Don’t let a seizure disorder keep you from living your best life
Aristotle, Joan of Arc, Sir Isaac Newton, Teddy Roosevelt, Prince. What do these famous names have in common? They each suffered from epilepsy, the most common type of seizure disorder. While anyone can have an unexplained seizure once during their lifetime, two or more typically results in a diagnosis of epilepsy. Once misunderstood—and often mistreated by doctors, lay people, and even the law—modern science has made significant strides in reducing the cruel stigma attached to epilepsy thanks to a better understanding of seizure disorders, as well as new ways to manage the disease.
Seizures can range in severity from a momentary hiccup in brain activity to full-blown loss of consciousness and whole-body convulsions. These events are triggered by a disruption in the electrical activity between the neurons in the cerebral cortex—the part of the brain responsible for thinking, perception, and language. While a brain tumor, brain trauma, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease can lead to seizures, many cases of epilepsy don’t have an identifiable cause. Certain factors can, however, trigger a seizure. These can include low blood sugar, oxidative stress, dehydration, lack of sleep, emotional stress, extreme temperatures, or even flashing lights. Some people are also sensitive to certain food additives like aspartame or MSG.
Most people with epilepsy need to take anti-seizure medication, but these drugs come with a variety of side effects and can lead to low levels of magnesium and vitamin D. Since some of these medications have also been linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis, it’s important to supplement with both magnesium and vitamin D. Many people with epilepsy also have low B6 levels, a nutrient that’s associated with a healthy nervous system. Recent studies suggest that a deficiency may trigger seizures, so it’s smart to supplement with a biologically active B6 called pyridoxal-5-phosphate.
Hemp oil may also benefit those with epilepsy by reducing inflammation in the brain and by regulating calcium levels that play a role in cellular excitability. Research also shows that two nonpsychoactive cannabinoids in hemp—cannabidivarian (CBDV) and cannabidiol (CBD)—possess anticonvulsant properties. CBDV, in particular, has been found to reduce seizure frequency and severity. One double-blind study of 108 children with epilepsy found that adding a CBD oil to their medication resulted in a 50 percent reduction in seizures among 33 to 44 percent of the kids (depending on which anti-seizure drugs they were taking). Fourteen percent of the CBD group also reported increased alertness and improved communication skills. But, when choosing a supplement, look for a high-quality supercritical hemp oil, which contains the full spectrum of biologically active cannabinoids.
Is Keto the Key?
Since the 1920’s, a ketogenic diet has been used to help control seizures in those resistant to drugs. Consisting of 70 to 80 percent fat, a keto diet changes the body’s metabolism, causing it to generate ketones that the body burns for energy instead of glucose. Scientists suspect that these ketones can enter the brain and influence seizures by decreasing neuron activity, reducing free-radical damage, and helping the brain use energy more efficiently. Reviews have found that over half of children eating a keto diet have a 50 percent reduction in seizure frequency, with another 30 percent experiencing 90 percent fewer seizures. Clinical studies show similar results in adults.
While epilepsy can be a frightening condition, employing self-care and working with your doctor to attain proper treatment can help you successfully manage your seizures. Don’t let an outdated stigma keep you from a full and active life. Thrive!