EPILEPSY AND SEIZURES
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© May 2013, The Center For Development
Seizures are becoming more and more common today. I receive an email about someone who has developed seizures at least once a week. Often they occur in children.
An epileptic seizure is an electrical discharge within the brain that spreads quickly out of control throughout the central nervous system. There are two major types called grand mal seizures and petit mal seizures. These differ mainly in the degree of the symptoms and probably in the severity of the side effects on the body, both physically and emotionally.
The medical approach to seizures is to take sedative drugs, often for life. However, I find that in most cases, the seizures can be stopped or significantly reduced within several weeks to several months by carefully following a properly designed nutritional balancing program set up by one of the Approved Practitioners listed on this website.
Also, using this method, most people are able to stop their drug medication, eventually. Therefore, seizures need not be such a fearful condition as they are portrayed in medical articles and by most medical doctors.
This article discusses the causes of seizures that I encounter, and how to correct them. A number of other topics are also discussed.
SYMPTOMS OF SEIZURES
Seizures cause symptoms due to the electrical discharge in the nervous system. Many cases are mild. A person may notice a part of the body is just numb, or paralyzed for a few seconds, or one may be “absent” for a few seconds. These milder symptoms are sometimes called petit mal seizures. They are becoming quite common, in fact, as the nutritional status of people declines in America and elsewhere.
So-called grand mal seizures are those with more pronounced symptoms such as jerking of the limbs, uncontrolled urination or defecation, and often a short period of unconsciousness after the seizure. This is usually followed by a period of exhaustion for a few hours or longer. Grand mal seizures, when they occur often, may also have longer-term effects on the brain and the body.
CAUSES FOR SEIZURES
Seizures may be caused by one or several of the following that can combine in a threshold effect to ultimately result in seizures:
Š Acute infections. These often cause febrile seizures in children, in particular. This means that the seizures only occur when the child has a fever. This type of seizure may be associated with a change in the pH of the blood, or perhaps with a faster oxidation rate that results in low calcium, magnesium and zinc.
infections. These are also
very common, and often hard to trace.
The infection can be bacterial, viral, parasitic or possibly a yeast or
fungal organism. Often it is
extremely subtle and chronic, and for this reason may not be revealed on
x-rays, MRIs or blood tests.
In these cases, a chronic infection, which may present with no symptoms at all, sets up an irritation in the brain, which then triggers the seizures. Nutritional balancing science improves the vitality of the body in very specific ways. When this is done, the body will slowly clear out these infections on its own, in most all cases.
Warning: as old infections are cleared, one may experience a flare-up of the infection. Often it is a sinus or ear infection, as these areas are close to the brain. However, it could be anywhere. In these cases, one can experience more seizure activity, which is very upsetting. Fortunately, the situation is temporary and usually passes quickly.
indicating an inflammatory state are often revealed on the hair mineral
analyses of those with seizures.
Inflammation irritates the delicate tissues of the brain, perhaps, or
sets in motion a seizure by other mechanisms. When inflammation is reduced, the seizures usually go away
Some people with seizures have a sympathetic dominance pattern on a hair mineral analysis. This is a chronic tendency to overuse the sympathetic nervous system. It tends to cause inflammation throughout out the body, including in the nervous system.
poisoning. This is a
common contributor to seizure activity.
It can be subtle, meaning that it may not be revealed on urine, blood or
even hair mineral analyses. One
reason for this is that the toxic metals are hidden deep in the brain, perhaps,
where they are harder to detect.
The most common toxic elements that trigger seizures include mercury, excessive copper, and perhaps others such as high iron, aluminum, manganese, or even lead or arsenic. Often several metals are involved at once.
nutrient deficiencies. Low levels of
zinc, selenium, or other vital minerals are involved in some cases. Calcium, magnesium and zinc are called
the sedative minerals. They are calming and relaxing for the
nervous system. Many people with
seizure disorders have some degree of biologically unavailable calcium and
magnesium, as revealed on hair mineral tests.
Other commonly deficient nutrients can include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and perhaps other vitamins in a few cases. Nutrient deficiencies may be subtle, offering no overt symptoms except seizures. It all depends where the nutrients are deficient and how they affect the nervous system. As body chemistry becomes more balanced and stronger with a nutritional balancing science, these nutrient deficiencies diminish and seizures often diminish as well.
