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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Epilepsy
The following are general guidelines you can follow to reduce your risk of seizures:
- Develop a sleep routine. Try to go to bed at the same time and sleep the same number of hours. This is important because lack of sleep can lower the seizure threshold and increase the risk of seizures.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol also lowers the threshold and increases the risk of seizures. Alcohol also interacts with the anti-epileptic drugs, which can lead to seizures.
- Always tell your doctors that you have a seizure disorder. Many medications prescribed for various conditions may cause drug interactions and cause seizures, or lower the seizure threshold and cause seizures.
- Keep a seizure diary of dates, type, frequency, duration, aura description, post-seizure description, and other details.
- Have medical follow-ups.
- Discuss a safe diet and exercise program with your doctor.
- Discuss driving privileges with your doctor, as each case and state requirements differ.
In some people, especially children, a strict diet rich in fats and low in carbohydrates may help lessen the number of seizures. This is called the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet forces the body to break down fats rather than carbohydrates to provide the energy needed to survive. It is usually tried in children whose epileptic seizures are poorly controlled with medications. One study showed that the diet decreased the frequency of seizures 50%-90% in 75% of the patients studied. Another study comparing the ketogenic diet to no change in treatment showed that the diet may reduce seizures in children. It is not known exactly why the diet helps decrease seizures.
This diet is not easy to follow. It is very rigid, and the number of foods available to eat is very limited. Children are usually admitted to the hospital to begin this diet and must be followed very closely by a doctor and/or registered dietitian while they are on the diet. It also has possible side effects. These include:
- Stunted growth due to nutrient deficiencies
- Pancreatitis due to elevated triglycerides
- Build-up of uric acid, which can cause kidney stones or gout
- Increased risk for heart disease, due to the high fat intake
Those on the diet should:
- Work with a registered dietitian
- Have regular medical check-ups
When to Contact Your Doctor
- You (or your child) experience any unusual or severe symptoms or side effects
- You (or your child) have a recurrence or change in the pattern of seizures
Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 18, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2013.
Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2013.
Seizure disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/seizure-disorders/seizure-disorders. Updated May 2012. Accessed February 22, 2013.
Treating seizures and epilepsy. Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at:http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy. Accessed February 17, 2014.
5/14/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Neal EG, Chaffe H, Schwartz RH, et al. The ketogenic diet for the treatment of childhood epilepsy: a randomized controlled trial. Lancet Neurol. 2008;7(6):500-506.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 03/2016
- Update Date: 03/15/2015