A healthy diet contributes to a reduction in the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy. Therefore, families should learn what people with epilepsy should eat and what to abstain from to assist the patient in building a balanced and appropriate diet.
The role of nutrition in epilepsy
Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder characterized by sudden, unpredictable, and recurrent seizures. Currently, the exact cause of this disease is still unknown. However, experts found that seizures are triggered when a group of nerve cells over-discharge.
Epilepsy is a chronic disease and there is no definitive cure. However, more than 70% of patients can manage seizures and lead stable, normal lives with active treatment. In particular, nutrition is an important part of the treatment plan.
A reasonable diet helps stabilize neurons in the brain and keep energy levels stable for the brain. This greatly helps in reducing the frequency of seizures, while helping to improve physical and mental health for patients.
Diet for epilepsy patients focuses on adding foods that are good for the brain, helping to stabilize nerve cells and provide abundant energy for the body. In addition, foods rich in antioxidants are also added to the diet to eliminate free radicals, which can aggravate epilepsy.
In parallel with the addition of beneficial food groups, epilepsy patients need to abstain from foods and beverages that increase the sensitivity of neurons. Because this means that seizures will appear more often. In addition, an unreasonable diet will make health decline and increase physical and mental health problems in people with epilepsy.
What should people with epilepsy eat?
Epilepsy is characterized by disturbances in the activity of a group of central neurons. To stabilize brain electrical activity and calm nerves, patients should supplement with healthy food groups. In addition, a reasonable diet also helps restore movement after convulsions.
If you are wondering what people with epilepsy should eat, readers can refer to the following information:
1. Green vegetables, fruits
Vegetables and fruits are recommended to be added to the daily diet. This food group provides fiber to help balance intestinal bacteria, promote metabolism and improve taste. Therefore, green vegetables and fruits are often added to the diet to avoid anorexia in people with epilepsy – especially young children.
Vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin C, zinc, manganese, potassium, folic acid, etc. in vegetables and fruits are all good nutrients for the brain. Studies show that vitamins and minerals from vegetables help regulate levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Thereby reducing the frequency of seizures and improving emotional and behavioral abnormalities in epilepsy patients.
Most plants are rich in antioxidants. Therefore, adding vegetables and fruits regularly will provide the body with a large amount of antioxidants. These substances have the effect of scavenging free radicals and reducing the over-sensitivity of neurons.
Research published in 2001 found that people who supplemented with fewer antioxidants had a higher risk of seizures. For this reason, epilepsy patients are encouraged to include green vegetables and fruits in their daily diet.
2. Foods rich in Omega 3, 6
Omega 3, 6 are essential fats for the body in general and the brain in particular. Omega 3 is an important building block for nerve cells. Therefore, adding foods containing essential fats will help improve the nervous system and reduce the frequency of seizures.
Omega 3 has been shown to increase brain activity and reduce neuronal disturbances and abnormalities. Regular Omega 3 supplements also help improve memory, sleep well and prevent dementia.
Omega 3 and 6 are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body and can only be obtained through the diet. People with epilepsy can get Omega 3 through chia seeds, fatty fish, seaweed and some vegetables. Omega 6 is abundant in pumpkin seeds, peas, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, …
3. Foods rich in amino acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins (proteins) found in many different foods. In addition to providing protein for the body, amino acids also play an important role in the brain – especially tyrosine and tryptophan.
Amino acids provide an abundant source of energy, thereby maintaining stable energy for the brain. This has been shown to limit and prevent seizures in patients with epilepsy. In addition, adding foods rich in amino acids also helps to balance the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, etc.
Some epilepsy patients are forced to restrict carbohydrates (starches). Therefore, it is necessary to increase the amount of protein-rich foods to provide enough energy for the body. Amino acids are found in most meats, fish, legumes, seeds, green vegetables and tubers. However, people with epilepsy should focus on getting amino acids from nuts, beans and white meat to avoid raising cholesterol. In addition, supplements can be used if prescribed by a doctor.
4. Add calcium-rich foods
Epilepsy patients often have calcium deficiency. Adequate calcium intake will help maintain stability for the central nervous system and avoid irritability, difficulty sleeping, and restless sleep in children with epilepsy.
Foods rich in calcium such as shrimp, shrimp, eggs, legumes, cow’s milk, etc. should be regularly added to the diet of epilepsy patients. Besides calcium, these food groups also provide the body with protein along with other abundant vitamins and minerals.
5. Foods Rich in Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that prevents aging, moisturizes and beautifies the skin. Few people know that this vitamin can also reduce seizures in epilepsy patients.
Vitamin E helps stabilize the permeability of brain cells, thereby limiting the situation of groups of cells that discharge excessively and cause convulsions. To manage this disease, patients should add foods rich in vitamin E such as eggs, peanut oil, seaweed, olive oil, coconut oil, carrots, etc.
What should people with epilepsy eat?
Certain foods can increase nerve cell sensitivity and increase the frequency of seizures. In addition, consuming unhealthy food groups will significantly affect a patient’s overall health. Therefore, people with epilepsy must abstain from certain foods and drinks.
Understanding what people with epilepsy should abstain from will help them build a reasonable diet. Many studies have shown that abstaining from the following foods and drinks can limit the frequency of recurrent seizures:
1. Limit salt and sugar
Epilepsy patients need to limit salt and sugar in their diet. Eating too much salt and sugar will unbalance neuronal activity, thereby increasing the frequency of seizures and abnormal behaviors and emotions.
