Seizures are a result of a sudden change in the electrical activity of your brains. When you have a seizure, your brain cells “fire” up to 4 times their normal rate. This temporarily affects the way you move, behave, feel, or think. Conditions such as brain injury, infections, toxic substance intake, metabolic issues, abnormalities in the blood vessels in your brain, alcohol use, and injuries can provoke seizures. In children, high fever can also cause seizures.
But seizures are not as uncommon as you might think – around 5–10% people experience at least one seizure during their life. For most people, however, this is a one-time episode that does not return. But in one out of ten cases, seizures will keep recurring and the person is diagnosed with epilepsy. Where seizures are not caused by a specific problem such as alcohol use that can be addressed, antiepileptic medications may be prescribed. And where medication is not able to control the condition, surgery may be considered. However, there are also many natural remedies that have been found to help deal with seizures. While these cannot take the place of your epilepsy medication, they can help reduce the occurrence or even intensity of seizures and ensure a better quality of life. Do remember to keep your doctor informed of any alternative remedies you are trying. Here are your options.
1. Follow A Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet is usually recommended for children with seizures who don’t respond to medicine. This diet involves having high-fat foods and very little carbohydrates. Cells in your body typically use blood sugar which is obtained from carbohydrates for energy. When carbohydrates are restricted, the body starts to break down fat stores into molecules known as ketone bodies and uses them to generate energy. Over half of those who go on the ketogenic diet see a 50% reduction in the number of seizures and around 10–15% become free of seizures.
The diet needs to be precisely calculated and monitored by a doctor. It may also involve an initial period of fasting and hospital stay. One drawback of following the ketogenic diet is that since food portions need to be carefully measured, it can be difficult to stick to. Some people may experience tiredness, nausea, constipation, bad breath, and sleep problems when they go on the ketogenic diet. Staying on this diet for a long period can also cause side effects like slowed growth, high cholesterol levels, bone fractures, and kidney stones.123 4 This is not, however, widely recommended for adults since a high-fat diet can lead to problems like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
2. Try A Modified Atkins Diet
In the modified Atkins diet, the traditional Atkins diet is modified to limit the intake of carbohydrates further. Like the ketogenic diet, this diet is also low in carbs but is less restrictive. Consumption of fats is encouraged and there’s no restriction on having proteins in this diet. Foods don’t need to be measured out and it involves no hospital stay or fasting. It has been found to lower seizure rates in almost half the adults who have tried it, typically, within a few months. However, do remember that your neurologist and dietician need to be consulted before you try this diet.5 6 7
3. Practice Yoga
Yoga uses the practice of asana and pranayama to promote control over the mind and body. Yoga can induce relaxation and reduce stress and may, therefore, be beneficial for people suffering from epilepsy. Experts suggest asanas such as viparita karani (half shoulder stand), urdhva hasta tadasana (upward raising mountain pose), and adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog). Supplementing this with breathing exercises such as nadi shodhana pranayama (cleansing alternative nostril breathing) can be particularly helpful. 8
Studies have also found the practice of Sahaja yoga, a simple meditative practice, to be effective in dealing with epilepsy. It is thought to reduce stress, reduce the risk of seizures, and bring about changes in the electrical activity of the brain. During Sahaja yoga, practitioners sit relaxed with their palms facing upward and their hands in front. They focus their attention on a picture placed before them with a lit candle in front of it. Slowly as their thoughts fade away, they may close their eyes and focus their attention on the “sahasrara chakra” at the top of the head. Sahaja yoga is believed to awaken the divine energy dormant in us known as the kundalini.9
4. Try Biofeedback
Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback has been found help people suffering from epilepsy. Think of it as a brain exercise where you are able to modulate brain waves because you are aware of their activity. During the process, sensors are placed on the head so that brain activity can be shown as patterns on a computer screen. Any deviations from the normal, when brain cells misfire, are then mapped. Now you are taught to control or regulate this activity. A tone or beep, for instance, may be used as a positive reinforcement or reward for changing certain brain activities.10
One study found that 74% of those treated with EEG feedback reported fewer weekly seizures. What’s even better is that the treatment may significantly reduce seizure frequency in those who are not able to control seizures through medical treatment.11
5. Have Vitamin E
Research has found that people who take antiepileptic drugs frequently suffer from oxidative stress. One study looked at the effect of supplementing people on antiepileptic medication with vitamin E, a potent antioxidant. It was found that taking this vitamin along with their medicine not only reduced oxidative stress but also improved seizure control.12 Stocking up on foods such as almonds, peanuts, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and spinach may also be helpful.
