Epilepsy Alternative Treatments

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 30, 2013
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on October 30, 2014

Epilepsy Alternative Treatments

Once epilepsy has been diagnosed, the next step is to find a treatment plan. This may include surgery, medication, and lifestyle changes, or a combination of all three.

People whose seizures are not completely controlled with traditional treatments may find success with alternative and complementary treatments.

Diet

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the ketogenic diet can help prevent seizures in children in some cases. This is a diet high in fat but low in protein and carbohydrates. Each meal contains four times as much fat as protein or carbohydrates. A child on this diet gets about 80 percent of their daily caloric intake from fat.

By encouraging the body to use fat instead of sugar (glucose) for energy, this diet has been shown to reduce the frequency of seizures in some children. However, research as to why or how this diet helps reduce seizures is ongoing.

While this diet has been effective for some children it may not work for every child. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, about one-third of children on this diet become seizure-free and another one-third see some improvement but may experience seizures from time to time. The remaining one-third don’t respond to the diet at all, or find it too hard to stick with in the long-term.

Potential Side Effects of a High Fat Diet

Any significant dietary changes should be made under the supervision of your doctor or a nutritionist. Meals and fluid intake must be carefully measured to avoid potentially harmful side effects, such as:

  • dehydration
  • constipation
  • kidney stones due to a buildup of uric acid in the blood
  • slowed growth due to vitamin deficiencies

These complications can typically be avoided by working closely with your doctor to tailor a diet that suits your needs.

A restrictive diet can also be difficult for children to stick to. Other high-protein, low-carb eating plans such as the Atkins and South Beach diets may offer less restrictive alternatives. However, their effectiveness in treating epilepsy is still being studied.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies and herbal remedies rarely undergo controlled clinical testing. This means their true effectiveness cannot be proven. However, more and more adults are combining traditional medical approaches with alternative therapies to better manage their seizures.

Complementary and alternative therapies that may help with epilepsy include the following.

Self-Control of Seizures

Some people experience certain symptoms as much as 20 minutes before a seizure. The goal of this therapy is to learn to recognize the warning signs and develop methods to control seizures. This may be done with certain behaviors or with the help of medication.

Acupuncture

This ancient treatment involves sticking thin, solid needles along various pressure points throughout the body. This can alter brain activity and may help reduce the frequency of seizures.

Ayurveda

This is a suite of options that involves diet, exercise, massage, breathing exercises, and more.

Biofeedback

This non-invasive treatment involves using electronic instrumentation to train a patient to improve their health by learning to use signals from the body to control involuntary functions.

Neurofeedback

This type of biofeedback focuses solely on the brain electrical activity as a way of decreasing seizures..

Pet Therapy

This type of therapy uses specifically trained “seizure dogs” that can help alert their owners to an oncoming seizure.

Always consult your doctor before beginning any alternative therapies or making significant changes to your diet. Doing so can help you avoid potential complications or adverse drug interactions. Your doctor can help tailor a treatment plan that meets your specific needs.

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