Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the condition affects around 50 million people worldwide.
Epilepsy is characterised by recurrent seizures and can lead to other health problems. It is often lifelong, but in most cases, people with the condition are able to control their seizures through medication and lifestyle modification that includes eating a healthy diet.
Epilepsy can affect people of all ages, and in different ways – depending on which part of the brain is involved. Yet, some problems around epilepsy and its treatment are specific to women.
In women, the neurological condition can behave differently due to several factors such as hormonal influences, puberty, menstrual cycles and periods, reproductive functioning, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), sexual dysfunction, contraception, menopause and osteoporosis, said Dr. Madhusudhan BK, Senior Consultant, Neurologist and Epileptologist at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, Bangalore.
On International Epilepsy Day (February 10), learn the warning signs of seizures and how diet can help manage this disorder.
Signs and symptoms of epilepsy to watch out for
While the main symptom of epilepsy is a recurrent seizure, other possible symptoms may include the following:
- Uncontrollable jerking and shaking
- Becoming stiff for no apparent reason
- Sudden falling
- Strange sensations – such as unusual smells or tastes, a tingling feeling in your arms or legs, etc
- Losing awareness or consciousness
- Panic or anger
You should seek prompt medical help if you have a seizure that lasts more than five minutes, a high fever or any other symptoms that concern you. It is also advisable to consult a doctor if you have a seizure for the first time.
Is there a cure for epilepsy?
Currently, there is no cure available for epilepsy, however, patients can usually manage their symptoms. Treatment along with lifestyle changes can reduce seizures and help people with the condition live well.
Diet and epilepsy
A review published in Neurology found that a diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates may help reduce epileptic seizures. The ‘classic’ ketogenic diet modified Atkins have been shown to be effective in controlling seizures in children, however, they are examined insufficiently in adults. Also, there’s no evidence linking any specific food to seizure activity.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in whole foods can help the body and brain to function normally. This, in turn, will promote health, reducing the risk of seizures. Basically, a balanced diet is made up of different nutrients such as:
Proteins – found in meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, dairy foods such as milk and cheese.
Fibre – present in whole grains, different colours of fruits and vegetables that also provide various vitamins and minerals. Including fibre-rich foods – which release energy levels slowly and steadily as well as help you feel full for longer – in your diet can be beneficial.
Carbs – found in foods such as potatoes, bread, pasta and rice, etc.
Healthy fats – can be found in oily fish, nuts and seeds. Including fibre-rich foods – which release energy levels slowly and steadily as well as help you feel full for longer – in your diet can be beneficial.
Additionally, it’s important to drink plenty of water to help your body and brain function, concentrate, and reduce the risk of seizures that may be triggered by dehydration.