Despite the availability of adequate antiepileptic drugs like carbotrol, zarontin, etc., a significant number of people continue to have repeated epileptic seizures that result from a disturbance in the normal pattern of neuron activity in the brain. These medications often tend to stimulate additional receptors in the brain thereby producing unwanted side effects like blurred vision, nausea, suicidal behavior, etc.
Moreover, the brain adapts to them quickly leading to the requirement of a higher dosage, eventually making them ineffective after a period of time. A suitable diet, certain herbs and regular exercise can, however, supply the brain with the required nutrition, thus acting as natural medicines for the treatment of epilepsy. A few natural remedies that have been found to reduce the severity of this condition have been listed below.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter or a “natural peacemaker” of the brain that prevents hyper-excitability of the neurons and promotes relaxation in the brain. Deficiency of GABA has been reported to be the most important cause of anxiety disorders and epileptic seizures. Hence, elevating the levels of GABA in the brain by making subtle changes in the diet can help tremendously in stabilizing the attacks of epileptic seizures.
Even though GABA cannot be synthesized in the body, certain amino acids like glutamine, glutamate, L-theanine and other minerals like B vitamins, fiber and iron stimulate the production of GABA. Foods that increase the levels of GABA include green tea, complex carbohydrates found in lentils, oats, whole-grain pastas, fruits like banana, apple, citrus, vegetables like spinach, broccoli, peas, soybeans, etc.
A diet that induces the production of ketone bodies, which are the byproducts released by the oxidation or burning of fatty acids in the body is termed as a “ketogenic diet”. The body usually uses carbohydrates as a fuel, but the inclusion of a high fat and a low carbohydrate diet will enable the body to use fat as a primary source for generating energy. This rise in the level of ketone bodies has been associated with an improved seizure control.
Also termed as the “long-chain triglyceride diet”, it includes foods that maintain a strict ratio of fat to carbohydrate and proteins combined like butter, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise and oils. However, it loses its effects, if the patient goes off the diet even for one meal. Moreover, it can cause malnourishment, dehydration, kidney stones if not followed properly, making it mandatory to be followed only under the supervision of a dietician.
Deficiency of vitamin B6 is known to worsen epileptic seizures in infants and is mostly treated by giving an IV of vitamin B6 for three to four weeks. Vitamin B6 aids in treating epilepsy by boosting the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrin that forms the outer protective layer or the myelin sheath around the neurons.
Elevated levels of serotonin also help in lowering the levels of stress that act as a major trigger for epileptic seizures. Dietary sources of vitamin B6 include dairy products like milk, cheese, eggs, cereal grains, flour, legumes, vegetables like carrots, spinach, peas, potatoes, fish, liver and meat and flour.
All though, there are rare cases of exercise-induced seizures, the majority of physical activities or sports have been shown to decrease the frequency of recurring seizures. It helps in decreasing the abnormalities of the brain like involuntary jerk movements of the legs and hands, visualizing flashing lights, unconsciousness and other symptoms associated with epilepsy.
Qigong exercises that involve stretching and breathing exercises are known to improve the emotional balance and the overall state of mind, thus aiding in reducing the abnormal electrical activity associated with epilepsy. However, one should not overdo it and stay cautious by informing your coach if you feel overly fatigued, nauseous or dehydrated.
Acupuncture is a technique that involves the usage of fine needles for an intense stimulation of certain trigger points that are associated with the origin of pain. This technique has been spreading worldwide for treating many neurological disorders and for restoring the lost harmony and regulatory mechanism, thus aiding in preventing seizures in the brain.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can increase the levels of cholecystokinin in the central nervous system, a peptide whose deficiency leads to an increased incidence of spontaneous seizures. It also stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that is mostly affected in epileptic patients, thus producing certain endocrine and neurological responses that help in counteracting the effects of epilepsy.
It is a safe and effective way of self-training the brain to stabilize its activity by enabling epileptic patients to visualize the continuous misfiring in their brains. It involves the application of neuro-imaging techniques like electroencephalography (EEG) which detects and displays the spike brain waves on a computer screen that are typically found during chronic seizures.
Initially, the person is allowed to wear sensors and simultaneously control and inhibit the abnormal brain activity or slow wave EEG associated with seizures, thereby receiving positive reinforcement using the computer. However, with practice, the patient will no longer need any sensors to normalize the brain wave activity, since the mind trains itself to learn these skills over a period of time. Studies have shown that patients who use a combination of medication and neuro-feedback have a lower recurrence of epileptic seizures.
Yoga serves as one of most effective and oldest method of bringing harmony within our physical and mental faculties that not only alleviates stress but also relieves the symptoms of epileptic seizures. A study published in “Epilepsy and behavior”, reported that yoga for 10 weeks could not only reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures but also treat epilepsy in a few patients.
Yoga enables patients to focus on their breath and choose from a myriad of yoga styles like pranayama, physical postures (asanas), power yoga, sahaj yoga meditation, etc., that promote relaxation and help control epileptic seizures. Furthermore, yoga is also known to relieve stress and the adverse effects like depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of coordination, etc., associated with anti-epileptic medications.
Hence, the severity of epileptic seizures can be significantly reduced by adapting natural, complementary therapies along with the allopathic medications to maximize the overall improvement of the treatment, without causing any side effects. However, you should make sure that you inform your doctor about using them to avoid any possible drug interactions.
Photo Credit : http://mayoresearch.mayo.edu/mayo/research/neurology/epilepsy.cfm