Š Fluctuations in the blood sugar. This is another contributor to some cases of seizures. Sugars are very upsetting to the equilibrium or homeostasis of the body in some people. This includes eating fruit, fruit juices and all other sugary foods. This can be an important cause of seizures in babies, and in those with hypoglycemic or diabetic tendencies.
Š An imbalanced pH. I have noticed that some children and babies can have seizures when their pH becomes alkaline. This may have to do with the bioavailablility of their calcium, magnesium or perhaps zinc.
any kind. As explained
below, seizures are a threshold phenomenon, and anything that adds stress to
the body can cause a seizure in susceptible individuals. Even normal, healthy people can
experience a seizure if they are under enough stress.
Stress depletes nutrients and aggravates infections and most other imbalances in the nervous system. Common stressors that cause seizures are exhaustion from lack of rest and sleep and dehydration.
Š Food allergies or sensitivity to food chemicals. These may be primary causes, or they may aggravate the causes above. Any food can be a culprit, although wheat, soy, sugar, dairy and at times others are the most common. Food additives such as MSG or aspartame may contribute to seizures in some cases. The latter are called excitotoxins because they irritate the nervous system. Eliminating food chemicals, sugar and wheat will help some people who suffer from seizures.
Š Other. Inflammation or irritation of the brain structures from any cause might lead to a seizure. This could be due to damage to an area of the brain from lack of oxygen at birth, for example. Less common causes are pressure from a tumor, parasitic infection, or even a misalignment of the spine and neck. Seizures can rarely be caused by medical drug, such as AZT and other AIDS drugs or others, or by certain illnesses such as Parkinson's disease.
THE THRESHOLD CONCEPT
The threshold concept can help one understand how to stop and permanently avoid seizures. The basic idea is that when one is prone to seizures, two factors usually enter into the picture:
1. An underlying and often subtle biochemical imbalance that make one prone to seizures. These have been discussed above, such as toxic metals, a chronic infection or something else.
2. The effect of triggers. These are stressful events of some kind, such as fatigue, hunger, thirst, fever, a food toxin, imbalanced blood sugar level, or even just excitement.
Often these two factors combine to cause the seizure. It is therefore most helpful to address both aspects above. This is an important principle in the deep correction of seizure. The paragraphs below detail ways to reduce factors in the diet and lifestyle that often trigger seizures. Since this can be done quickly, it often results in a significant improvement within a week or sometimes even less.
Then one can focus on the deeper underlying imbalances, which can take a year or more to resolve in some cases. The rest of this article goes into more detail about other interesting aspects of seizure disorders.
FAST OXIDATION AND CHILDREN’S SEIZURES
Fast oxidation is a term used to describe a mineral pattern seen commonly on hair tissue mineral analyses of babies and young children. This cause of seizures occurs less often in older children or adults.
Fast oxidation is defined as an absolute or relatively low hair level of calcium and magnesium in relation to the sodium and potassium levels. The hair sample must not have been washed at the laboratory. The hair washing procedure is important because washing hair at the lab, which is common, damages the sample and may cause inaccuracy in the test.
In these individuals, the fight-or-flight mechanism is activated too often, resulting in excessive elimination of calcium, magnesium and zinc in the urine. As a result, they easily become deficient in these minerals at a tissue level. Note that standard blood serum tests will not reveal low tissue calcium, magnesium or zinc in most cases.
These individuals require additional calcium, magnesium, zinc and often copper. Refined food diets are notorious for their low levels of bioavailable minerals, so this is definitely harmful. In addition, they require supplements of these minerals and more high-quality fats and oils in their diets. Research indicates some success with seizures with a so-called ketogenic diet, which is essentially a diet that is high in fats and oils and low in carbohydrates.
COPPER, MERCURY AND SEIZURES
Mercury shares some properties of copper. Both are excellent electrical conductors, which means they could “short-circuit” the brain, perhaps. Both are also common in the general population, and both can damage the nervous system.
Copper is an essential trace mineral. However, it is highly toxic when in excess or biounavailable, as it is in these cases of epilepsy. Then it becomes a cause of inflammation.
Copper imbalance is also associated with scarring throughout the body, and with infections, especially fungal, viral and parasitic infections. This may also be why too much copper or biounavailable copper often contributes to seizures.
