Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy and Diabetes — Confusion or Common Cure? | April 10, 2018

You might be surprised to hear it, but according to recent research, epilepsy and diabetes have more in common than we thought.

The key commonality is fluctuating blood sugar.

People with hyperglycemia tend to have focal or local seizures.

And those who are hypoglycemic, tend to have tonic-clonic seizures…

Although some patients and even some doctors disagree, there’s really not much difference between a diabetic seizure and other forms of seizures, such as those caused by epilepsy.

While the symptoms are generally the same — there is one very significant difference — the blood sugar irregularities which can cause a diabetic seizure can also cause the diabetic patient to lapse into a coma.

One dilemma facing both types of seizures are their origin. 

If the seizures are caused by blood sugar fluctuations, treatment with anti-seizure drugs which address electrical impulses in the brain are addressing the wrong problems.

Yet we all know that diet plays an important part in controlling epilepsy.

Interestingly enough, initial testing shows that a diabetes drug widely used to help diabetics manage their condition could also become recognized as an effective and secure way of treating epilepsy.

According to reports, Metformin (known as Glucophage) could be particularly useful in treating those epilepsy patients who are drug resistant.

Glucophage, a popular oral drug for type 2 diabetes, helps lower blood sugar levels by improving the way the body handles insulin.

Much like the Ketogenic Diet which treats epilepsy by minimizing levels of dietary starch and sugar.

A team headed up by Dr. Avtar Roopra found that Glucophage was able to turn on a molecule that regulates energy, and then found that they could suppress over-active nerve cells by inhibiting the transfer of sugar into excess energy.

The goal is to reduce the rate of epilepsy but not enough to affect the brain’s ability to learn and remember.

Further research is continuing, but what has shown as a successful treatment for diabetes could also bring new hope to those with epilepsy.

I’d call that a win-win for the two “kissing cousins!”

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  1. First I would like to say how interesting your blog is. Thank you for taking the time to write all these articles.

    I have just suspected as much since the time I developed a gluten allergy, so I am now trying to bring together the raw food diet (which is known for stabilising and curing diabetes) and the ketogenic diet. Basically, low carb, no processed sugar, high fat and raw food diet. I’ve noticed it’s great for stabilising blood sugar, however, you have to be so careful with the minerals (sodium and potassium).

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by teachersian — April 10, 2018 @ 2:55 PM

  2. “Yet we all know that diet plays an important part in controlling epilepsy.”

    Yes we do, but I don’t think most neurologists have caught on to this fact. Somebody should tell them.

    I went gluten free then low carb paleo then Keto and now I’m experimenting with a mostly carnivorous W.O.E. and at each step, my seizure disorder has improved.

    While taking Metformin might be able to help some folks with epilepsy, it has side effects. I really think people, ones who have diabetes or epilepsy, are better off controlling their blood sugar naturally. It’s not really that hard. Just decide that being seizure free is more important to you than carbs and put down the cookies.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by paleobird — April 10, 2018 @ 3:55 PM

  3. What about those of us who are not diabetic, but have bouts with hypoglycemia? Any medication to help control this blood sugar issue?
    Ever since I started my new seizure med Tegretol I feel the symptoms of hypoglycemia and can eat so they go away. Previously I did not feel these and just went into tonic-clinic right away.
    It would be nice if there was a med to prevent the hypoglycemia in the first place…


    Comment by Andrea Bertrand — April 10, 2018 @ 4:12 PM

  4. Maybe that is why when I changed my diet when I found out that I had hypoglycemia my hereditary seizures started to improve.


    Comment by Jeanine Bunt — April 11, 2018 @ 12:05 AM

  5. Yes, but getting the diet right is so difficult by yourself. I agree (most) neurologists, at least here in the UK are more interested in combinations of drugs. There are centres who will concentrate on funding the ketogenic diet, but in general the will only fund children. Therefore for an adult, trying to decrease seizures most of my time is taken trying to find articles/links etc…Therefore the plethora of links provided here is so helpful. Epilepsy as most of us are aware is a complex web of diet and lifestyle. But for those who wish to decrease or even simply getting on top of seizure activity involves linking these dots and doing the research. Experimentation is also vital. You probably won’t get any help from your neurologist unless you can afford the private care or are incredibly lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by teachersian — April 11, 2018 @ 7:48 AM

    • That’s why we have to help each other, in any way we can.

      We must be our own advocates. Who knows your body better?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 11, 2018 @ 9:32 AM

  6. If you are having repeated bouts of hypoglycemia but say you don’t have diabetes, you need to add one more word to that statement : YET. I don’t have diabetes yet.
    That glycemic roller coaster is a sure sign that you are headed that direction if you don’t change your diet.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by paleobird — April 11, 2018 @ 4:23 PM

  7. And, Phyllis is right, we can’t all just sit around waiting for the next “magic bullet” Rx to solve all our problems, to “fix” us. We need to take responsibility for our own health, get informed, make changes.
    And moaning about getting your diet right being soooooooo hard is nonsense. We have the internet. What is a carb? What foods are high in carbs? How does blood sugar work? Google it!
    The “hard” part is walking away from “foods” such as sodas, pasta, bread, cookies, etc. which serve no nutritional purpose but to which we are often psychologically addicted. You just have to make the decision that, sure, this is hard but having seizures is harder.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by paleobird — April 11, 2018 @ 4:44 PM

  8. A serious thought & questions I have about diabetes & epilepsy in treating them both. I never have had an problems with very low or very high sugar. It’s always between 80 to100 range whenever I check it. GLUCOSE is always important in both sugar levels in the brain & blood barrier for both epilepsy & diabetes. Not that I am a diabetic, but How does the brain chemical GLUTAMATE affect the glucose or glucose affect the GLUTAMATE in both cases of epilepsy & diabetes type 2 or 1 ? What I see as STRANGE,, a tomato has its own source of GLUTAMATE in that food as it is. I can not eat that red ripe tomato as is, BUT I can eat a tomato sliced up not totally red but fried in a iron or stainless steel pan, I add sugar to all the slices & I have NO PROBLEM eating fried tomato slices, with SAFE bread to eat with butter or coconut oil on the bread. Same is I want vegetable soup, as I add SUGAR to it, and I have NO CANNED SOUPS AT ALL, everything homemade & real foods. If I have vegetable soup with no sugar added to it, I am 95% sure of a GRAND MAL seizure happening within 5 to 10 hours later. So when will the AAN & neurologist tell the truth about HOW & WHY glutamate & glucose are problems for both conditions of diabetes & epilepsy ?


    Comment by CD — October 8, 2018 @ 8:58 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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