Epilepsy and Keto Diet: Here is All You Need to Know!

Epilepsy and Keto Diet

Have you tried everything to get rid of epileptic seizures, but nothing seems to work? Well, do not worry. Epilepsy and keto diet can dramatically reduce seizures. Keto diet is a high-fat diet that will help you in arresting epilepsy. Children experiencing seizures is such a painful sight, and parents want to do anything in the world to help their child. I understand how it must feel, and because of that, I am going to describe to you a way to reduce that issue dramatically. You can really reduce your child’s seizures with a good diet plan. The keto diet has been tried and tested in arresting epilepsy.

You cannot start it on your own, you must consult a doctor before you begin but after your child is on it, you will see visible changes. Read on to know further about epilepsy and keto diet, for whom it is was originally created, what are its side effects and how it works.

What Is The Keto Diet All About?

I suppose most of you are familiar with the keto diet by now, but for those of you who are not sure what it is, let me tell you. A keto diet is basically a diet that is high in fat content and is low in carbs. It has  70 to 80% fat and the rest is protein. The maximum carbs you can consume is just one to two percent of your total food intake. In the keto diet, you make your body break down fat and not rely on carbs for daily energy production. The process is called ketosis, during which you will utilize your body’s fat. It is not only for losing weight, but it has many other benefits like reducing diabetes and epilepsy.

What Is The Reason For Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disease found in men and women of any race and ethnicity. It is a neurological disorder in which a person experiences seizures and these seizures begin with blank staring at something and then twitching arms and legs. In adults, the seizures can be limited to the occasional seizure, but in children, it can lead to serious disorders in the long term.

There are a few medications that can control it, but none of them can completely cure it. There are various reasons for epilepsy. The common ones are as follows:

  1. Genetic influence
  2. Head injury
  3. Brain trauma after the age of 35
  4. Prenatal injury
  5. Any infectious disease like meningitis, AIDS, and viral encephalitis can cause epilepsy.
  6. Some developmental disorders like autism and neurofibromatosis can also lead to this.

How Does The Keto Diet Help With Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is mainly seizures that are stimulated by a nervous disorder. Now you must be wondering how the keto diet can reduce seizures. It has been found in recent studies in children, it alters the genes, which result in energy metabolism in the brain and which gives seizures. It stabilizes the neurons, which cause epileptic seizures. The same is the case in adults, but better results are seen in children, and for this reason, it is used in so many areas to work on different neural disorders.

Who Is It For?

The ketogenic diet is generally not harmful, but if you are using it for the reduction of epilepsy, then you need to consult a doctor prior to starting. The doctor will advise if it is good for you or your child. Here I am generally telling you which people should consult a doctor.

  1. Children who have frequent seizures.
  2. It might not be suitable for all adults as it restricts a few food items.
  3. The keto diet works best for people with infantile spasms, Rett syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, Dravet syndrome, Doose syndrome, and GLUT-1 deficiency.
  4. It was not initially recommended for infants, but recent studies show infants can benefit from this diet.
  5. It works well for children with focal seizures, but it cannot immediately reduce you to no seizures at all.
  6. Anybody can start this diet because there are no metabolic or respiratory dangers to it.

What Age Group Should Try It?

Adults and children can follow it without any fear. In the case of senior citizens, the results are not quite as good. Infants were not initially advised to opt for it, but they are also considered safe opting for the keto diet. In either case, you need to consult your doctor prior to starting the keto diet, and especially in the case of infants, they need to be strictly monitored by a doctor.

What Foods Can You Eat?

As I have stated previously, the keto diet mainly consists of fats; I will not go into further details, but let me describe to you briefly what foods you can eat when you are on the keto diet.

Classical Fats

What are food items that come to mind when I say fats? Yes, butter, oils, and meat are the fattiest foods, and they come in basic or classical fats. These are the food items that are a must in your keto diet, but many other foods have fats and have no carbs in them. You can consult a doctor to tell you which foods work best with epilepsy and the keto diet.

The fats which have short-chain and medium-chain triglycerides are mainly advised to be eaten because they are easily broken down into ketones. Also, always go for foods with good cholesterol and fats.

How Does It Work?

Once you get on the keto diet, it is not that you can eat as many calories as you want as long as it is just fats. You will need to be eating the same required amount of calories, but just in fat; as for the children, the ratio of fat to protein and carbs is 4:1. The keto diet will convert fat to ketones, which will be more easily burned in the body as energy.

Now, if you ask if it works or not, then it definitely works. Children who were on medications for seizures and followed a keto diet noticed an improvement. Keto diet has helped them reduce seizures to almost half of what they were previously experiencing. Furthermore, almost 10 to 15% of children have completely arrested their seizures.

