Epilepsy Talk

Foods That Fight Stress… | June 20, 2010

I worked as a writer in the health and wellness field for more than ten years.  So I know a thing or two about this stuff.  (And stress!)  But I also know from personal experience that epilepsy is a very unique condition.  Between all the different types of seizures, and triggers, and meds…there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The same goes for de-stressing your diet.  What works for one might not work for another.  And it certainly doesn’t take the place of meds.  However, I do believe that although living a healthy lifestyle won’t cure you…it can certainly help you.

So, here’s some information for sensible stress-busting eating…

Nutrition

Obviously, you should get most of your vitamins from food by eating a balanced diet. But one of the most important vitamins for you to include in your diet is Folic Acid (Folate) which can help deal with vitamin loss caused by medication and also calm your mood.

However, the all-star vitamin is Vitamin B6.  This vitamin is involved in critical functions of the nervous system.  And it boosts the metabolism of various neurotransmitters which are needed for normal brain function.  The good news is that it’s easy to get it in all kinds of different foods…fresh juicy fruits like apples, oranges, grapefruits, grapes, (especially grape juice),  pineapples, peaches, pears and lemons…green leafy vegetables, carrots, peanuts, rice, milk, cereals, seeds, nuts and grain.

Now for the stress fighting superstars…

Beef

Although many people think of beef as a no-no, it contains high levels of Zinc, Iron, and B Vitamins, which are known to help stabilize your mood.  Plus Vitamin E, which when deficient from your diet, can actually encourage seizures. (Choose lean cuts like tenderloin and top sirloin to ease up on saturated fat.)

Turkey

Turkey is high in Selenium — a calming hormone.  And you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to dig into a good turkey sandwich or make some turkey burgers on the grill.  (Try some guacamole and salsa on them!)

Fish

Oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, which boost happy brain chemicals like serotonin and regulate stress hormones like cortisol.  Most types of fish are also loaded with  B6 and B12.  (A Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to depression.  And Vitamin B12 levels may be reduced by some anticonvulsant drugs!)  For lunch, try a tuna salad sandwich (with light mayo). And grilled salmon or mackerel with a side of leafy greens, is perfect for dinner.

Clams

Rich in Vitamin B12, clams are terrific on their own. (Did somebody say “Clam Bake?”) Or in soups, spaghetti sauces, and as appetizers when entertaining.

Blueberries

Rich in antioxidants, blueberries offer a high-fiber, low-calorie fruit option that is also high in stress-fighting Vitamin C.   Make a berry salad or for a quick snack or just take a handful of blueberries and enjoy.

Oranges

Loaded with Vitamin C which cuts down on cortisol, the stress hormone in your body.  Kiwis, lemons and any other citrus fruits are also contenders.  But watch it with the grapefruit, it may not be compatible with your meds.

Bananas

The Vitamin B6 in bananas is a heavy hitter when it comes to regulating stress.  And what could be easier to grab when you’re on the go?

Papaya

Yum.  Papaya contributes more Vitamins A and C, and Folic Acid to your diet.  Add it to some berry salad to super-charge your stress control.

Leafy greens

Chock full of Calcium and Magnesium, these super vegetables can have relaxing, calming effects on the body.  Have a big salad with dinner and you’ll likely sleep better that night!

Spinach

The Magnesium in spinach helps prevent your blood pressure from sky-rocketing.  It’s wonderful sautéed (with a little garlic), in salads, sandwiches and omelets.

Arugula

Arugula is a good source of  Folic Acid and great in salads, soups, or on pizzas and sandwiches.

Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers also contribute good amounts of Vitamins A and C and Folic Acid. Try them roasted as a side dish (my favorite), on salads, in sandwiches, soups, and in casseroles.

Asparagus

High in Folic Acid and B Vitamins which help make serotonin, a chemical that directly affects mood in a positive way.  Roasted, grilled, steamed or as a soup, it’s a happy winner.

Broccoli

Full of stress-relieving B Vitamins and Folic Acid which help relieve stress, anxiety, panic, and even depression.  Try broccoli as a side dish or a stir-fry with a few other vegetables and some beef or shrimp.  (And throw some asparagus in.)

Avocados

My favorite food in the world lowers blood pressure with its high contents of Potassium and healthy fat (monounsaturated).  It’s also low in calories and the perfect excuse to eat (or make) guacamole.  Great sliced up in salads, too.