Copper imbalance is very common today, and so strongly associated with seizures that I am surprised more is not written about it. Yet copper excess or unavailability can be corrected easily in many cases, often within a few months using a combination of dietary changes that are discussed later, and a nutrition and lifestyle program that targets this imbalance.
To read much more about copper and its metabolism, click on Copper Toxicity Syndrome.
SEIZURES IN WOMEN AND GIRLS, PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT OCCUR JUST BEFORE THE MENSTRUAL PERIOD
Copper imbalance as a contributor to seizures occurs in both men and women. However, women are more prone to this type of seizure activity because they tend to be copper-dominant. This essentially means that women’s bodies have more copper, in general, than do men’s bodies. Before the menstrual period, the copper level rises even higher. This causes seizures in a few women. Women, in general, suffer more seizures than men, perhaps due to women’s higher copper levels.
THE SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO AND EPILEPSY
A hair sodium/potassium ratio less than 2.5:1 often indicates chronic foci of infection, which may contribute to seizures. This low ratio may also indicate excessive tissue breakdown, which prevents the proper healing of scar tissue. Correction of the sodium/potassium ratio with a complete nutritional balancing program is most helpful in these cases to produce a permanent correction of epileptic seizures.
DIETARY ASPECTS OF EPILEPSY
Food reactions can trigger epileptic seizures. The main culprits are the following foods that are rich in glutamate and aspartate, two very excitatory amino acids:
1) Grains: Wheat, barley, and oats are highest in glutamine. Corn and rice are lower. Therefore they are much better for anyone with a tendency for epilepsy.
2) Dairy Products: All cows milk products are high in glutamine. Goat-based dairy is much better in this regard. Cow-based cheese that appear to be the worst include cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and worst is PARMESAN. Casein is very concentrated in cheese and is 20% glutamic acid by composition.
3) Beans: Soy, Pinto, lima, black, navy, and lentils are also high in glutamic acid or glutamine.
4) Seeds: Sunflower, pumpkin, and others are also high in glutamine, though less than wheat and dairy. They can often be eaten in small quantity with a meal unless one is very sensitive.
5) Peanuts: These are very high in glutamine, as are cashews, pistachios, and less-so almonds. We do not recommend many nuts on nutritional balancing programs.
6) All Soy Products, except perhaps for a little tofu and tempeh. Soy is very high in glutamine. Beware, as soy is incorporated into many, many products as a filler and cheap protein source. It may be labeled as vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, soy isolate or not labeled at all, sadly.
7) Diet Drinks And Diet or Non-sugared Foods of All Kinds: These are the primary source of aspartate as they are often sweetened with Nutrasweet, also called Equal or aspartame. AVOID ALL PRODUCTS CONTAINING THIS INGREDIENT.
8) Prepared Foods Such As Soups: 70% of prepared foods and many soups have MSG. AVOID ALL FOOD PREPARED WITH MSG. This may also be labeled as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy protein extract, textured vegetable protein – or not labeled at all, sadly.
9) Meats: Meats are naturally rich in glutamate and aspartate, but this is offset by other amino acids in the food that balances these in almost all cases. Meat is generally a healthful food and should not be avoided. Rabbit and turkey are the highest in glutamate, while lamb and eggs are the lowest. Chicken is fairly low as well. The amount in a normal serving of meat should not be enough to cause problems. I believe that the other "unnatural" sources of glutamate, when combined with the meats, might cause problems, but in general, meat alone is not the problem.
Sixty to seventy percent of the American diet is wheat and dairy (with heavy emphasis on cheese). This, combined with the amount of artificial sweeteners being consumed and the addition of soy protein, is leading America and the world into an epidemic of seizures and other inflammatory (pain) syndromes such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and many others.
WHY NUTRITIONAL BALANCING SCIENCE?
Most cases of epilepsy or seizures are, in fact, just biochemical imbalances that may be subtle, but due to their nature or location, they have very powerful effects upon the central nervous system. This is the reason I imagine that so many people respond well to our approach.
Nutritional balancing science specifically addresses many of the causes of seizures such as:
Š Toxic metals and toxic chemicals in the brain
Š Deep, and often extremely chronic foci of infection in the brain
Š Seemingly minor and sub-clinical nutrient deficiencies
Š Other imbalances in the nervous system that are reflected in the mineral levels and ratios on a hair mineral analysis, when it is performed and interpreted by the method of Dr. Paul C. Eck.
