Sleuthing the Unexpected Causes Stops a Daughter’s Epileptic Seizures
“This is now four or five years that she has been totally seizure-free. Everyone’s different. So this is not the answer for everybody because it’s all about your personalized biochemistry.”
When their daughter was eight, the Isaacsons found themselves in a parental nightmare. Upon a routine bedtime check, they discovered their daughter, Tess, in the midst of her first-ever seizure – a grand mal, characterized by unconsciousness and violent muscle spasms.
As they waited for an ambulance to arrive, Tess continued to have seizures about every 10 minutes.
“This was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen as a parent,” recalls Marc, Tess’ father. “I’d never seen anyone have any kind of seizure before.”
What Caused the Epileptic Seizures?
At the hospital, doctors ran a slew of tests before finally diagnosing Tess with epilepsy.
Once back at home, her seizure activity continued. She would experience three or four peaceful, seizure-free weeks. Then she would endure three or four episodes in a single week – always at night.
With no family history of seizures and no prior health concerns, the family was puzzled about the triggers and sudden onset. As the owner of the industry-leading integrative pharmacy Village Green Apothecary, Marc’s professional experience gave him a root-cause view of health. He relentlessly sought answers to the bigger question: what brought on his daughter’s epileptic seizures?
“The only answer that the docs had at that point was, ‘We don’t know what caused it,’” Marc says. “I understand enough about functional medicine and nutrition and a person’s body and systems to know that, in many cases, there’s an underlying root cause and there’s a why behind it.”
The Isaacsons tapped into Marc’s network of contacts and the trove of top specialists near their home in the Washington, D.C. area. To manage her condition, doctors initially put Tess on low-level prescription seizure medication and suggested she might grow out of the seizures as an adult.
In choosing low-level medication, the Isaacsons sought to reduce seizure activity while avoiding the side effects and risks associated with higher-dose medication. The daunting list of possible side effects included fatigue, stomach upset and discomfort, dizziness, blurred vision, rashes, and problems with the liver or pancreas.
While medication brought Tess’ seizure activity down to approximately two-minute episodes, it didn’t stop them entirely.
Genetic Clues Behind the Seizures
The Isaacsons looked at optimizing neurotransmitters and tested her gut health along with investigating nutritional deficiencies and food sensitivities.
“We were doing everything we could to optimize our nutritional profile, optimize gut and across the board, optimize all of the different body systems through giving her supported nutrition and optimizing foods,” Marc says.
They learned an anti-inflammatory diet could help, leading them to remove gluten, dairy and food additives from Tess’ diet.
Diet changes, along with medication, slowed her seizure activity to about every eight or nine months.
Then a Georgetown University-trained MD with additional functional medicine training suggested genetic testing to better understand Tess’ unique biochemistry. One finding in particular emerged as a possible clue; Tess’ body wasn’t as efficient at detoxing as others.
“When tested on genomics to understand detoxification pathways, we learned my daughter had compromised genes when it comes to detoxification,” Marc says. “So we then went forward with a clinical nutritionist and a couple of other people to help us identify some of the very specific toxins.”
Knowing that Tess didn’t detox toxins well, they took a couple of steps to take the load off her body:
Reduced toxic exposure – They cleaned up her diet and environment as much as possible. Tess ate organic food and her family eliminated toxins in their home in cleaning and personal care products.
Detoxed toxins – They actively detoxed her from pesticides and mycotoxins, including mold. And they added supplements to support her body’s natural detox processes, more exercise, and baths to help draw out toxins and replace minerals.
Trying Keto for Epilepsy
Along the way, the family learned that a ketogenic diet has helped many kids with epilepsy. It’s a diet rich in good fats and low in carbohydrates.
With hope, the Isaacsons experimented with keto for Tess, loading her up with healthy fats such as coconut oil and fish oil.
And they didn’t expect the result.
“The crazy interesting thing that happened is, over a five- or six-week period, as we were ratcheting up more fat into her diet and giving her shakes with MCT oil and other things like that, she actually started for the first time to have micro seizures,” Marc says. “She would have a little bit of a seizure during the day, literally like a split second. She’d be holding something like a fork or glass of water and would drop it.”
Clearly, keto didn’t agree with Tess’ body.
“It turns out that she can’t process that much fat,” Marc says. “We overwhelmed her with fat and there’s a segment of the population that gets very sick doing ketogenic. The body’s just not made for it.”
Stopping Sulfurous Foods – and Epileptic Seizures
But diet ultimately did provide a solution for Tess – just not keto. A clinical nutritionist uncovered a major culprit for Tess: sulfurous foods. Foods high in sulfur include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, garlic, curcumin and eggs.
Tess’ parents realized that her diet had been high in these types of foods.
“We were giving her some garlic and other immune-boosting things, and garlic is high in sulfur,” Marc says. “And not only that, my daughter was eating eggs like every single morning.”
When they reduced Tess’ sulfur intake, her seizure activity transformed. In fact, except for one incident when travel changed their nutrition routine, she no longer experiences seizures.
“This is now four or five years that she has been totally seizure-free,” Marc says.
It took three years, but the Isaacsons had finally found their root causes – and a protocol that is very specific to Tess’ body and genetics. Over time, and with their doctor’s permission and guidance, the family eased Tess off medication.
Now a teenager, Tess continues to mostly avoid sulfurous and inflammatory foods and exercises and takes mineral baths to support detox.
“Everyone’s different,” Marc stresses. “This is not the answer for everybody because it’s all about your personalized biochemistry. I think the real magic here is trying to figure out, what are the unbelievable show-stopping incredible couple things that you can do for somebody that can change the dynamic?”
Want to hear the family’s story firsthand? Listen to my interview with Marc on the Rebuilding My Health Radio podcast.
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