Recently in Kenya, an encounter with an epileptic experiencing a seizure would result in name-calling. In ancient times, several people around them would directly equate seizures to witchcraft resulting from limited information. This was not easy for the epileptics. Often, they would opt for public withdrawal and some would consequently experience depression.
Today, there is minimal data regarding epilepsy in Kenya. However, the prevalence is estimated at 18.2 per 1000 population. Around 2014, it was estimated that 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy and that 80% of these are in developing regions. A breakthrough in epilepsy management was in the launching of the National Guidelines for the Management of Epilepsy in March 2014.
One key benefit of having this guideline is to harmonize the treatment of epilepsy. This guideline has helped demystify epilepsy. Epilepsy is defined as a chronic brain disorder characterized by repeated unprovoked seizures occurring more than twice in a year. The condition is non-contagious and can be developed at any stage of life. The main causes are; low oxygen during birth, head injuries, brain tumours, genetic conditions, and infections.
Seizures are the scariest bit of an epileptic attack and if not well managed, can cause harm to the individual. Knowing how to manage the seizures, emanates from understanding what causes them in the first place. Among the triggers include; specific time of day/night, sleep deprivation, fever/illnesses, flashing bright lights/patterns, alcohol and drug use, stress, hormonal changes especially among women, poor diet and certain medication.
In case of an epileptic seizure, it is advised to keep the person safe by: easing their falling, make the person comfortable by loosening tight clothing, avoid putting anything in their mouth which can result in tooth damage or even chocking, and avoid restraining the person. While all this is happening, timing the seizure is important.
Epilepsy is not a death sentence; 70% of epilepsy cases can respond well to treatment and can be controlled. Several support groups exist where the burden among the epileptics is lightened. These milestones have made this journey bearable for parents of epileptic children and spouses with an epileptic partner.
While milestones have been made, there are a few setbacks that are hindering us from achieving exemplary results in terms of management and treatment of epilepsy. These include; lack of accessible and affordable health care, poor diagnosis rate, negative effects of the available epilepsy drugs which can discourage treatment, few epilepsy specialists, and a primitive mindset among the uneducated who believe a traditional doctor can heal epilepsy are the main challenges experienced.
Moving forward, more health workers need to be trained. Additionally, educating the public to steadily reduce stigmatization, setting up research institutions for epidemiological studies to have accurate data for planning purposes and having tolerable drugs with minimal or manageable side effects.
Furthermore, management can further be supported through a good diet. Nutrition is an essential component of seizure control. While there is no special diet dedicated to epileptics it is important to note that some medication may result in bone loss. Consequently, it is important to have a regular intake of Calcium and Vitamin D. It is paramount to eat a balanced diet to get a daily dose of the essential nutrients. If there is no response to seizure medicine doctors highly recommend the ketogenic diet (high fat, low carb, controlled protein).
It is also important for epileptics to consume whole grains and cereals. These help in the slow release of energy. Regular intake of fruits and vegetables for antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are critical for the function of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and assist in reducing the seizures.
As Winnie’s Pure Health, we walk with you by providing healthier food products through our range of whole grain composite flours; Ugali Afya, Wimbi Afya, Uji Afya, Chapati Afya, Terere Afya and Atta Mark 1.
Our compelling desire for mankind is to be kind, show love to all, remember to eat right, look at the positive side of life and be open with your loved ones.