Basil

Basil calms your nerves by helping your body resist stress and by increasing physical endurance.  Use it in any tomato or seafood dish, or on chicken, turkey, in salads, sandwiches or wraps.

Lentils

Include more lentils — in soups and salads — as a rich source of Folic Acid.  And if you have a Trader Joe’s near you, they have lentils vacuum packed and ready to go.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are also a good source of Folic Acid on salads or in hummus, with baby carrots, bell peppers, cucumber spears, or on whole wheat crackers.

Sunflower Seeds

Rich in Selenium (which has been found to significantly reduce seizures) this super snack includes Vitamin E and Folic Acid, too.  Grab them on the go or toss some in a salad for a rich stress fighting solution.  What could be easier?  (Just be sure to use dry-roasted seeds without salt, because the added sodium defeats the purpose.)

Almonds

Try crunching on almonds to get some aggression out. A good source of Vitamin B2 and E, as well as Magnesium and Zinc, almonds are high in fat, but most of the fat is unsaturated. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin E has been shown to fight the free radicals associated with stress and heart disease.

Other varieties of nuts, such as peanuts, pistachios and pecans have been shown to reduce blood pressure, boost energy and lower stress hormones, too.

Resources

http://www.bhg.com/health-family/mind-body-spirit/natural-remedies/superfoods-for-stress-relief/

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23955543/

http://www.askmen.com/top_10/fitness/45b_fitness_list.html

http://www.mainstreet.com/article/lifestyle/food-drink/6-foods-fight-stress?page=2

http://www.methodsofhealing.com/stress-fighting-foods-to-help-you-keep-your-cool/


52 Comments »

  1. Hi Phylis, this article comes at a perfect time for me. I am depressed.

    I take Vitamin B-Complex once a day. I have a tuna sandwich for lunch each day, I love it that much. Every third night for dinner, we have salmon. I love all types of vegetables, except for hot salsas and hot peppers.

    I also love all kinds of fruit.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — June 21, 2010 @ 7:20 PM

  2. So sorry you’re depressed. How’s your Vitamin E intake?

    Hope you’re feeling cheerier soon. You’re certainly on the right track with your diet!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 21, 2010 @ 9:20 PM

  3. Phylis, I had to re-check Vitamin E. It is in beef. I will have to get a supplement.

    Meat is where the cholesterol and triglycerides are and go up high for a diabetic. I cannot have to much meat.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — June 21, 2010 @ 11:05 PM

    • I’m allergic to all mammals: beef, pork, lamb, veal. (I can eat emu and ostrich though!) So I supplement with Vitamin E.

      “Treatment with anticonvulsive drugs is associated with reduced vitamin E levels. It has been hypothesized that vitamin E deficiency can worsen seizure activity. Vitamin E may be effective in reducing seizure frequency because it helps to compensate for a drug-induced vitamin deficiency.” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0887/is_n1_v12/ai_13448532/

      Hope this helps!

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 21, 2010 @ 11:15 PM

  4. I will supplement with Vitamin E. Like I said, I can only have a little bit (about 3-4 oz) of meat a day. Maybe that will help my depression, too.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — June 22, 2010 @ 12:58 AM

  5. Sounds from this info that it WILL help: “To me this indicates a need for much higher intakes of vitamin E for those suffering from depression than the usual recommended amount.

    But what should that amount be? In 1968 the Food and Nutrition Board offered its first Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin E as 30 IU (international units), which is equivalent to 20 mg. This is a hefty dose. Consider that it takes about three quarters of an 8-ounce cup of olive oil, or almost a pound of peanuts, to get this much vitamin E. So wanting to be more practical, I presume, the RDA was lowered to 22 IU (15 mg) in 2002. Yet according to Prof. Max Horwitt, Ph.D., who spent 15 years serving on the Food and Nutrition Board’s RDA committees, the average adult daily intake of vitamin E, without supplementation, appears to be about 12 IU (8 mg).” http://www.doctordebnaturalhealth.com/vitaminE.html

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 22, 2010 @ 1:41 AM

  6. Thank you Phylis, now I know how much to take.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — June 22, 2010 @ 9:48 AM

  7. thank you so much! I’m going to try out the folic acid …hopefully that will help

    Like

    Comment by mark_88 — June 26, 2010 @ 8:35 PM

    • “Based on currently available information, it seems prudent to ensure that men and women with epilepsy receiving AEDs, particularly enzyme-inducing AEDs, receive adequate folic acid.

