BY SUZY COHEN
Epilepsy is a terribly frustrating and heart wrenching problem to watch as a parent or a clinician. Drugs like phenytoin, valproate, topiramate, carbamazepine and others may help for awhile. Despite the wonders and glory of mainstream medicine, many of you have (or will one day) become drug-resistant. Knowing what raises or lowers your threshold becomes imperative. For example, becoming dehydrated or taking a hot shower can trigger a seizure. Sleep deprivation, a stressful interaction or caffeine can all reduce your seizure threshold and trigger a seizure. As a pharmacist I will not tell you the most common medications that reduce seizure threshold and increase seizure frequency:
Insulin and diabetes medications
Metronidazole or Tinidazole
It’s not just medications. Animal research suggests that impaired methylation (reduced folate) can damage the hippocampus and result in post-seizure memory loss. Reduced folate transport to the brain led to seizures, cognitive impairment, immune suppression, and anemia in a 7 year girl. When the child was given methylfolate (not folic acid), her condition substantially improved.
You can protect your brain from seizures naturally. Consider compounds known to raise threshold, reducing seizure incidents:
Omega 3 fish oils
Grape seed extract
Since I’ve written about magnesium many times in prior articles, I’ll focus today on the other two. First up, fish oils. These are essential for cell membrane stability in trillions of cells. Omega 3s are critical for neurological function and brain health and they can reduce nerve irritation or excitability. This means that your nerves aren’t so easily over stimulated and therefore, handle stress without flying off the handle.
Last July (2015) a case-controlled study involving 70 children was published in the New American Journal of Medical Science. The kids all had uncontrolled, chronic seizures. Thirty-five of the children were given omega 3 fish oil (containing EPA and DHA), while everyone else received a placebo. After three months, the number of children without seizure activity went from no one to 57%. No improvements happened in the placebo group.
Another study confirmed omega 3’s benefits for epilepsy in adults. In this study, participants with drug-resistant seizures took about 1,000 mg omega 3 fish oils supplements every day. This went on for three different ten-week treatment periods. There was an incredible 34% reduction in seizure frequency compared to the placebo group.
Fish oil isn’t the only “brain food” for epilepsy. Grape seed extract is another protective compound. It has OPCs, short for oligomeric proanthocyanidins, which are highly protective compounds, especially to your hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in memory and it also houses one of your seizure ‘switches.’ Memory problems are frequent concerns with seizure disorders due to the high levels of oxidative stress that attack the nerves and delicate mitochondria. Grape seed extract is capable of dramatically reducing the oxidative stress and preserving mitochondrial function. All in all, it has a stunning effect on the hippocampus and may serve to turn off that touchy ‘seizure switch’ in there.