Epilepsy Talk

Sodium and Seizures | June 7, 2015

You may think that sodium is a “bad guy” to be avoided or reduced at all cost, because too much is linked to high blood pressure.

But sodium is actually an essential electrolyte, and a deficiency can trigger seizures.

Seizures from low sodium levels are most likely to occur from a serious disease, acute infection or because you tried to run a marathon on a hot day.

One-time or isolated seizures from these causes don’t warrant a diagnosis of epilepsy.

However, epilepsy is sometimes misdiagnosed and you may have an underlying health condition that’s causing an electrolyte problem.

Although most epileptic seizures don’t seem to be caused by low levels of sodium, some might be and others may be made worse by lack of the electrolyte.

These electrolytes are essential for conducting electrical messages in your and throughout your body via nerves.

They’re also important for the flow of water into and out of all cells.

Low Sodium Levels

A chronically low level of sodium, negatively affects your brain and can trigger seizures, because it disrupts electrical activity and causes swelling.

It can be caused by severe lack of dietary salt, but it’s more often caused by profuse sweating, chronic diarrhea or excessive vomiting.

Other possible causes of dehydration include fever, abnormal kidney function, diabetes, head trauma or surgery involving the pituitary gland.

Also, imbalanced calcium and/or potassium levels, sickle cell disease, and use of drugs such as corticosteroids or diuretics.

Kidney disease or negative reactions to medications such as diuretics can trigger sodium levels.

And, Trileptal can reduce your blood-sodium levels over time!

So, it’s possible that epilepsy can begin as a condition unrelated to low sodium levels, but later aggravated and triggered by medication.

A sodium level in your blood that is too low is dangerous and can cause seizures and coma.

That’s because a lack of sodium causes your body’s blood volume to decrease.

This, in turn, will lead to a corresponding decrease in your blood pressure level.

Low blood pressure can also cause your heart rate to increase, as well as light headedness and sometimes shock.

Low blood sodium levels can also affect your brain, which is highly sensitive to changes in sodium levels.

Losing sodium quickly is a medical emergency. It can cause stupor, unconsciousness, seizures, coma and even death.

Unless the cause is obvious, a variety of tests are needed to determine if sodium was lost from your urine, diarrhea, or from vomiting.

High Sodium Levels

Very high sodium levels can lead to seizures and death.

Contrary to popular belief, the primary cause of high blood sodium levels is not consumption of too much salt, but dehydration (not enough water intake).

Lack of adequate water intake is a very common condition in the United States because most people don’t drink enough water each day, while also eating foods that are high in sodium.

The most common symptoms of high blood sodium levels are confusion, irritability, depression, fatigue, fluid retention, lack of coordination, muscle cramps or twitching. Also nausea, restlessness, and general weakness.

More serious symptoms of high sodium levels can include changes in blood pressure and heart rate, coma, seizures, and death.

The severity of the symptoms is related to how quickly your high sodium levels developed.

If your levels build up suddenly, your brain cells can’t adapt to their new high sodium environment.
Balance

Obviously, the key word here is balance. You don’t want your blood sodium levels to be too high or too low.

As a further precaution, you should have your physician check your blood sodium level as part of your annual physical exam.

Abnormal sodium levels are diagnosed by measuring the concentration of sodium in the blood.

Tests are used to determine hormone problems.

Your diet and use of diuretics must also be considered.

And a low sodium level can be just one manifestation of a variety of disorders.

While it can easily be corrected, the prognosis for the underlying condition that causes it varies.

Intravenous saline in a variety of concentrations may be used to correct the sodium deficit in your body.

The best bet is to go to your physician for a full blood panel.

Only then can you identify the condition and act to rectify it.

The simple step of monitoring your blood sodium level and adjusting your diet can make a big difference in your overall health — both immediately and in the long term.

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Resources:

http://woman.thenest.com/epilepsy-sodium-6928.html
http://www.faqs.org/health/topics/4/Sodium-imbalance.html
http://www.emedicinehealth.com/hyponatremia_low_sodium/page7_em.htm
http://www.healthline.com/health/hyponatremia#Overview1
http://www.livestrong.com/article/330702-seizure-from-low-sodium-levels/
http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-balance/hypernatremia-high-level-of-sodium-in-the-blood
http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hypernatremia
http://www.wellnesswatchersmd.com/feature_articles/sodium_levels.php


26 Comments »

  1. Great article. Over at the Coping With Epilepsy site we have been having a similar discussion about magnesium. Something else, that when out of balance, can cause seizures.

    http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/f23/revisiting-magnesium-25241/

    That thread brings out the importance of kidney function too.

