Epilepsy A Simple Natural Remedy
"If in doubt, try nutrition first."
(Roger J. Williams, PhD, in Nutrition Against Disease)
"Most epileptics are magnesium deficient. I wish I had found this out 40 years ago. Now I can even drive a car and ride a bike. It is so wonderful not to have seizures anymore plus not have to depend on drugs all the time and of course be free of drug side-effects."
Sarah and her fiancé Richard wanted to have children as soon as they were married. Sarah had just been diagnosed with epilepsy, however, and was offered Phenobarbital as therapy. She and Richard read up on the drug, and now knew, as did their doctor, that pregnancy while taking a barbiturate was not ideal.
"So we want to look into other options," Sarah said to me in the office. "Could vitamins replace the drug?"
"I'm not sure," I said. "My mother has been medicated for grand mal epilepsy for over 50 years now and it's a really long shot to think that a nutrient could be enough. Still, Sarah, you have the advantage of being young. There is evidence that epilepsy in teenagers can be connected with magnesium deficiency. You've had blood tests done?"
"Oh, yes," she said. "Tons of them, and here's the latest."
She handed me a copy. No one had even looked for serum magnesium.
"O.K. then," I said. "Ask your doctor to check your blood magnesium levels, and let me know what they find."
So they did check. Sarah's serum magnesium levels were so low as to be actually unmeasurable.
"The doctor was a bit surprised at that," Sarah said next time we talked. "So now what?"
"Let's try a large quantity of magnesium, starting with a supplement of 800 milligrams a day. That's just over twice the RDA, so it is not unreasonable. Then you can gradually work up from there if need be. You'll know if you are taking too much: the biggest side effect of too much magnesium is diarrhea. You've heard of milk of magnesia?"
"The laxative, sure."
"That is a magnesium preparation. Your supplement will be better absorbed, though. Especially if you take the right form, take it often, and really need it. Then your body will soak it up like a sponge. Try magnesium citrate, or magnesium gluconate. Divide your daily intake over four or more doses, at least. Then let's see what we get."
A few weeks later, we met again. Sarah had new bloodwork results in hand. Her magnesium level was just barely measurable... and she was taking 1,200 mg a day.
"Wow! Where's it all going?" Sarah asked. "I've had no loose bowels at all."
"Your body is evidently using it. This suggests a real, long-standing deficiency on your part. Of course, nearly 99% of young women do not even get the US RDA of magnesium. But this is beyond that. You have a special need for this mineral. The tests confirm that."
"But wouldn't the blood levels go up more than that little bit?" Sarah said.
"You'd think so, but not necessarily. You are more than your blood, important though blood certainly is. Serum tests fail to indicate how much of this or that is actually inside your body's cells. There are, after all, some 40 trillion of them. Magnesium is involved in over 2,000 chemical reactions throughout your body. It is needed everywhere and always. Oddly enough, the cells can be critically low in magnesium and some of the mineral will often still show up in the serum. In your case, it's more the other way around. Now that you are supplementing with magnesium, your cells must be getting it, and there's not much left in the blood that transports it. There are a lot of tanker trucks on your highways, but they're empty. The cargo is delivered and now the fuel is in every home."
"So it looks like I need more magnesium than most people," said Sarah. "Well, if I do take lots of it, will I need less of the drug?"
"That's the idea. Do you want to run it by your doctor? You could ask him if he'd consider try gradually decreasing your dose of Phenobarbital down to the minimum that keeps you symptom free."
She did, and he did. Sarah ended up on the lowest possible dose of the drug and a very high maintenance dose of magnesium. This was not an landslide victory for nutrition, but it points to a greater good: an optimally-nourished body may need very little medication. What are the long-term consequences of millions of Americans taking less of each of their many drugs? Healthier people, greater safety and greater savings. Only the pharmaceutical companies could possibly object.
And they do, of course. The US Food and Drug Administration shares the industry's concern that it might lose its therapeutic monopoly. Here is a direct quote from FDA Deputy Commissioner for Policy David Adams, at the Drug Information Association Annual Meeting, July 12, 1993:
"Pay careful attention to what is happening with dietary supplements in the legislative arena... If these efforts are successful, there could be created a class of products to compete with approved drugs. The establishment of a separate regulatory category for supplements could undercut exclusivity rights enjoyed by the holders of approved drug applications."
And a quote from the FDA Dietary Task Force Report, released June 15, 1993:
"The task force considered many issues in its deliberations including to ensure that the existence of dietary supplements on the market does not act as a disincentive for drug development."
