Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy: Meditation vs. Medication | December 21, 2013


Neither is mutually exclusive.

You can have medication without meditation. Most of us do.

You can do meditation without medication. Most of us wouldn’t and shouldn’t take that risk.

But together, they can enhance one another.

That’s why meditation is considered part of Complementary Alternative Medicine. (CAM)

The operative word here is: complimentary.

Some benefit by meditation tremendously. Some don’t. And for others, meditation incites seizures.

The decision is yours (and your doctor’s).

While meditation doesn’t replace medication, it may play a significant role in reducing stress-related seizures.

And who doesn’t have stress? Who wouldn’t like to dump it?

Of course the subject has incited studies, medical articles, controversies and many opinions.

Here’s the tip of the iceberg….

Yes.

First of all, there are many different forms of meditation.

But in general, meditation is a way of focusing the mind in the present moment.

You don’t have to sit in a weird position or chant or listen to Indian music.

One small study of adults with epilepsy who practiced meditation for 20 minutes per day for a year, found that they had fewer, shorter seizures and a change in EEG patterns.

The patients in the control group didn’t show significant changes.

UCLA neurologist Jerome Engel clearly thinks there is some value in meditation.

Engel described reasons to believe that meditation might help control seizures.

It increases hippocampus growth, increases fiber connectivity throughout the brain, and generates lots of activity in the mesial temporal lobe, where a lot of epilepsy is focused.

But he did acknowledge that the studies on meditation and seizure control were ambiguous at best: some even suggested that meditation could bring on seizures!

No.

Meditation has been reported to be potentially dangerous for people with epilepsy.

Neuroimaging advances in EEG, fMRI, PET and SPECT techniques have brought with them new insight to our understanding of how various relaxation techniques alter our brain function.

Recent studies show that meditation can have complex influences on the brain, which change mental, neuron-hormonal and autonomic functions such as: erratic EEG activity, increase in both brain serotonin and glutamate, (further exciting neurons), and perhaps, triggering seizures.

So, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks, as well as the benefits of meditation, if you have epilepsy.

Maybe so.

There are many ways the relaxation that comes with meditation can be helpful in managing stress and improving the quality of life.

These shouldn’t be overlooked.

But, so far these are studies. Further research is needed.

Because, as of now, there is no definitive evidence to support either the danger or effectiveness of meditation in epilepsy.

In others words, the jury is still out.

But until someone tells me to stop, I’m going to continue taking my meds and meditate on a daily basis.

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Resources:

http://epilepsyfoundation.ning.com/profiles/blogs/international-epilepsy-congress-day-two-can-epilepsy-be-cured-by

http://my.epilepsy.com/articles/ar_1150815334 http://www.thehumanist.org/humanist/MaryGarden.html

http://www.goodearthnaturalfoods.net/ns/DisplayMonograph.asp?StoreID=qljs5n5jsasr2lhc0g03n0et95qt2s43&DocID=condition-epilepsy

http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/ResourceCentres/Epilepsy/TreatmentofEpilepsy/Pages/Complementary-and-Alternative-Therapies-for-Epilepsy.aspx

http://www.henryspink.org/epilepsy.htm

http://www.epilepsyaustralia.net/Publications/Archives/bellon_relaxation.pdf


25 Comments »

  1. I totally agree, tried reducing my meds once, with my dr’s supervision of course, had 4 in 2 weeks. so meds do work. but given the stress, and mind set of a person with seizures, we only want to be able to lead a normal life.

    Comment by sandy Pitman — December 23, 2013 @ 11:06 AM

  2. And we all need to relax, just to stay sane, no less seizure free!

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 23, 2013 @ 3:43 PM

  3. seizure medication and some yoga poses.

    Comment by Crystal Cahill — December 23, 2013 @ 7:56 PM

  4. I started practicing meditation years ago, though not regularly. Since I was recently diagnosed w epilepsy i’ve definitely found it helpful, i feel it ‘calming my brain’. And helping me sleep, which is important to prevent my seizures; more effective than Ambien.

    There are different kinds of meditation, Even just sitting down, closing your eyes and taking a couple of deeeep breaths works wonders.

    Comment by Beth — December 23, 2013 @ 10:28 PM

  5. My form of meditation (which I do several times a day) is deep breathing.

    It’s been explained to me that deep breathing brings more oxygen to the brain, so a few serotonins sneak in.

