Note: Consult a specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment of this condition.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes repeated seizures or fits. Seizure episodes can last for very brief periods to long periods. The seizures occur due to bursts of electrical activity in the brain that are not normal. Experts do not yet know what causes epilepsy.
The main symptom of epilepsy is repeated seizures that happen without warning. This can lead to convulsions and problems with muscle control, movement, speech, vision or awareness. At times, a person may also faint or lose consciousness.
Often, the onset of epilepsy happens during early childhood or after age 60, but it can occur at any age. Certain factors increase your risk of epilepsy, including family history, a head injury, strokes and other vascular diseases, brain tumors, dementia, brain infections, lead poisoning, prenatal brain development problems, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Epileptic seizures can be scary, but they do not cause mental illness or intellectual disability. In addition, not everyone who has seizures has epilepsy. Usually, at least two or more seizures within 24 hours are required for a diagnosis of epilepsy.
Fortunately, you can control and reduce seizures with medicines, lifestyle changes and herbal remedies.
Here are the some ways to deal with epilepsy. These remedies, however, are not a substitute for the treatment prescribed by your doctor.
1. Epsom Salt
Studies show that Epsom salt is effective in reducing seizures in people with epilepsy. The magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt changes physiochemical cell relationships in the brain, which in turn lessens the frequency of seizures and convulsions.
- Crush pure grade Epsom salt into a very fine powder. Add ½ teaspoon of the powder to a glass of orange juice or water and drink it each morning.
- You can also enjoy relaxing and soothing Epsom salt baths 2 or 3 times a week.
A popular Ayurvedic remedy for epilepsy is limes. Limes help improve blood circulation to the brain. Moreover, they help normalize excessive calcium that may hamper brain functionality.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. Drink it daily before going to bed.
- You can also apply fresh lime juice on your head and massage thoroughly for a few minutes. Do this daily before taking a shower.
Garlic is also useful in treating epilepsy. Its antioxidant, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties help destroy harmful free radicals in the body and promote proper functioning of the nervous system. This in turn prevents seizures and other epilepsy-related symptoms.
- Mix together ½ cup each of milk and water. Heat it to a boil. Add 4 to 5 crushed garlic cloves and boil until the mixture reduces by half. Strain and drink it once daily.
- Alternatively, take garlic supplements daily. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
The herb passionflower also helps reduce seizures. It contains a chemical known as chrysin, which helps increase the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This in turn reduces frequency of seizures as well as anxiety.
- Drink 1 to 2 cups of herbal tea prepared with passionflower. Steep 1 teaspoon of dried passionflower in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, then strain it.
- Passionflower is also available in capsule, tablet, liquid extract and tincture forms. Always take this herb under the guidance of a doctor.
Note: Avoid passionflower if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Also, consult your doctor before taking this herb as it may increase the effects of anti-seizure medications.
5. Winter Melon
According to Ayurveda, winter melon, also known as ash gourd, is an effective home remedy for epilepsy due to its nutritional and medicinal properties. This vegetable helps keep the nervous system healthy and ensures smooth functioning of the brain cells.
- Drink ½ glass of winter melon juice daily in the morning on an empty stomach. To enhance the taste, you can add a little sugar.
- Another option is to extract the juice of a bowl of crushed winter melon. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of licorice powder to it and mix well. Drink this solution once daily.
Regular physical exercise improves fitness, energy and mood, which in turn helps reduce seizures and the impact of epilepsy on one’s life. Moreover, exercise releases feel-good hormones into the brain and increases oxygen flow to the brain.
- Do warm up and stretching exercises daily to feel more relaxed.
- Walking is one of the easiest and safest exercises that people with epilepsy should do. Walk for 45 minutes, at least 4 times a week.
- Swimming and other water sports can be great exercise.
- Gardening and other relaxing activities like tai chi are also great exercises.
Note: Drink water before and after exercise to prevent dehydration. In addition, stop and rest if you are feeling tired.
Yoga is an age-old practice that alleviates stress, induces relaxation and provides multiple health benefits for people with epilepsy. The combination of controlled deep breathing, physical postures and meditation helps control seizures and reduce other epilepsy symptoms. The top yoga poses for epilepsy are:
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
- Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
- Sirsasana (Headstand)
- Camatkarasana (Wild Thing)
As it is very important to do yoga poses in the correct manner to reap the benefits, learn them from an expert only.
8. Take Necessary Vitamins
A healthy diet is essential in the treatment of epilepsy. There are different vitamins that can help a lot. For instance, vitamin E helps control the neurons that cause seizures and anxiety disorders.