6. Take Fish Oil
One study looked at the effect of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids present in fish oil on the severity and frequency of epileptic seizures in children who were not responding to medical treatment. Remarkably, it was found that by the end of 3 months, 57.1% of the children who took fish oil experienced zero seizures. The beneficial effect of these healthy fats is attributed to the role they play in the regulation of neuronal function.13 They are thought to cross over into the central nervous system, block sodium and calcium channels in nerve cells, and thus stop the repetitive firing of cells that results in seizures.14 Interestingly, low doses of fish oil – 3 capsules a day (1080 mg) – was enough to bring about this effect in one study.15 But speak to your doctor about what dosage might work best for you.
7. Try Ayurvedic Remedies
The treatment for epilepsy is tailored to the individual in ayurvedic practice and may involve different treatments for different people. Nevertheless, some common therapies include:
- Blood-letting (siravdha) may be used as a first-aid measure.
- Enema (paittika apasmara) and emesis (vatika apasmara) may be used as cleansing procedures at the beginning of the treatment.
- Nasal application (nasya) of oil cooked with animal and herbal products as well as the use of collyrium sticks (anjanas) has been recommended.
- Medicinal formulations such as siddharthaka ghrita or aswagandharistam may also be used for the treatment of seizures.16
8. Check Out Herbal Remedies: Valerian, Kava, Passionflower, Chamomile
Many herbal remedies have been traditionally used to deal with seizures. For instance, valerian, kava, passionflower, and chamomile are thought to enhance the power of antiepileptic medicines and improve their cognitive and sedative effects.17 An experienced herbal practitioner will be able to guide you regarding the dosage and usage of these herbs. But do keep in mind that you should always get your doctor’s sign-off before using any herbal remedy so there are no medicinal interactions.
9. Avoid Epilepsy Triggers
In certain cases, specific triggers may set off seizures. Avoiding these triggers can then prevent seizures. While a number of factors can provoke seizures and triggers tend to vary depending on the person, some common triggers are given below.
- Missing sleep
- Flickering patterns or lights
- Overheating and a significant change in temperature
Try to identify factors which trigger seizures and avoid them if possible.18
|↑1||Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you?. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑2||Ketogenic Diet. Epilepsy Foundation.|
|↑3||Dietary Therapy. The John Hopkins University.|
|↑4||Treatment. National Health Service.|
|↑5||Mehta, Ranju, Shaiphali Goel, Suvasini Sharma, Puneet Jain, Sharmila B. Mukherjee, and Satinder Aneja. “Efficacy and tolerability of the modified Atkins diet in young children with refractory epilepsy: Indian experience.” Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology 19, no. 4 (2016): 523.|
|↑6||Dietary Therapy. The John Hopkins University.|
|↑7||Modified Atkins Diet. Epilepsy Foundation.|
|↑8||Yoga Therapy for Epilepsy. Asana International Yoga Journal.|
|↑9||Panjwani, U., W. Selvamurthy, S. H. Singh, H. L. Gupta, L. Thakur, and U. C. Rai. “Effect of Sahaja yoga practice on seizure control & EEG changes in patients of epilepsy.” The Indian journal of medical research 103 (1996): 165-172.|
|↑10||EEG biofeedback. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑11||Tan, Gabriel, John Thornby, D. Corydon Hammond, Ute Strehl, Brittany Canady, Kelly Arnemann, and David A. Kaiser. “Meta-analysis of EEG biofeedback in treating epilepsy.” Clinical EEG and neuroscience 40, no. 3 (2009): 173-179.|
|↑12||Mehvari, Jafar, Fataneh Gholami Motlagh, Mohamad Najafi, Mohammad Reza Aghaye Ghazvini, Amirmansour Alavi Naeini, and Mohamad Zare. “Effects of Vitamin E on seizure frequency, electroencephalogram findings, and oxidative stress status of refractory epileptic patients.” Advanced biomedical research 5 (2016).|
|↑13, ↑14||Reda, Diala Mohamed Ali, Nesrin Kamal Abd-El-Fatah, Tarek El-Sayed Ismail Omar, and Olfat Abdel Hamid Darwish. “Fish oil intake and seizure control in children with medically resistant epilepsy.” North American journal of medical sciences 7, no. 7 (2015): 317.|
|↑15||Low-doses of fish oil may reduce seizures in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. UCLA Newsroom.|
|↑16||Tripathi, M., M. C. Maheshwari, S. Jain, and M. V. Padma. “Ayurvedic medicine and epilepsy.” Neurological Journal of Southeast Asia 5 (2000): 1-4.|
|↑17||Spinella, Marcello. “Herbal medicines and epilepsy: the potential for benefit and adverse effects.” Epilepsy & Behavior 2, no. 6 (2001): 524-532.|
|↑18||Epilepsy. Department of Health & Human Services.|