Introduction - What is Epilepsy
What is Epilepsy
Brain Epilepsy, known as apasmaara in Sanskrit, is affecting about 50 million people of the world today. Epilepsy is a disease of the brain. An epileptic person has characteristic bouts called as seizures or fits, which can occur anywhere and anytime.
What is Epilepsy
Brain Epilepsy is a neurobiological condition in which the functions of the brain are erratic, without any apparent reason. The abnormal behavior of the brain shows itself in brief spells, which are called as seizures or fits. During this period, the normal coordination of the brain with the rest of the body comes to a halt.
Most seizures last for a couple of minutes and then the person can return back to normal. There is no particular place or time where the seizures might occur. The severity of the seizure could range from a mild giddy feeling to a complete blackout lasting several minutes.
The nature of epilepsy goes on worsening as the age of the person advances. This is shown in longer and more numbing seizures. Most serious seizures can finally lead to a permanent state called as status epilepticus. Status epilepticus is almost what is called as ‘brain-dead’ condition. It requires urgent hospitalization and care.
All the causes of epilepsy are not known to medical science. Hence the causes are divided into two categories:-
Symptomatic Causes, i.e. those causes which are known and
Idiopathic Causes, i.e. those causes which are unknown.
Out of the various known symptomatic causes, the following are some important ones:-
There are several idiopathic causes for epilepsy, i.e. epilepsy may begin between the ages of 5 and 20 years without any discernible neurobiological cause. Such causes of epilepsy are more prevalent among people who have a genetic propensity for the disease.
Ayurveda considers epilepsy or apasmaara as a disease of the vata dosha. Vata dosha represents the air, and it is responsible for the healthy respiration of the person. Hence, a vitiation of the vata dosha, especially the praana vata which looks after the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system, can culminate into epilepsy.
Though apasmaara is constitutionally a vata dosha disease, it has been observed in people with pitta and kapha constitutions also. Hence, a combination of all the three doshas causes apasmaara or epilepsy.
Vata related epilepsy is caused when the person is under heavy excitation or an overwhelmed state. Both extreme happiness and extreme grief can cause epileptic seizures.
Pitta related epilepsy is caused due to extreme environmental conditions such as heat, cloudiness, humidity, dryness, etc. Too much exercise and mental stress can also cause seizures in pitta people.
Kapha related epilepsy is caused when there is a clogging of the normal processes of the brain. A sedentary lifestyle compounded by rich oily or spicy food is the prime cause of seizures in this type. Kapha related epilepsy is observed more in children.
Epileptic seizure symptoms vary vastly from person to person depending on the nature of the fit. Based on the severity of the seizures, the symptoms are classified into petit mal and grand mal symptoms.
(i) Petit Mal Symptoms:-
(ii) Grand Mal Symptoms:-
The symptoms of epilepsy from the Ayurvedic point of view, i.e. taking the three doshas into account are as follows:-
In people of the vata constitution, there will be the following indications:-
In people of the pitta constitution, there will be the following indications:-
In people of the kapha constitution, there will be the following indications:-
Epilepsy is a serious disease in itself, but it can lead to several dire complications. The following are some aspects that make epilepsy deadlier than it already is:-
(i) The most serious complication of an epilepsy is the potential injury or accident the person may suffer during the seizure. There could be a fall on a hard or glass surface, or there could be an accidental fire or electric shock.
(ii) The heavy breathing during seizures can cause the person to inhale fluid within the lungs, causing a type of pneumonia.
(iii) The tongue and jaw muscles undergo severe convulsions during epileptic fits. The person may accidentally bite his or her tongue severely.
(iv) If a person has an epileptic seizure while operating heavy machinery or while driving, it could be fatal.
(v) Seizures that continue for a long time could complicate into a condition called status epilepticus. This is when the person gets a seizure when the previous seizure has not subsided completely. Status epilepticus almost always culminates into death.
People with epilepsy must take dire precautions since the seizures can happen anywhere and anytime unexpectedly. The following is a list of the most serious of the precautions:-
Gas and electric cookers are very dangerous if the person has a seizure while operating them. People with epilepsy must use microwave ovens as they have less case of accidents.
Epileptic people must never bathe in a bathtub. A shower bath is ideal.
It is not a good idea to have many hard edged furniture and steep stairs in the house. Even glass furniture must be avoided.
Epileptic seizures can happen when a person is sleeping too. Hence beds should be kept touching the wall and cushions must be strewn on the floor along its sides. Hard furniture such as bedside cabinets and tables must be avoided or kept away from the bed.
Epileptic people must never live alone. At least there should be an emergency call number handy.
The ketogenic diet has been proved to be very effective in controlling the onsets of epileptic seizures, especially in children. This diet contains three to four grams of fat per gram of carbohydrate and protein.
The following foods are used in the diet:-
This is the reason why the ketogenic diet is preferred for epileptic people over normal diets. In the normal food consisting of breads, rice and wheat generally, the carbohydrate composition is very high.
Another diet that has been developed especially for epileptic people is the Atkin’s Diet. This diet also contains a high proportion of fats and low proportion of carbohydrates and proteins. Sugars are avoided or completely eliminated as they can cause high carbohydrate content. Saturated fats on the other hand, are freely included as they do not cause obesity or cholesterol problems.
In Ayurveda, the following kind of diet is prescribed:-
In the Charaaka Samhita, there is mention of the Mahapancha Gavya-Ghrita, Brahmi Ghrita and Vachadya Ghrita, all of which are very similar to the ketogenic diet described above. This diet contains cow’s ghee as the fatty base. It contains low amounts of proteins and carbohydrates. The aim of this diet is to make the body burn more fat than carbohydrates.
It is widely believed that there is no cure for epilepsy and that a person with epilepsy must learn to live with the condition throughout his or her life. Extremely famous celebrities have been epileptic, without being treated for it all through their lives. The most famous case is of Prince John of England, who died of an epileptic seizure at the age of 13. Lenin of Russia was also epileptic and he died of a status epilepticus which lasted for 50 minutes. Other famous epileptics have been Julius Caesar, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Jimmy Reed.
Though epilepsy cannot be medically controlled, many people are turning to Ayurveda for a solution. Ayurveda can control the quality and frequency of the seizures and thus ensure a prolonged life for the person. Neil Young and Hugo Weaving are best examples of people who have lived normal lives with alternative medication despite their epileptic conditions.
Ayurveda has a host of prescriptions for the treatment of apasmaara. The following are some of them with their actions given:-
The following Ayurvedic preparations have been used for epilepsy patients:-