Living with an epileptic child can be a traumatic experience if you
are a parent or guardian. You have no idea when a seizure is going to
occur, and sometimes it can be so intense it can leave you shaken for
words. It is even worse when you don’t know how to deal with such a
child when it happens; all you can do is watch in panic. There are
special medications for such cases, but unfortunately some cases are
non-responsive to these medicines. There is a breakthrough, finally,
the ketogenic diet.
The Ketogenic Diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that was originally
meant for helping individuals lose weight. However, expert research
undertaken at different facilities found that the diet was also
helpful in the treatment of seizures in people with epilepsy. As a
prescription diet, it is supposed to be monitored carefully by a
dietician. Ideally, it is intended for epileptic children who are not
responsive to seizure medication, or show slow signs of improvement.
How it works
In order to understand the keto diet better, you’ll need to know a few
simple things about the body. Ketogenic simply means producing
ketones, and these ketones are produced when fat is utilized as the
sole source of energy in the body. Under normal circumstances, the
body is fuelled by carbohydrates in the form of body sugar, but keto
diet is fat-based, meaning carb levels are very low and cannot be
utilized in the body. It is highly normal for some people to be
skeptical, but it does not mean in any way that ketones are dangerous.
For children experiencing seizure sessions, the diet is administered
first in a hospital setup where the child is made to fast for between
18 and 24 hours. During this time, only water can be taken before the
diet is started. While study has shown that fasting is not necessary
for the efficiency of the diet, it helps in setting the stage for
ketosis quicker. The idea of getting started in a medical center is to
keep an eye on the seizures, and to ensure that there are no
carbohydrates in medicine provided.
Several studies carried out have shown that there is a significant
reduction of seizures in epileptic children, with over half of those
children taken through the diet recording over 50% reduction in their
seizures. Some of those children have even gone on to become
seizure-free where previously these seizures could not be prevented or
minimized by medications.
What you should know
If your child suffers from seizures and has been introduced to the
keto diet, it is advisable to follow through with medication.
Depending on what doctors advise, some cases will only require reduced
doses after a month on the special diet. For the diet to be effective,
administration of meals must be consistent from the first day as it
gives parents control over their children’s seizures. To underline the
importance of the diet in seizure treatment and control, most
pediatric centers already provide ketogenic diets.
Probable side effects of Ketogenic Diet
It is normal for persons getting started on the ketogenic diet to
experience some irregular discomforts. This applies to both children
and adults, but it could sometimes weigh more heavily on children
because of their inability to withstand and fight off some of the
symptoms. Taking carb-free fluids, bone soup, and having enough sleep
are some of the best ways of subduing these discomforts. Staying on
the keto diet for extended periods of time bears some symptoms as
well. They include; high cholesterol levels in the blood,
constipation, bone fractures, kidney stones, and slowed growth among
other side effects.
Other Medical Supplements
The keto diet does not provide all the minerals and vitamins provided
in a balanced diet. To that effect, the dietician will recommend
supplements to go along with the diet and to ensure that the patient
does not lack essential health properties in the body. Most important
of them are Vitamins B and D essential for bone strength, calcium, and
Known seizure medications, known as anticonvulsants pose no risks when
taken together with this diet so they should not be discontinued at
all. For removal of doubt however, pharmacists must check to ensure
that all medications provided are sugar/carb-free.
When to stop the diet
If doctors can verify beyond doubt that seizures have been
significantly controlled for a period of at least 2 years, the diet
can be stopped. However, going off the diet should be gradual and well
regulated, say administering reduced meals for a period of 6 months or
more. Stopping abruptly could be disastrous as seizures are likely to
worsen. Seizure medicines should continue to be taken even after going
off the program.
It is worth noting that the keto diet does not lead to total seizure
controls except in some few cases, but there is evidence to suggest
that there has been significant development in containing seizure
cases in children. Over a long period of time, the ketogenic diet has
been adopted by many people as a way of life. It does not consist of
out-of-the-ordinary foods, but just regular foods available around
you, therefore, you may choose to continue with the diet for as long
as you want.
When an epileptic child is first introduced to the keto diet, details
of weight and height are taken. Blood and urine samples are also
tested for any medical conditions to ensure that medications provided
are effective, and that the child is not going to be subjected to any
possible danger. During the first days into the diet, the child must
be seen by a doctor at least once every month.
The child’s weight and height are measured occasionally to ascertain
that the diet does not affect growth, and to ensure that all the
necessary measures are taken in any case. While patients react
differently to different forms of medications, the keto diet can be
adopted by everyone in the family. Whatever lacks in the diet is
compensated through supplements, so your child does not miss essential
nutrients necessary for growth and development.