What Happens Once You Start This Diet?

You cannot start this diet on your own. You have to visit a doctor to discuss it first. The keto diet for epileptic patients starts in the hospital. At first, you are made to eat fat with just water for one day. Then you are given the keto food. Even after you have started the keto diet, you are kept under observation in the hospital for several days. It is to determine if you have any adverse reaction to it.

The reason behind fasting is it leads to earlier onset of ketosis, and as soon as the patient goes into ketosis, the doctor can monitor if the keto food suits that person or if there is a negative reaction to it. In negative reactions, the most common thing is you will have more seizures than usual after getting on the keto diet. It is not usually found, but care must be taken to monitor the patient for that.

Do Epilepsy And Keto Diet Work?

Epilepsy and keto diet works quite well because the first thing is all the food you are consuming is organic, and there are no processed medications, so it will not have a side effect that will drastically harm your body. It has been observed recently and in the past. John Hopkins is the place where this treatment began, and it has been going very well there. A lot of children have opted for this diet and have enjoyed great results. In John Hopkins first trial, almost 38% of children recovered completely. So I would definitely say statistics show epilepsy and the keto diet work great together.

Side Effects

There are no long-term side effects to it, but in the beginning, you can feel nauseous and sluggish. It is because the body has not started ketosis, and you feel hungry. In this case, you should take non-carb drinks to boost up your energy. Make sure your child does not feel too lazy because it can worsen the illness. Constipation can also be experienced in the beginning, but our body soon gets used to the diet, and you will no longer feel constipated. The reason for constipation is the low fiber in the diet.

Some long-term side effects are kidney stones, so make sure you drink enough water, and as in children, it can lead to slow growth. Too much fat can lead to high blood pressure in some people.

Changes In Medicine

The medications are not completely stopped after you get on the keto diet because they help control seizures, and they work hand in hand with the keto diet. There is usually some kind of reduction in the amount of medication over time. Some liquid medications are excluded, and pills are prescribed. You might feel low on energy and be short on some vitamins and minerals, so that is why multivitamins and probiotics are often prescribed. When you are on a keto diet, Topiramate (Topamax) and zonisamide (Zonegran) are usually given because they will not stimulate seizures and also help reduce the risk of kidney stones. The medications are sugar-free and carb-free.

How To Monitor The Patient?

For the first three months, your child has to see the doctor monthly, and after that, you most likely go once every three months. It is to see if the diet is working for the patient or not. Urine tests and blood tests are done frequently to see if sugar is present. Also, the regular height and weight of the child are measured to see if growth is normal.

The doctor and dietitian will also see if there is a need to change your medications. If you are doing well with the keto diet, it is most likely you will reduce or stop your medications.

Can You Eventually Stop This Diet?

If things are going well with the diet, then it can be stopped after two years. After two years, most people stop with seizures and other epileptic symptoms. Most people wish to continue with this diet as it has not only been controlling seizures but also other health problems.

If you quit this diet after two years, do not stop all at once because it might provoke seizures. Get off it slowly and take three months to completely get off it. As for children, when they stop the keto diet, they have to continue the seizure control medications.

5 Important Things To Note

Some things you have to carefully monitor when you are on a keto diet are listed below. Though I have mentioned all of them above, I am again emphasizing the main things.

  1. Always start the diet in the hospital and spend at least two days to get things going.
  2. Keep consulting with the dietitian for changes in medications and extra vitamins to your diet.
  3. Make sure you completely exclude carbs. They can be in the most unusual places like toothpaste.
  4. If it is working for you, stick to it for at least a year.
  5. Visit your doctor regularly when on the diet.

Other Diet Treatment For Epilepsy

If the keto diet is not working for you, then you can move to other diet plans as well. They are a bit more flexible compared to the keto diet, but they cannot be opted for by children. For children, the keto diet is the best. These diets have some more carbs in them compared to the keto diet. You can consult with your dietitian, and he or she will help guide you better on which one to go for. The two diet plans that you can go for if the keto diet is not working for you are as follows:

  1. Modified Atkins diet (MAD)
  2. Low glycaemic index treatment (LGIT)

Bottom Line

I am fully convinced the keto diet is the best diet plan one can follow. I hope you are also convinced. The keto diet and epilepsy have worked for many people, and you can try it for yourself or your children if you are facing that issue. But make sure you consult a doctor first for this as he or she is the best person to guide you.

Let me know what you think about today’s article and if you have tried the keto diet for epilepsy and how it affected you or your child in the comments section below.

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