Fats instead of glucose and carbs – epilepsy remedy according to awarded Professors

29 Oct

Two Professors, Sam Berkovic AC and Ingrid Scheffer AO have changed the way the world thinks about epilepsy, the debilitating condition that affects about 50 million people, according to a media release from the Australian Government, Department of Industry. They have been awarded the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for finding a link between epilepsy and genetics.

The article explains that epilepsy used to be attributed to something acquired rather than inherited, like a head injury, vaccination or something gone wrong in labour. “Parents felt responsible, and the resulting guilt was enormous”, the article states. “Sam and Ingrid discovered that a particularly severe form of epilepsy, thought to result from vaccination, was actually caused by a gene mutation. This finding dispelled significant concerns about immunisation” it says.

As a parent of a boy with epilepsy from age 19, I’m not particularly relieved that my boy’s situation may be due to his genes, nor can I say that I have ever felt responsible for his condition, or had enormous feelings of guilt because of it.

I am very interested in hearing more about the conclusions and discoveries made by Professors Berkovic and Scheffer, and in particular their finding that glucose and carbs play a role by way of interference with the movement of nutrients across nerve cell membranes.

“In one of these cases, treatment using a diet that avoids glucose is effective”, says the article, and adds that “the two researchers have shown that a particular gene, which codes for a protein that transports the important energy source glucose into nerve cells, causes a far broader range of epilepsies than had previously been recognised. That condition can be managed by a diet which substitutes fats for glucose and carbohydrates.”

This finding corroborates my previous, long standing belief that sugars (including cheap, sliced wheat bread, cakes and biscuits, white rice and processed, so-called ‘food’ commonly found in our supermarkets) are the real culprits of many illness related issues, while fats (good ones) are not just important for brain function, energy and absorption of nutrients, fats are essential.

Click here for the full article.

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The fish that kicked me in the gut

27 Apr

It’s like being betrayed by a dear friend. After what you thought was a reliable and meaningful relationship it turns out your friend is toxic. In this case to your gut flora.

When good food turns bad

I grew up in a Swedish household which meant eating fish several times a week. We’d have herring, cod, mackerel, and salmon. As a treat we’d enjoy smoked eel and roe from catfish too. Now with a family of my own, I often cook with fish. In Australia I soon discovered that whole sides of salmon are not only quick and easy to make a tasty dish out of that will feed a hungry lot; it’s also less expensive than most white fish and it’s unquestionably good for you. Or so I thought.

By now there wouldn’t be many consumers unaware of the health benefits of eating fish, in particular those species with a high Omega 3 content, the essential fat we have far too little of in our Western diet for optimum health. Too much of the other essential fat, Omega 6, in relation to Omega 3, results in a host of typical Western chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, insulin resistance, obesity, cancer and more.

So in my desire to raise my family on food that will build rather than destroy, I’ve been buying salmon as often as I could afford to. But you learn something new every day, don’t you? As it turns out, it is well-nigh impossible to buy wild salmon in Australia unless you catch it yourself. Why is that important? Because the farmed salmon is given antibiotics, and heaps of it. Not to temporarily ward off existing illness but to fatten up the little fishes.

Antibiotics are fantastic. They save lives. Ironically, the current extreme overuse of antibiotics around the world is now threatening the lives of the next generation, possibly even this one. Superbugs are becoming resistant, and the medical industry is finding it hard to keep up in its endeavour to develop newer, stronger antibiotics. It’s a catch-up game and the antibiotics are fast gaining ground.

In an address to the National Press Club in Canberra today, Dr Janette Randall, Board Chair of NPS (National Prescribing Service), urges us all to become antibiotic resistance fighters. “We need to take action at all levels”, she says, “ individuals, health professionals, communities, media, industry and government. We must act strongly, and we must act now.”

“We are facing a world where infections from something as simple as a scratch have the potential to kill and where common illnesses once again become serious or untreatable and carry a higher risk of complications and death,” Dr Randall says.

Quite appropriately, she says that the issue of antibiotic resistance is not restricted to the health sector. She also points a finger at veterinary, agriculture and manufacturing. Antibiotics are used in conventional animal farming (but not in organic farming) to boost production, and this reckless greed has two major problems, in my view. One is the obvious potential for the spread of resistance to bacteria which infect humans. The other is the damaging effects antibiotics have on our gut flora, whether the antibiotics come from a doctor’s prescription or from the legally antibiotics-contaminated food we eat.

Use sparingly, if possible not at all

Antibiotics are not discriminatory, no; they kill off the good bugs along with the bad, and this has a wide range of serious health effects. In Wired Science, Mary McKenna, author of Superbug, urges us to consider the possibility that the loss of important good bacteria in our gut after each antibiotics course could be permanent. She cites Martin Blaser of New York University’s Langone Medical Center who says the consequences are so serious that medicine should consider whether to restrict antibiotic prescribing to pregnant women and young children.

“Early evidence from my lab and others hints that, sometimes, our friendly flora never fully recovers. These long-term changes to the beneficial bacteria within people’s bodies may even increase our susceptibility to infections and disease. Overuse of antibiotics could be fuelling the dramatic increase in conditions such as obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and asthma, which have more than doubled in many populations”, writes Martin Blaser in a Nature editorial.

Now this sounds pretty bad to me. Furthermore, try as I may to restrict the prescription of antibiotics for myself and my children, how can I trust that we are not surreptitiously assaulted by the fish we have for dinner?

