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EPILEPSY

FOODS THAT HARM

  • Alcohol
  • Any foods that trigger attacks or interact with anticonvulsants

    WHO’S AFFECTED

  • More than 2 million North Americans are affected by epilepsy
  • 10% of people who have Alzheimer’s disease
  • 50% of children with both mental retardation and cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy refers to recurrent seizures triggered by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain
    Some seizures are so mild and fleeting that they are barely noticeable; others last for several minutes, during which the person falls down and is seized by convulsive movements
    The frequency of seizures also varies from person to person
    Neurologists generally discount any link between diet and epilepsy, but there are exceptions
    Those with epilepsy who have migraine headaches that are triggered by certain foods often cease to have seizures when those foods are eliminated
    Some diabetics suffer seizures when their blood sugar levels drop suddenly
    Large amounts of alcohol consumed in a short time can cause seizures
    There have been rare reports of aspartame triggering seizures in people with epilepsy
    Another exception: The ketogenic diet has helped halt seizures in the 20% of children whose attacks cannot be controlled by drugs

    Nutrition Connection

    There is no one set diet for those with epilepsy, but some of these nutritional approaches may be helpful in controlling the disease: Consider the ketogenic diet for children
    Neurologists at Johns Hopkins Hospital have refined a dietary treatment for severe epilepsy
    The ketogenic diet causes the body to break down fats instead of carbohydrates for energy
    For children, the diet begins with 2 to 3 days of fasting in a hospital, and then the foods are introduced gradually
    It provides about 75% of the calories generally recommended for healthy children, most of them from fats
    A small amount of protein is added to allow for at least some growth, but carbohydrates are kept to a minimum
    Fluid intake is restricted
    The diet must be carefully tailored and then followed exactly, as even small changes can cause seizures
    Although difficult, there’s a payoff: Most can resume a normal diet and still be seizure-free after 2 to 3 years
    Make diet changes
    Adults can also try the ketogenic diet if they don’t respond to drugs
    But this diet isn’t recommended for adults because of its very restrictive nature
    Johns Hopkins researchers have also developed a modified Atkins diet, which is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet
    Studies have shown that the diet lowers seizure rates in nearly half of adults who try it
    Speak to your doctor before changing your diet

    Beyond the Diet

    People with epilepsy can lead a fulfilling life
    Keep the seizures under control by following these guidelines: Stay on top of your medications
    Although dealing with side effects can be difficult, it is imperative to take the right doses as frequently as directed by your doctor
    If the side effects bother you, speak to your doctor
    Get good sleep
    Not getting enough rest can trigger a seizure
    Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night
    Wear a medical alert bracelet
    This can alert medical personnel effectively and save your life
    Inquire about other therapies
    Depending on your situation, surgery or other therapies may be advisable
    Speak to your doctor about your options
    22% of stroke patients may develop epilepsy