What epilepsy diet is suggested?
It is believe that a restricted caloric intake while on a balanced diet can lead to measurable seizure reduction among all age groups. Seizures have been treated by diet since ancient times. The earliest dietary treatment was fasting. The diet used most frequently in modern times is very low in sugars and proteins and high in fat. The diet forces the body to burn fats for energy instead of sugars and is somewhat similar to currently popular weight-loss diets. It is known as the
ketogenic diet because burning fats is thought to increase ketones in the body, a condition called ketosis. Ketones are thought to prevent irritation of the central nervous system, that is, the spinal column and the brain.
The ketogenic diet should be used only under a doctor's supervision, usually with the help of a dietitian. In most cases, the diet is started while the child is in the hospital. During the first 2 or 3 days, the child is not allowed to eat anything and is permitted to drink only a certain amount of water or other fluids. The child's blood sugar level falls during this period of starvation. If the fall in blood sugar is too great, the child may become pale, sweaty, tremorous, irritable, confused, and unresponsive, or even have seizures, and will need some sugar or other carbohydrate supplementation. The blood sugar level can be safely monitored in the hospital. After several days of starvation, the ketones in the blood and urine rise, and the diet is gradually introduced. The urinary ketones can be easily measured at home by the parents, using an indicator strip. The presence of urinary ketones indicates that the diet has achieved its metabolic goal of ketosis.
The diet consists primarily of foods high in fat, with the remaining 25% to 35% of the calories made up of protein foods. Examples of high-fat foods include mayonnaise, butter, and cream. The child is allowed only small portions of cheese, meat, fish, or poultry each day. Fruit is allowed in modest amounts. There is an alternative source of fat, known as MCT, which is an oil. The use of the MCT allows a slightly greater expansion of nonfat foods in the diet. However, some authorities find that MCT is not as beneficial in controlling seizures as other fat sources such as butter and cream.
If a child is taking high dosages of several antiepileptic drugs, tapering of one drug is often started during the period of starvation. Barbiturates are often discontinued first because they are the most sedative of the antiepileptic drugs; furthermore, their blood levels can rise when the diet is started even though the dosage is unchanged. If adequate ketosis is maintained, and seizure control improves, a further reduction in medications is often possible. In some cases, all medications can be tapered and stopped.
The ketogenic diet was first introduced in the 1920s but fell out of use after the introduction of antiepileptic drugs. It is currently being revived for treating children with severe seizures that do not respond to medications.
It is a very difficult diet to keep. The children are allowed to eat almost nothing but fat (butter, heavy cream) with very little meat and a limited range of low-sugar vegetables such as lettuce, celery, and cucumbers. The most dangerous potential risk of the ketogenic diet is low blood sugar during the period of starvation. Other potential problems include a deficiency of the B vitamins, vitamin C, and calcium. It is often wise to supplement these nutrients (making sure the supplement does not contain sugar). Many parents worry about the potential effects of large amounts of dietary fat. We know that high-fat diets in adults can accelerate atherosclerosis, which contributes to heart attacks, stroke, and other disorders of blood vessels. However, there is no evidence that the ketogenic diet accelerates atherosclerosis in children or adolescents. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure that the diet has no long-term effects on the blood vessels. Weight gain is not usually a problem on this diet.
The diet often causes nausea and diarrhea. It can cause poor development from lack of nutrition and kidney stones from a build-up of uric acid in the system. Use of the diet must be supervised by a doctor. The diet seems most effective in children under eight years old but it is occasionally helpful for adults. It has been shown to help 25% to 50% of children who have uncontrollable seizures.
More information on epilepsy (seizures)
What is epilepsy? - Epilepsy is a general term that includes various types of seizures. Epilepsy is characterized by unprovoked, recurring seizures that disrupt the nervous system.
What are seizures? - Seizures (or convulsions) are temporary alterations in brain functions due to abnormal electrical activity of a group of brain cells that present with apparent clinical symptoms and findings.
What types of seizures are there? - The two main categories of seizures include partial seizures and generalized seizures. A partial seizure can evolve to a generalized seizure.
What types of epilepsy are there? - There are several types of epilepsy. Epilepsy can be divided into two broad categories: idiopathic epilepsy and symptomatic epilepsy.
What're the common types of epilepsy? - The most common types of epilepsy are absence epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy, frontal lobe epilepsy, occipital lobe epilepsy, and parietal lobe epilepsy.
What causes epilepsy? - Epilepsy may be caused by a number of unrelated conditions, including damage resulting from high fever, stroke, toxicity, or electrolyte imbalances.
What causes children epilepsy? - There are many possible causes of epilepsy in children. Seizures in infants and children may be due to birth defects, difficulties during delivery, or poisoning.
What factors will trigger epilepsy? - The triggers of epilepsy include inadequate sleep, food allergies, alcohol and smoking, flashing lights, developmental anomalies, and brain tumours.
What're the symptoms of epilepsy? - There are many forms of epilepsy, each with its own characteristic symptoms. The basic symptom of epilepsy is a brief and abnormal phase of behavior.
How is epilepsy diagnosed? - Making an accurate diagnosis is vital in planning the correct treatment to control seizures. Taking a medical history can help rule out non-epilepsy conditions.
What're the treatments for epilepsy? - For most people with epilepsy, treatment can reduce or prevent seizures and allow many patients to remain free of seizures for the rest of their lives.
What epilepsy medications are available? - Epilepsy is often treated with medication, neurocybernetic prostheses. Medications available for the treatment of seizures include phenytoin, carbamazepine, divalproex.
What epilepsy surgeries are available? - Surgical techniques to remove injured brain tissue may be appropriate for many patients with epilepsy. The most common surgery for epilepsy is temporal lobectomy.
What is vagus nerve stimulation? - Vagus nerve stimulation is a recently developed form of seizure control which uses an implanted electrical device.
What epilepsy diet is suggested? - It is believe that a restricted caloric intake while on a balanced diet can lead to measurable seizure reduction among all age groups.
How to prevent epilepsy? - Effective actions for the prevention of epilepsy include adequate pre-natal and post-natal care, safe delivery, control of fever in children, control of parasitic diseases.
Epilepsy in children - Epilepsy is a common childhood disorder. The prospect of control by means of anti-epileptic drugs is good in most children with epilepsy.
Pregnancy and epilepsy - Women with epilepsy who become pregnant have a higher risk for complications than women who don't have epilepsy.
Difference between seizures and epilepsy - Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. Epilepsy is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce a sudden burst of electrical energy.
What's a grand mal seizure? - A grand mal seizure is a seizure involving the entire body, usually characterized by muscle rigidity, violent rhythmic muscle contractions, and loss of consciousness.
What's absence seizure (petit mal seizure)? - Absence seizure e - also known as petit mal seizure - is a type of seizure that most often occurs in children.
What is a febrile seizure? - A febrile seizure is a convulsion in a child triggered by a fever. A febrile seizure may be as mild as the child's eyes rolling or limbs stiffening.
What are epileptic seizures? - An epileptic seizure, often referred to as a fit, occurs when there is an abnormal discharge of neurones in the brain.
What is status epilepticus? - Status epilepticus is a continuous seizure state. Status epilepticus is most often caused by not taking anticonvulsant medication as prescribed.
What causes seizures? - Seizures may be caused by many conditions, diseases, injuries, and other factors. Injuries that may cause seizures include choking, head injury.