Osteoporosis: The Other Silent Killer – A Prescription for Proactivity

The Other Silent Killer
What is Osteoporosis and who is at risk? Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeletal system characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of the bone tissue.
Spinal osteoporosis While the symptoms of the disease seldom become debilitating until the latter stages of life, its propagation may begin much earlier.

Epidemic Proportions

According to statistics from the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 52 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis. 50% of women and 25% of men will break a bone after age 50 due to osteoporosis.  Bone Mass and AgeBy 2020, half of Americans over 50 are expected to have low bone density or osteoporosis. A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her risk of developing breast, uterine and ovarian cancer combined.

Proactive Prevention of Osteoporosis
Bone density peaks around age 30 and subsequently declines. Adolescents and young adults should regularly participate in weight bearing activities in order to build up a “bone density reserve.”
weight lifting
The American College of Sports Medicine,  ACSM, recommends physical activities that generate relatively high-intensity loading forces to augment bone mineral accrual in children and adolescents.  Evidence suggests exercise-induced gains in bone mass in children are maintained into adulthood, suggesting that physical activity habits during childhood may have long-lasting benefits on bone health.

Treatment is Paramount
While Osteoporosis is preventable, it is not curable.  The only option is treatment. Treatment of established osteoporosis is cost-effective irrespective of age (Kanis, et al, 2005). Studies have shown that bone mineral density in postmenopausal women can be maintained or increased with therapeutic exercise.

Basic Bone Anatomy
Bones are made from collagen, calcium-phosphate complexes, and bone cells. Bone tissue is living, and is constantly being remodeled. The underlying cause of osteoporosis is an imbalance between bone resorption and bone formation.osteoporosis bone Excessive bone resorption, inadequate formation of new bone during remodeling, and inadequate peak bone mass are all mechanisms by which osteoporosis develops. Aging results in bone being lost more rapidly than it is formed. 

Weight-bearing and Loading Exercise for Bone Health
Weight bearing activities like walking, jogging, dancing, stair climbing and hiking allow the force of gravity to act through the skeleton. Through this application of force, mechanisms that stimulate bone density are activated in response to the mechanical loading. The training principle of progressive overload is fundamental to the effective treatment of osteoporosis.

Exercise bone growthExercise stimulates effective bone modeling/remodeling.

Strength Training for Bone Health
Impact loading exercises are superior to traditional weight-bearing activities for maintaining bone health. Impact loading exercise simply means any exercise that requires you to support your own body weight, including walking, aerobics or weightlifting. Osteoporosis exercises Resistance training can be defined as the act of repeated voluntary muscle contractions against a resistance greater than what is normally experienced in daily life. Training of this kind is known to increase strength through changes in both the muscular and nervous systems. In one study, resistance training had more of an effect on bone strength in the hip and lower spine than walking alone (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 2013).  Nine months to a year of regular exercise should be afforded before appreciable increases in bone mass are detected.  Proper form and technique are important. Volume, frequency, duration and other training variables should be specific to the condition of the individual. For individuals with diagnosed osteoporosis, the ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (Pescatello, et al, 2014) suggests the following guidelines for physical activity and resistance training aimed to prevent falls:

  • One to three sets with five to eight repetitions of four to six weight-bearing, lower-body strength exercises using body weight as resistance
  • Activities performed two to three days/week
  • Additional resistance may be applied gradually and conservatively
    (up to 10 lbs.) with weighted vest
  • Therapy bands & rubber tubing may be used to facilitate
    range-of-motion exercises
  • Avoid impact exercise, spinal flexion against resistance, spinal
    extension, high compressive forces on the spine, quick trunk rotation

Aerobic Training
swim therapy osteoporosisAerobic training is also important to the overall efficiency of the system, and in maintaining bone mass. Aerobic exercises are a system of physical conditioning, such as running, walking, swimming, or calisthenics strenuously performed so as to cause a significant temporary increase in respiration and heart rate. Activities that engage larger muscles like walking, cycling, swimming, and water walking are recommended for overall health, however claims that aerobic exercise can build bone density are false. According to ACSM, “Although aerobic exercises are beneficial and important for overall fitness, they don’t specifically help build bone density”.

