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Ask The Pharmacist: Alternative treatments for seizure management
Suzy Cohen, Columnist
Published 5:02 a.m. ET Dec. 31, 2018
Epilepsy is frustrating and difficult on one’s life. It can show up many ways, from mild absence seizures, to grand mal, to cyclic vomiting and nocturnal seizures.
Medications such as gabapentin, phenytoin, valproate, topiramate, carbamazepine and others may control symptoms for a while, but they’re not a cure. No one has the answer to all types of seizures, because the origin differs.
Knowing what raises or lowers your threshold becomes imperative to reducing frequency. For example, becoming dehydrated, upset or taking too hot a shower can trigger a seizure.
Sleep deprivation, a stressful interaction with someone or too much glutamate or caffeine can all reduce your seizure threshold, causing an episode.
Here are some popular medications that reduce seizure threshold and increase seizure frequency: antihistamines, insulin and diabetes medications, oxytocin, maprotiline, clomipramine, clozapine, lithium, fluoroquinolone antibiotics, methylphenidate, metronidazole or tinidazole and schizandra herb.
Animal research suggests that impaired methylation (reduced folate, which is not folic acid by the way) can damage the hippocampus and result in post-seizure memory loss. Reduced folate transport to the brain led to seizures, cognitive impairment, immune suppression, and anemia in a 7-year old girl. When the child was given a little methylfolate (not folic acid), her condition substantially improved.
You can protect your brain from seizures naturally. Consider compounds known to raise threshold, reducing seizure incidents: magnesium, omega 3 fish oils, grape seed extract, CBD or cannibidiol, an extract from marijuana.
That last one might shock you, as it is from marijuana but CBD, a non-psychoactive hemp extract is federally legal now since President Trump recently signed the bill. That means that people in pain, and those with seizures have easier access and possibly a cure.
Fish oils are essential for cell membrane stability in trillions of your cells. They’re critical for neurological function and work by reducing nerve irritation or excitability in the brain. This means that your nerves aren’t so easily over stimulated and seizure-inducing compounds are less likely to be released.
In 2015, a case-controlled study involving 70 children was published in the New American Journal of Medical Science. The kids all had uncontrolled, chronic seizures. Thirty-five of the children were given omega 3 fish oil (containing EPA and DHA), while everyone else received a placebo. After three months, the number of children without seizure activity went from no one to 57 percent. No improvements happened in the placebo group.
Another study confirmed omega 3’s benefits for epilepsy in adults. In this study, participants with drug-resistant seizures took about 1,000 mg omega 3 fish oils supplements every day. This went on for three different ten-week treatment periods. There was an incredible 34% reduction in seizure frequency compared to the placebo group.
Fish oil isn’t the only “brain food” for epilepsy. Grape seed extract is another protective compound. It protects your hippocampus which houses one of your seizure ‘switches.’ Grape seed extract turns off the seizure switch. Finally, keep in mind that chamomile, ginkgo and St. John’s wort may interact with your medication.