Some people with epilepsy turn to complementary therapies like acupuncture, vitamins, and supplements, and stress-relief techniques to help manage seizures. There isn’t a lot of research to show whether many of these treatments work. If you’re thinking of trying one, always check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you. And use them only as an add-on to your regular epilepsy treatment — not as a replacement for it.
In this traditional Chinese therapy, a practitioner places thin needles into your skin at various points around your body. Though acupuncture is helpful for problems like arthritis pain and headaches, it doesn’t seem to improve epilepsy. One review of studies found acupuncture doesn’t reduce the number of seizures people get.
Acupuncture is safe when it’s done correctly. If you do try this treatment, make sure the practitioner is licensed in your state and has experience treating epilepsy.
A few vitamin supplements have been studied for epilepsy.
Studies have found no reliable evidence to support the routine use of vitamins in patients with epilepsy. More studies are needed, especially to find out the role that vitamin E plays in seizures and how thiamine may help improve mental skills like thinking and remembering.
Talk to your doctor before you take any vitamin, and only use the recommended amount. Certain vitamins can be dangerous in large doses.
Some people take herbal supplements like mugwort, valerian, or burning bush to treat epilepsy. Yet the few studies that have been done haven’t proved that any herbal remedy prevents seizures.
If you want to try a supplement, check with your doctor first. Some herbal remedies can make your seizures worse. Others can affect your epilepsy medicines and cause side effects.
Scientists are also studying cannabinoids for the treatment of seizures.
Normally, your body uses carbs for energy. The ketogenic diet is high in fat and low in carbs, so it forces your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs. Ketones are substances your body makes when it breaks down fat for energy.
The ketogenic diet has been used to treat epilepsy for nearly 100 years. Studies show it helps prevent seizures in children whose epilepsy isn’t well-controlled with medicine. This diet might also help adults with epilepsy, but more research is needed. The main side effect is stomach upset.
You may find that a tough day at work or problems at home set off your seizures. Doctors still don’t know the exact link between stress and epilepsy, but relieving stress can help you feel better overall.
Try these techniques:
Exercise. A walk, swim, or game of tennis increases the amount your body makes of mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercise also calms the abnormal electrical brain activity that triggers seizures.
Let your doctor know before you start any new exercise program. Avoid activities that could be dangerous if you have a seizure — like scuba diving or skiing. And wear a medical alert bracelet, just in case you do have a seizure while you work out.
Yoga. It combines exercise with deep breathing and meditation to strengthen your body and calm your mind. Studies show yoga could help cut the number of seizures you get and improve your overall well-being.
Meditation. In this relaxation technique, you breathe deeply, sometimes while repeating a word or phrase. Meditation helps steer your mind away from thoughts that stress you out. One form in particular, mindfulness meditation, might reduce seizures and improve mood in people with epilepsy.
In biofeedback, a machine called an electroencephalogram (EEG) lets you see the electrical activity in your brain. Over time, you learn how to control functions in your body that normally happen without you thinking about them — like your breathing and heart rate. Some early research shows that biofeedback might help reduce seizures in people with epilepsy.
Back in the 1990s, researchers discovered that children with epilepsy had less abnormal brain activity and fewer seizures when they listened to music. Only a certain type of music worked, though — a Mozart sonata called K448. Researchers call this phenomenon “The Mozart Effect.”
Be careful about the type of music you listen to. Some people find that certain musical styles, like jazz or pop, can trigger their seizures.