Top 5 Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy

Recently I've become interested in Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy. Why? When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, I made it my mission to research every neurological disorder under the sun. This investigation helps me to better understand the brain and its path back to health.

What is Epilepsy

Like multiple sclerosis and celiac disease, the term “epilepsy” is a garbage can diagnosis for a condition the medical field cannot pinpoint. The term “epilepsy” simply refers to seizures, and a patient is diagnosed with the condition if they have two or more.

Who Suffers from Epilepsy

Four percent of people in the US suffer from this chronic disorder of the brain at some point in their lives. Incidence is highest among the very young and the very old. After migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the US.1

Traditional Pharmacologic Treatment for Epilepsy

The success of medications in treating seizure disorders is compelling. While 60% of epilepsy cases are controlled with the administration of 1-2 anti-seizure medications, the remaining 40% of patients who suffer from drug-refractory epilepsy are not as lucky. Of this cohort, only 4% become seizure-free with the continued application of drugs.2

Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy

When pharmacological therapies work in treating epilepsy it's fantastic. However, many children are put on drug after drug until they become zombies. Worse yet is when seizures continue after the child is medicated into a depressive state. Thankfully, a number of alternative treatments are successful for those with drug-refractory epilepsy. They range from diet to supplementation of seizure calming nutrients such as magnesium, and much more.

1. Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic Diet is one of the top alternative treatments for epilepsy. It is a high-fat low-carb diet that reduces inflammation in the brain. According to Dr. Dominic D'Agostino:

What the Ketogenic Diet does in a very elegant way is it helps to restore the natural metabolic state of the brain and the neuro-pharmacology of the brain. Ketones have a profound anti-convulsant effect.

My friends at the Charlie Foundation were kind enough to provide me with this video on treating drug-refractory epilepsy with the Ketogenic Diet.

Physicians everywhere from Johns Hopkins to the Mayo Clinic recommend the Keto Diet for the treatment of drug-refractory epilepsy. Many even find the Keto Diet is a fantastic first line of treatment. If you're looking for low-carb high-fat recipes check out my Keto Diet page.

2. Charlotte's Web High CBD Oil

When on book tour I've met families who have used CBD oil as a natural treatment for epilepsy for their children. In fact, a number of families have moved to Colorado so their children could get CBD oil called Charlotte's Web. If you are one of those families please leave a comment below sharing your experience!

3. Magnesium

Magnesium therapy can reduce muscle and nerve spasticity. It also calms down the brain and reduces pain perception. I've personally had great success with high dose magnesium and have seen anecdotal evidence that it may be used to treat epilepsy as well. A group of scientists now hypothesize that magnesium supplementation can reduce seizures in people with epilepsy.

Studies suggest that the modern Western diet may lead to magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is a potential modulator of seizure activity because of its ability to antagonize excitation through the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor. Some studies have shown that people with epilepsy have lower magnesium levels than people without epilepsy. There are case reports of seizures being controlled with magnesium supplementation in people with specific conditions.3

4. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

My colleague, Dr. Barry Miskin, a neurologist who has been treating patients with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for over two decades states, “I have seen success in reducing seizures with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. I had the privilege of observing multiple treatments by Dr. Richard Neubauer treating children with intractable seizure disorders. His treatments significantly reduced the rate of seizures and on occasion stopped them completely.” Dr. Miskin is running an FDA approved clinical trial for HBOT. For more information on HBOT, check out my write up, The Complete Guide to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

5. Reduce EMF Exposure

The rise in seizure disorders during the same period as the increased use of wireless technology merits analysis. There are studies indicating that microwave radiation can interfere with brain signaling4 and excitability and increase seizures.5 I know people who notice increased neurological symptoms in high radio-frequency radiation (RFR) environments such as an airport or subway car.

Anecdotal experiences of individuals with epilepsy also offers support for this theory.6 I experienced severe neurological symptoms living in a smart house filled with RFR which I discuss in The Green House that Almost Killed Me. To deal with this issue in your home environment, read Simple Steps to Reduce EMFs.

Lack of Research Into Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy

Unlike pharmaceuticals, there are no economic drivers for the majority of alternative treatments for epilepsy. This means that clinicians in the medical world are not kept-up-to-date on alternative therapies. But if we look at the brain as a car and look at seizures as excitability of the brain, or the gas pedal of the car, we see that calming the brain down and turning on the brakes is common sense in epilepsy treatment. That's a feature of each of the alternative treatments I mention, whether the Keto Diet, magnesium, CBD oil, HBOT, or the elimination of EMFs.

Your Tips for Epilepsy Treatment

Please leave a comment and let us know which alternative treatments have worked if you have a child or loved one with epilepsy or a seizure disorder.

Thank you for this article. I have forwarded it to two families who have sweet girls with seizures but don’t want to give them medications. I hope there will be something they can use to help them.