When is the last time you saw a calendar, pen, ad or prescription pad in your doctor's hand that said "Magnesium" on it?
Keep looking. It will be in some quack's office, no doubt.
Or not. L.B. Barnett, MD was onto this some 40 years ago. He wrote "Clinical Studies of Magnesium Deficiency in Epilepsy," published in Clinical Physiology 1(2) Fall, 1959. But who cares about old papers? Our society prefers new lamps for old. New drugs invariably preempt old minerals. Too bad, when the old lamp or the old research may hold the genie.
E IS FOR EPILEPSY
Children using anti-epileptic medication have reduced plasma levels of vitamin E, a sign of vitamin E deficiency. So doctors at theUniversity ofToronto gave epileptic children 400 IU of vitamin E per day for several months, along with their medication. This combined treatment reduced the frequency of seizures in most of the children by over 60 percent. Half of them "had a 90 to 100 percent reduction in seizures." (33) This extraordinary result is also proof of the safety of 400 IU of vitamin E per day in children (equivalent to at least 800 to 1,200 IU/day for an adult). "There were no adverse side effects," said the researchers. It also provides a clear example of pharmaceutical use creating a vitamin deficiency, and an unassailable justification for supplementation. (Ogunmekan AO, Hwang PA. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of D-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), as add-on therapy, for epilepsy in children. Epilepsia. 1989 Jan-Feb; 30(1):84-9.)
ANOTHER CASE HISTORY
In early 2005, I read an article written by you about magnesium and seizures, in which magnesium was used to reduce drugs but still control the seizures. Honestly, I did not credit it as possible to stop my seizures. I was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child. I was having petite mal seizures (also called absence or psychomotor seizures). When I was 16 years old I had my first temporal lobe convulsion. So then I was taking 2 drugs for 2 types of seizures. Then I started having grand mal seizures . . and now 3 drugs. When I was 19 years old, I decided to train as an EEG (electroencephalograph) technician. My motivation was that I wanted to see if there were any treatments for epilepsy. My parents and I had been told by neurologists in Canada, England, and the States that I would have to take drugs for the rest of my life. And my parents were told that I was retarded . . and that all epileptics were retarded.
I trained at two teaching hospitals affiliated to universities in Canada. There was nothing in allopathic medicine for epilepsy except drugs and possibly surgery in the future. I took drugs for 49 years, and this is well documented as I had EEGs every year or two.
Because of what I learned, I started using transdermal magnesium chloride every day on my feet in whole-tub baths, plus occasionally in footbaths also. I had something called peripheral neuropathy in my feet. At that stage I had lost most of the feeling in my feet, plus was also getting very sharp pains in my feet at night. I was very concerned that I would end up in a wheelchair.
I no longer have peripheral neuropathy - it took almost 2 years to get all the feeling back in my feet. I noticed during this time that I was not having as many seizures - my temporal lobe and grand mal seizures had been controlled for the most part, but not my petite mal seizures unless I took such a high dose of the drugs that I was literally drugged out of my mind. I started taking oral magnesium everyday with B6. At the same time, I was decreasing the drugs I was on. It worked. I have not taken any drugs at all since October 3, 2007, and I have not had any seizures of any kind.
One of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency is seizures, and according to studies I have read, most epileptics are magnesium deficient. I wish I had found this out 40 years ago. Now I can even drive a car and ride a bike. It is so wonderful not to have seizures anymore plus not have to depend on drugs all the time and of course be free of drug side-effects.
I am so thrilled that I am over the moon about this - it is more wonderful then I can express that it is possible for everyone whom has seizures to not have seizures anymore if they get only get their magnesium levels up. Since some drugs deplete magnesium, it is no wonder that with many epileptics that there seizures get worse with time
When I trained as an EEG technician we were told that when a nerve cell (neuron) became irritated, it gave off an extra large burst of electricity and this is what caused a seizure. The kind of seizures depended on what part of the brain the burst of electricity originated from as well as how far down the brain stem the burst of electricity went.
Magnesium appears to calm the irritated neurons and prevents extra large bursts of electrical activity. There is a 'catch' to this - it is hard to get magnesium levels up and oral magnesium alone may not be enough. When I suggest to anyone to get magnesium levels up whether it is because of seizures, heart issues, migraine headaches , high blood pressure, etc. that the easiest and surest way to get magnesium levels up is with magnesium chloride IVs, or injection, or transdermal magnesium chloride.
-Dr Andew Saul