What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by the periodic occurrence of seizures—disruptions in electrical signaling in the brain. Disruptions can be due to several factors, including reactive oxygen species generated by the mitochondria.
There are many types of epilepsy, with seizures ranging from mild sensory disruptions to convulsions and unconsciousness. Epilepsy can be acquired from other health problems or can be idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown.
Natural interventions such as coenzyme Q10 and magnesium may provide benefit for patients with epilepsy.
What are the Risk Factors for Epilepsy and Seizures?
- Family history
- Brain tumors
- Brain trauma
- Neurological diseases
Note: Seizures can be “triggered” by certain variables. Common triggers include:
- Electrolyte imbalance/dehydration
- Caffeine and other stimulants
- Fatigue and lack of sleep
- Certain foods
- Low blood sugar
What are Signs and Symptoms of a Seizure?
- Repetitive motions
- Changes in breathing rate
- Sudden lapse of consciousness
- Rhythmic twitching of muscles and/or generalized loss of muscle control
- Some seizures also have a preliminary phase, called an aura. Patients who experience auras may be aware a seizure is imminent and can act to prevent it.
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Epilepsy?
- Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs)
- Sodium channel blockers (eg, carbamazepine)
- Calcium current inhibitors (eg, valproic acid)
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid enhancers (eg, vigabatrin)
- Glutamate blockers (eg, topiramate)
- Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (eg, acetazolamide)
- Others (eg, levetiracetam)
- Vagal nerve stimulation
- Deep brain stimulation
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
What are Emerging Therapies for Epilepsy?
- Novel AEDs
- Hormone therapy
- People with epilepsy who do not respond well to AEDs may benefit from a biofeedback technique, where biological monitoring (eg, EEG readings) is used to help identify how their body responds to different situations.
What Dietary and Lifestyle Changes Can Be Beneficial for Epilepsy?
- The ketogenic diet (or modified versions) can be effective at reducing the number of seizures.
- Patients who experience auras can practice seizure interruption techniques, such as smelling something pleasant or changing mental imagery.
- Manage stress effectively; try meditation or relaxation techniques.
- Get enough good quality sleep.
- Engage in a regular form of exercise.
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Epilepsy?
- Vitamin D and calcium. Patients taking AEDs have lower levels of vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption. Patients on AEDs may therefore be at increased risk of osteoporosis and should consider taking vitamin D and calcium supplements).
- Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is associated with seizures, as it acts as a natural calcium channel blocker similar to some AEDs. A form of magnesium, called magnesium-L-threonate, penetrates the brain effectively and may offer more protection for patients with epilepsy.
- B vitamins. AED use may lower levels of some B vitamins (eg, folate, B6, and B12), raising homocysteine levels. This may place epileptics at a higher risk of heart disease. Certain seizure types are even directly linked to B6 deficiency.
- Melatonin. Melatonin helps calm neural signaling and has been shown to be beneficial for patients with epilepsy.
- As mitochondrial dysfunction may contribute to epileptic seizures, protectants such as coenzyme Q10 and pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) may offer benefits.
- Other natural interventions that may benefit epileptic patients include vitamins E and C, selenium, essential fatty acids, resveratrol, bacopa, and phytocannabinoids (eg, cannabidiol).