Are there any foods to avoid with epilepsy?

  • October 7, 2021
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Whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving, attending a religious festival, or are simply making your breakfast, eating food is a big part of everyday life. But what if you have seizures? Is there any link between epilepsy and food and are there certain types of food to avoid with epilepsy?

Here is everything you need to know about food and epilepsy.

Are there foods to avoid with epilepsy?

No, not really. There is currently no evidence that specific foods trigger seizures. Assuming you follow a healthy, balanced diet, there is no reason to believe that seizures will be caused by your food on its own.

The only exception is people who have reflex epilepsy. This is a rare type of epilepsy, where seizures always happen because of a certain trigger. The best-known type of reflex epilepsy is photosensitive epilepsy (when flashing lights trigger seizures). But for some people the taste or smell of certain foods may trigger seizures.

However, this does not mean that there is no relationship between epilepsy and food for people with other types of epilepsy. What you eat, the way you eat, your lifestyle and your anti epilepsy medication can all interact in specific ways that could affect the number of seizures you have..

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Interactions between food and epilepsy medication

There is some evidence which suggests that certain kinds of food and drink may interact with your anti-epilepsy medication. This includes grapefruits and other types of citrus, spicy food, alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

These foods and drinks may speed up the way your body metabolizes (breaks down) the epilepsy medication. This would make the drug less effective and could therefore increase the number of seizures you have.

Always check the leaflet in your anti-epilepsy medication to verify if there are certain foods or drinks you should not consume.

Are there any foods to avoid when taking lamotrigine?

Lamotrigine (also known by its brand name Lamictal) is one of the most common anti-epilepsy drugs. You might be wondering if there are any foods to avoid when taking lamotrigine. The good news is that lamotrigine isn’t affected by food - according to this factsheet from the FDA. 

You should, however, follow your doctor or pharmacist’s advice about taking it. Research suggests that it gets more easily absorbed into your body when taken on an empty stomach.

Epilepsy and food allergies

If you are allergic to certain kinds of food, you may go into anaphylactic shock. There is some evidence that allergies could lead to seizures in people with epilepsy. However, the evidence comes from fairly small studies, so it is not definitive.

Blood sugar levels

Levels of sugar in your bloodstream may affect seizures in some people. If you have a sudden spike or crash in blood sugar, this could cause seizures. This is why it is generally best to avoid high sugar, processed foods such as cookies, cakes, candy and white bread.

Ideally you should aim to follow a balanced diet which will release energy into your bloodstream at a slower, steadier rate. This could potentially reduce the number of seizures you have.

Bananas and seizures

You may have heard about a possible link between bananas and seizures. This fruit contains a large amount of potassium - a mineral (often called an electrolyte) that your body uses to to work properly. One of the things your body uses potassium for is to help with sending electrical signals in the brain. There is some evidence that having too much potassium in the brain could be a seizure trigger. However, if you just have one banana per day, this is unlikely to put you at an increased risk.

Epilepsy and specific diets

The ketogenic diet - plus a number of variations – may help to control seizures for some people. If you'd be interested in following one of these diets, learn more about the keto diet or talk to your treatment team.

Epilepsy and food

Generally speaking, people with epilepsy should be able to eat almost all kinds of food without worrying too much about its effects on their seizures. As long as you follow a balanced diet and consume food and drinks in moderation. That said, if you do notice that certain foods seem to be triggers for you, it is of course sensible to avoid them.

If you have any doubts about food to avoid with epilepsy - and how it might interact with your medication - speak with your epileptologist.

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