Š Dietary imbalances that can irritate and excessively excite the nervous.
Š Blood sugar imbalances of many types.
Š Lifestyle and other types of stressors that may act as triggers or even as basic causes for seizures.
Š Imbalances affecting yin and yang forces in the body. This is more important than one might imagine in some cases.
The consumption of sugars (even fruit), caffeine or the excitotoxins such as MSG and aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet) tend to aggravate seizures. Stimulants of all kinds can produce fluctuations in blood sugar, alterations in neurotransmitter levels, and irritates delicate structures in the nervous system. Avoid all stimulants, including alcohol and any unnecessary medications, including over-the-counter medications.
SEIZURE MEDICATION AND NUTRITIONAL CORRECTION
Many who have seizures are rightfully hesitant to stop their anti-seizure medication. Common drugs that are prescribed include Dilantin, Keppra, Tegretol and others. I advise that medication be continued for at least a month after beginning a nutrition program. Then, if the patient feels comfortable, the dosage of medication may be slowly reduced if one feels competent to do this. It is best to obtain the cooperation of the prescribing physician, of course.
An even safer method is to continue medication at least for three months until a repeat hair analysis is performed. Reduction of medication may then be decided upon based upon the degree of change in the tissue mineral patterns.
There is no guarantee that nutritional methods will eliminate the need for medication. However, in many cases medication can be reduced and even eliminated provided the patient stays on a healthy eating regimen and a proper supplementation program.
Other drugs. Beware that some medical drugs can cause seizures as a side effect. If you are taking medication and suddenly develop seizures, consider this possibility. Several weeks to several months of near infrared sauna therapy and coffee enemas, in particular, may be needed to remove medical drugs that have built up in the body.
THE CORRECTION PROCESS
I have found recently that correcting seizures in children, in particular, is not always easy because the cause appears to be the presence of chronic infections in the brain, or perhaps in nearby structures such as the sinuses, ears, tonsils or elsewhere in the head.
Part of nutritional balancing science is to enhance the vitality of the body. As this occurs, the body gains the ability to remove more toxins, and more infection. However, very often this causes a temporary flare-up of the infection as the body fights it off actively and eliminates it completely. This can give rise to symptoms such as a cold, flu, sore throat or ear infection. A few cautions are in order:
1. A seizure flare-up can occur during a healing reaction. This is upsetting for parents, doctors and everyone. While we do our best to avoid these situations, they are inevitable, at times, and are not a cause for alarm in almost all cases. They simply mean the body chemistry is shifting and when the nervous system is delicate, even a minor shift can increase seizure activity for a short time. Keep in close touch with your practitioner in these cases.
2. If you are on a nutritional balancing program an infection such as a strep throat or flu occurs , please consult your practitioner before taking any drugs such as antibiotics. Natural methods for healing infections are much less toxic. The use of medical drugs could set a person back.
This is not meant to dissuade anyone from going to the doctor or the emergency room, or to avoid using medication. It is simple a warning that less toxic methods of handling acute or even chronic infections are often less toxic and therefore preferable to try first in most cases.
3. If a flare-up or seizure occurs on a nutritional balancing program, it does not mean the program is not working. While anything is possible, this is rarely the case, as these programs have proven extremely helpful in the long run, and very safe as well. Once again, have a conversation with your practitioner if something occurs that is worrisome. Often the cause is the elimination of a toxic metal, for example, and this process can be slowed, perhaps, or another change made in the program to stop the symptoms.
DEEP VERSUS SYMPTOMATIC CORRECTION
Many holistic physicians will take the material in this article and approach the condition of seizures in a symptomatic way. They will use DMPS to remove mercury, penicillamine for copper, and GABA or high doses of inositol or homeopathic remedies for calming the nervous system.
This is unfortunate, as the real cause is often not addressed. The underlying cause of this disorder has to do with diet, lifestyle and the overall nutritional balance of the body. Correcting this might take longer in some cases, though not necessarily. Many people respond very fast to a properly designed nutritional balancing program.
OTHER NATURAL THERAPIES
In addition to a nutritional balancing program, other natural therapies may be useful to reduce triggers of seizures and to relax and balance the body. Many natural therapies may help, such as chiropractic, bodywork, relaxation, meditation, energy work and others.