Non-Impact Exercises
While non-impact exercises may not directly support bone mass, they still offer immense indirect benefits in the treatment of osteoporosis. Balance exercises (e.g. Tai Chi, aquatic exercises) heighten proprioception and reduce the risk of falling, which is the leading cause of lost independence among the elderly.Tai Chi osteoporosis Postural exercises improve posture and help support the spine. Functional exercises improve the ability to perform activities of daily living, increasing quality of life and maintaining independence. Individuals who practice Tai Chi have 47% less falls and only 25% of the hip fractures of those who do not (Province, et al, 1995).  Tai Chi can be beneficial for stunting bone loss in weight-bearing bones in early postmenopausal women (Chan, et al, 2004).

Dietary Approaches to Fighting Osteoporosis 
Calcium and Vitamin D – Two of the most important nutrients in fighting osteoporosis are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium FoodsCalcium is an important component of the bone matrix, while vitamin D assists in its absorption. Supplementation with vitamin D has improved lower extremity muscle performance and reduced risk of falling in several high-quality double blind randomized control trials (Bischoff-Ferrari, et al, 2009). The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the
National Academies, National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements recommends the following intake levels for post-menopausal women:

  • Calcium: 1200 milligrams/day
  • Vitamin D: 10 micrograms/day (400 International Units/day) from ages 51 to 70 (Increase to 15 micrograms/day [600 International Units/day] after age 70)

Protein - Aging may compromise the body’s ability to process protein efficiency. Older adults should be vigilant in their consumption of protein in order to avoid protein malnutrition. In one study with elderly men and women, higher dietary protein intake was associated with a lower rate of age-related bone loss (Hannan, et. al, 2000).


American College of Sports Medicine

Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Dawson-Hughes B, Staehelin HB, et al. (2009) Fall prevention with supplemental and active forms of vitamin D: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br Med J 339:b3692.

Center for Disease Control. – Calicium

Chan, K; Qin, L; Lau, M; Woo, J; Au, S; Choy, W; Lee, K; Lee, S. A randomized, prospective study of the effects of Tai Chi Chun exercise on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2004;85:717–22.

Daltroy, L. H., Larson MG, Eaton HM, et al. Discrepancies between self-reported and observed physical function in the elderly: the influence of response shift and other factors. Soc Sci Med. 1999;48(11):1549–61. Medline:10400256.

Hannan MT, Tucker KL, Dawson-Hughes B, et al. (2000) Effect of dietary protein on bone loss in elderly men and women: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. J Bone Miner Res 15:2504.

Hartard M, Haber P, Ilieva D, et al. (1996) Systematic strength training as a model of therapeutic intervention. A controlled trial in postmenopausal women with osteopenia. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 75:21.

Kanis JA, Borgstrom F, Zethraeus N, et al. (2005) Intervention thresholds for osteoporosis in the UK. Bone 36:22

Kemmler W, Lauber D, Weineck J, et al. (2004) Benefits of 2 years of intense exercise on bone density, physical fitness, and blood lipids in early postmenopausal osteopenic women: results of the Erlangen Fitness Osteoporosis Prevention Study  (EFOPS). Arch Intern Med 164:1084.

Kerr, D., Ackland, T., Maslen, B., Morton, A. and Prince, R. (2001), Resistance Training over 2 Years  Increases Bone Mass in Calcium-Replete Postmenopausal Women. J Bone Miner Res, 16: 175–181. doi: 10.1359/jbmr.2001.16.1.175

National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Palombaro, K. M., Black, J. D., Buchbinder, R., & Jette, D. U. (2013). Effectiveness of Exercise for Managing Osteoporosis in Women Postmenopause. Physical Therapy, 93(8), 1021-1025. doi:10.2522/ptj.20110476

Pescatello L, Arena R, Riebe D, Thompson PD, ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, American College of Sports Medicine, 9th ed., 2014, Philadelphia : Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health

Preisinger E, Alacamlioglu Y, Pils K, et al. (1995) Therapeutic exercise in the prevention of bone loss. A controlled trial with women after menopause. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 74:120.

