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Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy

There have been some studies of alternative treatments for epilepsy -- including biofeedback, melatonin, or large doses of vitamins:

 

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Understanding Epilepsy -- the Basics

Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures -- episodes of abnormal electrical activity in almost any part of the brain. The symptoms of a seizure can mimic any form of human behavior, depending on which part of the brain is affected. Generally, the term epilepsy (or seizure disorder) refers to relatively stereotyped attacks of involuntary behavior. The exact symptoms and severity may vary, and the seizures may occur infrequently or in rapid succession. While every case of epilepsy...

Read the Understanding Epilepsy -- the Basics article > >

Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a method of using relaxation or imagery to change body functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. A biofeedback practitioner measures these functions with electrodes and a monitor. The practitioner describes a stressful situation and then teaches the patient various relaxation techniques.

The patient can see on the monitor the differences between stressed and relaxed situations. He or she can then use the relaxation techniques to feel more relaxed and control these body functions.

Biofeedback has been shown to help people with high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and pain. Researchers have investigated whether biofeedback can help control seizures, but the results have not been encouraging. However, patients who have seizures triggered by anxiety or stressful situations may benefit from this therapy, in addition to their seizure medications.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that is manufactured by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin has been touted as an anti-aging substance, as a sleep aid, and as an antioxidant (a substance that protects against free radicals -- molecules that can damage the body). Studies into these claims have not been conclusive.

As for epilepsy, one study showed that melatonin may reduce the incidence of seizures in children, while another study found that melatonin increased the risk of seizures. At this time, it is believed that melatonin does not significantly help prevent seizures.

Vitamins

Although vitamins are necessary for good health, large doses of vitamins do not improve the symptoms of epilepsy and may even be harmful. You should get most of your vitamins from food by eating a balanced diet. If necessary, vitamin supplements such as folic acid can help deal with vitamin loss caused by medication. People with epilepsy taking seizure medications do appear to have an increased need for calcium and vitamin D to help keep their bones healthy. Pregnant women also need sufficient folic acid to help prevent birth defects.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jon Glass on June 18, 2012
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