However, I do not suggest combining a nutritional balancing program with chelating agents, even natural chelators, as we find them unnecessary and far less safe. They can easily upset the delicate biochemical balance, as all of them remove some vital minerals along with the toxic metals. They are also all very yin in Chinese terminology. We are particularly wary of intravenous DMPS used for mercury removal.
I also do not suggest combining nutritional balancing with any type of hormone replacement therapy, even bio-identical hormones. Once again, the reason is that hormone therapy is not needed, in my experience, and not safe at all.
Combining nutritional balancing with medical drugs is also not ideal if it is not needed. Mild seizures of the petit mal or ‘absent’ type, in my view, are not serious enough to warrant the use of toxic drugs to stop them. Often, such seizures will respond to nutritional balancing, even in a person who has not responded to many other nutritional and holistic therapies.
ADDENDUM – THE WORK OF JOHN SYMES
While I do not agree fully with the following, I think it is important to include it in this article, as it has some merit. Unfortunately, it only takes into account one factor for seizures, and I believe from experience that seizures can have many causes.
According to Dr. John B. Symes, the author of http://www.dogtorj.net/, the causes of seizures of unknown cause include:
1)The neurostimulating amino acids glutamate and aspartate. These are non-essential amino acids, meaning that they are not required in the diet and are normally manufactured by the body from other sources. They are normally present in the brain and function as two of the primary substances involved in neurological transmission.
2) It is a known fact that MSG (monosodium glutamate) and aspartate (Nutrisweet) cause seizures in some human individuals. MSG is the amino acid glutamate (glutamic acid) while aspartame contains the amino acid aspartate (aspartic acid). These substances are specifically used for their neurostimulatory properties. MSG stimulates the taste buds thereby making them more sensitive to the foods that are passing over them. It is therefore used as a flavor enhancer.
Aspartame does something similar to the taste buds while imparting a sweet taste. Both are neurostimulants and are used for that express purpose. However, both are neurotoxic in excessive quantities. This is a known fact, not a theory. They have caused seizures, migraine headaches, pain syndromes and much, much more. Aspartame has also recently been investigated in its possible role in the rise of brain tumors and Alzheimer's Disease.
3) His theory then suggests that idiopathic epilepsy (epilepsy of unknown cause) is caused by a rise in these non-essential amino acids resulting in seizures, a known side effect of these two substances.
Dr. Symes then writes: The obvious question is why it occurs in some individuals and not others. A related question is why the onset of epilepsy is so variable, reportedly ranging from 6 months of age to 6 years or even older. Another question is why it is a progressive condition in most cases, starting with mild, infrequent seizures and often leading to uncontrollable daily seizures despite heavy medication.
He goes on to ask why, if this were simply a genetic defect of some sort, why don't the seizures begin right away and why do they occur so sporadically in most cases.
[To answer these three questions, I submit that a hair tissue mineral analysis will reveal the answers to these questions in almost all cases of idiopathic epilepsy.]
4) Dr. Symes answers these questions by turning to the problem of gluten in the diet. While studying celiac disease, he found that celiac children with epilepsy often greatly improved once the gluten grains (wheat, barley, and rye) were removed from the diet. The fact is that MSG has been made from wheat and soy. They are obviously rich in this amino acid.
The main characteristic of celiac disease is the damage that the gluten does to the duodenum, that first stretch of intestine after the stomach. The gluten coats the little absorptive villi of the gut (like "glue"), induces an immune response, and causes the destruction of those villi. This part of the bowel is responsible for absorbing calcium, iron, iodine, B vitamins, Vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, boron, chromium, zinc, and much, much more.
These vitamins are essential in the formation of the enzyme systems of the body, including those of the liver and the brain that are responsible for the regulation of the levels of the amino acid glutamate. Therefore, the "theory" states that it is the progressive malabsorption syndrome taking place in the duodenum that leads to the progressive inefficiency of these enzyme systems of the body that leads to the progressive rise in the levels of glutamate (and aspartate) that leads to the progressively worsening seizures.
The amino acids, Dr. Symes asserts, cause the seizures (as they have been proven to do) while the malabsorption syndrome (which has been proven to occur in people like celiacs) leads to the underlying cause of the progressive nature of the condition.
While this can be true, the gluten theory does not completely explain why only some individuals are so affected, since most people eat wheat every day. It also does not explain the variability of the time of onset. This, we contend, can be somewhat explained by the other imbalances discussed in this article that may also contribute to seizure disorders.