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. Hello, I was diagnosed with epilepsy at 45 when I had my first grand mal. I was put on Dilantin and was seizure free for 20 years. The Dilantin gave me osteoporosis and neuropathy, so I was changed to Keppra. It took almost 5 years and quite a few seizures to get the dosage right.
    I started taking CW CBD oil for RLS a few years ago and it completely illuminates my symptoms. I am sure that it helps my seizure control but I don’t know how much I would have to take to control my seizures completely.
    Thanks for all you do!
    Anne

    • Anne, thanks so much for sharing your story here! Very inspiring! I hope you’ll keep me posted on your progress with this :-)

      • That was supposed to say CBD eliminates my restless leg syndrome. Shortly after I wrote the comment above I started having seizures again. I wish I could find a doctor here in Nashville that was interested in alternative therapies.
        I am easing into the Keto diet now.

  2. It helps if the “different kind of drug” really IS a different kind of drug. Read that again, slowly. See, it’s obvious that nicotine and alcohol and cannabinoids are “different kinds of drugs.” If one kind of drug doesn’t cure your cancer, doctors will try a “different kind of drug.” As Casey Stengel said, “you can look it up” if you have spent your life on a desert island. Good things to look for in drugs are: as few side effects as possible, effective treatment of presented symptoms, low cost. Cannabis meets these requirements better every day; you can grow your own, if you avoid inhaling smoke, long-term effects on the human body are minimal and As an analgesic drug marijuana components are far, far less harmful and addictive than opioids or opiates. You can look up the increasing number of illnesses like epilepsy that are treatable with cannabis. Doesn’t it make absolute perfect sense to use a different kind of SAFER drug?!? What remains unanswered is the bizarre effect cannabis has on people who hate it and don’t use it but seem to lose all capacity for rational thought just thinking about it.

  3. I was kind of expecting to see neurofeedback on your list, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Have you heard of its use? I read a great book on it, “A Symphony in the Brain”, by Jim Robbins where it was effective for a range of neurological conditions including seizures.

    • Gershon, thanks so much for your comment! Yes, neurofeedback is great as is DBS (deep brain stimulation) which can also be an effective treatment for epilepsy :-)

  4. I have had narcolepsy since age 12 or so but not diagnosed accurately until age 28. I was put on a daytime stimulant to help me stay alert during the day and a nighttime medication to give me deep, restorative sleep. The side effects of the stimulant were awful so my doctor and I decided to stop that medication and I’d just take scheduled naps during the day. At 30 I found out about a paleo diet and that helped me a lot and then I started a ketogenic diet at age 33 which was a game changer! I figured if it helped people with epilepsy then it was worth a shot for me. I’m almost three years into this diet and it helps me stay alert during the day, improves my focus and my mood, and helps me manage my weight. I also use intermittent fasting when I need to be very alert during the day. I’m glad you are sharing this information and such delicious recipes! By the way, I am an RN (just not currently working so I can be home with children) and neither sleep disorders or the ketogenic diet were a part of my education. I had to figure all this out on my own! My neighbor is a doctor and when we were chatting one day I told him that I was using a ketogenic diet to mitigate narcolepsy symptoms and he had never heard of this diet. I hope that conversation peaked his curiosity!

    • Lori, thanks for sharing your incredible story here! It’s inspiring that someone like you who is part of the medical profession is so open minded. I’m glad that you found a dietary solution that works in curing your narcolepsy and love hearing how versatile the Keto Diet is in fixing disorders of the brain :-)

  5. You might want to watch the video on the home page of unblindmymind.org. It’s about what all the free glutamates in our diet do to us.

  6. One of the ways to prevent seizures is to stay away from vaccines. All vaccines have seizures listed as a side effect in the package inserts.

  7. Hi Elana, I noticed that most comments are about diet and environmental exposure that is unhealthy and people are trying to improve, I thought I’d bring a new topic to the table:
    I was diagnosed with epilepsy 20 years ago and tested a couple of different drugs and found one that worked for me. I was almost seizure free, as long as I got enough sleep and abstained from alcohol. After 13 years without a seizure a had a serious grandmal seizure and started experiencing myoclonic jerks. I was referred to a Naturopath by a friend of my dad’s. The doctor deduced that I had Mercury poisoning. And that’s where it all came together: I had been at the dentist some time prior to my seizures re-starting again. The dentist put in about 6 “metal” fillings, and my opinion is that the mercury leached into my system and crossed the blood brain barrier. A year later I couldn’t cope with the psychological stigma of losing control of my body & finally took the naturopath’s advice: I had all my metal fillings removed by a Biological Dentist. The next step should had been cilantro & chlorella supplements to clean the blood of the mercury. I didn’t take this for very long, fearing over use as I was self medicating. But I also fell pregnant after trying for 5 years, so I focused on eating healthy to support my baby. I suffered from myoclonic jerks during my pregnancy & a handful of grand mal seizures after. I however have written them off to lack of sleep, my decreased medication I discussed with my neurologist, while pregnant & breastfeeding, and finally the wireless baby monitor.
    This story ends well for me, my little girl is a beautiful healthy toddler, I have had my medicine adjusted and now take two types, but have had no seizures or myoclonic jerks in about 2 years.
    To summarize: some dentists don’t even realize that the metal amalgam in fillings is toxic, so they don’t warn people about it. In my opinion it should be illegal to use and only the alternative white fillings should be used. People should have their metal fillings professionally removed (as “normal” dentists are not equipped for the job.
    Thanks
    Marta (South Africa)

    • I am getting my fillings removed too. I’m so thankful for that. You need to read Medical medium books. Mystery and chronic illness and how to finally heal. It’s life changing. Best of luck to you.

      • Susan, thanks for your comment! I don’t want to be a pill, but I’ve read those books and didn’t find anything new. It was all stuff my doctors and healers and I were discussing in the late 1990’s. I’m so happy to hear you’re getting your fillings out, that was very helpful for me :-)

  8. Our son is 25, with non-verbal autism and intractable epilepsy. The keto diet worked well for us but we were unable to sustain it due to his cheating (when he was age 7, he was on it for 18 months.) Our medication journey was dreadful, but Felbatol and Vimpat (an amino acid) really helped (down to 6-7 seizures/week). Also, about 3 years ago we started a special type of chiropractics with him and his seizures have nearly stopped (3-4 per year, 2 seconds or less.) While you must be very careful with chiro, this type does not involve twisting the neck. We are so delighted with his progress.

    • Debbie, thanks for your inspiring story! For me it really doesn’t matter what the treatment is (drug vs. non-drug) as long as the seizures are under control as much as possible :-)

  9. Hi Elena! 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.

    Also, have you heard of the Dynamic Neural Retraining System- DNRS? It helps with neurological issues. It has helped me with chemical sensitivities and chronic fatigue.

    Thank you for all of the valuable information that you share from your research.

    • Arleen, yes I think DNS is very interesting and utilize many of its principles. I’m so glad that you will be sharing this information with others :-)

  10. Hi,
    I have Trigeminal Neuralgia. The typical treatment are pharmaceuticals generally prescribed for people with seizures.I’m currently on three different drugs, go for acupuncture, increased magnesium and cranial sacral therapy.
    Thank you for all of your information and insights. My husband eats Paleo and I cook. Maybe a jump to Keto is a great idea. Thank you

    • Denise, thanks for sharing your story! I love hearing about people willing to try both conventional and alternative treatments simultaneously, so great when people can get the best of both worlds in their healing journey :-)

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