Comments

58 responses to “Top 5 Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy”

  1. For years, we’ve treated my son’s epilepsy with high dose B6 and magnesium (in addition to dropping gluten.)

    Since determining he has folate-receptor antibodies as well, he is also taking high dose folate.
    (info http://iliadneuro.com/publication.html )

    We’re hoping to make it through puberty without any issues, since some forms of epilepsy change during that time.

    Thank you so much for posting about this, Elana.

  2. Dear Elana,

    Thank you so much for this post! I have just been diagnosed, not with epilepsy, but what they call “focal seizures,’ and I have been unsure of which direction to go – do I take medication, or try other things?

    Do you think your recommendations will be able to help me with my condition? I am at a point I am willing to try whatever has even a slight chance of working.

    Thank you so much, and have a great day!

    Angela

    • Angela, I would recommend discussing the above options with your doctor or a functional medicine neurologist :-)

    • Hi Angela, if you have focal seizures (I do too), you have epilepsy! A seizure disorder is the same as epilepsy. Please ask your doctor to see a neurologist asap. Visit https://www.epilepsy.com/ for reference. Eating well is a crucial part of managing seizures – there is no one size fits all solution to treatment.
      Thank you Elana for the awesome suggestions and featuring epilepsy as a topic!

      • Thank you so much for letting me know! I didn’t know and my doctor didn’t say I had epilepsy, he just said oh well you have some minor seizures.

        I am grateful to you and to Elana for talking about this subject – I am new to it and had no idea you could start having it later in life….

        Thanks and I will definitely ask my doctor about it!

          • Thank you so much Elana for taking interest in each of the responses here – I am very glad about that :) I have meanwhile started to take CBD oil “Charlotte’s web” and it has made a huge difference. When I take as directed I haven’t had any noticable seizures anymore. I have been a lot stricter with my diet – I can’t claim being Keto or even paleo, but I am glutenfree and beyond. Thanks again – it’s great to feel almost normal!

          • Angela, thanks for your comment! It’s my pleasure to interact with readers here on the website. I’m so happy to hear that you are feeling almost normal! I hope you’ll keep me posted on your progress :-)

  3. Elana – Lots of thought and work into your study. Wish I’d known about it years ago.
    Have been on 2 Epilepsy drugs for so long – can’t get off or change theme without a seizure. Since it has been 20 yrs since I’ve had a seizure, I’m reluctant to try anything – since the last seizure was “medically induced” by previous MD. Long term usage has caused balance problems through the years to current usage of walker.
    But, there are so many who have it worse — Any new neuro I go to always wants to “change these meds” — but, they aren’t on this side of the meds.
    Thank you for urging others to try something different.

    Peggy

  4. My son is 39. He came into my care at age 12 having around 600 seizures a month, sometimes clustering as long as 45 minutes!! Over the last 27 years, we have tried 14 different drugs, at the moment on 2 still having 250-300 seizures a month, clusters have been under 15 minutes for years now. I started Charlotte’s Web CBD with him in April of 2017. WhIle number of seizures did not go down, the length of the clusterd decreased and I was able to decrease one of his pharmacological drugs by 500mg because CBD interacts with Depakote. In June I added a 2:1 TCH oil..noticed nothing. At beginning of August switched to a different brand of CBD oil and saw a small decrease in number of seizures and clusters are now 80% of the time under 5 minutes. Ran out of the THC (and I”m not in a legal state) so moved him to ketogenic diet this week along with continued CBD oil. Cautiously optimistic…
    I have been ketogenic since late June, starting the WOE to support my daughter and her cancer diagnosis. She has been having clear scans since the first PET after she started chemo, keto, and fasting around her chemo days. ANd I’ve lost weight and decreased my use of NSAIDS! It’s all good and I totally appreciate your web site. You were very valuable when we first went GF, and continue to be so. Thanks

  5. Hi Elana, thank you so much for this post! My son has had epilepsy for 5 years but it is controlled with medication. However, I would much rather take the alternative path and we are going to try to wean him (again) off of his medication this summer. I will definitely try to implement some of your suggestions, thank you!

  6. My son has had seizures since age 3 (has been grain free since then). At age 8 his seizures became stronger. Due to multiple genetic single nucleotide polymorphisms as well as several genetic mutations impacting Phase One and Phase 2 detoxification we could only seek natural ways of addressing the seizures. We have done our best to avoid chemical and electromagnetic triggers since age 3. He even missed an entire year of school due to new carpet off gassing that was triggering seizures. At age 8 when the seizures became stronger our son’s neurologist sent us to a nutritionist who specializes in the Ketogenic Diet and Modified Atkins for seizure control. Our son started the diet in April of 2017 and was seizure free in about 6 weeks. He has only had one seizure in the 11 months since being seizure free and it was triggered by a major chemical exposure at his gymnastics studio. These natural methods work and I really hope many other parents will use them to help their children. I know they are sometimes challenging to implement but they are so worth it. My son also uses transdermal magnesium, Taurine, and Frequency Specific Microcurrent Therapy. He receives regular chiropractic care every other week and sees a chiropractic neurologist every 3 to 6 months. Seizures are only a small portion of my son’s special needs and medical issues. My husband and I are so thankful for the amazing natural doctors who have pointed us in the right direction over the years. Elana, your keto recipes have been so helpful. They are delicious and my son loves them (especially Keto brownies). Thank you for sharing your journey and using it to help others.

