How Epilepsy is Treated
So pervasive are these negative feelings about epilepsy that nearly half the people with it hide the fact from all but the closest of family members. That's a lot of secret-keeping, too, because epilepsy affects about five people in every 1000 — that is, approximately 275, 000 in Great Britain alone.
The condition can result from a brain injury before or at the time of birth, very high fevers during early childhood and infectious diseases such as mumps or measles. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, low blood sugar, chemical imbalances in the body or even brain tumors could be at the root of the disorder. In fact, anything that harms the brain can ultimately lead to epilepsy. And then again, usually no cause can be found at all.
Whether or not a reason for the epilepsy is ever identified, treatment often involves the continual use of anti-convulsive drugs — either one or several at a time, depending on the type and severity of the seizures. In about half the sufferers, the seizures can be totally eliminated and in another 30 percent they are greatly reduced. But that still leaves 20 percent - about 55,000 people — who aren't helped by drugs, and even for the ones who do find relief, many must learn to live with unpleasant side-effects or other complications of long-term drug use.
Nutrition: the new weapon against epilepsy'There's going to be a revolution in the methods of treating epilepsy over the next 20 years.' That's what J. O. McNamara believes, and he should know. He's the director of the epilepsy center at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and he has been working on this problem for years.
'The importance of diet in regulating seizures is just starting to come out, ' Dr. McNamara said. 'And I think we are going to find out that nutrition plays a more important role in seizure control than anyone might have previously suspected. I'm very happy with the results we're getting. '
These results involve the use of choline (a chemical made by the body from protein, which is involved — as acetylcholine — in the transmission of nerve impulses) in the treatment of human complex partial seizures (CPS), a type of epilepsy. Dr. McNamara theorized that choline may function as a natural anticonvulsant, because when substances are present that interfere with choline's action, seizures increase.
To test his theory, he selected four patients with CPS whose drug therapy was not working. During the four-month study, each patient was given choline along with his existing drug regimen. Doses started at 4 g per day and were gradually increased to 12 or 16 g per day by the third month.
'Our principal finding, ' wrote Dr. McNamara in Neuroloo (December 1980) 'was that a marked increase in plasma [blood] choline concentrations
Another nutrient that has prevented epileptic convulsions in some cases is vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, according to Japanese researchers. In theory, vitamin B6 promotes an increase in the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a substance responsible for the calming of nerve activity (Journal of Nutrition Science and Vitaminoloo, vol. 25, no. 5, 1979).
Missing trace minerals'A deficiency of manganese may play a role in some cases of epilepsy,' says Yukio Tanaka of the department of biochemistry at Montreal Children's Hospital. Dr. Tanaka first suspected this connection when he observed that rats deprived of manganese were abnormally susceptible to convulsions under certain conditions. He applied this theory to a little boy who was suffering from convulsive disorders that did not respond to medication. When he checked the level of manganese in the child's blood, it was less than half the normal value for children.
Manganese was given to the boy by his neurologist to raise his blood levels to normal. When that happened, his condition was noticeably improved. He had fewer seizures, and his gait, speech, and learning were all better than before treatment started (Journal of the American Medical Association).
Dr. Tanaka then checked the manganese levels of other children at the Montreal Children's Hospital and found that about a third of those who suffered convulsions had lower levels than neurologically normal children. 'I'm optimistic,' Dr. Tanaka says, 'that manganese holds some hope for certain types of epilepsy, but we still have much investigating to do to determine how effective it will be. '
That's how epilepsy researchers from the department of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore feel about another mineral, magnesium. Their work has demonstrated that magnesium can suppress epileptic bursts of electricity in the brains of experimental animals. The degree of suppression increased when more magnesium was given, but the dose still remained safe.
'Further clinical study of the anticonvulsant properties of magnesium may broaden its clinical usage to include seizure disorders not well controlled by present therapeutic approaches,' said the researchers. Their study suggests that magnesium 'may have clinical applicability in treating a wider range of acute convulsions' (Epilepsia).
