Looking back on the past always seems to be a tricky business. There are bound to be a few things you wish you could change…if only you knew then what you know now!
There is a very long list of things I would do differently at the time of my initial diagnosis with epilepsy. With all of the knowledge I have gained thanks to 10+ years of living with Catamenial Epilepsy, I have grown a lot as a person and as a patient. Most of all, I wish I had pursued holistic medicine from the very start. I have found so much success through these methods of healing, I can’t help but wonder if I would be completely healed today if I chose holistic methods back then…
The truth is, I don’t know. I may wonder from time to time about the answer to this question, but despite my regrets I am still grateful for the knowledge I have gained through the uncertainties part of living with epilepsy.
That lack of understanding I started this journey with has now become a well-curated collection of information. And not just any information, but information derived from personal experience. Those trial and error processes can be terribly frustrating…they’re time consuming, challenging, and usually have a 50% chance of failure. It is the other 50% chance of success that keeps me going…You don’t know until you try, right?? Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for risk, but I am determined to find my own recipe for recuperation. Each day of my journey continues to perfect this recipe so, in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to my fellow Epileptic Warriors out there to share some of the things I have learned whilst carving my own path. Who knows? Maybe it will help someone else avoid the same mistakes I made…I certainly hope so! More than anything I hope my upcoming insights serve as a guide to help others establish a foundation for their own trek toward healing.
My biggest goal will always be to help others in similar circumstances avoid the same mistakes I made. Therefore, I would like to share the top 5 things I wish I had done differently at the time of my initial diagnosis. These also happen to be the fives things I would recommend other epileptics to do as well. These upcoming words are simply a suggestion, of course, for those willing to listen since I am not a medical professional. Whether it is the very first day of your diagnosis or 10 years later (like me), you are never too late to pursue total body healing.
That being said, let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Blood work
It is incredibly overwhelming to be diagnosed with a medical condition like epilepsy, therefore getting in-depth blood work completed isn’t always at the forefront of a person’s mind. Especially when he or she is simultaneously trying to figure out how to prevent his or her life from being turned completely upside down. I know, I’ve been there.
This is my first recommendation and the action I wish I took when I was 15 years old because it is the key to discovering exactly why your body is having seizures. Seizures are misfires in the brain, therefore they are not supposed to be happening, but when they do happen there is always a cause. It’s up to you to find this cause and blood work is the best way to see what’s going on inside your body. You will be able to identify deficiencies, inflammation, and other issues that may be contributing to your seizure activity.
So, I suggest you get thorough blood work completed, the Organic Acid Test from Great Plains Laboratory is a wonderful urine test that will give you a comprehensive examination of the current condition of your body’s vitamin and mineral levels at a metabolic level. You see, deficiencies are usually part of the problem. Where there are deficiencies there is also over-compensation happening within the body to supplement these deficiencies. However, this constant over-compensation usually results in even more deficiencies because, before you know it, all of your vitamin and mineral sources have been depleted in order to maintain balance.
In the end, no balance has been achieved and now we have multiple deficiencies to fix instead of just the one. So, get a blood work panel and/or the OAT completed so that you will have a thorough examination of your levels…if you have deficiencies, pinpoint these so that you can work to heal them through food and vitamin supplements. Before attempting a “Plan for Healing” you must first understand what it is that needs to be healed. It will save you time and it will prevent lots of unnecessary trial and error. To read more about my deficiencies and why I wish I found them sooner, click here to read my experience with Vitamin D.
2. Holistic Medicine
In 2009, at the time of my diagnosis, I had full and complete faith in the doctors of modern medicine. That is, until the only solutions they could provide me with were anti-epileptic drugs, birth control (for the hormone imbalance), and brain surgery. I wasn’t happy about any of these options, but what else was I supposed to do? At this point in time, you couldn’t even find a keyword match in Google for “Catamenial Epilepsy.” The only place my mom could find the slightest mention of “Catamenial Epilepsy” was in a medical journal written by a neurologist from the Mayo Clinic. It wasn’t much, but it was a lifeline for my family and I when we felt like we were going crazy over the possible hormone/seizure connection.
One year after my diagnosis, I was received as a patient at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for one week of special testing and doctor appointments. I had already been placed on their general waitlist for the opportunity to come to the Mayo Clinic so it felt like a miracle when a spot unexpectedly opened for me. The prospect of having my particular case reviewed by some of the most highly-respected neurologists within the U.S. inspired a hope for normalcy for the first time since being diagnosed.
However, when I sat down to discuss my circumstances with my neurologist, she had nothing new to add regarding Catamenial Epilepsy. The organization that authored a medical journal regarding the elusive subject failed to pass the knowledge on to the rest of their neurology department. At the end of my week of testing, her only solutions were more drugs and brain surgery with a success rate of 60%…not exactly ideal when we’re talking about the human brain. I’m not that keen on risk! The gynecologist’s only solution was birth control. Once again, a disappointment.
I was met with a disappointing reality during my final consultation…
My solution does not lie within modern medicine.
The birth control was the last straw! Previously, I had only suffered 3 gran mal seizures over the period of one year. After beginning the birth control, I had 14 gran mal seizures in one week. It turns out, the gynecologist from the Mayo Clinic prescribed me an estrogen based birth control despite my blood work results showing I was estrogen dominant and suffering from a severe progesterone deficiency. But sure, add in even more of the “excitable” hormone. Naturally, the seizure activity spiked due to the additional flow of estrogen.
Immediately following this terrible increase of seizure activity (seizure activity that actually landed me in the back of an ambulance) holistic medicine finally became a serious consideration for me. I stopped taking the birth control, began pursuing holistic methods, and I haven’t looked back since.
