Ahh. Mitochondria. Darn near my favorite word. And the key to natural remedies for seizures and chronic migraines.
This is certainly not the first time I’ve written about my favorite organelle, and to some, it may seem like I attribute mitochondrial dysfunction to just about all that is evil in human physiology. Lest you think I’ve turned into a broken record, you need to remember what the mitochondria do in each and every one of the cells of your body.
Deep inside every cell, at the electron microscopic level, cells are very busy little things. Thousands upon thousands of reactions occur every second inside each and every cell. Some cells have more going on than other cells, like the nervous system, muscle, heart and other organs. Each and every thing that gets done requires energy in the form of ATP, and that ATP comes from healthy functioning mitochondria.
It’s at the core of what we are, and the breakdown of this process can wreak havoc on every single cell in your body, but likely beginning with the high energy demand cells like those just mentioned. But for the purpose of this article, we’ll stick with the brain.
Due to the massive energy demand, each brain cell has thousands of mitochondria floating around in the cytosol. You see, in order for a brain cell to NOT fire, it requires constant energy to keep levels of sodium and potassium on opposite sides of the cell membrane. Without a constant pumping action shifting leaky sodium back out of the cell, the brain cell would no longer be able to keep an electrical gradient and the cell would fire before it’s supposed to. Kind of like 10 strong men holding up a heavy boulder—if half of them decide they all have to go to the bathroom at the same time, the remaining five will likely leave the boulder to collapse to the ground suddenly.
With seizures, the same thing happens. Without enough energy in the form of ATP from the mitochondria, a brain cell may fire before it’s supposed to, triggering a seizure (for a more detailed overview, feel free to purchase my Migraines and Epilepsy eBook by clicking here).
What’s worse is that this firing of a brain cell before it is supposed to actually causes connecting cells to fire (monkey see, monkey do). This depletes the energy in the brain further, leading to a bad situation. The brain cells affected by this surge of firing become sick, leading to an increased risk of future seizures.
When this process happens after a very first seizure, it can set up the stage for the development of future seizures, a process called epileptogenesis. This particular article sets up the stage for looking into mitochondrial dysfunction as the root of the progression to epilepsy and using interventions geared towards the mitochondria to slow or stop this progression.
Unfortunately, mainstream medicine has been slow to adopt this mechanism as it relates to seizures. Maybe slow isn’t the word. Sloth speed in quicksand may fit better.
Current approaches to seizures and epilepsy take no thought into protecting the brain from further damage. NONE of the anti-epileptic medications will improve mitochondrial function and some have been shown to worsen it. Neurologists and epileptologists think their job ends when the seizures are controlled, but all the medications do is completely numb down the neurons so they can’t communicate effectively. Worse, when the seizures are intractable and don’t response to a single medication (which happens in some 70% of seizures), multiple medications are used to numb the brain further.
Until we take a stand and accept that the mitochondria are THE critical element in seizures, epileptics will not be fully served by the physicians pledged to protect them.