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Foods That Help Epilepsy

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
Foods That Help Epilepsy
A plate of grilled salmon with herbs and vegetables. Photo Credit gbh007/iStock/Getty Images


Epilepsy is a disorder in which the electrical signals in your brain trigger seizures. Seizures vary in severity, ranging from staring blankly ahead for a few seconds to full convulsions. Approximately 1 in 100 people in the United States have epilepsy, according to MayoClinic.com. In addition to medical treatments, such as anticonvulsant medications and, in some cases, surgery, a healthy diet can enhance your overall wellness and potentially reduce epileptic symptoms.

Meat and Seafood

Meat and seafood are rich sources of protein and nutrients that support your immune system, such as zinc. Meat and seafood are also naturally devoid of carbohydrates. A popular dietary technique used to treat epilepsy involves a ketogenic diet, in which you consume primarily protein, fats and limited amounts of carbohydrates. Without ample glucose, which you reap from carbohydrates, your body will begin to convert stored fat into energy. A ketogenic diet can help reduce or eliminate seizures, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America, though doctors remain unsure as to why. Once your doctor approves a ketogenic diet, each of your plates should contain roughly 80 percent protein. Choose high-quality protein sources most often, which include lean red meat, poultry, fish and seafood, such as shrimp, scallops and lobster.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide rich amounts of antioxidants -- nutrients that support your body's ability to defend itself from disease. Research published in "Clinica Chimica Acta" in January 2001 showed a correlation between antioxidant deficiencies and epileptic seizures. In the study, antioxidant levels of 29 patients with epilepsy, some of whom received antioxidant supplementation, were analyzed. After one year, the patients with lower antioxidant levels were most prone to seizures. The researchers concluded that free radicals -- toxins combatted by antioxidants -- may contribute to epilepsy. To increase your antioxidant intake, incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, cherries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, spinach, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, into your diet regularly. If you're following a ketogenic diet, choose non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, bell peppers, string beans and broccoli, which are low in carbohydrates, most often.

Butter and Oil

Butter and oil are fat sources, which help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients and enhance brain function. Johns Hopkins epilepsy specialist Dr. Eric Kossoff encourages high-fat foods, including butter and oil, as part of a "modified" ketogenic diet. The diet is less restrictive of fluids than the conventional ketogenic diet and has significantly improved symptoms in epileptic patients, according to Epilepsy.com. Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends the program if you have epilepsy and are overweight or have had little success with other treatment forms. If you are following the conventional ketogenic diet, modest amounts of butter and plant-based oils, such as olive and canola oil, which promote cardiovascular health, are encouraged.

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