    I wonder how many people have been “misdiagnosed” as having epilepsy over the years and spent decades on medications they didn’t need when the real problem, had anyone bothered to check, could have been a simple electrolyte imbalance.

    Or perhaps an underlying problem such as a kidney disorder causing electrolyte problems. I had epilepsy for ten years before anyone noticed that I only have one kidney (congenital defect). But then so many of the AED meds are hard on your kidneys, so this becomes a self perpetuation downward spiral.

    Like

    Comment by Robin — June 7, 2015 @ 4:17 PM

    • I too have been having seizures for approximately 10 years,just 2 days ago,another,at work.Been in and out of huge hospitals and specialists.Prescriptions out the ass…and then the other day went tohave blood test done at a “small”medical clinic and they told me that my sodium level was at a dangerous low …and could be contributing to my seizures..smh,then doing research on phone,of all things,that “small” clinic and the research I’ve found,.. I believe it’s JUST LOW SODIUM!!!
      If I come to find out this is true,I’m gonna be sooo happy and pissed at the same time.Thx for posting so ppl like me see this.!!

      Like

      Comment by Jason — April 8, 2016 @ 12:25 PM

  2. I, too, have had massive kidney problems. (In hospitals 6 times in 2 months!)

    And I agree that electrolyte balances can be responsible for a whole lot of “baddies”.

    But who measures electrolytes or sodium? (Until you’re in the hospital on mega doses of antibiotics, which is another story.)

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 7, 2015 @ 4:25 PM

  3. Great article.

    Over at Coping With Epilepsy, we have been having a similar discussion about magnesium, something else that when out of balance can cause seizures.

    http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/f23/revisiting-magnesium-25241/

    It too brings out the importance of kidney function in maintaining these essential minerals at optimal levels.

    I wonder how many people over the years have been “misdiagnosed” as having epilepsy due to such a sodium or magnesium issue and put on meds for decades. Meds which can be harmful to the health of your kidneys. And downward the spiral goes.

    This really bugs me because I had epilepsy and was on AEDs for ten years before anyone figured out that I only have one kidney (congenital). They only figured this out when I had an early term miscarriage and someone thought to do an utra-sound.

    Thanks for the info. I’ll post a link over at CWE on the magnesium thread.

    Like

    Comment by paleobird — June 7, 2015 @ 4:29 PM

  4. Oops, Phyllis, I think my comment double posted. There was some mix up with my password signing in.

    Like

    Comment by paleobird — June 7, 2015 @ 4:31 PM

  5. Well, at least it gives me the opportunity to suggest that you read:

    The Miracle of the Coconut

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2015/05/12/the-miracle-of-the-coconut/

    You’ll enjoy it! 🙂

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 7, 2015 @ 4:40 PM

  6. Thanks phylis

    Like

    Comment by pooja — June 7, 2015 @ 5:20 PM

  7. I’m glad if I can help in any way!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 7, 2015 @ 8:05 PM

  8. Thank you Phylis for your research on this. Can anyone here suggest a good way to increase electrolytes without increasing seizure activity and without all the sucraloses and aspertames that are out there? The common sports drinks seem to have one or the other or have too much sugar.I dont even care if it tases cood or not. Is this just a pick your poison for those of us dealing with seizures?

    Like

    Comment by Alan — June 8, 2015 @ 12:46 PM

  9. Hi Alan,

    You might try reading:

    Epilepsy and Electrolytes

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2011/10/16/epilepsy-and-electrolytes/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 8, 2015 @ 1:04 PM

  10. I have to have sodium, my doctor said it was to low, I think that,s why blood pressure was getting low, and making me fall.

    Like

    Comment by michele metzger — June 8, 2015 @ 5:37 PM

    • Try higher (but healthy) foods, like vegetable juices, ham, bacon, olives, commercially prepared pasta and pasta sauce, tortilla chips and salsa.

      See what your doc has to say about those suggestions first.

