Bruce Shiell, Wellbeing Worker at Epilepsy Scotland looks at how complementary therapies in conjuction with anti-epileptic medication can have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
There is a lot more to managing epilepsy than just seizure control.
A good quality of life is important, and this is where complementary therapies can be most effective.
However, complementary therapies should not be seen as an alternative to anti-epileptic medication.
For many people stress, anxiety or lack of sleep can be a trigger for their seizures.
Using complementary therapies to manage these triggers for seizures can have a positive impact on a person’s overall wellbeing and could potentially help reduce the number of seizures.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils which are extracted from plants, chosen for a specific effect.
Some are calming and relaxing and may help you manage stress or anxiety levels.
However, other oils including hyssop, rosemary, sweet fennel, sage and wormwood can trigger seizures if you have epilepsy.
A qualified aromatherapist should know which oils are safe to use for someone who has epilepsy.
Yoga and meditation
Many people do meditation or yoga in order to unwind, or to become more mindful and reconnect with mind and body.
This can bring about a feeling of wellbeing and calm and over time an improvement in your physical health. If your seizures are triggered by deep states of relaxation, meditation may not be advisable.
However, most people who meditate will not necessarily get into a deep meditative state; something usually only achieved by very experienced meditators.
Nutritional and dietary therapies
We are all advised to aim for a healthy and balanced diet, but this is even more important for someone with epilepsy.
For example, an unhealthy diet consisting of processed foods and lacking in essential nutrients can affect the quality of your sleep. We know that tiredness and lack of sleep is a common trigger for seizures.
Some anti-epileptic drugs, especially when taken long term, can deplete nutrients in our bodies such as Vitamin D.
There is also some anecdotal evidence that lack of certain vitamins and minerals may trigger seizures.
However, there are though some supplements, which have a known effect of triggering a seizure and should be avoided.
You should always seek medical advice before you take any supplements.
Herbal medicine uses extracts from plants to treat different health problems and has been used for thousands of years across many different cultures.
They can also have side effects just like man-made medicine.
Never use herbal medicine without consulting a qualified medical herbalist.
This involves inserting fine needles into certain parts of the body.
As with herbal medicine, an acupuncturist should never claim to be able to cure epilepsy.
There is some evidence that this therapy can be effective in reducing seizure triggers like stress or anxiety.
Before you start treatment, alert the therapist to the possibility of you having a seizure.
Inserting needles does not usually cause any pain or discomfort. However, if stress is one of your triggers and you are anxious about the treatment, then this may not be suitable.