New evidence shows that vaccines, allergies or nutritional deficiencies may bring on epileptic seizures, and certain simple dietary changes may control them without drugs.
Epilepsy is surrounded by a great deal of ignorance. As recently as 1978, two priests in Switzerland were asked to perform an exorcism on a 22-year-old woman whose family thought she was possessed by the devil. Just nine years ago, it was reported that a British child was told not to play with a classmate who suffered from epilepsy "because she was a witch."
The British charity, Epilepsy and the Young Adult (EYA), says epilepsy affects about one in 200 UK adults. According to Dr Harris L Coulter, the celebrated medical researcher and writer, the number of recorded cases of epilepsy in the US has increased threefold since 1940 when there were 2.7 cases per 1,000 inhabitants. In 1990, this had become 10 cases per 1,000: "No one knows whether this is due to the treatment, or the condition itself," he declares.
Anyone can have an epileptic fit, or seizure (the word "epilepsy" comes from the Greek "epi lambano" meaning "a taking hold of"), which happens when the brain's chemical balance is upset and the nerve cells fire off signals in all directions. It's rather like an electrical storm in your brain, and it can take many forms. Idiopathic epilepsy can be caused by a range of circumstances some genetic, some congenital. Symptomatic epilepsy occurs when a specific part of the brain has been damaged by an injury, infection or a tumour.
According to Coulter, epilepsy is very much associated with violent behaviour in the modern society: "Violent criminals tend to have a very high incidence of seizure," he says.
His 1975 study of three US jails found that 5 per cent of prisoners had a history of seizures or epilepsy about 10 times higher than in the population at large.
Current research into epilepsy's various causes has also begun to
focus on the link between epilepsy and vaccination (see box, p 2).
Recent British government research shows that the DTP (diphtheria tetanus pertussis) and MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccines can increase the risk of seizure five-fold. Even though the American government has been busy reassuring the country that the measles vaccine is perfectly safe, its Public Health Laboratory Service Statistics Unit has found that the combined two produced seizures three times more than was previousley reported, and that DTP schedule is responsible for a four-fold increase in seizures (see WDDTY vol 1, no 8).
It appears extraordinary that the British government is not rethinking its action in the light of the US evidence which shows that DTP vaccine caused convulsions in infants less than a year old, usually three days after they'd been given the dose. The MMR vaccine took longer to cause convulsions between 15 and 35 days afterwards.
This study, by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, is based on the most complete data yet compiled and monitors the progress of 500,000 children, by far the most ever observed by a single piece of research.
The seizure rate was found to be three times the norm for children receiving the DTP shot. The rate rose 2.7 times within four to seven days for children being given the MMR shot and this increased to 3.3 times within eight to 14 days. Nevertheless, the evidence was never made public, and WDDTY only got hold of the evidence via one of the cluster of scientists present at the meeting.