Ketogenic Diet as Epilepsy Treatment: What to Expect From the Treatment

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Epilepsy refers to a group of neurological disorders characterized by epileptic seizures. Seizures are brief episodes of vigorous shaking. An episode occurs due to abnormal electrical energy within the brain.

Unfortunately, epileptic seizure has no known cause. But it could be a result of brain trauma, tumor, substance abuse and genetic mutations. There is also no known cure for epilepsy. It’s also common among children. While epilepsy has no known cure, there are treatments that could help prevent an episode. One such treatment is the ketogenic diet.

What is Ketogenic Diet?

Ketogenic is a high-calorie, high-fat diet that requires a child to eat four times per day. Each meal, the patient should be given calorific foods from carbohydrates or protein. An example of a meal includes a small portion of chicken, a serving of fruit and loads of butter or cream. Simply put, ketogenic diet isn’t meant for grownups at all. There is the real risk of developing heart diseases if grownups took this diet.

To start the diet, the child has to be taken to the hospital for observation. During the first 36 to 48 hours, the patient has to fast. After fasting, solid food is gradually introduced. Most of the food are high in calories. Although a ketogenic diet is accepted for its therapeutic effects, it will not provide all the nutrients your child needs for the day. As such, your child will be given sugar-free supplements.

How Ketogenic Diet Works

Ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s and was meant to treat epilepsy. However, after anticonvulsant drugs were introduced, the diet was abandoned. Most experts do not know how this diet change the body at all. But the general concept was by reducing the amount of carbohydrates a person eats, the body will start burning off fat instead. This process is called ketosis. Ketosis is stimulated when a person is fasting. Before ketogenic diet was developed, fasting was an acceptable treatment for epilepsy.

Again, no one knows how ketosis help prevents epileptic episodes, but somehow it does. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University tracked 150 children who were on a ketogenic diet. A year after the study, half of the children experienced fewer seizures. One-fourth of the participants felt reduced seizures by up to 90%. A few years into the diet, most of the kids in the study stopped their anticonvulsant medications.

What to Expect After Treatment

The first two days of fasting is the hardest. The patient will feel fatigued, cranky and tired. Children who are on the ketogenic diet have to be monitored by both doctors and parents. If the child comes home, you should hire a trained caregiver to maintain the diet. Always give the diet under the supervision of your doctor or a licensed dietician.

Start tracking the epileptic episode. If the diet works for your child, the frequency of these episodes should decrease dramatically. 2 to 3 months into the diet, you should see how well the diet is working for your child.

Risks and Other Factors to Consider

Ketogenic diet is strictly for patients who suffer from epilepsy. Do not use this diet other than its intended purpose. Side effects of the ketogenic diet include nausea, digestive discomforts, heartburn, vomiting, and diarrhea. For those who have high cholesterol in the blood, they have to take their medication throughout the diet. In children, ketogenic diet could result in stunted growth because of nutrient deficiencies.

Finally and most importantly, the portions of the food are critical to making this diet work. This means you have to measure the food exactly. The instructions of your doctor have to be followed precisely. Also, it’s not fool-proof. This diet might not work all the time no matter how closely the instructions were followed.

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