Keto For Epilepsy Treatment In Children & Adults

The ‘classic’ keto diet has proven effective as a traditional treatment option for patients with epilepsy, whether they are children or adults.

The keto diet was first used to treat epilepsy in the 1920s by Dr Hugh Conklin, but unfortunately, after the development of many medical treatments, it has become less used.

However, this diet has been used recently due to its other positive results that go beyond treating epilepsy, such as its great effectiveness for faster weight loss.

Did You Know?

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the United States have revealed over the past two decades that the keto diet has proven effective in treating epilepsy, migraines, and some other diseases of the nervous system in young children and adults.

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disorder of the nervous system in which the patient experiences frequent, unpredictable or uncontrollable seizures that are caused by abnormal activity in the human brain.

Epileptic seizures can include physical symptoms such as muscle cramps and loss of consciousness. And some other mental symptoms, such as strange behaviour, unusual emotions, and a distorted perception of the outside world.

Epilepsy is not a fixed disease, because some people may have severe seizures, while others may have less severe seizures.

What Causes A Seizure?

For most people, seizures often caused by epilepsy. A person may have one or several different types of seizures.

However, you should know that not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Sometimes, the exact cause of a seizure is unknown.

* Seizures sometimes happen because of:

  • Fever or infection. (In newborns and infants)
  • Stroke.
  • Brain tumour.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Hyponatremia (a lower than normal level of sodium in the bloodstream).
  • Alcohol or drugs.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Genetic factors.
  • Congenital problems. (In newborns and infants)
  • Birth trauma. (In newborns and infants)
  • The presence of a metabolic or chemical imbalance in the body. (In newborns and infants)
  • Neurological problems.
  • Medications.
  • COVID-19 infection.
  • Sometimes the causes are unknown.

Epilepsy Diagnosis

Usually, epilepsy patients are diagnosis conclusively, when a person has repeated seizures without an apparent cause and within more than 24 hours. Whereas if a person has had one seizure, this may be normal and not satisfactory.

Also, epilepsy is diagnosed by reviewing the patient’s history and measuring electrical activity in the brain using medical technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan).

Epilepsy can affect people of all ages, but it occurs more often in children and the elderly than adults.

Common and traditional treatments for epilepsy

* Can epilepsy be cured permanently?

Epilepsy disorders cannot be cured permanently. But don’t worry, seizures can be treated and controlled with medication. But when these medications do not positively affect or reduce the severity of seizures, doctors may suggest surgery to the patient or another well-known traditional treatment such as keto for epilepsy.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 70% of patients can control epilepsy with pharmacological and surgical treatments.

How Does The Keto Diet Work For Epilepsy?

* The most common theory on how to enhance seizure control through a ketogenic diet is the presence of a high percentage of ketones generated in the body during the metabolic state of ketosis. Let’s understand more details about this!

The keto diet is a diet that is high in fat, medium in protein, and low in carbohydrates.

Restricting carbohydrates helps reduce blood glucose and thus reduces insulin. Usually, carbohydrates (glucose) are the main source of energy in the body.

Therefore, consistently eating too little or no carbohydrates create an energy deficit (not a calorie deficit), and your body responds to an energy deficit by altering your metabolism so that it can produce a new energy source in the form of ketones.

Lack of glucose and energy leads to ketosis and the regulation of the ketone pathway.

This balance of macronutrients causes the body to switch primarily to breaking down fats (rather than using glucose) to produce ketones, which are then used to generate energy.

Keto For Epilepsy Treatment

The keto for epilepsy is one treatment option for children and adults, especially those who do not show a good response to conventional epilepsy treatments. The ketogenic diet may help reduce epileptic seizures, and it may have other positive effects.

As mentioned earlier, up to 70% of people with epilepsy can be controlled with antiepileptic medication, and for some who do not respond to medication, a ketogenic diet may help them with this condition.

* Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), including the following common types:

  • Levetiracetam
  • Sodium valproate
  • Lamotrigine
  • Topiramate
  • Carbamazepine

Of course, this done under the supervision of specialists and doctors concerned in this field. (do not forget this)

* The effectiveness of the keto diet in treating epilepsy in children and adults:

In young children: Overall, some studies indicate that about a third of children with epilepsy who follow the keto diet has helped them reduce and control seizures by about 90%.

In adults: A large number of studies have been conducted in adults with epilepsy who follow the modified Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet, and the results were similar to studies in young children.

A 2014 study indicated that about 45% of adult and adolescent participants experienced a decrease in seizure frequency by 50% or more.

Also interestingly enough, it was noted in one report that adults had more adherence to the keto diet than children. (Because of the greater ability of adults to control their daily food)

Nutritional Therapies Similar To The Keto Diet For Epilepsy

The following options are more flexible and may suit older children or adults, and of course, these treatments need approval from a neurologist.

You also need to consult a dietitian to adjust your diet to be more nutritious and safe.

– The Modified Atkins Diet:

The modified Atkins diet is similar to the keto diet but is less restrictive in eating than the keto diet.

This diet uses high fat and low carbohydrates, and the foods eaten on this diet are often more flexible than other foods on the traditional ketogenic diet since you can eat more protein.

–  Glycemic Index Diet (Low Glycemic Diet):

This diet focuses on how carbohydrates affect your blood glucose level (glycemic index), as well as how many carbohydrates you eat.

Side Effects Of The Keto Diet In Treating Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet can cause bothersome side effects in some children, including:

  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Weight changes
  • kidney stones

Some of these side effects can be reduced for your child, by making adjustments to his diet or by adding certain medications or supplements. Also, by constantly monitoring the child’s behaviours, such as noticing mood changes, hyperactivity or irritability.

* Here are some things to consider before deciding to follow the keto diet for epilepsy:

  • 1- Preparing a keto meal takes some time, so this can be a burden, but with practice, this will get easier and faster. All foods must be weighed accurately daily, and the meal must be eaten whole.
  • 2- The ketogenic diet is very restrictive, especially on children, as the type and amount of food are controlled, and in fact, it can be difficult for parents to monitor everything their child eats throughout the day.

Final recommendations:

Although we do not know the exact mechanisms that the keto diet uses to treat epilepsy, we do know that it has been beneficial in reducing or controlling epileptic seizures.

It also has many other health benefits, the most important of which is weight loss and helps control blood sugar levels in some people with type 2 diabetes.

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