      For most individuals, this is best accomplished by providing a dietary supplement. Supplementation can be provided by prescription-strength folic acid tablets (1 mg each) or as part of a multivitamin supplement.

      Most multivitamins contain 0.4 mg of folic acid but the 1MG dose is recommended.”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC320966/

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 26, 2010 @ 10:37 PM

  8. seizure information

    Like

    Comment by kaela smith — July 6, 2010 @ 8:47 PM

  9. Hi Kala, welcome…were you posting this as “seizure information” for a reason?

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 6, 2010 @ 8:53 PM

  10. Kaela is right about it being seizure information.

    For my prep for my colonoscopy, I had to quit taking supplements. That was the instructions. That is probably why I had seizures before the procedure.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — July 10, 2010 @ 4:45 AM

    • I think the culprit was more likely stopping your seizure meds…until they had to hook you up in the hospital. That was an AWFUL scenerio. But I’m glad you survived it with flying colors!!! 🙂

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 10, 2010 @ 5:52 AM

  11. When I talked to the doctor about making an appoinment about the colonoscopy, I told him that I could not do without my medications for that long.

    He found out that I was right. I am just glad that I did not have more seizures. He did give me my medications before the test. He is a smart doctor. That is why I chose him.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — July 11, 2010 @ 1:57 AM

  12. i didnt know that vitamins help with seiz control. Ill try supplimenting and see what happens. Thanks

    Like

    Comment by Jennifer Schnegg — August 23, 2010 @ 5:01 AM

  13. Hi Jennifer,

    Welcome!

    Yes, we need nutritional supplements like vitamins and minerals because, some of us are deficient in the first place (due to diet, lifestyle, etc.). Then there are the AEDs which often leech nutrients from our bodies.

    So please! Look at the info above and take good care of yourself!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 23, 2010 @ 8:06 PM

  14. Im so glad you told me about this site, Phylis. Its just what I need. Great info. I will learn alot from this and helpfull info such as food info and suppliments. Has anyone heard of it not being good for those on seiz meds to eat yogurt? I had found a note saying that, in my papers I was going through. thanks

    Like

    Comment by Jennifer Schnegg — August 24, 2010 @ 6:43 AM

  15. Hi Jennifer,

    I love yogurt. It is great for you. I put some preserves in it and sommetime pecans. Since I have diabetes, I buy non fat yogurt.

    There are people who are on diets with no animal products. Yogurt is one of them. It depends on which diet you want to be on.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — August 24, 2010 @ 10:28 AM

    • Actually, yogurt is full of many useful and important nutrients:

      Vitamin B12 — Needed for proper digestion, the formation of cells, and the production of myelin, the protective coating surrounding the nerves. Vitamin B12 helps prevent nerve damage and levels may be reduced by some anticonvulsant drugs.

      Vitamin D — Low vitamin D levels are associated with depression as well as epilepsy. However many doctors aren’t aware of this and don’t include it in blood tests. It’s called the “sun vitamin” since the most effective way (other than supplements) to get vitamin D is from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

      Calcium – When balanced with magnesium, it helps prevents bone loss. However, you should know that calcium can interfere with anticonvulsant drugs and should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision.

      Also, I LOVE yogurt. For me it is a “comfort food.”

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 24, 2010 @ 9:11 PM

  16. Hi

    So you say its ok to eat yogurt for breakfast everyday? because I also love it. Especially when I make it homemade. If anyone would like it, I can let you know. Its easy, I make it in a crockpot.

    Like

    Comment by Jennifer Schnegg — August 25, 2010 @ 12:38 AM

    • If it doesn’t give you any funky side-effects, go for it! I’ve had epilepsy for over 40 years and I’ve been eating yogurt for just as long… 😉

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 25, 2010 @ 4:05 AM

  17. hi,

    I think im starting to have the problem with eating too much on a regular basis, even when im not hungry.I know I shouldnt, but I do anyway. I thought maybe if I admited my problem, then maybe it will be easier to stick with eating right.

    Like

    Comment by Jennifer Schnegg — August 25, 2010 @ 10:55 PM

  18. Changing eating habits is one of the most difficult of challenges, in my book. But maybe if you could snack on healthy foods that would work.

