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Epilepsy and Nutrition

General Nutritional Guidelines return to first page

Vitamin D is depleted by the intake of anticonvulsants, supplements should not exceed 10g. The recommended daily intake in most countries is 2.5g, although in some countries it is as much as 10g. If you spend a reasonable length of time in the sun it is probably not necessary to have supplements. However, in the winter, or if you don't like the sun, supplements may be necessary. Deficiency is more common in vegetarians and those of Asian descent (due to the diet and skin type). Deficiency symptoms are muscular spasms and weakness, bone pain, and brittle bones. The best sources of vitamin D are sunlight, fish oil, oily fish, tuna, eggs, butter and milk.

Vitamin E has been indicated in research to reduce seizure rate by as much as 50%. Generally it works particularly well when used with selenium. Vitamin E is destroyed by cooking and the recommended daily intake is at least 30mg. Deficiency will result in apathy, irritability and lack of concentration. It reduces the oxygen needs of the muscles which means that it should help if your problem is affected by a lack of oxygen to the brain, for example, if you have a chest problem. A common intake for treatment is 500IU or more. Deficiency can be caused by contraceptive pills and air pollution. The best sources of vitamin E are vegetable and fish oils, wheatgerm, leafy vegetables, egg yolk, legumes, lettuce, peanuts and wholewheat flour.

Vitamin K affects blood coagulation, bone formation and the conversion of glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver. It increases the resistance to infection in children. K is found in yoghurt, alfalfa, egg yolk and green leafy vegetables.

Calcium can be used with the treatment of epilepsy due to its sedative effects. It also affects the absorption of magnesium, so it is often a good idea to take the two together. It is possible to get pills containing a combination of calcium and magnesium. Extra calcium is given to those who have bone problems, allergy problems, depression, anxiety, menstrual pains and muscle and joint pains. If you are on the contraceptive pill, pregnant or breastfeeding, extra calcium may be needed. The recommended intake of calcium is 500-1500mg. The best sources of calcium are cheese, fish, nuts, root vegetables and eggs.

Chromium is important for blood sugar control. It stimulates the production of essential nerve substances. Deficiency can result in nervousness. Chromium is sometimes used in the treatment of low blood sugar. Those most likely to be at risk from chromium deficiency are the elderly, those who drink alcohol, who are slimming or pregnant or have a high intake of refined foods. There is no recommended daily intake but a safe and adequate range is given as 50-200g. The best source of chromium are yeast, liver, cheese, fruit juices, wholewheat and wheatgerm.

Copper helps produce enzymes that break down proteins to rebuild the body tissue. It also helps convert the body's iron into haemoglobin and to utilise vitamin C. A deficiency can lead to anemia, baldness, diarrhea, general weakness, impaired respiratory function and skin sores.

Magnesium. Convulsions are a known effect of a magnesium deficiency, as are weakness and tiredness, nervousness, muscle cramps, tremors and twitching, especially around the eyes. The recommended daily intake is about 400mg. More may be needed if you suffer from allergies, premenstrual syndrome or menstrual cramps, are suffering from morning sickness or hypoglycemia, or on the contraceptive pill or antibiotics. More magnesium is needed for those who have a high intake of fluoride - this can occur in areas with fluoridated water and in those who drink a lot of tea. The suggested supplementation of magnesium is 500-1000mg. Magnesium tablets should be taken in conjunction with calcium. There are tablets available which combine the two. This is a very important nutrient in epilepsy. The best sources of magnesium are soya beans, nuts, brown rice, fish and lentils.