Selenium and vitamin EWhen adults develop epilepsy it's often due to a severe blow to the head. Known as post-traumatic epilepsy, the disorder can emerge anywhere from one month to a year after the original injury. Each year, thousands of people develop this epileptic condition after car, bicycle or motorbike accidents.
L. James Willmore, a neurologist and associate professor at the University of Texas Medical School, may have found a possible solution to the problem. He explains that a blow to the head causes internal bleeding, and the ruptured red blood cells leak iron. This, in turn, leads to the formation of hydrogen peroxide, which is damaging to brain tissue. Dr. Willmore theorizes that selenium and vitamin E, which are both anti-oxidant nutrients, may help prevent post-traumatic epilepsy.
Using rats, Dr. Willmore duplicated the condition that may occur in people after a head injury. Injections of selenium and vitamin E prevented epilepsy from occurring in 72 percent of the rats. In another group of rats given no treatment, only 6 percent escaped epilepsy (Experimental Neurology, March 1980).
'So far, the research has been limited to experimental animals, but the results inspire new hope that this form of epilepsy may be prevented, ' says Dr. Willmore.
Diets for childhood epilepsyOne of the best treatments for childhood epilepsy is a diet. And it often works after medication fails.
Dr. Samuel Livingston and his colleagues at the Samuel Livingston Epilepsy Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Baltimore have reported in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology that the diet is the most effective therapy for children who have the involuntary muscle twitching called myoclonic jerking.
Most of us know what myoclonic jerking is because it sometimes occurs — quite harmlessly — as a muscle twitching that snaps us to attention just as we're drifting off to sleep. But in attacks of myoclonic epilepsy, the jerking is much more violent and may last as long as 30 seconds and recur up to 100 times a day. The seizures may be triggered by sounds, lights, hurt feelings or even a change in posture. Often, the condition fails to respond to medical treatment, and drugs that are used can cause very serious and harmful side effects.
The diet prescribed at the Livingston Center is an extreme one. Fat contributes fully 80 percent of total calories (from butter, cream, mayonnaise and bacon). Protein and carbohydrate needs have to be met by the rest of the diet. What's more, although unappetizing and difficult to prepare, the diet must be strictly followed — at least in the beginning. Any increase in carbohydrates — even too much fruit — can lead rapidly to more attacks. But when the diet is strictly followed, seizures are usually controlled within 10 to 21 days. Then, the amount of fat in the diet can usually be reduced to normal over a two-year period.
For children unable — or unwilling — to eat these large amounts of fat, the diet may be modified to include a tasteless oil comprising medium chain triglycerides (MCT), according to Dr. Peter Huttenlocher of the University of Chicago. MCT oil is blended with skimmed milk and added to baked goods to make up 60 percent of their diet. The remaining calories are varied to include some of the child's favorite foods.
These diets — technically known as 'ketogenic' — are thought to control epilepsy by increasing the body level of ketones, products of fat digestion. The large quantities of fat may temporarily cause stomach cramps or even vomiting, but the diets are free of the serious side-effects of anti-convulsant medication. And doctors at the Livingston Center, who have successfully prescribed the diet for myoclonic epilepsy for over 40 years, say there is no evidence that it increases serum cholesterol or heart disease.
Drug-free treatment for a young epilepticAt an annual workshop for families of deaf, blind and multi-handicapped children in the United States, a mother told the story of the escape of her small daughter, an epileptic, from drug treatment — thanks to a medical nutritionist.
The child was a beautiful, healthy, happy baby until the age of 2 ½ when she began to have seizures after waking from her naps. An electroencephalogram was abnormal. That led to the prescription of phenobarbitone, 75 mg daily, a sizable dose for a little girl. It didn't help the seizures, but it did drive the little girl into a private world, lying on her blanket, sucking her fingers, or rocking back and forth for hours. She became lethargic, gained too much weight and lost her coordination, with resulting falls and injuries.