Province MA, Hadley EC, Hornbrook MC, et al. (1995) The effects of exercise on falls in elderly patients. A preplanned meta-analysis of the FICSIT Trials. Frailty and Injuries: Cooperative Studies of Intervention Techniques. JAMA 273:1341.

Raisz, L. (2005). “Pathogenesis of osteoporosis: concepts, conflicts, and prospects”. J Clin Invest 115(12): 3318–25

Strength Training is Better for Bones. (2013). Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 2013 Jul;17(12):8.


Kevin McMahan3This article is written by Kevin McMahan, a Health and Wellness Educator for the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. Kevin has had a lifelong interest in health and wellness. After graduating from Carmel High School he went on to get an associates degree in social sciences from Monterey Peninsula College, and a bachelors in kinesiology from California State University Monterey Bay. He is a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. “Your health is your wealth”, is something that he always likes to say. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

Top 30 Yoga Benefits

What are the benefits of yoga? How does the daily discipline of yoga affect the body, mind and spirit?

Yoga Benefits

30 Yoga Benefits

What is the History of Yoga?
Yoga is a holistic health and wellness activity that both relaxes and energizes the body. Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “union with God.” The common belief that Yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries. Ancient archeological finds discovered the Indus Valley provided unquestionable evidence that Yoga was practiced earlier than 3,000 B.C.E. and the classical techniques of Yoga may date back  to more than 5,000 years. The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body and mind together in harmony with one another. The whole system of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation. One of the earliest texts on Yoga  is believed to have been compiled by a scholar named Patanjali. This book contains Yoga theories and practices and is entitled Yoga Sutras (“Yoga Aphorisms”) and is thought to have been written as early as the 1st or 2nd century B.C. or as late as the 5th century A.D. This system is known as “Ashtanga Yoga.”  This is the eight limbs of Yoga, and referred to today as Classical Yoga. Most all forms of yoga include a variation of Patanjali’s original ancient yoga system.


What are the Different Types of Yoga?
There are over a hundred different schools of Yoga. There are many Yoga poses or postures within each of the different schools of Yoga.

Yoga PosesSome of the most well known schools of Yoga are as follows:

  1. Hatha Yoga -  Hatha Yoga  is the most widely practiced form of yoga in the United States. It is the branch of yoga which concentrates on physical health and mental well-being using exercises and breathing control.  “Ha” can be translated to mean “sun” and “tha” to mean “moon” meaning to balance the opposite forces.
  2. Raja Yoga - Raja Yoga means the “King” of Yoga, or the royal path. It is a form of Hindu yoga intended to achieve control over the mind and emotions.
  3. Jnana Yoga - Jñāna yoga or “path of knowledge” is one of the types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies. Jñāna is a Sanskrit word translated to mean “knowledge”.
  4. Bhakti Yoga  - Bhakti yoga is a spiritual path described in Hindu philosophy as focused on love of, faith in, and surrender to God. It is a means to awaken to God consciousness. It is a selfless devotion of reaching Brahman (God) in loving service.
  5. Karma Yoga - Karma Yoga is selfless action to reach perfection. “Karma” is a Sanskrit term meaning “action” or deed, either physical or mental. What makes a Karma Yogi is first the experience of union with God, and then selfless action.
  6. Tantra Yoga – Tantra yoga is a type of yoga designed to awaken the kundalini energy in the body and addressing relationships and sexuality. In Hinduism, the word Tantra means: 1) weaving and 2) the sacred scriptures of Hinduism, presented as a dialogue between Shiva and Shakti
  7. Kashmir Shaivism Yoga - Kashmir Shaivism is a transformative non-dual, yogic philosophy that originated in Kashmir in the ninth century. The goal of Kashmir Shaivism is to merge in Shiva or Universal Consciousness, or realize one’s already existing identity with Shiva, by means of wisdom, yoga and grace.

yoga older manWhat Does Research Tell Us About the Effectiveness of Yoga?
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga was concluded to be a potentially effective treatment in reducing or eliminating depression in a study by Janakiramaiah N and others (2000) and a review of clinical studies of the effectiveness of Hatha Yoga on depression by Uebelacker et al  (2010).

