This a collection of Emails and posts that address this important observation. Yes, many epileptics (both human and veterinary) experience an increase in seizure frequency and severity during the shorter days of the year (November to April). Serotonin, vitamin D levels, and air quality are some of the key factors.
On this page:
Seasonal Seizures- The Serotonin Connection – Posted on BrainTalk Communities in response to someone writing that their seizures were so much worse in January.
The Serotonin Connection- Epilepsy and Depression – Posted on BrainTalk Communities in response to a query about the relationship between depression and seizures.
An “Epilephany”- Viruses, Serotonin, and Light Boxes to Help Treat Epilepsy – This is a letter that I wrote to my friend and colleague Dr. Jean Dodds today (1-12-06). It started out…innocently enough…as a question that I was posing to her brilliant mind asking whether she thought that light therapy could help epileptics as it does people with seasonal affected disorder (SAD). Once we understand the vital serotonin connection, which this letter goes into more deeply, then we can see how light therapy…the right kind of light therapy… may benefit those with epilepsy by boosting their serotonin levels. BUT, as I am prone to do, I got a little off topic and unloaded some other loaded questions and thoughts on her. It turned out to be a pretty good summary of everything I know and believe about how diseases (yes, all diseases) occur. Hope you get something good from it.
Spring Fever, Serotonin, Suicides and School Shootings (Link only- Click here) – This is a letter that I sent to my “Friends of DogtorJ” after I made a post on a medical Website. The author of this blog was discussing the “merry month of May” and the poorly understood phenomenon of increased suicides during that spring month. It is a lot more understandable than one would think at first glance.
Air Quality Influences – Posted on BrainTalk in response to a member writing that their seizures were the worst on hot, humid summer days.
How Viruses Fit into the Pattern – Posted on Braintalk Communities Epilepsy forum to complete the idea of seasonal patterns seen in epilepsy (and other diseases).
Seasonal Seizures- The Serotonin Connection
Posted on BrainTalk Communities Epilepsy Forum
One of the big links is serotonin. As most of you know, serotonin production in the brain is tied to sunlight.
Rabbit- Your husband’s difficulties in January is very explainable through the eyes of serotonin. January 22nd has been labeled by British psychiatrists as “the most depressing” day of the year. Why? Our serotonin levels have bottomed out by then. The shortest day of the year is around December 22nd. The short days that follow combined with the typical inclement weather generally results in a continued decline in our brain serotonin levels as we our light exposure is restricted. This often manifests as Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD), especially in people with food intolerance (e.g. celiac disease) who are having serious problems with serotonin production (see the post following this one).
But, it also manifests as worsening seizures. I have seen this pattern for years in my veterinary patients. I even have some seizure logs that show patients that seize ONLY between November and April, never between April and November when the days are longer and the weather is better.
However, as RanMan correctly points out, light can be very stimulating. We have all heard of children and adults that seize when viewing certain TV/computer graphics or even walk into a room with fluorescent lights (which flicker). Again, a lack of serotonin (which modulates that reaction) can be part of the cause. And that is why the depression of winter turns to the mania of Spring. The rather abrupt onset of that first bright sunny day can wreak havoc on the individual with a serious serotonin deficiency that has developed during the sort days, as they do not have enough to modulate the stimulating effect of that light.
We see this in nature, as cats and dogs (as well as numerous other animals) start fighting in Spring. It is all part of the natural rhythm of mammalian life. They are being stimulated by the light. It is just that what we have done to our brains and body’s through poor diets, crazy lifestyles, and polluted environments that has greatly exaggerated this natural phenomenon. In fact, statistically, more people commit suicide in April than any other month of the years. Very sad but true…and explainable from this physiological standpoint. And I can personally attest to the fact that depression is a very bad thing BUT anxiety (mania) is a whole “nother ball game. I never want to feel-or have anyone else feel- that way again.
I hope this and the following post help is some way,
The Serotonin Connection- Epilepsy and Depression
Posted on BrainTalk Communities Epilepsy Forum
One of the links between epilepsy and depression would be the relative lack of serotonin in both cases. Much of our depression is physiologically tied to a serotonin deficiency, best illustrated by the population who suffers from celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and the other food intolerances (casein, soy, and corn).
In the celiac, the damage done by gluten to the intestinal villi sets us up for a serious malabsorption issue, causing us to have difficulty absorbing such vital nutrients as calcium, iron, iodine, B complex, C, and most of our trace minerals (zinc, boron, magnesium, manganese, and more). Some of these vitamins and minerals serve as coenzymes/cofactors in enzyme systems that convert one thing into another. So, this malabsorption syndrome has its ugly hands in many, many disease processes, including epilepsy.
In addition, 95-98% of the body’s serotonin is produced by the enterochromaffin cells of the intestinal tract which can be and are often damaged severely in the food intolerance disease process. That explains why celiacs are bleeders (easily bruise) and have some of the worst inflammatory conditions (e.g. “autoimmune” disorders), as serotonin is both vital in platelet function and as a modulator or inflammation (as a vasoconstrictor).