Visiting the Mayo Clinic is one of my biggest regrets from my past. What should have been an incredible opportunity to find healing instead left me worse off than I had been before. I constantly wonder what state my body would be in if I hadn’t taken that birth control. It definitely hasn’t been the same since! But it was definitely the push I needed to begin researching Holistic solutions.
3. Diet Change
I had no idea just how bad my diet was when I had my first seizure. I was actually trying out the Special K diet at the time to supplement my workout schedule and to help support my body nutritionally. HA! If only I knew how little nutrition exists in any processed food product. This is the primary reason why our bodies struggle to fight off deficiencies from malnutrition…we are not eating the proper foods to supply much-needed vitamins and minerals naturally. So, of course deficiencies are rampant right now!
Cut out the processed products such as frozen foods, chips, candy, cereal, sauces, etc. as soon as possible! Take charge and supply your body with foods composed of natural ingredients. Foods made from scratch in your own kitchen and made 100% with real ingredients. I know, this sounds scary AND I’m sure it sounds like a lot of work…but trust me on this one, every minute of your time you dedicate to your diet will benefit your body in the long run. In fact, your body will rejoice to have real food instead of chemical ingredients that typically compose the ingredient labels of those processed food products. I have three words for you, Made From Scratch. Need recipes in order to do so? The internet is your best ally where this is concerned because it is filled with lots of yummy recipes! Just check out some of the recipes I have here on Seize the Day Blog.
People don’t always realize the reality of the internal damage that ensues from malnutrition. It is too easy to think, “Oh, everybody eats these food products, they’re fine! If they were really SO bad there is no way the FDA would approve these ingredients!” I used to think the same thing, then one night I woke up on the floor unable to speak, unaware of my location, and unable to recognize my own brother…do not wait for a drastic life event to inspire healthy change. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle is always a good idea!
4. Go Organic
Because I had no clue about the dangers of processed food products, I also failed to realize the necessity for Organic food products. In my eyes, there were never any particular characteristics that caught my eye because I never took the time to research the difference. It just seemed like a trendy diet choice to be “healthier.” I could not be more wrong! Harmful and cheap pesticides are used by the majority of non-Organic farms, therefore protecting one’s body from these chemicals should always be a priority whether you’re struggling with a health condition or not. The fact is, Organic foods are better for you. The Organic growing methods eliminate pesticides and they are typically Non-GMO. Personally, I find these two characteristics vital for every food group because I’d rather not consume something that holds the potential to harm my body.
Preventing the build up of chemicals within your cells will actually be possible by saying NO to non-Organic foods and YES to Organic in every area of your diet. The average grocery stores, such as Vons, are consistently their Organic food selection, which is incredibly convenient! Lucky for those of us seeking organic diets, there are lots of wide spread specialty Organic grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Market, and Trader Joe’s (if you are in the U.S.). Whole Foods is definitely my favorite, but each of these stores carry an amazing selection of organic foods! Sprout’s Market offers coupons too, so if you’re looking to purchase organic groceries and not break the bank…this place is for you! I understand how expensive these products are so do as much as you can, but also be sure to meal prep before you grocery shop so that you do not make any unnecessary purchases.
5. Research Seizure Triggers
The mind/gut connection has always been a highly debated subject in modern medicine. Why people are so eager to refute this theory is quite baffling to me because my own personal experience has shown me firsthand that more than a connection exists between the brain and the digestive system. The foods you eat can affect more than just your midsection, they can also impact your seizure activity. Every person is different, therefore some amount of trial and error will be necessary to determine any seizure triggers unique to You. In the meantime, information on foods known to be trigger seizures in epileptics of all ages is available and it is best to make yourself aware of the potential risks as soon as possible.
I often feel like I am much more sensitive than other people since being diagnosed with epilepsy. Food can be my best friend or my greatest enemy. There is no in between, unfortunately, so it is important to be aware of the typical foods that tend to increase seizure activity beforehand. My goal in sharing this little tip is so that I can help other epileptics to actively avoid these same foods in their own diets. It is also a great first step in working toward a healthier diet overall. I know that I am always working to minimize my seizure activity so just in case some of my readers are also interested, keep reading for a few foods you should always say NO to!
In particular, soy, caffeine (this includes coffee and chocolate), alcohol, sage, cloves, grapefruit, fermented foods, and refined sugar are ingredients that consistently impact epileptics. These are only a few of the most basic triggers, therefore I highly recommend doing your own research on the full list of foods.
Soy is my prime seizure trigger. If I had known this sooner I would have cut all soy-related products and food types from my diet immediately. Since this is one of my recommendations for other epileptics I obviously did not do it for myself back in 2009. Instead, it took a seizure in the middle of a P.F. Chang’s Restaurant to wake me up to the severe food allergy/seizure trigger I had acquired along with my diagnosis of epilepsy. One thing is for sure, life is never boring! In this case, however, I would prefer boring and I would like to help prevent any chaos for those also struggling with epilepsy…take the time to do some research, knowledge is always worth the time spent!
Throughout this journey with Epilepsy I feel like I have always and will continue to learn something new everyday. I’m no genius on the subject nor am I a medical professional. I would simply like to help prevent some seizure activity for my fellow Epilepsy Warriors across the globe by sharing my personal experience. Although I cannot change my past decisions, hopefully my recommendations above will help those of you reading this to avoid the same mistakes I made. I am incredibly grateful for all that I have learned through the trial and error experiences, but what good is this knowledge if I do not share it with others?
So, best of luck to each and every one of you! You are not alone in your battle! If you have any questions about the information I provided above, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading!