There are several effective medications used to treat a seizure disorder. These medications improve the quality of life for people with epilepsy. However, if you’re unable to take seizure medications, or if medications don’t effectively control your seizures, a special diet may help.
Here, our Premier Neurology team discusses how a ketogenic diet may help you manage epilepsy.
The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that can help some patients with epilepsy control their seizures. It’s typically recommended for people with seizures that aren’t controlled by medicines. While it’s a restrictive diet, it can be life-changing for some people.
A ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates, which causes the body to burn fat for fuel, producing compounds called ketones. The body functions well on ketones; thus fats replace carbohydrates as the primary fuel source.
During a seizure, networks of neurons misfire because brain cells become excited and release excitatory neurotransmitters, such as glutamate. Additionally, surrounding brain cells can’t use inhibitory neurotransmitters like GABA to reduce excitability.
The ketogenic diet lowers the amount of glutamate in the brain and increases GABA production, reducing seizure frequency. The brain uses glucose as its primary fuel source. However, a ketogenic diet alters this source to enhance the brain’s ability to produce GABA, a calming neurotransmitter.
Additionally, a ketogenic diet is rich in polyunsaturated fats, which influence how neurons in the central nervous system function. An increase in these PUFAs may help prevent neurons from overfiring.
What’s more, ketogenic diets enhance the expression of a specific gene that protects overstimulated brain cells from death.
Researchers are also learning that ketones alter the microorganisms in the intestines, boosting the number of beneficial bacteria that promote an increased proportion of GABA to glutamate. This shifts the balance, so there are fewer excitatory and more inhibitory chemicals.
The lack of control and unpredictability is commonly cited as the most distressing aspect of epilepsy. This can cause a lot of anxiety and prevent you from living your life to the fullest. Dietary changes are an aspect of your life that you can control. The ability to manage seizures with diet is empowering for patients with epilepsy. Patients function better and have a better quality of life when they feel more in control.
Starting and sticking to a ketogenic diet requires a collaborative effort from neurologists, dietitians, and primary care professionals. Several factors influence food selection, including age, type of epilepsy, and treatment response.
While clinical data suggests that the classic ketogenic diet is slightly more effective than other forms in treating epilepsy, it is more restrictive than other types of ketogenic diets. Children tend to do well on the traditional ketogenic diet, while adults often opt for less restrictive forms of the ketogenic diet.
My team works closely with you to recommend a ketogenic diet that you’re likely to stick to, so you can reap the seizure-control benefits of the diet.
In addition to a ketogenic diet, my team identifies any triggers and helps you control them. Lifestyle factors, such as not getting enough sleep or using mobile devices for too long, can bring on seizures. Controlling these triggers as much as possible can help manage your seizures.
The Premier Neurology team is behind you in your journey to finding an effective epilepsy treatment. To learn more and to schedule a visit with us, call my Beverly Hills, California, clinic to schedule a visit or use our online booking form to request an appointment.