    Also, mild exercise can help both your food cravings and your seizure control. See the article about Epilepsy and Exercise:

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2009/11/13/epilepsy-and-exercise/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 25, 2010 @ 11:30 PM

  19. Hi,

    what is too much in vitamin b and folic acid, and magnesium?

    Like

    Comment by Jennifer Schnegg — August 26, 2010 @ 8:37 AM

  20. The amount of Vitamin B Complex recommended daily is 100-200 MG. (You’ll know if the dose is too high because your urine will turn bright yellow!)

    Amount of Magnesium per day should be 280-300 MG.

    And Folic Acid is the biggie, because AEDs can deplete the amount in your body. 1 to 4 MG a day is recommended, unless you are considering pregnancy. Then the amount goes up substantially.

    Also, check this out: https://epilepsytalk.com/2009/11/26/fighting-seizures-nutritionally/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 26, 2010 @ 9:48 PM

  21. I am taking the right amount of Vitamin B complex. I checked the bottle. Keppra depletes my Vitamin B.

    With folic acid, I am taking the correct amount. It is in a Multivitamin, though. Does that make a difference? Or should I take it separately?

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — August 27, 2010 @ 7:35 PM

  22. It would be good if you could take it separately, but no harm, either way.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 27, 2010 @ 8:15 PM

  23. THis is great! My dietician would be smiling at you and thanking you for giving this info! She is also an Internist. My stomach is burning up and I cannot stand it this weekend maybe 9/11 condolences. 😦

    Like

    Comment by Toni Robison — September 10, 2011 @ 3:04 PM

  24. Toni, Please see the response I wrote to you in Anti-Epilepsy Medication Side-Effects.

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2011/09/07/anti-epilepsy-medication-side-effects/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 10, 2011 @ 6:02 PM

  25. HI Phylis,

    Thanks for the post. I haven’t had red meat in years and don’t eat chicken, turkey or fish because of high costs where I live. Do you have suggestions for this in terms of costs? If it’s chicken, I prefer free-range, etc.
    Do you have recommendations for those who are just starting on a gluten diet?

    Like

    Comment by elizabeth2286 — March 25, 2012 @ 2:06 AM

  26. The G.A.R.D – Glutamate-Aspartate Restricted Diet – is a life-long elimination diet. And, if you can stomach it (all puns intended) it can theoretically help your seizures.

    Let me start by saying the G.A.R.D diet is highly controversial. While some claim “dramatic improvements in the severity and frequency of their seizures,” others find it a diet difficult to maintain.

    And if you cheat a smidgen, your seizures will come back. So, consider this a life-long commitment…or else just skip it.

    Essentially, the G.A.R.D is an elimination diet, specifying definite foods (which includes food products and ingredients) that must be avoided. So strict vigilance is mandatory for this diet to work.

    Here is a line-up of the forbidden foods: gluten – commonly derived from wheat and grains…casein – protein found in cow milk (and most dairy products)…soy…corn – including corn syrup and corn derivative products…MSG (mono-sodium glutamate) – a very common food ingredient in processed foods even though it is rarely clearly labeled as such…aspartame – commonly used as a sugar substitute…glutamate – found in high concentrations in most beans/legumes…and hydrogenated oils.

    And if that’s not depressing enough, there are no clinical trials proving the effectiveness of the G.A.R.D Diet, just anecdotal evidence. However, if it does work for you, seizure control could begin within days to weeks after starting the diet.

    The only good news I can see, is the G.A.R.D diet is a carbohydrate junkie’s dream come true. But there’s so many other foods and ingredients you have to sacrifice, it hardly seems worth it to me.

    The Celiac Diet is much the same…

    Here is a partial line-up of the forbidden foods: gluten – commonly derived from wheat and grains…casein – protein found in cow milk (and most dairy products)… soy…corn – including corn syrup and corn derivative products…MSG (mono-sodium glutamate) – a very common food ingredient in processed foods even though it is rarely clearly labeled as such…aspartame – commonly used as a sugar substitute…glutamate – found in high concentrations in most beans/legumes…and hydrogenated oils.

    My advice? Take it slowly and see if it’s the diet for you. And ask your doc first, plus don’t change your AEDs.

    Good luck, and let me know what you think of it!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 25, 2012 @ 3:13 PM

    • I tried it AND it didnt work for me.