    Whatever. It does calm me and you can do it anywhere, which is convenient! :-)

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 24, 2013 @ 9:51 AM

  6. I started meditating last year when I was fiddling with my meds but found it really difficult to focus. As things got progressively worse over the months, I found that rather than relaxing me, my mind saw it as an opportunity to go over everything again and again. I’d end up being more stressed than when I’d started the session. For the sake of my sanity I gave it up and took up jewellery making as a hobby. Before I knew it I was so busy thinking about all the things I’d make that I was no longer drowning in negative thoughts. I’ve just started meditating again now that I’m in a better state of mind although my ability to focus is still shocking. Music does help and I love sounds of nature. I find they often induce a feeling of warm, comfy lightheadedness and when I get up I feel like I’m wrapped up in something soft and fluffy. Meditating beneath a tree is also very calming :)

    Comment by bardotbarbiturate — January 20, 2014 @ 9:09 AM

  7. Here’s a secret. I can’t meditate either! Same problem: focus.

    When I’m stressed, I do one of several things:

    1.) Write — I really am a writer and it takes the outside world away.

    2.) Deep breathing — apparently deep breathing brings more oxygen to your brain and additional serotonin. Plus, you can do it anywhere. (Like in traffic!!)

    3.) Take a long walk — exercise AND the sounds of nature, plus “mindfullness”

    4. SCREAM! :-)

    What kind of jewelry do you make?

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2014 @ 9:44 AM

    • I’m trying to be a writer. I used to write all the time when I was younger but after I was diagnosed, the meds turned my brain turned to mush. I became so frustrated that I stopped writing altogether. Then came that terrible thing known as the full time job which was energy sapping and because I was writing so many letters, I didn’t feel inclined to write outside of work. I am working on something now although it’s mostly at the research stage as I wanted to get the meds situation resolved first.

      I have done some breathing exercises. From what I understand, left nostril breathing is good for calming your brain down.

      Would love to go for a long walk but because things went a bit crazy last year I’ve not left the house that much on my own. I went from always having a warning before I dropped and only having seizures in the evening, to suddenly having them without warning and at random times of the day. It’s made me really nervous about going out anywhere by myself. It’ll take a little time to get my confidence back. There is a nice little spinney at the end of my road but unfortunately that’s where the local miscreants lurk when they’ve been up to no good. I am intending to start walking to a nearby village every day within the next couple of weeks. I desperately need the exercise!

      I’m not really much of a screamer. I am a dab hand at swearing when frustrated though :P

      My favourite type of jewellery making is wire work. I’m sticking to fairly uncomplicated designs at the moment but would love to progress to the really intricate designs. That frequently elicits swearing as well!

      Comment by bardotbarbiturate — January 20, 2014 @ 11:07 AM

  8. That’s interesting about the left nostril for calming. Thanks lots for the tip.

    As for the walking, do you have any new auras or triggers?

    Are you sure your med levels are up to speed?

    I just had blood work a few weeks ago and found out that I had to be titrated to double my former level.

    Wow, that made a difference.

    No more falling, concussions, broken bones, etc. I’m a happy camper.

    As for writing, yes I know it’s sort of like a “bus man’s holiday”, but that’s what I do, that’s what I love and that’s why I get up in the morning.

    I almost died a few years ago and it took me 6 weeks to find the keyboard.

    Then it took another 4 weeks to get beyond a 4 line email.

    If I hadn’t been so doped up, I would have screamed!

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2014 @ 11:48 AM

    • You’re welcome :)

