Food and Epilepsy: Finding a Healthy Balance

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™, which will run from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30, 2017.  Follow along!

*This blog is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor if you find something that may benefit or intrigue you.

If you would have told me a year ago that food played a part in seizure management, I probably would have rolled my eyes and said thanks but no thanks for the info. I knew to avoid the foods that triggered my seizures but that was about it. I’ve shared plenty of times how much I’ve struggled with weight management throughout my life.  Actually, it was 4 years ago after dropping about 80 pounds that my seizures decided to show up again after being dormant for 17 years. What I didn’t realize was that it was up to me to get them under control while continuing to lose the weight and keep it off. Over the last 2 years, I started reading more about different diets and chronic illnesses but still was skeptical of it all. I realized  I had to change my relationship with food in order to have better control of my seizures.

Before we dive in, I want to reiterate that what worked for me, may not work for the next person. Always talk to your doctor about any adjustments to your diets. As an epilepsy patient and advocate, I spend a lot of time researching everything. Researching medications, treatments, triggers, doctors and everything in between to take control of my seizures. It never dawned on me to pay more attention to what I was putting inside of my body (besides meds) than all of the external factors. I had to make sure that what I was putting into my body, wasn’t working against my medication. We are told to stay away from caffeine, but I quickly learned it was so much more than that. It wasn’t until after my lifestyle changes that I found research to back up the things I was finally successful at.

My first step was to reduce the amount of sugar I was consuming. I wasn’t drinking soda but I was heavy on the fruit drinks and juices. The sugars found in artificial juices are not the good sugars that your body needs. These are quickly absorbed by the body. Why not use artificial sweeteners then? Did you know the main ingredient in artificial sweeteners is aspartame? Aspartame is a known seizure trigger.  It’s found in many of zero calorie drinks and sugar-free snacks. With the reduction of sugar, I increased my water intake significantly. So much that I found myself googling “can you drown from drinking too much water?” It would take a lot if you’re curious. I typically consume 75 to 100 oz of water a day.

My next step was to pay attention to the food itself. I was informed to try the Ketogenic diet, which is a low carb, high-fat diet. The Ketogenic diet (also known as the keto diet) that is known to help control seizures in some people. Doctors usually suggest the ketogenic diet for kids living with seizure disorders that do not respond well to medication. Yea, I tried and failed miserably. For me, I just couldn’t stick to it for the simple fact that I had to think so much on this diet. Am I getting enough fat? Am I still in ketosis? The perfect example of “it may work for one but not the other.” Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of adults who succeed with this diet. Just not me. You can learn more about the diet here.

It took some trial and error and finally, I found something that works. I cut out the bad carbs (chips, cookies, bread, pasta)and focused more on good carbs(quinoa, whole grain, legumes, veggies). Even with the swap, I keep my carb intake to a minimum. My diet is more plant-based, high protein, and no processed foods. I’ve also cut out red meat.  I can honestly say that I started to feel more energized, I was sleeping better. No more carb crashes after lunch. Don’t get it twisted, I still allow myself treats every once in awhile but with some serious moderation. What I didn’t realize was that I was experiencing less frequent seizures. The seizures I usually see around my menstrual cycle were not as intense as they had been in the past. I kept my neurologist updated during this entire process. With the many changes I decided to take when it came to food, I finally understood that food is medicine.

I realized I had to look at food as medicine, as something that served my body. – Unknown

We have to be mindful of what we are giving our bodies on a daily basis. You don’t have to make drastic changes but try cutting somethings out and log your changes. It could be the smallest things that make a big difference. Before I did a kitchen overhaul, I was taking 2300mg of anti-convulsants a day. Now I am on 300mg ( and my emergency meds are still on hand). A HUGE DIFFERENCE. Understand this was a long, gradual decrease authorized by my doctor. It took time. I  know this is a lifestyle change but I feel way more optimistic about this than anything else. I know it will also help me reach my long-term weight goals as well. Here’s to good, healthy food and one day, seizure freedom.

With Love,

Whit

Resources: Does What I Eat Affect My Epilepsy?.pdf

NEXT UP: Be sure to check out the next post tomorrow by Shantia, at http://livingwellwithepilepsy.com. For the full schedule of bloggers visit livingwellwithepilepsy.com.

TWITTER CHAT: And don’t miss your chance to connect with bloggers on the #LivingWellChat on November 30 at 7PM ET.

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