As epilepsy can occur due to vitamin B1 deficiency, eat foods high in vitamin B1 or take a supplement after consulting a doctor.
Other vitamins that can help treat epilepsy are vitamins B12, B6 and D.
Always consult a doctor before taking a supplement.
In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is a well-known treatment for seizures due to epilepsy. In acupuncture, pressure is applied to specific points on the body using fine needles.
Although its mechanism is not known, acupuncture can help alter brain activity to reduce seizures by restoring the flow of qi (energy) throughout the body.
To enjoy the benefits of acupuncture, get it done by an expert only.
- Get enough sleep as sleep deprivation can trigger seizures.
- If you have seizures regularly, wear a medical alert bracelet. This will help people know about your condition.
- Manage stress and avoid stressful situations.
- Drink ½ glass of grape juice daily.
- Limit your intake of alcohol and avoid smoking.
- As low calcium and magnesium can trigger seizures, eat foods high in these nutrients.
- Keep a written record of any seizures you have and keep your doctor updated.
- Avoid all “white” products, including white sugar, white flour, table salt and white rice.
- Do not consume artificial sweeteners or additives.
- Do not skip meals, especially breakfast.
- Follow the ketogenic diet, even though the restrictions can be challenging.
Lastly, take the medicines prescribed by your doctor in correct dosages in a timely manner. Do not stop taking your medicines without your doctor’s approval.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Ajeet Sodhi, MD (Neurologist)
Can epilepsy be cured in the long run?
Some patients with epilepsy can be cured with brain surgery. However, not every epileptic patient can be cured with this method. For those who qualify, there is a 90% success rate.
Why is the ketogenic diet recommended for patients with epilepsy?
The ketogenic diet has been demonstrated to increase seizure control and is sometimes recommended for some people who have difficult time controlling epilepsy. We don’t really know why it works, but we know that brain cells can use the ketones produced by the diet for energy instead of glucose. This seems to produce an increased stability in the same cells, which are less likely to discharge uncontrollably as in an epileptic seizure.
Can epilepsy patients develop personality and behavioral changes?
Epilepsy can be the result of significant brain damage which may itself produce behavioral and personality changes. Additionally, seizures in certain parts of the brain can produce sudden behavioral abnormalities, bizarre behavior, or changes in mood.
Are there any dietary restrictions for epilepsy patients?
There are no specific guidelines on preferred diets or restrictions for epileptic patients beyond the ketogenic diet, but good nutrition is advised, as is adequate hydration, and avoiding alcohol.
Is eating coconut oil good for epilepsy?
Coconut oil in itself does not have any special qualities that are helpful for epilepsy, but as a source of nutritional fat, it can be a part of the ketogenic diet, which is known to be beneficial for epileptics.
Can yoga be beneficial for reducing epileptic episodes?
Yoga can be an excellent source of gentle, non-impact exercise and stress relief. Stress can be a trigger for some people with epileptic seizures.
Please provide some useful tips to our readers on how to care for a person with epilepsy.
Patients with epilepsy should not engage in activities that could be harmful during a seizure without proper supervision, such as taking a bath alone, swimming.
Patients at a high risk for recurrent seizures should not drive, operate heavy machinery, hold an infant while standing, scuba dive, etc. or other activities that could be harmful during a seizure.
Epileptic patients should make sure they eat regular meals, stay well hydrated, and get sufficient sleep. They should avoid excessive alcohol, and above all stay compliant with their medications.
Anybody can have epilepsy. Anybody can have a seizure also, but having a single or few seizures is not the same as epilepsy. One should not assume that a person does or does not have epilepsy based on their appearance.
A seizure is a symptom. If a patient has a first-time seizure, they should see a neurologist as soon as possible, as the seizure may be a warning sign of a more dangerous condition.
Many people will be diagnosed with seizures or epilepsy during their lifetimes. Although people usually feel devastated by the diagnosis, but people can still live full and productive lives despite their diagnosis. People with well controlled epilepsy can even continue to drive, work, experience life, etc.
About Dr. Ajeet Sodhi, MD: Dr. Sodhi is the Director of Neuro Critical Care at California Institute of Neuroscience. He trained in Neurology after graduating from the Medical College of Virginia and further specialized in Stroke and Vascular disease, Neurocritical Care, and Neurointerventional Endovascular Surgery.
In addition to his neurologic subspeciality training, Dr. Sodhi has a significant interest in the new field of neuroregeneration and unorthodox therapies, especially for conditions in which current treatments are limited.