      Note: Just about any commercially produced food is high in sodium.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 10, 2015 @ 6:02 PM

      • Hi~ I also belong to a site called Fighting the Migraine Epidemic : How to Treat and Prevent Migraines without Medicines An Insider’s View by Angela A. Stanton, Ph.D. This is the title of the book required for the group and the name of the group. Salt is a definite topic of discussion along with a healthy diet but there is also a salt and potassium capsule called S!CAPS which is strictly for improving electrolytes that Dr. Stanton uses herself and I am now too. It’s helped me to improve and gain better balance of both elements. Not to mention migraine improvement too. I agree with Alan, it has become extremely difficult to find any kind of drink that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners. I happen to be allergic to all of them even the so called natural ones such as Stevia or Truvia. Dr. Stanton points out in her book that companies use a lot of different names used for sweeteners that we might not even recognize! I find that scary…. For some of us that could be a seizure waiting to happen!!

        BTW~my salt intake has been too low too. BP is borderline low to normal but Phylis is correct when she says our meds do a real number on our internal organs and need to be checked. Our meds are very powerful because they work on the main center of our body, our brain, the place that makes everything else function. It’s kind of made sense to me that after time (like aging) everything takes a toll on our body. I just keep hoping we can keep finding ways to improve what we do to keep ourselves as healthy as possible and of course, seizure free ❤

        Like

        Comment by Janet — June 17, 2015 @ 2:47 PM

  11. The problem about commercially produced foods is that they may have some sodium but they may also have a lot of MSG mono sodium glutamate which is a known migraine and seizure trigger. MSG can hide behind sneaky labeling such as “natural flavorings”. Be careful. Read the labels.

    Like

    Comment by paleobird — June 11, 2015 @ 3:33 AM

  12. This article may interest both of you:

    MSG: Dangerous or Deadly?

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2009/10/08/msg-dangerous-or-deadly/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 12, 2015 @ 10:53 AM

    • Hi Janet,

      S!CAPS sounds really interesting (where can we get them?) and I appreciate all the insights and wisdom of your post.

      Thanks so very much!

      (Alan, I hope you get to read this…)

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 17, 2015 @ 3:16 PM

      • Thanks Phylis,

        I found S!CAPS on Amazon. In addition to using these it was recommended that regular, plain ole’ Kosher salt is the best salt to use for every day use for anything else. There’s no need to go out and buy the special Dead Sea Salts or Sea Salt at all. The cheap stuff is fine. I have to stay away from Iodine too…yes, I am a Drs nightmare! lol

        Thanks for the great article on MSG too!

        Like

        Comment by Janet — July 13, 2015 @ 1:10 PM

  13. Yes Phylis Thank you. I’m reading these. I will order some SCaps after I co through my case of coconut water. Today it was 115 degrees out while I did today’s inspection. Nortmally a sure seizure trigger. The Sprouts brand 100% pure coconut water worked amazingly. I will try S-caps when I get tired of the taste of Coconut water. Again i just chugged it … Not going for taste.

    Like

    Comment by Alan — June 17, 2015 @ 10:26 PM

  14. Glad you survived the heat. Sorry you hate the coconut water so much. Although you must admit it WAS helpful. 🙂

    Your description made me laugh. So much for success at any cost.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 18, 2015 @ 9:38 AM

  15. I wish to know whether I can consume red wine while having keppra, orista and tegretol CR in prescribed doses.

    Like

    Comment by Maandeep — July 13, 2015 @ 10:53 AM

  16. There are two questions that have to be considered when the question of alcohol use and epilepsy comes up.

    One is the effect that alcohol could have on the medicines used to control seizures.

    Alcohol can be dangerous when mixed with sedative drugs and can cause coma, or even death.

    The other question is whether the alcohol itself will cause seizures.

    Large amounts of alcohol are thought to raise the risk of seizures and may even cause them.

    When you drink alcohol, it may temporarily reduce seizures for a few hours, but then increases the chances of a seizure as the alcohol leaves your body.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 13, 2015 @ 11:14 AM

  17. Very important information.!!!!

    Like

    Comment by Stephanie — August 19, 2016 @ 1:04 PM

  18. I’m glad if it can help, Stephanie.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 19, 2016 @ 1:12 PM

  19. When increasing meds. I’ve ended in the ER. They told me my electrolytes were off. One time it was Sodium. One time it was Potassium. It is true! One time I had to be admitted because I did not know where I was! Gee I thought ER’s pretty well, not that day!

    Like

    Comment by red2robi — October 11, 2016 @ 11:57 AM

  20. Now that’s a scary scenario! 😦

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 12, 2016 @ 10:35 AM


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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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