Epilepsy is a brain disorder involving repeated, spontaneous seizures of any type. Seizures (“fits,” convulsions) are episodes of disturbed brain function that cause changes in attention or behavior. They are caused by abnormally excited electrical signals in the brain. Epilepsy may be idiopathic, which means the cause cannot be identified. These seizures usually begin between ages 5 and 20, but they can happen at any age.
Epilepsy and Gut Health
In addition to epilepsy, modern research has found multiple health-issues linked to gut damage including: alcoholism, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, lupus, chronic fatigue, diabetes, schizophrenia, major depression and other mental illnesses, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and many more.
The millions of villi in our intestinal system absorb nutrients. Our digestive system prevents toxins from reaching the brain. Once the villi are damaged, they can no longer absorb minerals and vitamins, fats and amino acids, nor can they protect the brain from the thousands of toxins in our world today. A diet eliminating gut-damaging foods has shown tremendous success for many of our clients. The interesting part is that all of these different health-issues respond to the same foods being eliminated; it makes one wonder if glutinous grains and cow dairy should be in our diet at all. The most damaging, however, is monosodium glutamate, or MSG.
Glutamic Acid and Asparatic Acid
Glutamic acid (glutamate) and aspartic acid (asparatate) combine as a non-essential amino acid that our bodies manufacture from proteins. Glutamate is one of the principal neurotransmitters in our brains and is important for learning and memory. It is regulated at the synapse by the adjacent glial cell to make sure excessive amounts do not accumulate. Excitotoxicity due to glutamate is associated with stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, lathyrism, autism, some forms of mental retardation, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. 1,2
There are numerous glutamate receptors in all organs and tissues. The entire GI tract, from the esophagus to the colon, has numerous glutamate receptors. The entire electrical conducting system of the heart is replete with all sorts of glutamate receptors. The lungs, the ovaries, all the reproductive systems and sperm itself, adrenal glands, bones and even calcification are all controlled by glutamate receptors. They act and operate exactly like the glutamate receptors in the brain.
So, when you’re consuming MSG, the level of glutamate in the blood can rise as high as 20-fold. You get very high glutamate levels in the blood after eating a meal containing MSG. You’re stimulating all of the glutamate receptors. That’s why some people get explosive diarrhea, because it stimulates the receptors in the esophagus and small bowel. Others may develop irritable bowel, or if they have irritable bowel, it makes it a lot worse. If someone has acid reflux, it makes that a lot worse.
See a visual of the glutamate process at Nutrition Genome here.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Homocysteine Levels
A study in 2007 showed 44.5 percent of epilepsy patients — 45.3 percent of men and 43.7 percent of women — were vitamin D deficient, putting these patients at potential increased risk for a wide variety of conditions, including osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infectious disease, among others. Investigators suspected vitamin D deficiency would be even higher in epilepsy patients, in large part because antiepileptic medications can affect vitamin D metabolism and lead to deficiency.
A 2012 study out of Hungary measured baseline levels of vitamin D in 13 subjects. The median serum levels was 11.8 ng/ml, ranging from less than 4 ng/ml to 34.2 ng/ml. After correcting the defiency and bringing the median up to 38 ng/ml, 10 of the 13 subjects exhibited a decrease in the number of seizures, with five of the patients experiencing a seizure reduction of 50%.
There is evidence to support the unfavorable effects of some anti-epileptic drugs on plasma homocysteine concentrations. Approximately 10-40% of epileptic patients develop high homocysteine levels.
In 2007 a prospective observational study was conducted in Italy to evaluate the influence of antiepileptic drugs and MTHFR polymorphism and levels of homocysteine. A higher prevalence of the MTHFR 1298C allele was observed in epileptic patients as compared to the controls. After folate therapy, plasma homocysteine and folate were normal in all patients.
The Elimination and Gut Healing Diet
An elimination diet allows the villi to heal, lower inflammation and allow the body to begin absorbing critical nutrients again. Eating protein with each meal and not going more than 3-4 hours without eating is important to keep blood sugar level.
