Node Smith, ND

A study was recently published in the journal Neurology, that supports using mindfulness techniques to reduce seizures in people suffering from epilepsy.1 The lead author, Sheryl R. Haut, MD of montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, and member of the American Academy of Neurology, clarifies that this study does not advocate using mindfulness stress reduction techniques in lieu of medication, but “[d]espite all the advances we have made with new drugs for epilepsy, at least one-third of people continue to have seizures, so new options are greatly needed.”

Stress is one of the most common triggers for seizures, making research into stress reduction techniques a logical, and valuable exploration.

Stress is a Common Trigger for Seizures

This specific study looked at individuals who did not respond well to medication. All 66 participants included in the study were currently taking anti-seizure medication, and continuing to have at least 4 seizures during the 2 months prior to the study.

Seizure and Mindfulness Study

The study ran a 3-month treatment course, during which time participants met with a psychologist for training in a mindfulness stress reduction technique. They were asked to practice the technique 2 times a day, using an audio recording. On days that they experienced signs that a seizure was imminent, they were asked to practice the technique an additional time. All participants filled out daily diaries online on any seizures, stress level, mood and sleep.

Half the participants were trained in a muscle relaxation technique – stress reduction is achieved by tensing sets of muscles then relaxing them while following a guided breathing technique. The other group – control group – was trained in a technique called “focused attention.” The original thought was that the muscle relaxation group would have better effects than the control group, however, both groups showed significantly reduced seizures over the 3 month period.

Results Between the 2 Groups

The muscle relaxation group had 29 percent fewer seizures, and the control group had 25 percent fewer seizures. The adherence to the practices was very high – 85 percent completion rate of diary entries over the course of the study – showed a high level of motivation.

The similarity in positive effect between the 2 groups supports that stress reduction techniques, in general, have a beneficial place in the treatment of seizure disorders, such as epilepsy.


  1. Haut SR, Lipton RB, Cornes S, et al. Behavioral interventions as a treatment for epilepsy. Neurology. Feb 2018, DOI:10.1212/WNL.0000000000005109

Photo by mari lezhava on Unsplash

Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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