Community Forum

Unexplained seizures


Last November I went to bed, and woke up with paramedics in my room waking me up.  My wife called because I was shaking uncontrolably and would not wake up.  They took me to the hospital where I stayed for two days.  They did blood tests every 8 hrs, and MRI, CT Scan, Heart Stress Test, EEG, and more.

Nothing showed anything going on, including the EEG.  They released me, put me on a heart monitor for a few days, and followed up with me.  The seizure was unexplainable, the only thing I could contribute to its cause was high stress.

Several months later it happened again but I did not go into the hospital.  And then it has happened two other times.  All of them happen at night.  All of them are around stressful times or when I have had caffinated coffee.

I would appreciate any insight you all could offer me.  I am not on any meds.



First of all, stress is #1 on the seizure hit parade.

Stress can trigger hyperventilation which can provoke seizures, especially absence seizures. It can increase cortisol, known as “the stress hormone” because cortisol is secreted in higher levels during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress. And, as you may imagine, it’s responsible for several stress-related changes in the body which also may influence seizure activity.

Negative emotions related to stress, such as anger, worry or fright, may also cause seizures. This happens because the limbic system, the portion of the brain that regulates emotion, is one of the most common places for seizures to begin. You’ll probably find that you have more seizures during or after periods of anxiety or stress.

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system. Adrenaline is released and the liver begins to emit stored blood sugar. Insulin is then released, and blood sugar drops below normal—a common seizure trigger. And caffeine can be a “stealth” drug, too. It can be found as an ingredient in medications, including some antihistamines and decongestants.

Finally EEGs are not the be all and end all of testing. I know someone who had 5 EEGs, only to be finally diagnosed when he had Video EEG Monitoring. So if someone is trying to pass you off or is ignoring your symptoms, perhaps you should become a little more familiar with your diagnostic options…

Here's a link that may help you: Beyond EEGs…Diagnostic Tools for Epilepsy

Best of luck.

Phylis Feiner Johnson

Phylis Feiner Johnson

Thank you for the information, it helps.  One last question maybe you can answer.  If seizures are caused by a trigger like aspartame, or another chemical found in foods would the seizure neccesarily happen that same day?

Stress is the only trigger I can think of that causes these that actually occur on the same day.  I avoid diet drinks with aspartame and foods with artificial sweetner in them but accidents happen and sometimes I do eat/drink it.  Usually its a good 3 days to a week though before I have a seizure, if I have one at all.

Thank you again for the information, I appreciate it.


Coffee - caffeine can lower the seizure threshold for some with epilepsy.  For a few persons (not everyone) , a few food additives (not all food additives) can play a role but food additives may only impact about 1 person out 10,000 people (so uncommon).  More at: (modern nutrition) - Some persons can tend to have seizures at night (vs other times) and it has nothing to do with coffee, caffeine, or a few food additives at all.  That's my understanding.  Keeping a written seizure diary is a way to very slowly, over time, put part of the puzzle pieces together.  Regarding food additives, it's my understanding that a reaction to a food additive sometimes does not occur on day one but sometimes on day two or three or, in some cases, maybe six weeks later - even four or so months later (along the lines of perhaps drinking soft drinks like water on a daily basis or perhaps eating a favorite candy on a daily basis).   Words:  whole foods, natural foods, organic foods, modern nutrition vs native tribes' traditional nutrition, etc.  Historical epilepsy is not viewed to be due to a mysterious allergy of some sort.   A number of persons develop epilepsy from causes such as car accidents and sports concussions - none of which has anything to do with nutrition, foods, coffee, caffeine, or food additives at all. 



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