    • Erin, thanks for your incredibly inspiring comment! The care you have provided for your son is amazing and I loved hearing that he was 99% seizure-free after starting the Keto Diet. I am incredibly blessed to have readers like you. Thanks for pointing out that I have shared my journey and used it to help others, it is an honor to do so :-)

  7. I was so excited to see your post on Epilepsy! Your website has been such a blessing to our family as we have walked many alternate diet roads! My daughter, Elle (15), has juvenile onset epilepsy. We have tried many medications to no avail and are currently on the keto diet, which is helping some. She is still having both grand mals and absence seizures. I just wanted to thank you for your posts. After reading about EMF’s about a year ago, we reduced those and saw a significant drop in her grand mals. We even moved to get her away from power lines and a river that we think may have been conducting EMF’s into the ground around our place. She made significant improvements, going from having 15 grand mals a week to 2-3 a month! I am interested in the magnesium and oxygen treatments you mentioned. She has had magnesium deficiency in the past. we may need to look at that again.

    One of the things that has helped Elle the most are the NAET allergy elimination treatments. Our functional medicine doctor does these treatments. We have discovered that most of her seizures are triggered by allergies. So if we can decrease the allergies, we can decrease her seizures. They have temporarily put her on Zyrtec to see if they reduce seizures, and it seems to be working. But the NAET treatments have been a lifesaver for her!

    Thank you again for your posts! I’m interested to hear what others have to say about this topic!

    • Jenna, wow! Thanks for sharing you family’s healing path and your daughter’s journey with epilepsy. I am so impressed with the steps you’ve taken and love hearing that lowering the EMFs in her environment reduced seizure activity from 60 seizures a month to 2-3, that is incredible! I hope you’ll stop back by and keep me posted on how she’s doing. Your story is so inspiring to me and I know it will be to others as well :-)

    • Hello Jenna, I have juvenile onset epilepsy, since age 17, and after 41 years of experimentation with my diet, I have found that my seizures, like your daughter’s are allergy related. For me, the worst trigger continues to be nitrates and nitrites in foods, particularly in cured meats and orange cheeses. Once I discovered this trigger and then learned about the power of antioxidants, particularly grapeseed extract, I found that if I was exposed to a known food trigger I could take 400 to 500 mg of grapeseed extract pills at the same time as the food and it prevents me from experiencing any seizure activity!! I am so thrilled, you have no idea! I have been seizure free for over 25 years now, with the exception of some minor myoclonic activity when I did not take the pills.
      I strongly encourage you to continue to search to find out what it is that your daughter is allergic to, and if possible, deal with it in a proactive manner as I was able to do. It will be so very worthwhile!

  8. Do you ever research keto and depression?
    I am on the brink of something bad…and really need the push to do full keto.
    Any research? Any links? Reading?

    • Monika, if we look at depression from a biological stand point it may be related to brain inflammation. Since the Keto Diet decreases inflammation in the brain there is a good chance that it will help you. It has helped a good deal with my cognitive abilities and mood :-)

  9. elena,
    thank you for doing and sharing all of this incredibly interesting research!
    i have a seizure focus in my left temporal lobe and will have to take medication for the rest of my life.
    i would love to know more about how much magnesium is a high dose. if you happen to know.
    you are the best!
    charlotte

    • Charlotte, thanks for your comment! It really depends on the individual’s baseline testing indicating magnesium levels, the type of magnesium, and the delivery method, i.e., oral, transdermal, or intravenous. A Functional Medicine practitioner will be able to follow up on this for you. I hope you’ll keep me posted on your progress and thanks for sharing your story here :-)

  10. I started using at least 400mg of magnesium glycinate and stopped eating gluten, and I haven’t had any seizures or aura’s since then. I also don’t have migraines anymore either. I can tell if I do not have enough magnesium in my system when at night my legs start to feel twitchy. I am so grateful that I was told about magnesium and to stop gluten. I know it’s not Keto, but it is a start in that direction and it helped me! I’m so glad you put this information on your website, I hope it helps others with Epilepsy!

Have Something to Add?

Your comment will need to be approved before it will appear on the site.

Home » Top 5 Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy