Prepared by Nicole

Epilepsy Monograph

Epilepsy 

 

An estimated 50 million people in the world have epilepsy according to the W.H.O. (World Health Organization). It is a symptom characterized by seizures due to a neurological disorder. An epileptic seizure is a temporary malfunction of the brain caused by uncontrollable electrical activity from the nerve cells in the cerebral cortex.  It is important to note that the seizure rarely damage the brain, but they can make life difficult. The good news is, 70%of people with epilepsy can be expected to enter remission, defined as five or more years seizure free on medication. 

 

What Causes Epilepsy?

 

The underlying causes of epilepsy are unknown.There have been studies that link epilepsy to parasitic infections. Others have cited a structural change to the brain at birth as a cause to seizures. Whatever the potential cause, it is clear it’s NOT related to mental illness, developmental delays or mental health issues. Seizures may be triggered many different things including: allergens, drug or alcohol withdrawal, fever, flashing lights, hunger, hypoglycaemia, infection, lack of sleep, metabolic or nutritional imbalances, trauma or head injury. 

 

2 Types of Seizure 

There are more than 30 different kinds of seizures divided into two basic groups: focal and generalized seizures.

 

Partial Seizure 

  • Classified as either simple or complex
  • Occur in just one part of the brain
  • Accounts for 60% of epilepsy conditions 
  • In simple focal seizure: person remains conscious but experiences odd sensations 
        • May experience sights, sounds or smells that do not seem real to the others 
  • Complex focal seizure: loss of consciousness or change in conscious state 
          • Appears as a dream-like experience 
        • Automatic movements may occur: receptive movement, twitching etc. 
        • May identify a particular ‘aura’ before the seizure, an odour or colour may appear

Generalized Seizure

  • Absence seizures, atonic seizures, tonic seizures, clonic seizures and tonic clonic seizures. 
  • Result of abnormal neural activity on both sides of the brain 
  • Loss of consciousness, falling down and or muscles spasms are common
  • Characterized by blank staring lasting half a minute 
  • Person appears to be daydreaming
        • The person is unaware of their surroundings
  • Atonic: childhood seizure, child loses consciousness for 10 seconds and falls to the ground
  • Tonic: stiffening of the body muscles
  • Clonic:repeated jerking movements of the muscles in both sides of the body
  • Tonic-clonic: sudden cries, a fall and rigidity and jerking of muscles, shallow breathing and bluish skin tone. 
      • Lasts 2-5 minutes followed by confusion, fatigue or memory loss

 

Common Treatment

 

Anti-convulsants have been used for a long time to prevent seizures from occurring, however long-term use in children has proven to be harmful. Nutritional supplementation is essential for those with an epilepsy condition.

 

Nutritional Approach

There are several mechanisms behind the holistic approach to epilepsy, and there are as follows:

 

  • Anti-oxidants: To prevent further damage to the nervous system, these molecules bind to damage-causing  free radicals and neutralize them. Increases oxygenation of the tissues.

 

  • Amino Acids: Required for protein synthesis, needed to deliver essential fatty acids to the cells. Certain amino acids such as L-Carnitine are depleted by anti-convulsant drugs. 

 

  • Magnesium and Calcium : Calms the nervous system and is anti-spasmodic. Calcium is integral for nerve transmission. 

 

  • Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3): nourishes nervous system and is cardio-protective. 

 

  • Taurine: Essential for the metabolism of fats needed for the nervous system. 

 

  • B-Vitamins: Extremely important for the nervous system and neurological function. Improves brain circulation and involved in maintenance of the myelin sheath that covers and protects nerve endings. 

 

 

 

 

The Gut-Brain Axis

 

Studies on the gut-brain connection are some of the most revolutionary in our time. We know there is a direct link between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain that involves singling and communication. This is known and the gut-brain axis and its connection is being used to understand a whole array of brain-related disorders from depression and autism to epilepsy and Alzheimers. 

 

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system (the ‘rest and digest’ system of the body). It directly communicates with the brain back and forth and provides important information. For example, have you ever experienced diarrhea when under a lot of stress? This is your brain speeding up the emptying time of your gut and reserving energy to deal with the stress at hand, which is perceives as a life or death situation. 

 

The microbiome is an integral part to this picture. The gut makes most of the neurotransmitters and hormones we need, such as serotonin the feel-good hormone. This is regulated by the body’s unique balance and ecology of bacteria. The bacteria in the gut is responsible for your immune system, your emotions and even our food cravings! Maintaining a well balanced microbiome (ie. bacterial ecology) is essential for a health brain. 

 

When it comes to epilepsy, the gut-brain connection is vital. If we help to proliferate the good and healthy bacteria, we can improve the neurological response as well. 

 

For more information on this please follow Dr. Perlmutter who is focused on the many ways in which the food we eat affects our brain.

 

Books and Further Resources:

 

  1. Grain Brain - Dr. David Perlmutter
  2. Brain Maker - Dr. David Perlmutter 
  3. Broken Brain Docuseries - Dr. Mark Hyman 

 

 Balch, P. (2011). Prescription for nutritional healing. London: Penguin, pp.407-411.

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