Nutrition

Anti-seizure Foods: What to Know

Research has found that several diets, such as the ketogenic diet and the modified Atkins diet, can play a role in the management of epilepsy and seizures.

Limiting sugary foods and prioritizing whole foods such as fruits and vegetables may help reduce the frequency of seizures and improve the quality of life for people with epilepsy.

This article reviews the best foods for epilepsy, how they can reduce seizures, and what foods to avoid.

Best Foods for Epilepsy

According to a 2019 research review, several studies have found that the ketogenic diet can help manage epilepsy and improve the frequency of seizures. This is because the ketogenic diet mimics a fasting state. During this state, epilepsy symptoms often lessen or go away for a while.

Eating a ketogenic diet plays an important role in epilepsy cases that do not improve after surgery or are drug-resistant. About 30% of people have drug-resistant epilepsy.

The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat diet. It avoids sugary and refined foods, including meats, cheese, nuts, fish, and high fiber fruits and vegetables.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes frequent seizures. Short bursts of electrical activity in the brain can result in seizures, alongside other symptoms such as uncontrollable shaking or loss of awareness.

Learn more about epilepsy.

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables and fruits have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as high vitamin and mineral content. All of this can help reduce the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy.

However, not every fruit and vegetable is good for epilepsy. Good fruits and vegetables for epilepsy have a high fiber content and low glycemic index (GI), such as:

  • berries
  • citrus fruits
  • peppers
  • apples
  • legumes, such as beans or peas
  • tomatoes
  • cherries
  • pomegranates
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • kale
  • Brussels sprouts

Proteins

The ketogenic diet is not the only dietary regimen that can help manage epilepsy.

According to a 2020 review, researchers found that the modified Atkins diet and low glycemic index treatment, which includes a high intake of proteins and healthy fats, can help with seizures and other symptoms of epilepsy.

Proteins to eat for managing epilepsy include:

  • poultry
  • red meat
  • fish
  • eggs
  • dairy products
  • legumes
  • nuts and seeds
  • tofu

Healthy Fats

Most diets for epilepsy include foods containing healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This is because unsaturated fats, which are ones that are liquid at room temperature, have several health benefits, including:

  • reducing cholesterol levels
  • easing inflammation
  • reducing cancer risk
  • preventing cognitive degeneration and dementia

Foods containing healthy fats include:

  • fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines
  • nuts and seeds
  • avocado
  • yogurt
  • olives
  • tofu
  • eggs

People can also prioritize healthy oils and fats when cooking, such as:

  • olive oil
  • sunflower oil
  • canola oil
  • sesame oil
  • safflower oil
  • corn oil
  • peanut oil

Fluids

Dehydration can cause seizures. It’s important for people with epilepsy to make sure they drink plenty of fluids and keep good hydration throughout the day.

Avoiding alcoholic drinks is one component of staying hydrated while also managing epilepsy. Drinking alcohol, especially heavy alcohol use, can increase the risk of experiencing a seizure.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, so it can reduce hydration by increasing a person’s urine output.

Low Glycemic Index Foods

A low glycemic index (GI) diet can help reduce the risk of blood sugar spikes. This can help manage epilepsy, as having low blood glucose levels can help people reduce their risk of seizures. These foods include cheese, high fiber vegetables, and meat.

Experts recommend people with epilepsy try avoiding eating too many carbohydrates with a high GI, such as white bread, baked goods, and processed snacks. These can significantly affect blood glucose levels.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that help the body work properly and remain healthy. Doctors have noticed that nutrient deficiencies can increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy, in particular:

  • zinc
  • selenium
  • vitamin B-complex
  • vitamin D

People can speak with a doctor who can determine whether they have any deficiencies and advise whether vitamin or mineral supplementation may be beneficial.

Foods to Avoid

People with epilepsy should avoid or limit the consumption of foods that can cause sudden spikes in their blood sugar levels. This includes foods high in sugar and refined carbs as well as highly processed foods high in unhealthy fats.

This is because eating these types of foods may not provide a person with all the vitamins and minerals necessary to keep their body in good health, leading to more health complications along with epilepsy.

Foods that may trigger seizures

Heavy alcohol use is a common seizure trigger. Small amounts of alcohol do not trigger seizures, reports the Epilepsy Foundation.

According to the Epilepsy Society, there is no high quality evidence that specific foods trigger seizures. However, everyone’s epilepsy is different. Some people may find the following trigger seizures, but others may not:

  • colorings and preservatives
  • artificial sweeteners
  • caffeine

Research into specific foods triggering seizures is needed.

Blood Sugar and Seizures

Doctors do not fully understand how blood sugar levels can trigger seizures. However, they have noticed that a sudden crash or spike in blood sugar levels can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy and diabetes.

2021 study found that people with epilepsy have a higher risk of experiencing a seizure up to 60 minutes after eating. Eating a balanced and nutrient-dense diet focusing on a higher healthy fat and protein intake may help reduce the risk of experiencing blood sugar spikes and seizures.

Support for Seizures and Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic condition. It may cause anxiety and other mental health concerns, as it may be difficult to predict when a seizure will occur. This may cause a loss of independence and other challenges that can make it difficult for a person to feel safe when on their own.

Organizations such as the Epilepsy Foundation offer support, guidance, and resources for people with epilepsy and their caregivers.

An individual may also consider joining a local support group for people with seizure disorders. It may help people connect with others by sharing their experiences, learning new strategies to cope with their condition, and feeling more independent.

Summary

Experts recommend people with epilepsy and seizures eat diets that focus on a higher healthy fat and protein intake, such as the modified Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet. This is because eating significant quantities of carbohydrates can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and increase the risk of seizures.

To prevent seizures, people can avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine as well as foods containing high levels of carbohydrates and sugar, such as highly processed foods like baked goods.

Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/best-anti-seizure-foods