The prac­tice of yoga has been shown to be therapeutically useful in bron­chial asthmaNagarathna R, Nagendra HR (1985) concluded that “There was a significantly greater improvement in the group who practised yoga in the weekly number of attacks of asthma, scores for drug treatment, and peak flow rate.”  However, a 2011 systematic review of clinical studies suggests that there is no sound evidence that yoga improves asthma.

back pain personMultiple studies  have found yoga to be a helpful treatment in low back pain such as Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Wellman RD, et al (2011) and Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, et al. (2011).   Other studies have shown yoga to be potentially helpful treatment for cardiovascular disease, such as Raub (2002), type II diabetes mellitus (Innes and Vincent, 2007),  stress and hypertension (Kiecolt-Glaser JK, and others, 2010) as well as other conditions. The practice of yoga can also play a role in the rehabilitation of those who have physical and mental challenges (Uma, et al, 2008).  Many other benefits are inherit in the practice of yoga as described below.

What Are the 30 Benefits of Yoga?

  1. Relieves Stress
  2. Improves Breathing
  3. Eases Pain
  4. Improves Circulation
  5. Increases Strength
  6. Increases Endurance
  7. Lowers Heart Rate
  8. Develops Inner Peace
  9. Lengthens Muscles
  10. Increases Flexibilityyoga mats
  11. Reduces Cortisol Level
  12. Improves Concentration
  13. Increases Range of Motion
  14. Dissolves Ego
  15. Develops Compassion
  16. Enhances Energy
  17. Heals Ailments
  18. Fosters Joy
  19. Lowers Weight
  20. Lubricates Joints
  21. Detoxes the Body
    yoga man
  22. Strengthens Abdomen
  23. Improves Memory
  24. Delays Wrinkles and Aging
  25. Burns Fat
  26. Improves Posture
  27. Improves Metabolism
  28. Builds Immune System
  29. Improves Balance
  30. Brings Harmony

Have you tried yoga? If so, how has it helped YOU?  Best wishes for a yoga-riffic day!!


Bower JE, Woolery A, Sternlieb B, et al. Yoga for cancer patients and survivors. Cancer Control. 2005;12(3):165–171.

Innes, KE, Vincent HK, The Influence of Yoga-Based Programs on Risk Profiles in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., Dec 2007; 4(4): 469–486.
Jain SC, Talukdar B. Bronchial asthma and Yoga. Singapore Med J 1993;34:306-308

Janakiramaiah N. , Gangadhar B.N. , Naga Venkatesha Murthy P.J. , Harish M.G., Subbakrishna, D.K., Vedamurthachar A.  Antidepressant efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in melancholia: a randomized comparison with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and imipramine Volume 57, Issue 1 , Pages 255-259, January 2000

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Christian L, Preston H, et al. Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2010;72(2):113–121.

Monro R, Power J, Coumar A, Nagarathna R, Dandona P. Original research yoga therapy for NIDDM; A controlled trial. Complem Med J 1992;6:66-68.

Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR. Yoga for bronchial asthma; A controlled study. Br Med J 1985;291:1077-1079.

Ramesh L. Bijlani, Rama P. Vempati, Raj K. Yadav, Rooma Basu Ray, Vani Gupta, Ratna Sharma, Nalin Mehta, and Sushil C. Mahapatra.  A Brief but Comprehensive Lifestyle Education Program Based on Yoga Reduces Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Mellitus The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 2005, 11(2): 267-274. doi:10.1089/acm.2005.11.267.

Raub, JA. Psychophysiologic effects of hatha yoga on musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary function: a literature review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2002;8(6):797–812.

Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Wellman RD, et al. A randomized trial comparing yoga, stretching, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2011;171(22):2019–2026.

Telles S, Naveen K V. Yoga for rehabilitation : An overview, Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation, No. 19, K.G. Nagar, Bangalore-560 019., India,  Indian J Med Sci 1997;51:123-7Monro R, Power J, Coumar A, Nagarathna R, Dandona P. Original research yoga therapy for NIDDM; A controlled trial. Complem Med J 1992;6:66-68.

Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, et al. Yoga for chronic low back pain: a randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011;155(9):569–578.

Uebelacker LA, Epstein-Lubow G, Gaudiano BA, et al. Hatha yoga for depression: a critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research. Journal of Psychiatric Practice. 2010; 16(1):22–33.

Uma K, Nagendra HR, Nagarathna R., Vaidehi S, and Seethalakshmi R., The integrated approach of yoga: a therapeutic tool for mentally retarded children: a one-year controlled study, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, Vol 33, Issue 5, 28 JUN 2008, DOI: 10.1111/ j.1365-2788.1989.tb01496


Jean E. DartThis article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

Understanding Epilepsy – Diagnosis, Treatment, and Alternatives

What is epilepsy and how is it treated? Are there alternative or natural approaches to treating epilepsy?  When it comes to the subject of epilepsy, many people find it difficult to fully understand the disorder and all of its characteristics. Even though signs of epilepsy in people were present centuries ago, epilepsy is a relatively new discovery in the world of health. Before the advancement of medical technology, those with epilepsy might have been look upon by others with confusion.

Epilepsy Incidence
The Center of Disease Control & Prevention states that “2.3 million adults and 467,711 children (0-17 years of age) in the United States have epilepsy”. The incidence of the diagnosis of epilepsy has increased in the last few decades.  There is a higher incidence of seizures among  infants and elderly citizens over the age of 70.

What is Epilepsy? Understanding Epileps
Epilepsy is a term used to express an array of brain disorders caused by seizures. Depending on the type of epilepsy, the disorder may be short-term or long-term. Epilepsy is characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures. A seizure occurs when nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally causing temporary disruption in brain function. Neurons are overly stimulated which can lead to involuntary muscle spasms or convulsions, changes in behavior and/or changes in awareness or sensation. There are three main types of seizures: generalized seizures, partial or focal seizures and absence or petit mal seizures. Generalized seizures involve all parts of the brain. The Epilepsy Foundation provides the sub-types of generalized seizures in the following:

  • Grand Mal Seizures- unconsciousness and convulsions
  • Myoclonic Seizures- isolated jerking movements
  • Clonic Seizures- repetitive jerking movements
  • Tonic Seizures- muscle stiffness
  • Atonic Seizures- loss of muscle tone

Symptoms Specific to Types of Seizures

Epilepsy Generalized

Generalized or tonic clonic seizures affect the entire brain. The person falls to the floor and shakes or twitches uncontrollably, and is unable to speak.

Generalized or Tonic-Clonic Seizures - With a generalized or tonic-clonic seizure, the person experiences muscle stiffness, loss of consciousness and/or flailing arms and legs. They may lose control of bowel or bladder, may have trouble breathing and turn blue or be foaming at the mouth.

Epilepsy recovery position


The generalized seizure may last seconds or minutes. After the seizure, the person may feel very confused and it may take up to an hour for him/her to fully regain awareness of the situation.

Partial or Focal Seizures
– During partial or focal seizures, part of the brain is affected. The part of the brain that is affected will determine which kind of symptoms arise. For example, if the occipital lobe is affected, the person may experience temporary blurry vision or is extremely sensitive to light. Within this category of seizures, there are also simple and complex partial seizures. Refer to diagrams A and B below.


A.  Simple Partial Seizures

Simple Partial

Simple partial seizure symptoms include arm twitching, tingling of face or one side of the body, seeing flashes of light, hearing ringing or hissing, sweating or flushing, facial grimacing or turning of head to one side.


B.  Complex Partial Seizures

Complex Partial

Complex partial seizure symptoms include chewing movements, wetting lips, and picking at clothing, dysphasia or trouble speaking, and auditory, visual or olfactory hallucinations.


EpilepsyAbsence seizures can occur many times in a day. People who have these seizures may exhibit moments of confusion, staring blanking and excessive blinking.  Often absence or petit mal seizures go undetected because episodes can be brief but happen multiple times during the day or multiple times every hour. For more detailed information on each of the seizure types and symptoms, the Epilepsy Foundation is a very good resource.