      My meds over the last few years have been complicated. End of 2006 I added Keppra to the Lamictal I was already taking and for 4 years I didn’t have a seizure although it did make me quite tired and I couldn’t do what I used to. Mid 2010 my neurologist said that as I’d been taking Lamictal since 1997, it was unlikely it was having an effect anymore. I ummed and ahhed about it for few months and decided that if it indeed wasn’t doing anything, I would be better off ditching it as he had suggested. Everything went OK with the reductions for 8 months and then, after almost 5 years, I got hit with a seizure. I upped the Keppra and took a break from reducing the Lamictal for a couple of weeks. Few months later along came another seizure so I did the same again. Eventually I was off of the Lamictal but was still having a seizure every couple of months. I ended up on the max dose of Keppra but still the same problem. Decided to add Zonegran in 2012 which turned out to be a big mistake. The stuff made me really crazy and after giving it 6 months I decided enough was enough. Coming off of it was an ordeal and that’s when my seizure pattern changed to completely unpredictable. Anyway I decided that I couldn’t cope with being so lethargic all the time and that the Keppra had to go. After the incident with Zonegran and a similar one with Topamax 7 years previous to that, I wasn’t prepared to risk a third breakdown with a new med so decided to go back to Lamictal. Since I reintroduced Lamictal in August I’ve only had one seizure and that was only because I’d barely slept the night before. Yesterday I took my final Keppra and this morning I upped the Lamictal to my target dose of 200mg twice a day. My med levels have been in a state of flux for the past 3 years so it’s impossible at the moment to judge whether or not they’re OK. I’ve been on this dose before and only had a problem once or twice a year which I can live with if it means I can have my faculties and energy back. As today is the first day of my target dose, I have no idea whether I’ll start getting auras again until the next seizure. Hopefully it won’t be yet another one in the bathroom, I don’t know how much more of a beating the towel rail can take from me! When it comes to triggers, I identify one, avoid it and then my brain will find something else it doesn’t like, as if it’s being deliberately awkward.

      I’m hoping that I’ll be able to regain my love of writing again, I certainly love the ideas I’m getting for the project I’m working on now. I did write some outstanding letters when I was on Lamictal alone previously even if I do say so myself :D That gives me some hope that I’m not completely incapable! I’ll be looking to start job searching soon and I want to try and get into conservation. I did some voluntary conservation work last year when I was able and I felt amazing afterwards. I’m sure if I was able to get a job along those lines it would have a really positive effect on my health.

      So sorry that you had such a close call. My difficulties with Topamax landed me in hospital although they were nowhere near as serious as yours. It’s always good to hear when someone makes a recovery. Gives hope that we can all pull through the tougher times :)

      Comment by bardotbarbiturate — January 20, 2014 @ 3:36 PM

  9. Your tale is a sad one, but the outcome makes me smile.

    I’ve been on Lamictal for 5 years. But apparently, at some point, I screwed up my doses and after going into the back of the garage, I was really freaked.

    The falling, concussions, etc. I could take. But I tell you, being nose to nose with an air bag is no fun.

    So my neuro (whom I love and have known for 20 years) sent me off for the good old EEG, MRI and nothing happened. (Does it ever?)

    Now, I’m on a heart monitor to make sure it wasn’t a-fib.
    But IMHO, I think I was having absence seizures, because since I’ve gotten my meds straightened out and titrated up to 400mg…I’ve remained upright. :-)

    The heart monitor ends in 10 more days…if I don’t pitch it out the window first. (It’s probably only 8oz but feels like 8 pounds and I’ve been losing approximately 1 pound a day.)

    So, fingers crossed, soon I’ll be driving and soon you’ll get to do your conservation work. (What kind of conservation — forests, parks, wild lands, water?) and it will be wonderful.

    Sort of like a new life. Although I’ve been using that gift, since I almost clocked out 4 years ago.

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2014 @ 5:19 PM

    • I’m starting to get a bit more smiley so that’s progress!

      I think most of us make mistakes with doses at one time or another. Your experience sounds terrible, it’s no wonder you were freaked!

      I’ve only had one EEG and that was 22 years ago. Don’t remember much about it other than the ever undignified EEG cap! I didn’t have a seizure at the time but it still managed to pick up my freaky brainwaves. My specialist nurse offered me another EEG last year when I was asking about what my old one meant but I declined. I don’t think I would have gained anything, the waiting list was bound to be horrific and the NHS is such a mess the time and money would have been better spent on someone who really needed it.

      When it comes to meds the proof really is in the pudding. It sounds like you’ve got to the bottom of it and the heart monitor is just a formality. Losing a pound a day? Damn I could do with something like that!

      I’ve never driven but I know that people who have had to hand their license in have found the loss of freedom really difficult. Hope that it hasn’t been too hard on you and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you :)

      I’d be happy with any kind of conservation. Tree related would be my preference (trees make me feel relaxed) but as long as I’m outside and active I’ll be happy. I’ve spent far too long sitting in offices and enduring the stress headaches that go with it.

      I think it’s good when we’re able to turn bad experiences into something positive. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason but I got in a really bad state of mind last year and just couldn’t see what purpose it could possibly serve. Now that I’m on the way back up it has given me an idea for a book, which I think is the least it could do. It’s good to make epilepsy work for us once in a while!

