A ketogenic diet is one of the treatments for epilepsy when conventional methods such as anti-epileptic drugs are not effective in controlling seizures. If you or your loved one is suffering from epilepsy, you may be wondering if a ketogenic diet is effective and if it could be the right solution. Here, we have explained what a ketogenic diet for epilepsy comprises and whether will it be beneficial.
What Does A Ketogenic Diet For Epilepsy Entail?
Since the 1920s, the ketogenic diet has been used as a treatment for epilepsy. The diet is highly specialized and is only recommended when other treatment options for epilepsy are not working. A ketogenic diet is a standard treatment for children who are suffering from difficult-to-treat epilepsy. However, this form of treatment has also gained traction amongst adults.
Components Of A Ketogenic Diet For Epilepsy
The ketogenic diet for epilepsy is strict and contains extremely low amounts of carbohydrates. However, it is rich in fats and comprises just the right amount of protein for supporting body growth and maintenance. The breakdown of fat by the body produces ketones that can then be used by your brain to generate energy instead of using glucose(carbohydrate) for energy production.
While designing a ketogenic diet, the appropriate amount of protein intake will be determined first. This is usually done based on factors such as age. After this, the dietitian will design the diet as a ratio of fat to protein and carbohydrate grams. Generally, a 4 to 1 ratio is taken as a starting point and then adjusted accordingly.
Some Key Facts About A Ketogenic Diet For Epilepsy Are
- The diet is rich in fats that are typically supplied by butter, oil, naturally fatty foods, and cream.
- Each meal has a strictly measured `
- The diet also has calorie and hydration restrictions.
- For a month, no packaged and low-carb items such as bars and shakes are permitted
- The diet can be stopped after two years. However, some children may be given the diet for a longer period.
- Following this diet doesn’t necessarily mean that anti-seizure medications will be stopped. Usually, medicines and diet are partnered together to reduce the frequency of seizures.
How Does The Diet Work?
Though the exact mechanism by which a ketogenic diet controls seizures is not completely understood, studies have indicated that the ketogenic diet works because of the following reasons:
- The ketogenic diet alters the metabolism of ketone in the brain which leads to increased levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter. This has a calming effect on the brain and lowers its excitability.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids that are a part of the diet can prevent the brain from getting too excited. Thus, reducing the tendency of seizures.
- The diet also consists of certain fatty acids that can enhance the effect of anti-seizure medications such as valproic acid.
- Effects on a crucial cellular energy sensor seem to aid in preventing excessive firing in your brain.
Evaluating If A Ketogenic Diet Is A Good Option
To determine if a ketogenic diet is right, the neurologist will consider if you or your child is eligible for it. Besides this, you should also know the pros and cons of a ketogenic diet and discuss these with the neurologist to see if going for the diet would be beneficial. The right team of well-trained neurologists and dietitians can ensure that the treatment is highly beneficial.
Who Is The Ketogenic Diet Suitable For?
The ketogenic diet for epilepsy treatment is generally considered suitable under the following conditions:
- When medications are proven to be ineffective in controlling the seizures of a child.
- Though the ketogenic diet is commonly not advised for adults, a modified Atkins diet could work well for them.
- Some of the epilepsy conditions where a ketogenic diet could be beneficial are infantile spasms, Doose syndrome, Dravet syndrome, GLUT-1 deficiency and Rett syndrome.
Effectiveness Of The Ketogenic Diet For Epilepsy
Research suggests that at least a third of children with epilepsy who have followed this diet will see a reduction in seizures by at least 90%. The remaining individuals will see a reduction of between 50-90%. This data is highly encouraging as most of these patients had seizures that were poorly controlled by medicines. There have been many trials showing the effectiveness of a ketogenic diet in reducing the frequency of seizures in children. Similar studies in adults have also shown promising results.
Risks Of A Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet for epilepsy can also have certain side effects such as
- High cholesterol
- Kidney stones
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Bone fractures
- Low bone density
Starting A Ketogenic Diet For Epilepsy
If you have decided to start your kid on a ketogenic diet for the seizures, your child will be admitted to the hospital and his/her health will be monitored once the diet begins. Usually, the healthcare team will consist of medical experts such as a dietitian and neurologists. It is advisable that you do not try to start the diet by yourself. You should first discuss the keto diet with the neurologist to see if it would be beneficial.
In case, you wish to connect with qualified neurologists, MediGence can help you avail consultation with renowned neurologists. With just a click of a button, you can avail of online consultation with our experts from any part of the world and explore all treatments for epilepsy.
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If you or your child is suffering from epilepsy and other treatments have failed you, then it is worth a shot to consider a ketogenic diet. However, you should not start the diet without talking with skilled neurologists who can help you understand if a ketogenic diet is a right solution for your/your child’s epilepsy.