Epilepsy and Nutritional Guidelines

Epilepsy is a fairly common condition that can cause repeated or prolonged seizures. These seizures can cause a number of different sensations, depending on the type of seizure involved and the severity of the epilepsy. It is important to note that not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy, and not all seizures will recur. Because of some negativity surrounding the term epilepsy, some doctors now prefer to use the more neutral term seizure disorder.

There are two main categories of seizures: partial or generalized. In a partial seizure, there is one focus and only a small part of the brain is affected, whereas in a general seizure, a larger part of the brain is affected. A simple partial seizure can cause a change in consciousness but not a loss of consciousness. Complex partial seizures often involve loss of consciousness.

The most severe and severe type of seizure is the grand mal seizure, a generalized seizure that affects the motor systems of the brain and involves convulsions. The grand mal seizure is characterized by a tonic phase (strong muscle contractions) and a clonic phase (slow jerky movements). In addition, there are less severe types of seizures, including the petit mal seizure, which is also called an absence seizure and can be simply dismissed as daydreaming unless the actual diagnosis is made.

Epilepsy may be related to another problem, such as a head injury, brain tumor, brain infection, or stroke. However, less than half of people who have been diagnosed with epilepsy or a seizure disorder know why they have it. It is important that the disorder is recognized and diagnosed so that treatment can be started; Without proper care, seizures will become progressively more frequent and may become more severe. Your doctor will usually rule out other disorders and diseases before diagnosing epilepsy because in its mild or early stages it can mimic other disorders.

Symptoms of epilepsy:

– You may notice strange odors or sounds. You may also have double vision.
– You may lose control of your muscles
– It may fall, collapse or shake.
– You can stare into space and not realize it.
– You may pass out.

In most cases, epilepsy is treated with medications intended to reduce or control seizures. Some of the medications can cause other side effects, so the doctor must experiment with different types and different doses in order to find the right control with the fewest side effects. There are other treatment options for seizure disorders, including a special diet, surgery to remove damaged tissue in the brain, and implantation of a device called a vagus nerve stimulator. This sends signals in the neck to help control seizures.

the special diet

The diet suggested by doctors is called the ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. On a ketogenic diet, the body doesn’t burn carbohydrates for energy as it normally would, but instead burns fat. When the body burns these fats, it produces a carbon substance called ketones. In a seizure disorder, ketones are thought to help suppress seizure activity. (About 30% of children put on the ketogenic diet have complete seizure control, while another 40% have enough control to continue the diet.)

The ketogenic diet is usually prescribed for a period of around two years and then carbohydrates and other nutrients are gradually added. During the time spent on the diet, vitamins and minerals will need to be supplemented because the diet is deficient in these nutrients, especially calcium and vitamin C. The diet has been criticized by various health groups due to the high fat content, however However, no problems with heart disease or growth retardation have been seen in children. Because childhood obesity is a major concern and so many children have diabetes and other weight-related conditions, the potential benefits of the ketogenic diet must be weighed against its risks.

Other dietary considerations

Children and adults who have seizure disorders should try to avoid the artificial sugar aspartame if it increases seizure activity. Aspartame causes seizures in people with a metabolic disorder called phenylketonuria. This disorder prevents the amino acid phenylalanine from being digested and used properly. (Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that must be supplied by food sources and supplements. It is converted in the body to the non-essential amino acid tyrosine.)

People with seizure disorders may also have some food sensitivities and food allergies that they should be aware of. In some cases, these foods may even trigger the seizure activity in the first place. Common foods that can trigger these reactions include dairy products including cheese, citrus fruits, wheat, and food additives such as tartrazine and benzoic acid. The level of sensitivity to foods can vary from person to person and a person may eat these foods every day without knowing that they are sensitive to them. It is important to find out if there are any food allergies that may trigger or have triggered seizure activity.

Protein supplements may be suggested on the ketogenic diet, however supplements should only be started on the advice of a doctor. Finding the right supplement is important, especially if there are also food sensitivities or other issues. Whey protein, for example, can be difficult to digest if there is a problem with lactose intolerance. Soy or rice protein may be better suggestions in this case; rice protein is considered hypoallergenic and may be the best solution. Egg protein may also be acceptable as a supplement. Protein bars may be suggested, however the ingredients should be read carefully so that they do not contain any that could be considered problematic for the person with seizure disorders.

Doctors also suggest supplementing with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage that can increase seizure activity by interfering with normal brain cell activity. Selenium is a mineral that is also beneficial in controlling seizures. Good food sources of selenium include mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, fish, garlic, onions, and whole grains. If lactose isn’t a problem, whey protein helps by supplying the enzyme glutathione, which is an important antioxidant for the immune system. Folic acid should be included because some of the medications used to treat seizures can deplete many of the B vitamins. Folic acid is the supplemental form of natural folate.

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