“Soon her eye fell upon a little glass box lying underneath the table. She opened it and found in it a very small cake, on which the words ‘EAT ME’ were beautifully marked in currants.” -Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
It has been awhile since I wrote about the GARD diet for Epilepsy. This is probably because it is so much a part of my daily life that I do not think about sharing it with others. I have a secondary condition of Celiac disease, so when I think of food issues, I do not always think of seizures. But seizures are very much the reason I sought out this diet years ago.
The GARD diet was developed by a veterinarian named John B. Symes. It stands for Glutamate Aspartate Restricted Diet. This is an elimination diet, requiring the individual to eliminate gluten (and grains) aspartate (found in the artificial sweeter Aspertame), diary, corn (including high fructose corn syrup) and soy from their diet permanently. He also suggests elimination of legumes and nuts. His reasoning behind this approach is very sound and much more informed about the anatomy of the human body than any physician I have talked with over the years.
On the Website, Doctor J, as he calls himself, gives the reader clear, detailed reasons for the elimination of these foods and offers insight into expected improvement. Because his Website is so complete, I see no reason to repeat it, only to offer up my own testimony as to the results of years of application.
When I began to search out information on a diet for epilepsy, I did not know I would be diagnosed with Celiac a short time later. Finding Doctor J’s site turned out to be a gold mine for me. It covered both conditions and it was easy to do, or so I thought. To eliminate gluten, soy, diary and corn completely from my diet turned out to be somewhat like falling down a rabbit hole. I had no idea that I would eventually give up processed food altogether.
Let me give you an example of why.
I want to eat tuna, but to do so I must get canned tuna from one local store because the vast majority of brands have gluten and/or soy added to the tuna, even when packaged in water. Check your carton of orange juice. In the US, it often has soy added. The vegetable oil you cook with is actually soybean oil. The olive oil you just picked up at the grocery is adulterated with soybean oil unless you buy a brand that states it single sources the olives, which of course costs more.
To avoid the problem ingredients, I special order my chocolate bars, a huge treat. They are made in Peru of cocoa without added dairy and soy. They also are so potent that eating a whole bar is like taking speed.
Yes, the GARD diet can get rather wild, but the results are worth far more than the required effort.
Once I eliminated gluten from my diet, I noticed that the number of my daily seizures declined considerably, and that a particular type of seizure disappeared altogether. This seizure often occurred when I was trying to fall asleep. I would wake up, feel nausea and see a swirling of colors. The closest I can come to describing it is like being locked inside a lava lamp. In addition to the nausea, I would often have head pain and chest pain. I hated going to sleep. Seemingly overnight, these seizures were there one day and gone the next.
Being me, I wondered what it changed and began to pay close attention— looking at the type of yoga I was doing, the level of my isolation, the time of year and temperature, etc. I got my definitive answer one day when I accidently ate something I thought was gluten free and it wasn’t. The seizures came back full force making me very sick and very sure that the diet was working.
Perhaps not everyone is this sensitive or will be this successful with the diet, but research into the nature of gluten and soy lead me to believe that the elimination of them for those of us with seizures is as important as it is for those with gut conditions.
So how is life without ice cream, pizzas and pasta? It’s just fine. I am nearly 30 pounds lighter, I am stronger and healthier and, oh, yeah, having fewer seizures.