The other 2-5% is produced by the brain itself, using tryptophan and enzyme systems to convert it to 5HTP and then to serotonin (and then to melatonin, the “master hormone” and sleep hormone). The question I have posed before is whether the brain benefits from the body’s store of serotonin. The answer has to be “yes” in my thinking. Why wouldn’t it be able to draw upon that rich store if needed, especially when we know that serotonin is transported by platelets which easily make it to the brain. So, does the serious serotonin deficiency only occur when both sources are jeopardized? That is possible since they are connected by the fact that the gut damage can affect both as well as the overall health of the brain itself (not to mention the damage done directly to the neurons by food lectins such as those from gluten). This, again, emphasizes the tremendous importance of understanding food intolerance (e.g. celiac disease) and grasping its TRUE incidence, which we now know is staggeringly high.
Celiacs are almost invariably depressed at some time in their life. And celiac epileptics are among the worst. This should be no surprise after understanding the potentially devastating effects of their malnutrition on the brain, intestine, liver, and immune system (with the last being particularly important when we consider “idiopathic” epilepsy to ultimately be viral in origin, which I have every reason to believe. There are over 20 viruses KNOWN to cause seizures in people and pets, with some being quite ubiquitous).
The serotoninergic system is known to modulate mood, emotion, sleep and appetite. It also clearly has an effect on seizure frequency and intensity as I have documented pets (and people) who have had seasonal increases in their seizures as the daylight hours lessen. In fact, I have seizure logs from pets that ONLY seize between November and April and never seize from April to November. This would directly coincide with drops in serotonin levels as the days shorten.
And this should make sense, as we know that serotonin protects the neuron against the potentially damaging effects of glutamate, the main neurotransmitter of the brain and the main “excitotoxin” in our diet. Our typical Standard American Diet (SAD) is absolutely loaded with this non-essential amino acid, with the principle sources being the gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye), dairy products, and soy which “just so happen” to be the main inducers of villous atrophy described above. That is not a coincidence, of course, and this fact helps to explain the often dramatic results in the epileptic who goes on the elimination diet I write and lecture about. (The other rich sources of glutamate are nuts, seeds, other legumes, and foods containing MSG.)
So, the epilepsy-depression connection should not be a mystery when we look at the physiological basis for both. If we are trying to figure out why we might seize worse by thinking ourselves into a depressive state, then we have a little more explaining to do. But, the question I would ask is “Which came first- the depressing thoughts or the physiological depression?” Why do bad moods occur? Many are physiologically-based and the negative thinking follows the onset of the depression. I suffered from this for years and years only to find it was a gluten-reaction that triggered the whole thing. Certainly, we can think ourselves into a depressive state, worrying about finances, family issues, and the like. The results of this would be stress, which results in cortisol release (a potential epileptogenic) and “reflex” depression. (Depression often follows intense stimulation. That’s the way the brain works.)
So, would light therapy help people who have depression and epilepsy? It sure makes sense to me. I have now utilized it in a small number of dog patients and it appears to have helped. It should. Our brain serotonin levels depend on light stimulation, with seasonal affected disorder (SAD, again) being the glaring example. And, there is a distinct connection between our diet and depression so the fact that “SAD” applies to both the Standard American Diet and Seasonal Affected Disorder is no coincidence. [Smile]
I hope this helps,
An “Epilephany”- Viruses, Serotonin, and Light Boxes to Help Treat Epilepsy – This is a letter that I wrote to my friend and colleague Dr. Jean Dodds today (1-12-06). It started out…innocently enough…as a question that I was posing to her brilliant mind asking whether she thought that light therapy could help epileptics as it does people with seasonal affected disorder (SAD). Once we understand the vital serotonin connection, which this letter goes into more deeply, then we can see how light therapy…the right kind of light therapy… may benefit those with epilepsy by boosting their serotonin levels. BUT, as I am prone to do, I got a little off topic and unloaded some other loaded questions and thoughts on her. It turned out to be a pretty good summary of everything I know and believe about how diseases…yes all diseases…occur. Hope you get something good from it. Click here or the blue link above for this paper.
Air Quality Influences
Posted on BrainTalk Communities Epilepsy Forum
Another member posted a response reporting that her seizures seemed to be their worst during the hottest and most humid days of the year. This is also explainable but most don’t really want to hear this part. I certainly don’t like “playing this card” but it is serious issue and plays a role in all neurodegenerative conditions: That is air pollution.
