Epilepsy symptoms can be kept under control with diet. Ketogenic diet, a modified form of the high protein, low carbohydrate Atkin’s diet, can reduce the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures in children.
Studies have shown that the special diet plan helps to halve the frequency of seizures in nearly 50 percent of children with epilepsy. A small number of epilepsy patients become seizure free after consuming the ketogenic diet for a prolonged period.
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Diet is especially beneficial for treating seizures associated with Lennox Gastaut syndrome. It can also help when conventional antiepileptic drugs have failed to prevent severe seizure.
Epilepsy Symptoms With Ketogenic Diet
The diet for epilepsy patients contains significantly higher amount of fat than the normal balanced diet. The amount of fat in a ketogenic diet is usually three to four times the combined weight of carbohydrate and protein in the diet.
Most of the daily calorie needs of an epileptic patient on the special diet are met through fat rich foods such as butter, mayonnaise, cream and vegetable oil. Consumption of foods containing carbohydrates such as grain products, bread, rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables is severely limited.
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To sustain the positive effect of the diet, a dietician carefully measures the amount of specific foods in a diet. Even slight deviation from the diet plan can cancel the beneficial effect of the diet. People on ketogenic diet should avoid even medications containing carbohydrates and toothpastes containing sweeteners.
How to Start Epilepsy Diet
The epilepsy diet is preceded by a 24-hour fast. To prevent health complications, the diet is introduced to an epileptic patient in a hospital. No solid food and fluids other than water can be taken by a person during the fasting phase. At the end of the fast, the calorie intake of the patient, as indicated in the ketogenic diet plan, is gradually increased.
How Diet Treats Epilepsy Seizures
Ketone is a byproduct of fat metabolism. Ketogenic diet helps to elevate the ketone level in the bloodstream. The exact pathway through which ketones prevent epileptic seizures is unknown. Scientists speculate that ketones may possess antiepileptic properties.
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Some health experts believe that by stabilizing the membranes of the neurons in the brain, ketones might help to prevent seizures. The antiepileptic property of the diet is also attributed to antiepileptic effect of certain fatty acids present in the diet.
Duration Of the Diet
Ketogenic diet, although beneficial for epileptic patients, cannot be considered a healthy diet. Normally, if the number of seizure that a patient usually experiences reduces within a month, the physician may advise the patient to follow the diet plan for a longer period.
In most cases, a person on ketogenic diet is gradually weaned to a normal balanced diet after continuing the diet at least for two years. In some cases, the diet continues for a longer time.
Side Effects of Epileptic Diet
In some cases, strict ketogenic diet causes side effects that are rarely serious. Common adverse effect of inadequate carbohydrate intake and excess fat consumption include hypoglycemia, fatigue, nausea, high cholesterol level, constipation and deficiency of vitamins and calcium.