Some children who have epilepsy can find relief from seizures by eating a ketogenic diet. This is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Neurons (nerve cells) switch over to burning of ketones (fat byproducts) instead of burning sugar (glucose).
The typical ketogenic diet is called the long-chain triglyceride diet. “It’s based on a ratio of fat to carbohydrates and proteins,” board-certified epileptologist Ahsan Moosa Naduvil Valappil, MD said, as reported on Clevelandclinic.org.
“A normal diet contains a 0.3:1 fat-to-carb and protein ratio, but the classical ketogenic diet is based on a 3 or 4:1 ratio.” This means that the diet includes 3-4 grams of fat per 1 gram of protein and carbohydrate.
Ketones are detected in breath, blood and urine. A doctor can prescribe this diet, which is monitored by a dietitian.
Research has shown that more than 50 percent of the children with epilepsy who eat this diet can have their number of seizures cut in half. About 10-15 percent of children will stop having seizures.
It's important to stick to the diet. Even cheating on one meal can eliminate its benefits.
Fats like butter, heavy whipping cream and olive oil are recommended. Carbohydrates are strictly limited.
The doctor will see the child every few months. Weight gain may indicate that the dietitian should adjust the diet. Blood and urine tests are done to monitor the child's ongoing health.
If the diet has been keeping seizures under control, the child may stay on it for two years before the doctor recommends stopping the diet. Going off the diet is done gradually to avoid a resurgence of seizures.
If the family is happy with the diet however, there is no need to stop.
Epilepsy medications can be continued if the doctor feels they are needed while on the diet.
Another option for epilepsy control is the modified Atkins diet, according to the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center website. With this diet, proteins, fluids and calories are not limited. Food does not have to be measured, though carbohydrates are limited and monitored.
It's called a modified Atkins diet because less carbohydrates are allowed than on the standard Atkins diet and more fat consumption is recommended.
High fat foods like bacon, butter, eggs, hamburger, heavy whipping cream and various oils are part of the diet. There is room for a little carbohydrate "cheating" in terms of eating bread, noodles and the like. The day's carbohydrates must not exceed the person's restrictions.
Supervision by a doctor is important to guard against any risks, such as elevated cholesterol, kidney stones, feeling unwell, or an aversion to drinking liquids.
Ketogenic Diet. Epilepsy.com. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014.
Diet for Epilepsy Treatment: High-Fat, Low-Carb. Clevelandclinic.org. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014.
Modified Atkins Diet. Epilepsy.med.nyu.edu. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014.
Unraveling the secrets of the epilepsy diet. news.harvard.edu. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2014.
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Reviewed August 5, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN