What is Epilepsy?

Your brain—which is much like a cross between a complex electrical switching station and a lightning-fast computer—functions to instantaneously process billions of pieces of incoming information at an unconscious level, regulates the billions of body functions going on simultaneously, coordinates the movements of all body parts, and on a conscious level, thinks, reasons, speaks, listens, and responds to the world around you. That's quite a job, but one that most of us take for granted. In some people, the electrical relays get short-circuited or out of sync for a variety of reasons, resulting in the production of abnormal bursts of brain waves. These abnormal bursts of electrical activity cause seizures—the condition you may know better by the name epilepsy.

EpilepsyEpilepsy comes in various forms: the grand mal seizure type, with unconsciousness followed by large-scale, spasmodic jerking of both the arms and legs; the petit mal seizure, sometimes called an absence seizure because there is no jerking, just a temporary loss of connection with the conscious level, as though for a moment the person within was "absent"; and a peculiar form of seizure—called a temporal lobe seizure for the part of the brain in which the abnormal activity begins—in which the person appears able to walk, talk, and act, but may have impaired awareness of what is happening without actually losing "consciousness." Abnormal electrical activity in this area of the brain may cause bizarre actions, such as lip smacking, or may cause hallucinations of hearing, vision, taste, or smell. In some cases, the person suffering the temporal lobe seizure, although conscious, cannot understand what is said to him or her, may be unable to name common objects or people, or may suffer a disturbance in perception of musical notes or melodies.

Seizures can develop after a blow to the head, following severe viral illnesses involving the brain (such as meningitis or encephalitis), with high fever (especially in children), and after damage to the brain from a stroke or a tumor. In some cases, thorough testing fails to uncover any cause for the epilepsy; however, anyone who has a seizure should consult his or her personal physician or a neurologic specialist for a complete evaluation and search for a cause. In addition to presciption medications that you may need to help control seizures, can vitamin and mineral intake make a difference? In some cases, yes. Let's see how in Epilepsy diet.

Epilepsy nutrition: What makes Epilepsy worse?

• Food sensitivities may trigger seizures in certain people. Particularly if you have a known history of food allergies and sensitivities in your own background or if these problems run strongly in your family, you might consider this possibility as a triggering stimulus for seizures. Recommendation: Pursue food allergy testing with a specialist and undertake a strict food elimination trial under his or her care.

• Omega-6 fatty acids, a particular kind of essential fat found in evening primrose oil, may worsen the frequency of temporal lobe seizures. Recommendation: Do not supplement with omega-6 fatty acids if you have a history of this kind of seizure.

•  Aspartame, the nonsugar sweetener added to diet beverages, puddings, gelatins, and yogurt, and sold under the name Equal in little blue packets for sprinkling on foods, may cause seizures in some people. Because aspartame is a protein, it can promote allergic-type reactions in sensitive people, and one of those reactions could be abnormal brain electrical activity. Recommendation: If you suffer from epilepsy and have experienced an increase in seizure frequency, eliminating aspartame-containing foods and beverages from your diet may be important.

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Epilepsy diet
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