That was only the beginning of a series of drugs that did nothing for her seizures. In addition, the parents were told that the child, now 5 ½ was functioning at the mental level of a two-year-old. A diagnostic center, in addition to finding the little girl retarded, suggested that she needed special education for the handicapped and that her medication is continued, despite its ineffectiveness.
At this point, the mother encountered an article — 'Something Wonderful Has Happened to Charlie,' by Lynne Rakowitz Woodward (Oklahoma Parents Association of Deaf-Blind/Multi-handicapped Children, 1980) — written by the mother of a child with difficulties of the same kind, who had been helped significantly by a special diet and vitamin therapy. The little girl's mother was astonished to find that the doctor who had prescribed the regimen described in the article practiced in the city where she herself lived, and so she communicated with him. In the consultation that followed, she was told that about 50 per cent of seizures are related to maladaptive reactions to foods, chemicals or inhalants. The others have multiple sources, some identified, others unknown. The doctor thought it might be possible, by using a controlled diet (excluding foods to which the child was sensitive) and large doses of vitamins, to discontinue the drugs.
Test meals of a single food each were prescribed, with the frequent taking of the pulse to detect the speedup that indicates an adverse reaction. A diary was kept off the child's behavior patterns before, during and after meals. She had adverse effects from half the foods tested, some of which triggered seizures. Maize, which the child strongly preferred, was her worst enemy.
The youngster was put on a rotation diet (eating allergenic foods only once every four days) prepared especially for her and supplemented with a number of vitamins. The mother noted that her improvement was immediate. Barring the foods that she could not normally metabolize stopped the seizures. A week later, all seizures stopped.
Controlling brain rhythmsMore and more doctors are experimenting with holistic therapies to help epileptic patients. One with a unique approach is M. B. Sterman, chief of neuropsychology research at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Sepulveda, California, who treats patients with grand mal epilepsy (major epilepsy) whose seizures persist despite drug therapy. He trains his patients to increase or suppress brain rhythms at different frequencies, thereby exerting control over their own conditions.
'The biofeedback method we use, ' wrote Dr. Sterman in the journal Human Nature,
rewards the patients for producing rhythmic middle-frequency brain waves. We monitor our patients' electroencephalograms in the laboratory, and when they produce the right rhythms, a bell rings. Telling them to relax and to think about pleasant experiences helps them to increase those rhythms.
The results are encouraging. In six out of eight patients, the rate of seizures decreased an average of 74 percent, and the improvements continued after training was stopped.
Studies such as these demonstrate that biological disorders are susceptible to behavioral modification. And behavioral methods must certainly be considered safer and more desirable than current treatments with drugs.Francis M. Forster retired director of the Francis M. Forster Epilepsy Center at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, uses another type of behavioral approach called 'Pavlovian conditioning'. He treats patients with reflex epilepsy, a type of seizure disorder in which attacks are brought on by such everyday activities as eating, reading or listening to music.
'About 6 to 7 percent of all epilepsies are of this type,' Dr. Forster says. 'We condition the patient so that the thing which triggers his attacks becomes innocuous.
'For example, if a certain piece of music causes a seizure in our patient, we will reproduce that seizure in the lab. Then we keep playing that same melody over and over as the patient returns to consciousness. We will play it for one hour twice a day until it no longer evokes the negative response. It takes about two weeks to condition most patients, ' Dr. Forster says. 'Then each time we locate something which triggers a seizure, we repeat the conditioning program. Often we are able to reduce the amount of drugs the patient takes. '
Ultimately, researchers hope to find a cure for epilepsy. Meanwhile, seizure control with less dependence on drugs is a promising substitute and a step in the right direction.
How to Solve Epilepsy Problem Naturally Reviewed by Healthy Kite on 8/14/2016 Rating: