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What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system and causes repeated seizures. It is usually diagnosed after a person has experienced two or more seizures caused by an unknown underlying condition. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, “seizures seen in epilepsy are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain.”

Epilepsy is the most common condition that affects the brain. In fact, 3.4 million people in the United States have epilepsy and 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

Causes and Risk Factors for Epilepsy

Some of the leading causes of epilepsy include:

  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Severe head trauma
  • Brain infection
  • Drug abuse or alcohol misuse

Risk factors include:

  • Bleeding into the brain
  • Abnormal blood vessels in the brain
  • Serious brain injury
  • Family history of epilepsy
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Mild head injuries

Traditional Treatments for Epilepsy

Antiepileptic Medications

Traditional Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are the most commonly used treatment for epilepsy. They help control seizures in up to 7 in 10 people with epilepsy. The most common AEDs include:

  • Phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • Phenobarbital
  • Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
  • Lacosamide (Vimpat)
  • Levetiracetam (Keppra)
  • Valproic acid (Depakote)
  • Rufinamide (Banzel)

Unfortunately, side effects are common when starting treatment with AEDs. Common side effects of AEDs include drowsiness, lack of energy, headaches, hair loss, uncontrollable shaking, swollen gums and more.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can be an essential part of epilepsy treatment and may help control or eliminate seizures. Lifestyle modifications can include:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Minimizing emotional stress
  • Frequently exercising
  • Adopting a Keto lifestyle

If AEDs are not controlling one’s seizures, brain surgery and other procedures may be able to help. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a type of neuromodulation designed to change how brain cells work by giving electrical stimulation to specific areas involved in seizures. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is another type of neuromodulation therapy that helps control seizures.

How Ketosis Treats Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet has been used to treat patients with epilepsy since 1921 – yes, over 100 years. Ketosis is a natural metabolic state that allows your body to burn fat for fuel. During ketosis, your body produces ketones from your fat stores, which can be used for energy when there are no more carbohydrates left to burn. Although you always produce a small amount of ketones, you can dramatically increase your ketones (and the fat you burn) by reducing the calories you eat, fasting, reducing carbohydrates in your diet, or increasing your activity with exercise.

When practiced regularly, entering ketosis has countless benefits, including weight loss, decreased inflammation, and improved mental clarity. Maintaining a state of ketosis can even help control and even reduce the frequency of seizures.

Studies show that the ketogenic diet can treat epileptic seizures in children, as the ketones in the body alter genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain, which in turn helps stabilize the function of neurons exposed to the challenges of epileptic seizures.

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