How Your Diet Can Help Improve Epilepsy Symptoms

Studies have long shown that diet can improve seizure control in people who have epilepsy. For years, a strict very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet served as the main dietary recommendation for improving symptoms of epilepsy. We now know that less restrictive, controlled carbohydrate diets such as low-glycemic and modified Atkins diet are beneficial in seizure control as well.

Visiting a neurology specialist is the first step to managing epilepsy. With the right treatment, most people with epilepsy can lead full, normal lives.

Our neurologist, Dr. Ravinder Singh, and our team at Premier Neurology Medical Group provide patients with epilepsy the highest quality of care. Finding the right combination of therapies to control seizures takes time, patience, and expert care.

If you’re considering dietary therapy to help control your seizures, discuss it with Dr. Singh. We’ve put together some information about the type of diets that are commonly prescribed for seizure control. 

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is one of the most studied diets for improving seizure control and is most often prescribed for children whose seizures are not well-controlled on medication. This is the strictest form of controlled-carbohydrate dietary therapy, limiting carbohydrates to about 20 grams per day.

The overall diet is high in healthy fats. You should only follow a ketogenic diet if prescribed and overseen by a physician and dietitian who can monitor you. Dr. Singh works together with colleagues to customize your diet to fit your needs.

Studies show that ketogenic diets boost stability, which improves seizures. Restricting the body’s main source of fuel (carbohydrates) alters genes involved in energy metabolism. Specialized brain cells become more stable, leading to an anticonvulsant effect.

Modified Atkins Diet

There’s no doubt that a ketogenic diet can help control seizures in children and adults. However, some families may find it challenging to severely restrict carbohydrates. Fortunately, the less restrictive Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) is also beneficial for controlling seizures. For patients who find it difficult to follow a ketogenic meal plan, the Modified Atkins Diet provides an alternative.

The MAD plan is similar to a traditional ketogenic meal plan, with a few key differences. There is no restriction on calorie intake, and you aren’t required to weigh and measure fats on the MAD plan. There is also no restriction on fluids or protein.

You can expect to count and monitor carbohydrates, but otherwise you can eat freely. You’re encouraged to eat a nutritious diet focusing on plenty of fats such as those found in avocado, coconut, nuts, nut butters, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Carbohydrates are usually restricted to 20 grams per day.

Low-glycemic diet

A low-glycemic diet is the least restrictive dietary therapy for epilepsy. The glycemic index measures how rapidly and dramatically a food raises blood sugar. On a low-glycemic meal plan for epilepsy, you restrict the total amount of carbohydrates, usually to 40-60 grams daily of low-glycemic carbohydrates.

The goal is to choose complex carbohydrates that have a minimal impact on blood sugar. There is no restriction on calories or protein. Like the ketogenic diet and Modified Atkins Diet, the low-glycemic diet for people with epilepsy is higher in fat than other diets.

Low-glycemic intermittent diet

People with epilepsy have more flexibility with therapeutic diets than in the past. According to a study presented at the 2019 International Epilepsy Congress, five days a week on a low-glycemic diet with two days off was as effective at controlling seizures in children and teens with drug-resistant epilepsy as a strict 7-day-a-week low-glycemic diet. This gives adults and children more flexibility to find a dietary therapy that controls their seizures and fits their lifestyle. 

Making dietary changes isn’t easy, but with commitment and the help of our professionals, you can transition to a therapeutic diet to help improve your epilepsy symptoms. We advise patients that it may take three months for you to adjust to a therapeutic diet for treating epilepsy. Ketogenic and other restricted-carbohydrate diets are lifelong tools to help manage your epilepsy. 

Epilepsy is treatable. To discuss how Dr. Singh and our team can help you manage epilepsy, contact our office in Beverly Hills, California, to schedule a consultation or use our convenient online booking form.

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