How Diet Plays a Role in Treating Epilepsy

Diet has long played a role in helping to treat epilepsy. The classic approach is a low-carbohydrate eating plan known as a ketogenic diet. Dr. Singh may prescribe and closely monitor this dietary approach for our patients here at Premier Neurology Medical Group. There are modified versions of this diet to help better suit your individual needs. Following a ketogenic diet may help control seizures in some people with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition marked by unpredictable abnormal brain activity that causes uncontrolled electrical activity known as seizures. You’re diagnosed with a epilepsy when you experience two unprovoked seizures. About 65% of people with epilepsy become seizure-free with anti-seizure medication. The remaining 35% have epilepsy that is resistant to medication. For those people, a therapeutic ketogenic diet may help reduce seizures.

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates and contains generous amounts of fat. The term ketogenic refers to the production of ketones as an alternative fuel source to carbohydrate. Your body normally converts carbohydrates to glucose and uses that as the primary energy source. But because the ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, the body switches to ketones produced from fat as its main fuel source. Ketones are easily transported to the brain and work well to fuel the brain and body.

How a ketogenic diet helps control seizures

There have been various theories about how ketogenic diets help to control seizures, but new studies suggest that it alters the way the brain uses energy, which helps stabilize neurons. It does this by altering genes involved in energy metabolism. The ketogenic diet has a long history of controlling seizures in people with medication-resistant epilepsy.

Medium-chain triglycerides diet

The medium-chain triglycerides diet is a type of ketogenic diet that uses a supplement that consists only of medium-chain triglycerides. The classic ketogenic diet contains foods that have mostly long-chain fats and a small amount of short- and medium-chain fats. People following a classic ketogenic diet get about 90% of their calories from fat.

Because medium-chain fats produce ketones more easily than long-chain fats, the medium-chain triglyceride diet allows for more carbohydrate intake than the classic ketogenic diet.

Modified-Atkins diet for adults

While a ketogenic diet is effective at controlling seizures in children, a less restrictive form is recommended for adults. The modified-Atkins diet works well at controlling seizures in some adults with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet requires weighing and measuring food, which is something adults may find too daunting to follow.

Although the foods on the modified-Atkins diet are similar to the ketogenic diet, there is no restriction on fluid or calories. Additionally, fats are not weighed and measured, and there is no restriction on protein. Because it must be low in carbohydrates, like the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are counted and monitored on a modified-Atkins plan.

What is it like to follow a therapeutic epilepsy diet?

We recommend a diet that’s best for you based on a number of factors, including your lifestyle. Adults and older children may do better on a less restrictive epilepsy diet and for this reason may prefer the modified-Atkins diet. Following either of the primary anti-seizure diets takes some getting used to. Dr. Singh and our team work with you to calculate your carbohydrate and calorie requirements, initiate the dietary protocol, and guide you as you follow the diet.

Because the body typically uses carbohydrates as its primary fuel source, you may feel less energetic for the first few days of starting an anti-seizure diet. This is temporary and improves after your body makes the switch to using ketones as its main energy source.

Diet therapy is one of the many treatment options we offer at Premier Neurology Medical Group. For more information on therapeutic diets for epilepsy, call our office in Beverly Hills, California, or book your appointment online.

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