Common Seizure Triggers

There are numerous causes and types of seizures. Depending on a person’s immune system, general health, type and cause of seizure, and many other factors – one person’s seizure “triggers” will vary from the next. This article is NOT an attempt to identify and classify all types of triggers and seizures. What this section will attempt to do:

  1. Explain What Seizure “Triggers” Are – from the lay person’s perspective rather than a clinical description. This section will also provide you with a useful way to visualize seizure activity. (See Below)
  2. Provide a List of Common Seizure Triggers. This is a list compiled from readers of this website. It is not a scientific list and is by no means a complete list of all the things that trigger seizures in people. However the readers of this website comprise the largest group of people attempting to manage seizures through diet, and have therefore given this topic considerable amount of study. (Follow these links)

    1. Environmental Seizure Triggers

    2. State of Health Seizure Triggers

    3. Dietary and Chemical Seizure Triggers

  3. Provide a Shortcut to Identifying (and eliminating) Seizure Triggers From Your Diet. Instead of just trial and error combined with a careful food diary, this list of triggers common to others may help you more quickly identify the foods, additives, and other specifics that are triggers for your (or your child’s) seizures. Scan the lists (links above) to isolate clues in your diet. Though there are dozens of items on these lists in total, any given person usually has just a handful from the total. A careful seizure and food diary will be helpful in isolating what you can and can not tolerate.

  4. Suggest Three Possible Theories Why the Modified Atkins Diet helps the body to manage seizures and possibly even heal itself. (Click Here)

What is a “Seizure Trigger?”

A seizure trigger is simply an event, stimulant, or factor of any sort that seems to lead directly to a seizure in a person susceptible to them. Examples include flashing lights, sleep deprivation, and anxiety. Triggers also include a surprising number of foods, preservatives, additives, chemicals and other environmental factors.

How does the event or thing trigger a seizure? It may be helpful to visualize the process this way: Our brain cells (called “neurons” – thus “neurology”) are long and thin, with dozens or even hundreds of branches on the end called dendrites. These dendrites match up with otherneurons. There is a small gap between each of these brain cells called a “synapse”. The brain seems to operate by sending chemical or electrical pulse along the intricate pathways made by our brain cells. When the brain is operating normally, millions of these chemical and electrical signals are traveling through our brain at lightening speed.


When a person has a seizure, the electrical signals get out of control, creating a sort of electrical storm that feeds on itself – creating some sort of feedback loop. This “storm” of stimuli often starts in a particular place of weakness or injury in the brain (and when this can be identified, sometimes surgery is an option). Anything that causes a surge in electrical energy in the brain may lead to an overwhelming of the weakened portion of the brain and “trigger” or cause a seizure. Thus if a person’s seizures start from the portion of the brain that processes sounds – this person will likely have some identifiable auditory seizure triggers. These could include a certain frequency or volume of sound (one person identified the music at her church as a reliable trigger).

If a person’s seizures seem “generalized” (and there is debate about whether or not such a classification is accurate or if we just don’t have tools sensitive enough to isolate the starting point), or when a person is highly susceptible to seizures (such as when under stress or suffering from sleep deprivation) – ANY stimulation that results in a surge in adrenaline or sensory input may be a trigger. Thus some people describe being “startled” into a seizure. Fear, pain, strong emotion, unexpected sounds, or a myriad of things may then become environmental triggers.

Why is food a trigger? There is no doubt that specific foods and chemicals are triggers for many people. The reasons why could include; a spike in adrenaline when blood sugar changes quickly, an allergic reaction to something the body views as toxic, too much stress burden put on the digestive system or some other organ in the body, etc.

Whatever the mechanics – identifying seizure triggers in your particular situation will allow you to work to avoid them.

Stories and Articles From Readers Who Found Their Triggers:

Yvette’s Story – TLE, Auras, and Triggers

Susan’s Story – Glucose Transport Deficiency?

Denise’s Story – HAAS Avocados

Sharon’s Story – Adult with Seizures