E-360 Edition 23: Questions and Answers

Home > E-360 Edition 23: Questions and Answers

Q: I have terrible memory problems and have heard that Gingko can help with memory loss. Will it affect my seizures?

A: Ginkgo biloba is promoted as a treatment for a variety of ailments including memory loss and dementia, poor concentration and mood, but studies haven’t confirmed that Ginkgo biloba extract prevents memory loss or slows the progression of cognitive decline. Some studies have shown modest improvements, but most haven’t confirmed it is useful in improving memory. Apart from this, there is growing evidence that Ginkgo may increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy and could reduce the effectiveness of anti-epileptic drugs. Gingko may be found in other herbal products so it is important to check ingredients before taking any new product. It is not recommended people with epilepsy take Gingko Biloba.

Q: I’m hoping to train my puppy to be a seizure response dog. Am I legally allowed to bring him with me in public places whilst I’m training him?

A: It’s great that you are hoping to train your dog in this manner. Unfortunately, unless you go through the proper channels (using a service/assistance dog organisation) he will not be allowed on public transport or in shops unless he is wearing the appropriate coat. To have a Certified Public Access Dog you must have a diagnosed disability that an Assistance Dog can be trained to do specific tasks to assist this person. The trained tasks must be able to assist that person to live a more independent life and to help that person to be able to be more inclusive in the community. There are many assistance dogs organisations. This is one organisation, but be aware there are different rules in each state http://www.dogandcatboard.com.au/accreditation-of-disability-dogs If you contact a relevant organisation in your state, they will be able to explain how it works.

Q: Do you have any information on the Modified Atkins Diet?

A: The Modifed Atkins diet (MAD) is a combination of the classic Ketogenic Diet, and the Atkins diet. The Atkins diet was created by Dr. Robert C. Atkins at John Hopkins Hospital in 1972, and limits carbohydrates while allowing for as much protein as the eater desires. The MAD, on the other hand, discourages too much protein, with an emphasis on high fat foods. The modified Atkins diet is much easier to follow and was designed to offer a less restrictive (than the Ketogenic Diet) dietary treatment, primarily for teenagers and adults. Unlike the Ketogenic Diet, the MAD:
• Has no fluid or calorie restriction or limitation.
• Although fats are strongly encouraged, they are not weighed and measured. Most people will consume plenty of dairy and oils.
• Typically, about 35 percent of calories for a person on the MAD comes from protein.
• Foods are not weighed and measured, but carbohydrate counts are monitored
• It is started outside of the hospital and the person does not need to fast before starting the diet.
• Foods can be eaten more freely in restaurants and outside the home, and families can follow it as well.
It has shown to be effective in improving seizure control in approximately 45 percent of people who have trailed it. Please remember that no diet should be tried without speaking to your neurologist.

Q: Are nocturnal seizures easier to treat than daytime seizures?

A: Nocturnal seizures, like other forms of epilepsy, can be controlled with medication. Also, like other types of epilepsy, there is about a 30 percent chance that they will not be fully controlled. It depends a lot on the type of epilepsy that is causing the nocturnal seizures. Some types of epilepsy are easier to control than others.

So nocturnal epilepsy is treated like other forms of epilepsy and medication is the first line of management, but there are also many things people can do themselves to help control their seizures.

A few things which many people report help with their seizures:

  • A healthy diet and lifestyle
  • Getting enough sleep (it can be difficult to have a good quality sleep if a seizure occurs)
  • Managing stress
  • Restricting caffeine and alcohol
  • Understanding what may trigger the seizures

There are risks with having seizures at night, especially if you sleep alone. Nocturnal seizures can be a risk factor for seizure related death. Read more here about reducing your risk.

Q: I get worried I may have a seizure when I go out and I’m finding this very restrictive and going out less often.

A: Many people have times where they feel stressed or anxious when under pressure, but these feelings usually pass once the stressor or stressful situation has gone away or been removed. Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t subside. It is when they are ongoing and present without any reason or cause. It makes it hard to cope with daily life. When someone experiences anxiety, these feelings cannot be easily controlled.

People with epilepsy are twice as likely to experience an anxiety disorder as the general population. Seizures by their very nature are unpredictable and it is this unpredictability and the possible loss of control during seizures that people with epilepsy fear. Anxiety about having seizures, particularly in public, is very common. Things you can do yourself are:
• Learn to manage stress in your life (there are many apps and tools that can help)
• Learn meditation or physical relaxation techniques
• Be healthy and active, avoid alcohol, caffeine and too much sugar
• Learn to replace negative self talk with coping self talk.
Seek professional help if:
• the fear and anxiety about having seizures occurs frequently or all the time.
• your seizures are well controlled, but the anxiety remains.
• you are isolating yourself from your friends, family and community.
• you think that the anxiety is related to antiepileptic medications.

Have a look at our Seizure Anxiety Factsheet if you want to read more.