General characteristics

General characteristics

The name seizure (also known as a 'convulsion' or 'fit') is given to an episode of abnormal electrical activity within the brain and nerves that results in rapid and uncontrolled firing of the nerves. The nerves become overexcited and remain in a stimulated state for longer than normal periods. The rapidly firing nerve cells can also act as a stimulus to neighbouring cells and spread the excitation to other parts of the brain.

There are three main categories of seizure; generalised, partial and psychogenic (non-epileptic). Generalised seizures involve both sides of the brain and can either involve a loss of consciousness and alternating periods of rigidity and spasm (grand mal) or a quiet episode of inactivity and 'staring' (petit mal). Partial seizures involve one side of the brain and the person remains conscious but unable to control movement and may experience strange sensory changes such as a heightened sense of smell. If no other condition is deemed to be causing theses types of seizure then the person is usually diagnosed as being epileptic. Psychogenic seizures are usually brought on by extreme stress and don't usually involve the same nervous electrical misfiring mechanism as the other types of seizure but can be just as frightening and the person often suffers from depression or some type of panic/anxiety disorder. Some people can experience more than one type of seizure.

A seizure is triggered when the nerves are kept in a prolonged state of stimulation, without allowing the nerve cell its period of rest and recovery. This can happen either because the cells are temporarily much more sensitive to certain triggers (such as glutamate or electrical signals) or because the normal mechanisms that allow a nerve cell to relax after firing are faulty. Regular or severe seizures can have permanent and damaging effects on the body, depending on which areas of the brain are involved in the seizure.

Causes of these types of (epileptic) seizures include tumours, infections such as meningitis, head injury, genetic abnormalities within the brain structures or chemistry, strokes, scarring, heart irregularities, abnormal development in parts of the brain, oxygen deprivation of the brain, poisons or toxic reactions, diabetes, kidney and liver disorders.

Besides those causes mentioned above there are many factors that have associations with the onset of seizures including vaccines (especially those containing thimerosal, a mercury derivative), some medications (such as certain SSRI anti-depressants and 'Avastin', a chemotherapy drug), low levels of blood magnesium and any condition or medication (such as proton pump inhibitors) that causes it, very low blood sugar, recreational drugs like cocaine and amphetamines, drug withdrawal, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, artificial sweeteners (aspartame and the like) and artificial flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate or MSG (which are also called 'natural flavours' in many commercial foods), poor diet (high in processed food and low in whole fresh food), some anti-seizure medications (I know, unbelievable but true) such as 'Dilantin' (contains aspartame and other excitotoxins), chronic shallow breathing and hyperventilation, stress and anxiety, severe dehydration, low oxygen levels and low sodium levels.

Natural healing objectives include dietary changes such as eating foods rich in vital nerve/brain nutrients to correct biochemical imbalances and to use of herbs to help normalise and relax the activity of the brain and nervous system.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Many seizure drugs can make nutritional deficiencies worse so make sure you pay close attention to the main nutrients required for efficient nerve/brain function such as magnesium, B vitamins (folic acid and B6 especially), zinc, selenium and essential fatty acids (omega oils). Calcium is also important but deficiency is rare nowadays and too much will unbalance other nutrient levels.

If your diet is high in refined and processed foods and drinks and low in fresh whole foods then you are almost sure to be deficient in many important nutrients, particularly magnesium.

Some advocate a ketogenic diet is invaluable in reducing or eliminating seizures. This article helps to explain how and why this type of diet can be successful. If you cannot fully adopt the ketogenic diet, reduce the amounts of refined and processed carbohydrates and sugary foods and drinks.

Eat regularly.

Include plenty of fresh garlic and onions in your meals.

Avoid alcohol and stimulant drinks such as those containing caffeine.