      Comment by bardotbarbiturate — January 21, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

  10. I agree. I think the heart monitor is just a formality. Nonetheless, I feel like I’m under house arrest.

    Funny how you take advantage of your circumstances, until they’re snatched away. Oh well, soon.

    Tree conservation sounds WONDERFUL. What’s the idea for your book? Or it a series of articles?

    (The stress headaches at work could have been reflex photosensitive seizures from the lighting.)

    Anyway, keep up the smilies and hope that we don’t get buried in snow here in PA!

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 21, 2014 @ 1:20 PM

    • It really does suck when you become restricted and it’s not that you necessarily would have been going anywhere or doing anything, it’s the fact that the choice has been taken away from you.

      We do have the National Forest in Leicestershire and they offer courses in conservation but it’s the same old story,getting there via public transport is ridiculously long and contrived. There are a number of spinneys in the area but there’s also 12 miles worth of riverside, not to mention the canal, that have to be maintained.

      The idea is for a novel. It’s based on when I was at my lowest and wondering what the purpose of being put through such challenging times was.

      Those particular headaches aren’t epilepsy related (I do get seizure related headaches but they’re a different kettle of fish). Work stress headaches would start from the moment I got up, rather than when I got to the office. In my last job they got particularly bad because I was trying to cope with Zonegran messing with my head as well as being subject to office politics and an increasingly demanding situation. I get stress headaches when I’m exposed to tense or emotionally intense situations (real or fictional). When Matt Smith regenerated in the Doctor Who Christmas special it felt like someone had kicked me in the forehead wearing hobnail boots! I don’t seem to have any kind of coping mechanism so stress comes out physically. It hasn’t always been in the form of headaches, my hair started falling out once (when I was 8 and my grandmother died), I’ve had vomiting, itchy blisters coming up on my hands, vertigo (once, during a particularly bad episode, I fell over in the middle of the road and had to crawl back to the kerb on my hands and knees. I had to sit there and wait for the world to spin a little slower and for my vision to come down from triple to double so I could manage to stumble home), occasionally seizures and most commonly these days, headaches. You can see why I desperately need to meditate successfully! I’d also be able to work the stress out if I had a physically demanding job which is another reason why I want to get into some form of conservation.

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you on the snow front. Could have done with snow and frost starting last month here in the UK. The mild winter is causing some of my plants to shoot and even flower earlier than they should. If the cold weather comes late, like it did last year, they’re going to get frost damaged again :(

      Comment by bardotbarbiturate — January 22, 2014 @ 5:34 AM

  11. Be careful about what you wish for. It’s 11 degrees (F) with a wind chill factor of -11.

    You’re going to be real careful of your book’s angle. I said that because there are so many “down and out” stories.

    There’s a fabulous book by a (distant) friend of mine called: “A Great Place to Have a Seizure “by Terry Tracy.

    And although we’ll never have her experiences or adventures, it’s amazing of all she went through WITH epilepsy.

    So be a river conservationist with epilepsy. Now that’s a story to write about! :-)

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 22, 2014 @ 10:23 AM

  12. Bardotbarbiturate,

    Epilepsy book idea: Facing the Devil. My experiences with….

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 22, 2014 @ 1:32 PM

    • The book I want to write is entirely fictional (the idea of opening up my deepest and darkest moments fills me with horror!). It’s the question that kept going round and round in my head when things got tough, what is the purpose of this? When things started looking up, I wondered whether I could I could use any of what I’d experienced in a creative way and within my genre of choice. I came back to that question and created a ‘what if scenario’. What if epilepsy did actually serve a purpose? Not as a personal challenge to be overcome, but as part of a much bigger picture. It also involves that morally uncomfortable issue of whether the ends justify the means. In the rather bizarre circumstances I’m thinking of I’d take one for the team. It’s using elements of my experiences over the years but the story itself is total fabrication. For now though, I have other projects in hand so this one will have to wait until a later date.

      Thanks for the suggestion though :)

      Comment by bardotbarbiturate — January 22, 2014 @ 6:00 PM

  13. I get it. I think. :-)

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 22, 2014 @ 6:06 PM

  14. to get me relaxed, i try doing some yoga poses and just concentrate on my breathing.

    Comment by Crystal Cahill — March 9, 2014 @ 11:01 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I've also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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