Foods to Avoid:
- All MSG found often in restaurants and canned foods
- Wheat (30-35% of the protein in wheat is glutamic acid), barley, oats, rye, corn
- Cow dairy
- Artificial sweeteners (NutraSweet, Splenda)
- Diet sodas and regular sodas
- Grain-fed meat which is higher in glutamate and aspartate: — choose grass-fed meat, especially lamb and eggs which have the lowest glutamate and aspartate
- Nuts, beans and seeds very sparingly; avoid nut butters
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils
Foods to Eat (low in glutamate and asparate):
- Lamb and eggs
- All fruits and vegetables
- Potatoes and cauliflower will serve as the best grain substitutes
- Lamb and eggs are relatively low.
- Tree nuts (e.g. pecans, walnuts, macadamias in small quantities)
Anti-convulsant drugs can cause nutrient depletion. Phenytoin depletes biotin, calcium, folic acid, B1, B12 and vitamins D and K. Primidone depletes biotin and folic acid; valproic acid depletes carnitine. If you are taking primidone or carbamazepine, vitamin B3 interferes with the breakdown of the drugs and can cause an unsafe level of the drug in your body. An antibiotic called gentamicin has side effects including hearing loss and nerve damage that can lead to seizures. Always check with your health care practitioner when taking medications and supplements together.
Use under doctor’s instructions to catamenial seizures.
Provides full spectrum b-vitamins, including a low dose 400mcg of methylfolate. B6 is needed to convert glutamate to GABA.
Citramate binds to aluminum, which is retained by poor gut flora. Magnesium curbs sugar cravings, calms the body, is a natural calcium channel blocker, regulates blood sugar, increases energy naturally, and metabolizes estrogen. Low magnesium levels can lead to seizures.
Good gut flora is crucial to GABA production and a healthy gut/brain axis.
Vitamin C is crucial for GABA to inhibit excess glutamate, and lower high copper levels.
Zinc decreases high copper levels.
Multiple studies point towards the benefit of increasing vitamin D levels for reducing seizures.
1. Robert Sapolsky (2005). “Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd edition”. The Teaching Company. “see pages 19 and 20 of Guide Book”
2. Hynd MR, Scott HL, Dodd PR. (October 2004). “Glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.“. Neurochem Int. 45 (5): 583–95. doi:10.1016/j.neuint.2004.03.007. PMID 15234100. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15234100.
3. “PubMed Health.” Epilepsy. 23 Jan. 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001714/>.
4. Cassels, Carolyn. “Vitamin D Deficiency Highly Prevalent Among Epilepsy Patients.” Medscape Medical News. 6 Dec. 2007. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.
5. “Interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock on Devastating Health Effects of MSG, Aspartame and Excitotoxins.” Independent News on Natural Health, Nutrition and More. Web. 13 May 2011. <http://www.naturalnews.com/020550.html>.
6. Cass, Hyla MD. Supplement Your Prescription. Basic Health Publications Inc, 2007.
7. Cebulia, Brant. Correction of vitamin D deficiency improves seizure control in epilepsy. Vitamin D Council, April 18th, 2012. http://blog.vitamindcouncil.org/2012/04/18/correction-of-vitamin-d-deficiency-improves-seizure-control-in-epilepsy/
8. Apeland T, Mansoor MA, Pentieva K, McNulty H, Seljeflot I, Strandjord RE. The effect of B- vitamins on hyperhomocysteinemia in patients on antiepileptic drugs. Epilepsy Res. 2002; 51(3): 237–247. [PubMed: 12399074]
9. Belcastro V, Gaetano G, Italiano D, Oteri G, Caccamo D, Pisani LR, et al. Antiepileptic drugs and MTHFR polymorphisms influence hyper-homocysteinemia recurrence in epileptic patients. Epilepsia. 2007; 48(10):1990–1994. [PubMed: 17561949]