Natural Control of Epilepsy?
Q. Is there any way to completely cure epilepsy without repercussions? Can you suggest what types of food, medicine, or dietary supplements might help?
Unfortunately, no treatment actually "cures" epilepsy. The condition -- characterized by periodic seizures -- is caused by sudden increases of electrical activity in the brain, which disrupt normal brain functions. People with epilepsy are often born with this disorder, but some develop it later in life (after a head injury, perhaps). Epileptic seizures can range in severity from the barely noticeable (with only momentary lapses of awareness) to the dramatic (grand mal seizures can cause violent muscle contractions and loss of consciousness). If it's a person's first seizure, you should call 911 or head to an emergency room -- they will need a full diagnostic evaluation by an emergency physician, a primary care physician, or a neurologist.
Epilepsy can be controlled with a variety of anticonvulsant drugs, all of which are sedating. The oldest, phenobarbital and Dilantin (phenytoin), have been available for decades. Valproic acid and Depakote are also part of this class of anticonvulsants (they've been around for about ten years), but newer drugs, approved in the 1990s by the Food and Drug Administration, have given patients more options. Those include, Felbatol (felbamate), Neurontin (gabapentin), Lamictal (lamotrigine), Topamax (topiramate), and Gabritril (tiagabine). Treatment may involve some trial and error to find the drug and dosage that works for you.
You may have heard about the ketogenic diet -- a high-fat, low-carbohydrate and low-protein diet, with limited fluids -- which causes ketosis, the burning of body fat stores for fuel. For unknown reasons, a ketotic state can decrease the number of seizures. The diet is very hard to follow. It seems to work best for children ages one to ten and those whose epilepsy isn't well controlled by drugs. It doesn't appear to help adults and adolescents.
I can also recommend some measures to help you cut back on the anticonvulsant drugs needed to manage the disorder. Please don't try reducing your dosage before you've incorporated the suggestions below or before talking it over with your primary care physician -- and even then, never stop taking anticonvulsants suddenly. Once you're ready to cut back, do so very slowly, giving your body several weeks to become accustomed to each reduction. If at any point you have a recurrence of seizures, go back to your prescribed drug dosage.
Eliminate all stimulants, including tobacco, coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, and any stimulant drugs you may be taking.
Take 500 mg of calcium and 250 mg of magnesium three times a day with food to decrease nervous irritability.
Consider adding vitamin E to your diet. The research here is very preliminary, but it may help control seizures. (The normal recommended daily dose is 400 I.U. for people under age 40, and 800 I.U. for those older).
Do breathing exercises for relaxation and stress control.
Experiment with brain wave biofeedback to slow brain waves.
You probably won't be able to eliminate anticonvulsant drugs, but you may be able to reduce them to a level that won't affect your mood or sap your energy.