Types of Epilepsy
The type(s) of seizure(s) a person has dictates which type of epilepsy is present. Epilepsy is characterized by the types of seizures a person exhibits. The major types of epilepsy include but are not limited to the following:

  • Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy
  • Childhood Absence Epilepsy
  • Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy
  • Photosensitive Epilepsy
  • Benign Rolandic Epilepsy

Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy 

Since there are so many different types of epilepsy, we will focus on idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) or primary generalized epilepsy. According to an article written by Selim Benbadis & Leanne Heriaud from Tampa General Hospital, entitled “Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy,” patients with IGE experience the following type of seizures:

  • Patients with IGE have one or more of 3 types of (primary generalized) seizures: myoclonic, absence and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.
  • One type may be the only or main type in a given patient.
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures are convulsions of the whole body lasting 1-2 minutes, and are the most common and most dramatic type of seizures.
  • Absence seizures are brief staring spells with arrest of activity, often with eye fluttering, which last just a few seconds.
  • Myoclonic seizures are very brief isolated body jerks that tend to occur in the morning.

Cause(s) of Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy 
Idiopathic generalized epilepsy is presumed to have a genetic cause however in many cases of epilepsy, a family history of the disorder may not be present. Patients with IGE who have a family history of the disorder may find it difficult to determine which family member will be born with IGE. The symptoms or seizures associated with IGE often start during childhood or adolescence.  Epilepsy Febrile SeizuresSeizures that occur during childhood and associated with high fevers are termed “febrile seizures,”  and are not uncommon.   Children and adults can have seizures and not be diagnosed with epilepsy. The diagnosis of epilepsy is not made after only one incidence of seizure, but instead it is made after recurrent episodes of seizures.    The Center of Disease Control & Prevention offers some possible theories of events that may lead to epilepsy:

  • Oxygen deprivation during childhood
  • Brain infections such as meningitis, encephalitis, or brain abscessTraumatic brain injury or head injury
  • Stroke resulting from a block or rupture of a vessel in the brain
  • Other neurologic brain diseases such as Alzheimer Disease
  • Brain Tumors
  • Certain Genetic Disorders

Diagnosis of Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy 

For physicians, it’s challenging to exactly pinpoint the type of epilepsy a patient may have. Patients with IGE have normal intelligence and score in the normal range on neurological exams. One method to most accurately diagnose a patient with IGE is to perform electroencephalogram (EGG) tests.

EEG EpilepsyFlat metal discs are attached to the patient’s scalp to tract electrical activity in the brain. When the patient is having a seizure, the device documents the spikes. Other tests to assist physicians in diagnosing epilepsy include: Magnetic Resonance Testing (MRI), Positron Emissions Tomography (PET) Scan and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS).  A good resource for more information about diagnostic tests for epilepsy is the John Hopkins Hospital School of Medicine, Neurology and Neurosurgery,“Diagnosing Seizures and Epilepsy.” 

Orthodox Treatments for Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy
No cure for Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy (IGE) currently exists so finding the proper treatment is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. People with IGE can live a normal life span.

Prescription DrugsMost patients diagnosed with idiopathic generalized epilepsy take medication to control their seizures. All prescription drugs have side effects. Some have potentially severe side effects.  The medications to help control the incidence of seizures in patients with IGE include but are not limited to the following:

  • Valproate
  • Lamotrigine
  • Topiramate
  • Levetiracetam
  • Ethosuximide
  • Zonisamide

Epilepsy drug side effects

Alternative Treatments for Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy  
Alternative treatments for epilepsy include:

  • Ketogenic Diet - A ketogenic diet may be considered to control  IGE seizures. The diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Ketones are formed when fat is used for the body’s source of energy. High ketone levels have been indicated to increase seizure control. ketogenic dietVining concludes, in a research review entitled “Tonic and atonic seizures: medical therapy and ketogenic diet. ” Epilepsia. 2009,  that “Although these seizures are often very difficult to control, some of our medications/therapies have been shown to be effective. Recommendations concerning the efficacy of these therapies and a review of the newer therapies are provided. In addition, the ketogenic diet has been particularly successful in treating these seizures; this is discussed in some detail.”

