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Epilepsy is traditionally treated with antiseizure medications. These medications may not work for everyone, and they come with a risk of side effects.
Some people with epilepsy turn to natural treatments and alternative therapies to help relieve their symptoms. From herbs and vitamins to biofeedback and acupuncture, there are a number to choose from.
Although some natural treatments are backed by a modest amount of research, many aren’t. There’s far less evidence supporting natural treatments for epilepsy than conventional medicine.
If you’re interested in adding something new to your epilepsy treatment regimen, speak with your doctor. They can help you assess the potential benefits and risks, as well as advise on next steps. You may find that some natural treatments can complement your current treatment plan.
1. Herbal treatments
With an increasing market and public interest, herbal treatments have soared in popularity. There seems to be an herb for every ailment.
Some of the most commonly used herbs for epilepsy are:
Lily of the valley
Tree of heaven
Certain vitamins may help reduce the number of seizures caused by epilepsy. Keep in mind that vitamins alone don’t work. They may help some medications work more effectively or reduce your necessary dosage. Follow your doctor’s instructions before taking vitamin supplements to prevent a possible overdose.
Vitamin b-6 is used to treat a rare form of epilepsy known as pyridoxine-dependent seizures. This type of epilepsy usually develops in the womb or soon after birth. It’s caused by your body’s inability to metabolize vitamin b-6 properly.
Although the evidence is promising, more research is need to determine whether vitamin b-6 supplementation benefits people with other types of epilepsy.
Severe magnesium deficiency may increase seizure risk. Older researchsuggests magnesium supplementation may reduce seizures. A 2012 hypothesis published in epilepsy research supports this theory. Researchers indicate that randomized, controlled trials are needed to better understand magnesium’s potential effects on epilepsy.
Some people with epilepsy may also have a vitamin e deficiency. A 2016 study found that vitamin e increases antioxidant abilities. This research also suggested it helps decrease seizures in people with epilepsy whose symptoms aren’t controlled by conventional drugs. The study concluded vitamin e may be safe to take with traditional medicines for epilepsy. More research is needed, however.
Medication used to treat epilepsy may also cause biotin or vitamin d deficiency, and worsen your symptoms. In these cases, your doctor may recommend vitamins to help manage your condition.
Infants with seizures caused by cerebral folate deficiency may benefit from folinic acid supplementation. Folic acid supplementation in people with epilepsy and folate deficiency from other factors may cause more harm than good. Take it only under your doctor’s supervision.
3. Dietary changes
Certain dietary changes may also help decrease seizures. The best-know diet is the ketogenic diet, which focuses on eating a higher ratio of fats. It’s considered a low-carb, low-protein diet. This sort of eating pattern is thought to help decrease seizures, although doctors don’t know exactly why.
Children with epilepsy are often put on the ketogenic diet. Many people find the restrictions challenging. Still, this type of diet might complement other treatment measures to help reduce seizures.
4. Self-control and biofeedback
Some people with epilepsy try to control their brain activity to reduce the rate of seizures. The theory is that if you can detect symptoms of an impending seizure, you may be able to stop it.
Many people with epilepsy experience aura symptoms about 20 minutes before a seizure occurs. You may notice unusual smells, see strange lights, or have blurry vision.
You may feel symptoms for several days leading up to the event. These symptoms include:
Self-control methods are used to prevent or decrease the intensity of the seizure once it arrives. There are several techniques, all of which require good concentration and focus. Examples are:
Immersing in a task
Sniffing a strong odor
Literally telling the seizure “no”
The problem with these methods is that there isn’t a single technique to stop a seizure. And there isn’t a guarantee that any of them will work every time.
Another approach involves biofeedback. Like self-control measures, the purpose of the process is to take control of your brain activity. Biofeedback utilizes electrical sensors to alter brain waves. At least one study found that biofeedback significantly reduced seizures in people with epilepsy who couldn’t control their symptoms with conventional drugs.
Physical therapists commonly use biofeedback. If you’re interested in this procedure, seek a professional with credentials.
It may be difficult to manage your condition with self-control and biofeedback alone. Both procedures require time, persistence, and consistency to master. If you decide to go this route, be patient. Don’t reduce or stop taking any prescribed medications without your doctor’s approval.