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Alternative Treatments  

(Click on each heading for detail)

 

Yoga

Some people have found success via yoga which is believed to induce relaxation and stress reduction. Stress is considered an important precipitating factor for seizures. Yoga, which involves no use of medications has minimal side effects and international acceptance, is especially useful if proven to be effective. Yoga for epilepsy involves a series of positioning exercises (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama). A whole food diet can even included as part of the treatment. However, yoga should only be done with the help of a qualified teacher even in normal individuals.

Read here for a study showing that yoga is useful in reducing seizures.    

Read here for a review on the efficacy of using yoga in epilepsy.

 

Ketogenic diet

This consists of a diet low in starches and sugars and protein but high in fat results in the body to burn fat, not sugar, for energy and produces waste products called ketones that are thought to help suppress seizures. Its precise mechanism of action is not completely understood. In addition, fluids are limited, which helps contribute to the diet's success. In some cases, it is believed to play an important role by assisting AED in epilepsy treatment. 

Studies suggest that about 30 percent of children who try the diet have their seizures completely controlled; another 40 percent have enough benefit to warrant staying on the diet. Some are able to reduce medication, some have fewer seizures, and some function better.

Currently, this diet is meant mainly for children which cannot be controlled with drugs or who have to take such high doses of drugs that side effects become intolerable. However, it is challenging to administer and maintain. Those who benefit will stay on this very restrictive diet for two years, then gradually begin to eat more starches and sugars. Often the children eventually stop the diet and find their seizures do not recur.

Vitamin and mineral supplements are necessary during this diet, since it is deficient in fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K) and calcium. Critics say the diet is too high in fat and is unhealthy for growing children. There has not been any evidence of heart disease or growth problems yet.

Aromatherapy

Certain commonly use essential oils in aromatherapy, which are very concentrated oils extracted from plants, is believed to have anticonvulsant properties. One favorite oil of patient is massaged onto body during a state of self-hypnosis to establish a conditioned (learned) response which causes the initial changes in the body, and later the same physiological changes that can be triggered by simply smelling the oil whenever one feels that a seizure is coming on. Again, care is needed. Avoid camphor, fennel, hyssop, rosemary and possibly other stimulating oils such as black pepper, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg as they seem to increase the risk of seizures in some patients.

 

Vagus nerve stimulation

Use of implanted electronic stimulators like pacemaker near the collar bone to provide small burst of electricity to the brain via the vagus nerve in the neck. Researchers have shown that it decreases the frequency of seizures by at least 50% in about half of the studied patients. It is also said to be useful in intractable or "stubborn" epilepsy (epilepsy which does not improves with drug treatment). 

VNS from a patient point of view

 

 

Future sees the possibility of using gene therapy, implants to deliver medications directly to the brain and even a transplant to replace the damaged nerve cells. Above all - it's different strokes for different folks - certain treatments will work for one person, but not for another with what may appear similar conditions. Remember individualized treatment is the root for most successful therapies!

 

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