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Epilepsy Awareness Month

In honor of November as Epilepsy Awareness Month, this blog post is dedicated to one of the most researched diet interventions for Epilepsy in children—the ketogenic diet.


What is it?

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that helps to control seizures in some people with epilepsy.  It is often prescribed by a physician, with vigilant observation by a dietitian. Even though it follows the same principles as an Adkin’s or SouthBeach diet, it is much stricter. It needs careful measurements of calories, fluids, and proteins.

Who will it help?

  • Doctors usually recommend the ketogenic diet for children whose seizures have not responded to several different seizure medicines. It is particularly recommended for children with the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
  • The diet is usually not recommended for adults, mostly because the restricted food choices make it hard to follow. Yet, studies done on the use of the diet in adults show that it seems to work just as well.
  • In general, the diet can always be considered as long as there are no other medical complications that would prevent it.


What do you eat?

  • butter-13200013 to 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein.
  • Exact calorie ranges are provided depending on the exact weight of the person and then from there, protein needs are determined.  After those two numbers are calculated, fat and carbohydrate requirements can be determined.  It is highly specific, and that’s often why dietitians and physicians constantly have to monitor patients on this diet.
  • The kinds of foods that provide fat for the ketogenic diet are butter, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise, and oils (e.g. canola or olive).
  • Because the amount of carbohydrate and protein in the diet have to be restricted, it is very important to prepare meals carefully.
  • No other sources of carbohydrates can be eaten. (Condiments or toothpaste might have some sugar in it!)

What are the negatives?

  • A person starting the ketogenic diet may feel sluggish for a few days after the diet is started. This can worsen if a child is sick at the same time as the diet is started.
  • Other side effects that might occur if the person stays on the diet for a long time are:
    • Kidney stones
    • High cholesterol levels in the blood
    • Dehydration
    • Constipation
    • Slowed growth or weight gain
    • Bone fractures

Where can I find out more information about the diet?

  • The Ketogenic Diet: A Treatment for Children and Others with Epilepsy, by Drs. Freeman and Kossoff, which discusses the Johns Hopkins approach and experience.
  • The Charlie Foundation and Matthew’s Friends are parent-run organizations for support.

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