitored by a health care practitioner to ensure you are following it correctly and avoiding any potential nutrient deficiencies as it is quite restrictive. Low glycemic and lower carb diets are also often recommended such as the Atkins diet.
Conventional medical approaches to epilepsy will most often include treatments like anti-epileptic drugs, nerve stimulation, drug therapies, and brain surgery.
Alternative therapies for epilepsy may include acupuncture, biofeedback, reflexology, herbal medicine, chiropractic care, hypnosis, aromatherapy, and homeopathy (2).
Natural remedies including mineral and vitamin supplements have been studied for epilepsy however we always recommend following your doctor’s recommendations and verifying with them first before starting a new supplement and to assess the proper dosing for your condition.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is essential for proper nerve functioning and deficiency can be associated with neuropsychiatric conditions such as seizures.
This vitamin is used to specifically treat pyridoxine-dependent seizures, a condition that tends to start in infancy. This condition is treated with large daily doses of pyridoxine as the body is unable to properly metabolize this vitamin.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for many processes of the body including nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. It is a common mineral deficiency in the western diet.
A severe deficiency in magnesium has been shown to increase seizure risk while magnesium supplementation may help to reduce seizures (3)(4). Lower levels of magnesium have also been observed in epileptic patients compared to controls.
More research is needed to determine the role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of epilepsy. As magnesium is a common deficiency and required for optimal health and body functions it’s important to assess your magnesium level and supplement accordingly. As food sources often do not provide enough magnesium supplementation is often required.
Increased oxidative stress has been reported in many epilepsy patients and is an influential factor in the development of pathologies including neurodegenerative disorders such as epilepsy. Brain cells are particularly sensitive to reactive oxygen species and free radicals generated by oxidation in the body.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin that has been shown to have promising results in the treatment for epilepsy.
Research has shown that the co-administration of Vitamin E alongside anti-epileptic drugs improves seizure control and reduces oxidative stress (5).
There is concern that those receiving medications for epilepsy are at a risk for folic acid deficiency, showing that serum and red blood cell folate may be reduced in up to 90% patients receiving these drugs and more specifically phenytoin (PHT), carbamazepine (CBZ), or barbiturates (6).
This means it is especially important for pregnant women taking epilepsy medication to ensure they are aware of their folic acid status to reduce the risk of any birth defect.
Folic acid deficiency is associated with increased homocysteine levels which is a marker of inflammation associated with many health conditions including cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Supplementation of Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid can help to normalize levels of homocysteine.
For those taking anti-epileptic medications it would be wise to verify blood levels of folic acid to establish if supplementation is necessary and avoid further complications. As mentioned in previous blog posts we recommend choosing the active form of folic acid, L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate, to improve absorption and assimilation and avoid any potential ill effects from unmetabolized folic acid.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats that are required for many bodily functions including physiological processes in the brain.
These omega fats play an important role in the function and development of the nervous system and also possess neuroprotective effects largely due to their anti-inflammatory compounds.
There is emerging evidence suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may possess anticonvulsant effects and exert protective and positive effects in the treatment of epilepsy (7). Research additionally suggests that low-dose fish oil was a safe and low-cost method in the reduction of seizure frequency and attenuation of cardiovascular health in people with epilepsy (8). This is especially important for patients with epilepsy as they represent a higher risk group for cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks (9).
Omega 3 supplementation may be a natural co-treatment to further look into that is cost effective and generally considered safe though more larger scale studies will be needed.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women’s hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence’s mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.