Avoid any foods or drinks containing aspartame and other artificial sweeteners and the so called 'flavour enhancer' MSG (mono sodium glutamate), both of which are classed as 'excitotoxins'. These are substances that quite literally excite brain/nerve cells to fire off so rapidly and uncontrollably that it results in the death of the cell. These types of substances are suspected by many (both sufferers and now some medical professionals) of directly contributing to seizures. Click here for a list of other names and ways in which MSG and its equivalents are often surreptitiously added to processed food and drink. The most obvious way to avoid these excitotoxins is to avoid all processed foods and use only whole, fresh foods that are cooked from scratch.

*Note. The naturally occurring amino acid 'glutamic acid' (which is present in any food containing protein) is not the same as MSG which is the salt form of glutamic acid. However, some seizure sufferers are highly sensitive to it in any form, so foods such as meats, cheeses, nuts/seeds and legumes which are rich in naturally occurring glutamic acid should be avoided.

Take a spoonful of blackstrap molasses daily for its richness in many nutrients (its very rich in magnesium and iron) that are beneficial to both the nerve cells and the entire system.

Include plenty of foods that are rich in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency (which is thought to be increasingly more common) is gradually being recognised as one of the most common factors in so many of our more modern degenerative health complaints, especially ones affecting the state of the nerves, brain and muscles. Blood tests rarely pick up on the need for extra dietary magnesium as only around 1% of body magnesium is found in the blood and it is intracellular magnesium levels that show deficiency more accurately. Good sources of magnesium include bananas, green leafy vegetables (at least 1 portion daily), nuts (especially almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts), legumes, un-milled grains (refining them removes most of the goodness), wheat germ, buckwheat and a host of veg and fruit such as apricots, dates, peaches, okra and prunes all contain high levels of magnesium.

Be aware that gluten intolerance may also be a causative factor in seizures so try limiting the gluten rich grains such as modern refined wheat, oats and rye.

Foods containing B vitamins should also be eaten regularly to help provide nutrition to the nerves and brain.

Reducing your milk and dairy intake may help reduce seizures as synthetic vitamin D or calciferol (most processed milk contains large amounts of synthetic vitamin D) binds magnesium to it and renders the magnesium unavailable to the body.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

*If you are taking seizure medication, consult with a qualified Herbalist before taking any of the following*

Herbs that act as antispasmodics which reduce the excitability of the nerves and provide them with valuable nutrients include skullcap, black cohosh, vervain, passionflower and valerian. Use equal parts of the tinctures, dose 5ml up to 3 times daily. These herbs have a good reputation in helping to treat many types of neurological disorder.

A very useful herbal tea consisting of equal parts nettle, raspberry leaf, chamomile flowers and oatstraw contains an abundance of useful nutrients that feed and soothe the nerves and can be drunk on a daily basis as an all round tonic to the nerves and body generally.

Turmeric powder can help to reduce the devastating effects that excitotoxins have on the body and nervous system. Sprinkle the powder on foods or take a pinch in herbal teas.

Barberry fruits (the berries) and root bark contain substances which open up the potassium channels and allow the nerve cell to relax. This can help to prevent seizures from happening.

The essential oil of rose (Rosa damascena) has shown promise as a protective agent against certain types of seizure. Add a few drops to your baths or wear on the neck as a perfume.

Siberian ginseng can help the body to deal more effectively with the physiological effects of stress. Take in capsule or tincture form for convenience.

Lobelia is an excellent herb for seizures but can only be prescribed by a qualified Herbalist.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Manypeople have found a reduction in their seizures by taking cold pressed organic Coconut oil daily.

Epsom salt baths have helped some people to notice a reduction in their seizures. Add several handfuls of Epsom salts to a hot bath and soak your whole body in it for 20 minutes or so. You do not have to shower afterwards to rinse off the salts unless you choose to. Do this every day for a week to see if anything changes.

Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep as regular seizures will exhaust the nerves.

Keep a diary or log of your seizures including details of events, foods or emotions in the run up to the seizure. That way the triggers or aggravating factors may become apparent.

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