What is epilepsy?
Epileptic fits are a brief disorder of brain function, usually associated with loss of consciousness, and accompanied by a sudden electrical disturbance in the nerve cells in the brain. Epilepsy is a continuing tendency to suffer such seizures. The main types of epilepsy are grand mal, petit mal, temporal lobe and Jacksonian.
- Grand mal epilepsy is perhaps the most well known. The sufferer frequently feels a vague warning of the impending fit, followed by loss of consciousness and collapse to the ground. The muscles become very rigid and breathing ceases for about twenty to thirty seconds. The rigidity then gives way to powerful jerking movements of the face, body and limbs. The tongue may be bitten and there may be frothing of saliva at the mouth and loss of bladder control. The seizure usually lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes, leaving the patient quite drowsy for several hours.
- Petit mal epilepsy, also called 'absences', primarily occurs in childhood. The seizures typically last for only ten to fifteen seconds. The child ceases activity suddenly, stares blankly into space and pales slightly. A few jerking movements may occur. Afterwards, the child continues on with what they were doing as if nothing had happened.
- Temporal lobe attacks are associated with strange disturbances of smell, feelings of unreality or a sense of 'deja vu'. Visual hallucinations may be seen, and 'absences' or dizziness may occur. Sometimes these features are associated with intense emotional or mood changes.
- Jacksonian fits typically start as a twitching or jerking of the corner of the mouth or of the index finger or thumb and spread to involve the whole limb, then perhaps the whole of one side of the body. Consciousness may or may not be lost. Paralysis of the affected limbs may follow for several hours.
What causes epilepsy?
In the majority of cases of epilepsy the cause cannot be identified, although there is frequently a family history. Important identifiable causes include brain tumors, head injuries, cerebrovascular disease and alcoholism.
Treatment and general recommendations
Both children and adults should lead as unrestricted lives as possible but some precautions are wise. Until the epilepsy is well controlled, children should not cycle on the roads. Epileptics should not go swimming alone and adults are barred from driving until they have been free of attacks for one to two years. Simple precautions at home include leaving the bathroom door unlocked. During a fit, the patient should be protected from harm as much as possible, for example, by moving them away from sharp or hard objects. Do not attempt to insert anything into the mouth but, if possible, simply roll the patient on their side in the 'recovery position' to protect their airway.
- Normal well-balanced meals at regular intervals are recommended, avoiding the consumption of large amounts of food or fluids at one time.
- Avoid - alcohol, caffeine, aspartame (Nutrasweet) (see www.dorway.com) and other artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid low blood sugar by eating protein and healthy fats three times daily.
- Avoid recreational drugs and excess alcohol.
- Some studies have shown that identifying food sensitivities and making appropriate dietary changes have reduced the number of seizures. Food allergy testing (see your doctor) or an elimination diet are ways of identifying possible problem foods.
- In severe epilepsy in children, a diet known as a 'ketogenic diet' has been shown to control seizures in many cases. The diet should only be introduced under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Approximately 80 percent of total calories will need to come from fat, while carbohydrate must be severely restricted.
Drink glasses of raw vegetable juices every day. The recipes below may be found in "Raw Juices Can Save Your Life" book.
Juice for Headaches
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 dandelion leaves or 2 cabbage leaves
- 1 cup chopped broccoli pieces
- 1 cup alfalfa sprouts
- 2 apples - whole
- 1 large carrot
- 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) ginger
- Wash, trim and chop and process through juicer.
- Drink 2 cups 16 oz (approx 500 ml) daily.
Liver Cleansing Juice
This juice is high in Vitamin C and sulfur compounds to cleanse the liver.
- 2 dandelion leaves or 2 spinach leaves or 2 large cabbage leaves
- 1/2 cup broccoli florets
- 1/4 cauliflower or 2 large Brussels sprouts
- 1 clove garlic or 1 small radish (optional)
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 1 apple, whole
- 1 lime or 1 lemon
- Wash, trim and chop produce and process through juicer.
- This is a very strong mixture and may be diluted 1 part juice to 1 part water or you can dilute it with cold herbal or fruit flavored tea.
- Drink 250 to 500 ml (8 to 16 oz) daily.
Orthodox medical treatment
It is recommended that anti-convulsant drug treatment be instituted early in epilepsy both to achieve short term control and to encourage long term cure. The more fits you have, the easier it is for the next to occur, so early suppression of epilepsy makes long term remission more likely. Similarly, the risk of relapse after withdrawal of anti-convulsant drugs is reduced the longer the patient has been without a seizure.
There are various drugs available to treat epilepsy, and dosages need to be tailored to individual needs and responses. The older most frequently used drugs are phenytoin, carbamazepine and sodium valproate. Phenobarbitone, primidone, ethosuxamide and benzodiazepines like clonazepam are also used. Newer anti-convulsants have provided significant improvements in the management of epilepsy. These include vigabatrin, lamotrigine, gabapentin and tiagabine. Many of these drugs require regular monitoring of blood levels so that patients can be adequately treated and toxic levels avoided. Unwanted side effects can occur with all of the anti-convulsants and follow up with your doctor or specialist neurologist is important.
Recommended supplements for epilepsy
- Livatone Plus Powder or Capsules
Take 1 teaspoon twice daily in water or juice or 2 capsules twice daily - A good liver formula containing taurine and vitamin B6 and vitamin E can be very helpful and may decrease the incidence of seizures.
- Magnesium Tablets or Powder
Take 2 tablets twice or one teaspoon daily - Magnesium can be beneficial for those suffering with epilepsy.
Take 1 tablet twice daily, preferably with a small amount of carbohydrate, such as a piece of fruit. Tyrosine is an amino acid (building block of protein) that may reduce the seizure threshold.
- Vitamin D
Take 1 capsule daily, with food. Many anti-epileptic medications deplete the body of vitamin D.
Naturopathic supplements have much to offer the epileptic in reducing the number of seizures. Most can usually be safely combined with anti-convulsant medications but be sure to consult your doctor, and never stop these medications without your doctor's advice.
Supplementation with evening primrose oil may exacerbate epilepsy.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.