All that we can be

20 Apr

 T is having breakfast now, it’s his third day of proper speech without confusion and his endearing cheekiness is back too. He slept til midday yesterday, but this morning he surprised me at 8.30am by turning up at the post-swim coffee by the beach and joined in the social chat. The nights have been seizure-free for well over a week and the last three days have also been free of petit-mals. We are cautiously optimistic.

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We took T off the Sodium Valproate a while ago. His last day on drugs was two months ago after a tough period of slowly weaning him off it. The first two days off drugs were pretty average, and then followed 17 great days of T being his usual self, more or less.

T has lost a lot of weight lately, partly because his waking hours have been reduced and there was only enough time for two meals a day. Those meals were carefully put together to present him with the most optimal nutrition, and I gave him much less than he normally would have devoured as his appetite wasn’t all there anyway. Since we have been inseparable of late, he hasn’t had the chance to sneak off and buy soft drinks or cheap fast food. He hasn’t been capable of going anywhere by himself anyway.

He has also been taking natural herbs and supplements to help detoxify his system of heavy metals, boost his liver, kidney and brain function, and correct his gut flora which had been taken over by bad bugs. As is often the case during fasting (which he didn’t do) and all other types of detoxification (which I guess is what he was doing through the limited energy intake and strictly super healthy food and natural supplements), you can get quite unwell when the toxins are released from your body. As toxins are stored in your body fat, the toxins wreak a bit of havoc when the fat melts away and releases those toxins before they’re ultimately expelled by the body.

Coinciding with this painful process which manifested itself as a period of night time seizures, he battled with some 20 insect bites, half in the left armpit and half in his pubic area, which the doctor said were neurotoxic. He reacted very badly to them in his already neurologically fragile state. I’ve cleaned all beddings, blankets, pillows, carpet and fabrics in his room, and vacuumed his mattress several times, but the doctor thought they might have been grass tick bites from outside. About a week ago he had a few new bites, but this time he seems to have been strong enough to handle it. Touch wood.

My morning swims have saved my sanity during this dreadful and at times seemingly endless ordeal. The salt water, the beautiful beach at sunrise, the physical exercise, the shedding of tears into the waves, and my amazing, supportive girlfriends all form part of a recipe for coping. I’m so grateful for having this in my life, now more than ever. I can’t wait for the day when T can re-join us in the ocean.

I don’t dare to believe just yet that our ordeal is over. The situation is too fragile, the path is too unpredictable. Cautiously optimistic is all that we can be.

Feeling Purple – condition or symptom?

24 Mar

Epilepsy - signs of a condition or just a symptom of something fixable?

The boy who was perfect for nineteen years, at least to his mum, is now shaking uncontrollably from head to feet, saliva seeping out of a mouth that has temporarily lost all muscle tone. It’s frothing a bit against his bed sheet. Heart is racing dangerously fast.  Is it his or mine?  Maybe both. The electrical devil torturing the boy has taken a hold of his voice box, making it emit a sustained, eerie gurgle, zombie-like.

Without waking, the exhausted boy eventually sinks into a deep, restorative sleep. It’s over for now.

I’ll be wearing purple on Monday. It’s the sort of thing you do when you don’t know what else to do. Monday 26th of March is Purple Day, or World Epilepsy Day, and I’ll be wearing Purple because it gives me an ounce of direction in a walk through hell.

50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy, in Australia around 3 or 4 per cent of the population. Many things can cause epilepsy, like trauma to the head through sport or a car accident. Strangely, it can take years before seizures occur after the brain has been injured, and no one knows why. Tumours can cause epilepsy, and brain infections like meningitis. Toxins, drug abuse, strokes and birth trauma are also known culprits.

What’s puzzling is that in about 50 per cent of cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown. What’s also perplexing is that conventional medicine only explores two paths to treatment. One, very rarely used, is surgery. The other is pharmaceutical drugs. Some epileptics can lead a normal existence by popping pills for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, because the drugs are extremely strong, they can have some very frightening side effects, creating a whole new set of serious problems in their mission to eliminate the occasional seizure.

How would you like to spend your days so confused you’re unable to take simple instructions or remembering dear ones’ names? How about uncontrollable diarrhoea for a week at a time? Bed wetting? Itchy scalp and skin? Throw in almost daily tremors, involuntary cramping of your limbs or poking out of your tongue. Permanent liver damage and increased risk of suicide, any takers? Also, get used to severe lethargy, aggression and irrational behaviour. Sadly, this list of side effects isn’t even complete.

So why this sledgehammer approach? Why are these grim drugs so often prescribed without serious attempts by the medical specialist to go to the bottom of the problem?

Not all doctors suffer from ‘acute and obsessive prescriptionitis’, luckily. Before reaching for that pad, some doctors turn into detectives, asking the patient about her physical and mental health history, diet, exposure to toxins, vaccines and immunisations. They order complete analyses of the patient’s blood, faeces, urine and even hair follicles. Does the patient suffer from chronic inflammation or infection? Is the patient’s gut flora populated by good or bad bacteria? Has the patient recently been exposed to dangerous toxins in the workplace or indeed in the domestic environment? Are there any pinched nerves or blocked neurological pathways? Is the patient suffering unbearable mental stress, perceived or real?

One would think this approach particularly important when brain scans fail to show a clear reason for the seizures.

The boy, once perfect, wakes up to a new day tired and confused, the aftermath of the electrical storm still not quite out of his system yet. On Monday he’ll be wearing purple, just like me.