According to the leading non-governmental agency committed to funding epilepsy research, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), one in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy in their lifetimes, and an estimated three million Americans and 65 million people worldwide currently live with the condition. Epilepsy is one of those medical conditions that is often misunderstood, and epilepsy research remains underfunded compared to many other diseases.
Medical treatments and prescription drugs are often administered to control seizures, but these medications often don’t always work and can cause troubling side effects. When patients don’t respond to medicine after two trials, they are often diagnosed with drug resistant epilepsy, which can be a frustrating and scary diagnosis.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition in which a child or adult has multiple seizures that have not been provoked by a trauma or other specific event. Medical researchers believe that epilepsy may be caused by an abnormality in the wiring of the brain and/or an imbalance of neurotransmitters.
Various factors can trigger epilepsy, including a head injury, brain tumor, infectious disease, lead poisoning, and some genetic conditions. However, it still remains a mystery to researchers why and how more than half of epilepsy patients get this disease.
Symptoms and Types of Epilepsy
The most prominent symptom of epilepsy is the seizure, which happens when normal brain patterns are interrupted by bursts of electrical energy. Odd sensations, convulsions, and spasms are the result, and people experiencing seizures can even lose consciousness.
Generally speaking, seizures are the only visible symptoms of epilepsy, but seizures can affect people in very different ways. For example, some people experience anxiety, fatigue, depression, and headaches in the days leading up to an epileptic event.
Partial seizures start in a specific area of the brain and typically don’t result in a loss of consciousness. Generalized seizures take over the entire surface of the brain and can cause patients to fall to the ground with spasms and jerk uncontrollably. There are several different types of epilepsy as well.
Epilepsy Treatment Options
When medications aren’t working to stop seizures or causing too many side effects, the Epilepsy Foundation offers some hopeful options:
- See an epileptologist at a specialized epilepsy center
- Try experimental medications
- Consider surgery or vagus nerve therapy for epilepsy
- Modify your diet
- Participate in a research study
- Seek behavioral therapy as a complementary approach
Natural Ways to Ease Symptoms
If you are looking for an alternative approach to easing epilepsy symptoms or supplementing your current treatment regimen for increased effectiveness, dietary changes can have a great impact on this condition. In general, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, known as a ketogenic diet, has shown to help control seizures.
These are some natural remedies to discuss with your doctor and consider for your specific symptoms.
These are some of the herbs that natural health medical practitioners have recommended for epilepsy patients: passion flower, groundsel, mistletoe, peony, scullcap, and valerian.
And these are the vitamins most recommended in cases of epilepsy and seizures: vitamin B6, vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, and folic acid.
Acupuncture & Chiropractic Treatments
Other alternative remedies include acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. Complementary and alternative medicine strategies like these are used by around 44 percent of epilepsy patients and can help balance forces in the body.
Meanwhile, some epilepsy sufferers try biofeedback methods, which involve physical therapists who are experienced in using electrical sensors to calm brain waves. Biofeedback therapy is believed to normalize or enhance EEG activity by operant conditioning; however, more studies are needed to determined its effectiveness in epilepsy patients.
It’s a good idea to discuss all of these treatments and remedies with your doctor to find the right solution, or combination of solutions, for you.