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Dietary Approaches to Epilepsy

Most people are aware that medication may help control seizures in individuals with epilepsy, but did you know that dietary approaches and other treatments may be more appropriate depending on the age of the individual and the type of epilepsy? A high-fat, very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is often used to treat medication-resistant epilepsies. The diet induces a state known as ketosis, which means that the body shifts to breaking down fats instead of carbohydrates to survive.

A ketogenic diet effectively reduces seizures for some people, especially children with certain forms of epilepsy. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of people who try the ketogenic diet have a greater than 50 percent improvement in seizure control and 10 percent experience seizure freedom.

It should be noted, however, that the ketogenic diet is not easy to maintain, as it requires strict adherence to a limited range of foods. Possible side effects include impaired growth due to nutritional deficiency and a buildup of uric acid in the blood, which can lead to kidney stones. Researchers are looking at modified versions of and alternatives to the ketogenic diet. For example, studies show promising results for a modified Atkins diet and for a low-glycemic-index treatment, both of which are less restrictive and easier to follow than the ketogenic diet. Please contact your Epilepsy Agency Services Program for more information on nutrition and how it may affect your epilepsy. (Learn more)