Ketogenic diets have been successful with pediatric epilepsy in young children. Almost half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet reduced seizures by at least 50% and maintained this decrease even after discontinuing the diet. Constipation, was the most common negative effect, affecting about 30% of patients, due to fluid restriction.  This led to increased risk of kidney stones.


  • Biofeedback- relaxation techniques used to control the body’s functions such as heart beat and blood pressure. Biofeedback may help control seizures that are triggered by stressful life events. In 10 research studies by Tan et al., (2009), Meta-analysis of EEG biofeedback in treating epilepsy, studied 87 patients whose seizures were not controlled by drug therapy.
    BiofeedbackThose with contingent EEG biofeedback all the studies showed fewer weekly seizures and a significant reduction (P < 0.05) in the frequency of seizures. The researchers concluded that neurofeedback training is a possible treatment in patient whose seizures do not respond to medical therapies.


  • Herbal remedies - Since ancient times, herbal remedies have been utilized in Traditional Chinese medicine for epilepsy. 
    Herbal remedies

In the US, herbal medicines are regulated by the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act.  Herbal remedies might be helpful in reducing the incidence of seizures, however, a study by Saper et al., 2004, “Heavy metal content of Ayurvedic herbal medicine products.” conducted in Boston with 70 herbal medicines found that 20% of these products contain potentially harmful levels of neurotoxic materials such as lead, mercury or arsenic that may cause seizures.  80% of the preparations did not contain harmful products, however.

Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven)
Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort)
Calotropis procera (calotropis)
Cannabis sativa (marijuana)
Centella asiatica (hydrocotyle)
Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley)
Dictamnus albus (burning bush)
Paeonia officinalis (peony)
Scutellaria lateriflora (scullcap)
Senecio vulgaris (groundsel)
Taxus baccata (yew)
Valeriana officinalis (valerian)
Viscum album (mistletoe)

Gingko biloba, ephedra, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, shankhapusphi, star fruit, star anise & sage are some of the herbal medicines containing neurotoxic components which can induce seizures (Samuels et al., 2008), Herbal medicine and epilepsy: Proconvulsive effects and interactions with antiepileptic drugs. and should not be used by epileptic patients.  More research is needed regarding the effectiveness of herbal remedies.


  • Essential Oils -  Essential oils can be effecting in calming the epileptic patient and preventing the symptoms of epilepsy.  Such calming oils include: jasmine, ylang ylang, chamomile, and lavender (not spike lavender which is not recommended).  Research was carried out at the University of Birmingham’s seizure clinic which involved using essential oils with individuals who had epilepsy.essential oil massageThe studies used aromatherapy massage to allow individuals to associate the smell of an essential oil with a state of relaxation. Researchers concluded that the aroma triggers relaxation and can help to reduce seizures. According to the  University of Maryland Medical Center, the following essential oils should be avoided: Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Sage (Salvia officinalis), Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), Thuja (Thuya occidentalis), and Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium)  For more information about aromatherapy contact the Aromatherapy Council


  • Acupuncture -The effectiveness of acupuncture in treating epilepsy has not been statistically significant. A review of acupuncture in epilepsy, “Acupuncture for epilepsy” by Cheuk et al., (2009) included eleven randomized controlled trials.  The authors suggested that studies using a larger sample size with appropriate standardized control groups are necessary to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture on treating epilepsy. They concluded that more studies are needed.


  • Yoga- Yoga has been shown to be an effective treatment for epilepsy patients.  In a research study conducted by Sathyaprabha et al., 2008, “Modulation of cardiac autonomic balance with adjuvant yoga therapy in patients with refractory epilepsy,” 18 members performed yoga (breathing exercise, meditation & yoga postures) and 16 members performed non-yoga exercise (quiet sitting & simple physical exercise) for one hour daily for 10 weeks.Yoga GroupThe researchers determined that the yoga group showed significant reduction in seizures (P<0.05) with improved parasympathetic parameters compared to no changes in the non-yoga exercise group. Thus it was concluded that yoga might be used effectively as an alternative therapy in management of autonomic dysfunction in patients with refractory epilepsy.