In addition, when eating sweets, the brain will continuously release dopamine – a neurotransmitter that creates feelings of joy and satisfaction. However, too much dopamine will cause the nervous system to be overexcited and trigger recurrent seizures.
Besides, sugar and salt are not good for health. Therefore, epilepsy patients need to control the amount of sugar and salt in the diet to manage the disease and protect their own health.
2. Foods containing gluten
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, etc. Although gluten can provide energy for the body, some people are allergic or intolerant to this protein. Epilepsy patients are advised to abstain from gluten-containing foods in their diets, even if they are tolerable.
This is because gluten-containing foods can increase nerve cell sensitivity. This conclusion is drawn from many different studies. Experts have found that gluten causes adverse reactions to both central and peripheral neurons in some people.
In addition, gluten-rich foods contain aspartate and glutamate – two amino acids that can increase the electrical discharge of the brain that is the mechanism that triggers seizures. Therefore, epilepsy patients should avoid gluten-containing foods for successful disease management and control.
3. Milk and dairy products
In fact, people with epilepsy do not need to completely abstain from milk and dairy products. However, to avoid flare-ups of seizures, this food group should be limited. According to research by experts, glutamine in some unpasteurized milk can increase seizures and adversely affect the treatment of epilepsy.
4. Canned food and drinks
Canned foods and drinks often contain sweeteners, colors, flavors, additives and preservatives. These are all unhealthy and can increase the sensitivity of central neurons. If used for a long time, nerve cells can be disturbed, thereby increasing the twitching muscles and causing many health problems.
People with epilepsy, especially children, should limit carbonated soft drinks, canned meats, canned pates, sausages, bacon, etc. Instead, use fresh food to ensure nutritional value. and does not disturb the activity of nerve cells.
5. Abstain from alcohol and coffee
Both coffee and alcohol have direct effects on the central nervous system. The effects of these drinks make the brain excited and cause seizures. In addition, long-term alcohol tolerance also disrupts neurotransmitters, accelerates cell degeneration and reduces brain activity.
Not only causing negative effects on the treatment of epilepsy, alcohol also has countless harmful effects on the organs in the body. Therefore, epilepsy patients should abstain from alcohol to avoid affecting their health and treatment process.
6. Limit MSG when processing food
MSG is a spice commonly used in Asia. Monosodium glutamate helps the dish to have a natural sweet taste, but it also has many potential risks if you add too much. People with epilepsy themselves have more sensitive neurons than normal. Therefore, avoid using MSG when preparing food.
MSG contains a lot of glutamate that can stimulate nerve cells, thereby increasing electrical discharge in the brain and as a result causing seizures. Instead of MSG, you can use naturally sweet tubers such as onions and radishes to create a sweet taste for the dish.
7. Foods containing trans fats
If unsaturated fats are good for the brain, trans fats cause many harms to health in general and the brain in particular. Trans fats are found in cookies, fried foods, baked goods, and fast foods. Many studies show that long-term trans fat tolerance is associated with inflammation of neurons, disrupted nerve signal transmission, memory loss and brain atrophy.
To control epilepsy effectively, patients should limit foods containing trans fats as much as possible. These dishes not only affect the central nervous system but also cause many problems related to digestion, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
Special diets for epilepsy patients
As mentioned, nutrition is part of an epilepsy treatment plan. Therefore, experts have developed a number of special diets to control this disease. Special diets have been recognized for their effectiveness in improving health and reducing the frequency of seizures.
Special diets for people with epilepsy:
1. Keto Diet (Ketogenic)
Ketogenic is one of the most popular diets. This diet mainly provides energy for the body through foods containing good fats and limiting the amount of carbohydrates (starch) to the maximum. Ketogenic is often applied to those who want to lose weight because of its ability to help the body burn energy without the need for excessive abstinence.
In addition, the keto diet is used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy and is especially effective in children. In this diet, foods containing carbohydrates make up only 5% of the total food intake.
Since it doesn’t have to metabolize carbs, the body uses energy from stored fat and blood sugar. This brings many benefits to health and especially to epilepsy patients. Research done in 2008 found that the keto diet reduced seizures in children by about 75%.
After that, other studies were also carried out and showed very positive results. Currently, Ketogenic is applied to treat many different diseases such as diabetes, obesity and some brain disorders. The drawback of this diet is that it is very difficult to follow – especially for those who are used to a high-carbohydrate diet.
2. Atkins diet
The Atkins diet was originally used for weight loss. Similar to the Keto diet, this diet reduces starch tolerance, instead adding good fats and protein to provide energy for the body. The Atkins diet is similar to the Keto diet, but has fewer side effects and is easier to follow. In some cases, there was a 90% reduction in seizures after applying this diet.
However, because of the high intake of protein-rich foods, some people will face an increased risk of cholesterol. For this reason, epilepsy patients should prioritize white meat instead of red meat, especially fish, shrimp and squid meat to limit the harmful effects on health.
Special diets require the patient’s patience, so not everyone can do it. If you are not ready for these diets, you can still manage your epilepsy by limiting certain foods and beverages. In addition, should exercise the body, sleep on time and limit stress to control seizures.
Hopefully, through the above information, the patient understands what people with epilepsy should eat and what to abstain from? and have a basic understanding of special diets. For more advice, you can talk to a nutritionist or a neurologist.