Ketogenic diet. It’s a strict meal plan that may help children whose seizures aren’t controlled by medicine. You’ll need to work closely with your doctor and a dietitian. The diet usually starts out with a fast that lasts 24 to 48 hours. Your child will likely need to be in the hospital while this happens so doctors can monitor his health. After that, he’ll need to stick to foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. About two-thirds of kids who follow it are able to stop their seizures or at least see improvement in their epilepsy. There are side effects that you need to watch out for. Your child could get dehydrated, constipated, or develop kidney stones or gall stones.
The ketogenic diet is a recognised and proven therapy for epilepsy. It is essentially a strict diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates. It makes the body burn fat for energy instead of glucose.
When carefully monitored and controlled, the diet can help reduce seizures in two out of three children and may prevent seizures completely in one out of three.
It is a very strict diet, and needs to be closely monitored by a dietician. It takes a strong commitment from the whole family. It is a serious form of treatment that, like other therapies for epilepsy, has side effects that have to be watched for.
No single mechanism is likely to explain the antiepileptic effects of the ketogenic diet, but they are mostly related to complex metabolic changes in the body associated with the diet.
Following the ketogenic diet requires a team approach – including doctors, nurses, and especially dieticians specifically trained in the management of people on this diet.
How the diet affects the body
Our bodies usually run on energy which we get from glucose in food. Our body can’t store large amounts of glucose, and we only have about one days supply.
Sometimes the diet is commenced by a period of fasting, so our body uses up any stored glucose. What happens then is the body begins to run on energy from our fat supplies. When our body burns fat, it creates molecules called ketones. Scientists have understood that these molecules somehow cause a change in metabolism leading to a strong anticonvulsant effect.
The ketogenic diet keeps this process going. It forces the body to burn fat 24 hours a day by making fat products the primary food that the child is getting.
The diet provides most (80 percent) of its energy from fat. The rest comes from carbohydrates and protein. Each meal has about four times as much fat as protein or carbohydrate.