Those who question the elimination diet’s often dramatic effect on seizures will say “Man, you’ve got your bases covered, don’t you? If it’s not the diet then it’s the environment that is making the seizures so bad.” Uhhh…Yup, that’s pretty much it. [Smile]
For those who don’t yet know this or haven’t grasped the vital impact of unhealthful air quality on neurological disorders, it is time to do so. I started seeing the pattern years ago of my worst on-line epileptic patients (and “clients”) living in the most polluted cities of the world. That is when I established the Air Quality section of my site (http://dogtorj.tripod.com/id15.html). In this section, you will find a site (www.scorecard.org) on which you can put your zip code and see the air and water quality issues in your county. Again, I really hate dropping this bomb on people but it has explained a number of severe or refractory epilepsy cases as well as other chronic medical conditions. Some of us simply won’t ever reach our health potential living in some of the areas we do. Sad but true.
The city in which I currently reside is a glaring example. We are flanked by chemical plants and refineries….to the north, south and to the west, a horrific combination when we take into account the prevailing winds. The worst polluters are to the north and when that north wind starts blowing this time of year, we experience dizzy spells, migraines, asthma, and increased seizures, as well as an increase in strokes and heart attacks. There is a reason why more people die in November and December than any other time of the year and this (along with the posts above) is part of the puzzle.
But what about those hot humid days….the “dog days of summer”, between July 3 to August 11th? It is during those days that the ground level ozone reaches it’s peak in many of our cities, often being reported as “red alert ozone days”. Plus, humidity holds air pollution in suspension like water holds sugar or salt in solution. During these days in my city, we see everything that can go wrong with dogs, cats and humans: From severe acute IBS to allergies to, yes, increased seizures. Check most of your local listings and you will find that the air quality is its worst during these days. Interestingly, even back in Greek and Roman days (who named the “dog days” after the Dog Star Sirius being conjoined with the sun during this time) they experienced more plagues and pestilence during this time. Hey, humans aren’t their best during the extremes, are they?
But the worst medical gauntlet is the one we are now experiencing. This is another natural phenomenon (the survival of the fittest) during which time the weakest animals die and the strongest survive to breed in Spring. But once again, our horrific diets, our out-of-control lifestyles/lack of proper sleep, and our polluted water (e.g. fluoride) and environments take this natural phenomenon and put in under a magnifying glass. We need proper nutrition. We desperately need sleep (melatonin is the “master hormone”). And we are killing our brains with toxins.
The good news? We can change many of these things and realize major improvements in our health, including chronic neurodegenerative conditions. I have heard from people who have experienced complete cessation of seizures, MS symptoms, and peripheral neuropathies. The diet (as described above) is the single biggest thing we can change that will afford us these advances but doing something about our environments (both indoor and outdoor) can have a major impact on our health. Some will actually have to move (like one of my MS cases) to experience full recovery. But there are less drastic measures that can be taken that will put us on the road to recovery.
Once again, I hope this helps.
How Viruses Fit into the Pattern
Posted on BrainTalk Communities Epilepsy Forum
I think that would be a GREAT thing to start up. Many of the answers to our medical questions lie in the patterns we see, don’t they? I personally think the epidemiologists of this world should be solving many of these medical mysteries.
For instance, I believe that viruses are the likely underlying cause of “idiopathic epilepsy”and just about all of my study points to that. There are over 20 viruses known to cause seizures, many of which are ubiquitous, chronic, and Remitting-relapsing in nature (e.g. Epstein Barr and other Herpes viruses).
And, what virus doesn’t raise its ugly head this time of year. But “WHY they do” is the interesting question, partly answered above. When we look at things that affect cells and cause inflammation (e.g. lectins, estrogens, toxins/carcinogens) and things that suppress the immune system, we see that many of them also worsen seizures. Viruses arise in areas of chronic inflammation (as illustrated by common cancers) so the virus is the logical culprit every time I come at this. But again, “WHY the virus reacts to these things and WHY they cause seizures” (and why they cause cancer) are the really interesting questions, which I address on my site.
Viruses have an affinity for glial cells, the supportive cells to the neurons. The astrocyte regulates glutamate levels at the synapse and glutamate is the neurotransmitter that is driving the seizure. The oligodendrocyte not only produces the neuron’s myelin sheath but also produces two different lectins (glycoproteins)…one that supports the neuron and one that can KILL the neuron it serves. Why would it want to kill that neuron? Perhaps it’s “caught a cold”. eh? The evidence lies in the fact that two of the most common brain tumors are astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas, both viral tumors. Pretty cool, huh?
Once we accept the tenet that viruses cause seizures, we can start to see why these patterns occur, which in turn tells us what we have to do to prevent them…and treat them properly. Could the seizure be serving a purpose like all other symptoms do? Is it really wise to control seizures at all costs (like taking fever-reducers for virus-induced fevers) without getting to the root of the problem??? What is the most rapidly rising cancer in America? Lower esophageal cancer. Why? We have been covering up heartburn/GERD for years without getting to the root of the problem. Viruses get angry in areas of chronic inflammation (lung, colon, breast, intestine/esophagus, prostate, skin, and brain).