      Like

      Comment by jennifer — March 26, 2012 @ 1:52 AM

  27. i am able to eat all of the foods you listed except for salmon, it makes me sick to my stomach. thank for the info. enjoy the rest of you weekend phylis. 🙂 ❤

    Like

    Comment by Crystal Cahill — March 22, 2014 @ 8:59 PM

  28. i went to this food distribution for the organization the i am volunteering for and got a lot of fruits and vegetable, and a new vegetable that i am going to try hikama, it’s a root vegetable but you can eat it as a fruit.

    Like

    Comment by Crystal Cahill — April 7, 2014 @ 11:54 PM

  29. Hikama is great. And don’t forget your kale — cooked — because it’s bitter on its own.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 8, 2014 @ 12:20 PM

    • i had a nice delicious salad for lunch today instead of my usual peanut better and jelly. kind of wish i had some avocado and some bell peppers to go in it.

      Like

      Comment by Crystal Cahill — April 8, 2014 @ 10:05 PM

  30. *Jicama

    Like

    Comment by Crystal Cahill — April 9, 2014 @ 7:10 PM

  31. Unfortunately, I don’t cook. Or spell !!!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 11, 2014 @ 10:45 AM

    • i am learning how to cook, but unfortunately i have to use spell check. and i did not know how to spell it either. so i guess i’ll have to experiment.

      Like

      Comment by Crystal Cahill — April 11, 2014 @ 11:13 AM

  32. tonight i did an experiment with pasta-roni, canned chicken, and asparagus. turned out pretty good. i have a lot of asparagus to eat. it’s a good thing my family likes vegetables.

    Like

    Comment by Crystal Cahill — April 14, 2014 @ 9:36 PM

  33. Keep eating those greens!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 15, 2014 @ 10:13 AM

  34. Hi Phylis.
    Definitely going to try some of this advice. I didn’t know beef was so good for you. Trying to find ways to help my epilepsy that don’t involve new kinds of medication.

    Like

    Comment by Jenny snook — June 21, 2014 @ 3:48 AM

  35. Glad this article could be of some help to you Jenny.

    You might want to consider supplements, too. Here’s an article that might be of interest:

    Brain Food for Your Health…

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2011/06/21/brain-food-for-your-health%E2%80%A6/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 21, 2014 @ 10:59 AM

  36. Hi, Phyllis,

    Have you ever read of a person having a paradoxical reaction to vitamin B6 (increased irritability, even aggression, alternating with extreme fatigue and sleepiness)?

    Martha

    Like

    Comment by Martha — July 13, 2015 @ 11:13 AM

  37. No Martha. Just the opposite.

    Theoretically, B Complex Vitamins are the star of vitamins.

    In sufficient quantities, especially those that combine B6, B12, folic acid, thiamine and biotin, are vital to the production of numerous brain chemicals.

    Like the neurotransmitters which serve as the chemical message bearers between your nervous system and brain.

    The most efficient way to make use of this “brain food,” is to take it in a B complex form, since this contains all the vitamins in the B group. And when combined, they work synergistically together.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 13, 2015 @ 11:19 AM

    • Thanks, Phylis. Nevertheless, that is precisely what we are observing: increased irritability and aggression, alternating with excessive sleep. When I googled “paradoxical reaction to B6,” I found plenty to back it up. It may be rare, but it does occur, especially in a patient with more than epilepsy going on (autism, benzodiazepine withdrawal). I have yet to discuss it with son’s PCP and neurologist. And as you point out, there are other ingredients in OTC vitamins, one of them being Mannitol, which can cause a lot of problems.
      Whenever a Dr. prescribes something for my son, I ask what the paradoxical reaction would be, because that is probably what he will have. People with neurological injuries just don’t react the way they “should.”

      Like

      Comment by Martha — July 13, 2015 @ 12:26 PM

  38. Martha, this might sound silly, but I rely upon my pharmacist to guide me.

    He’s got a wealth of knowledge, also he’s been there, seen that !

    Why Your Pharmacist is Your Best Friend

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2013/02/20/why-your-pharmacist-is-your-best-friend/

    Also, he’s hip to the fillers and additives.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 13, 2015 @ 1:17 PM

  39. Phylis Feiner Johnson, this is an interesting article.

    Like

    Comment by Jeffrey Liakos — October 7, 2016 @ 11:55 AM

  40. So glad you liked it.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 7, 2016 @ 1:39 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 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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