Image for ketogenic diet articleSome seizures in children have no known cause. If these unprovoked seizures recur it is considered epilepsy. Seizures can be stressful for the child and family. Medication can be a very effective treatment for some, but others may need more help to control their seizures.

A special diet called the Ketogenic Diet may help manage epilepsy in children, particularly with epilepsy that is resistant to medication. The diet requires significantly lower amount of carbohydrates and high amounts of fat. It can be a difficult diet to maintain but for some children the seizure control may be worth the effort. Most doctors will have a person try the diet for up to 3 months to see if it works. If your child responds well to the diet and remains seizure-free for 2 years, your child may also slowly be transitioned to a more normal diet.

Background

Treatment of epilepsy was generally ineffective in the early 1900's. In the 1920s, it was found that fasting could reduce the number of seizures but it was not clear why. Fortunately, anti-seizure medications were developed that helped the majority of people with epilepsy. As a result, dietary treatments lost popularity as a main treatment option for epilepsy.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet.. The classic diet is made up of 3 parts fat and 1 part carbohydrate and protein. There are variations of the diet, like one that uses medium chain triglycerides as a primary source of fat. You and your child's doctor and dietitian will make adjustments to your child's diet as needed.

How it Works

The diet mimics some effects of fasting on the body. Glucose (sugar) is the easiest source of energy for the body. Most of the glucose comes from carbohydrates that we eat. Once the glucose is burned off, the body uses fat as a source of energy. The use of fat creates a by-product called ketones. For reasons not completely understood, the ketones may reduce or eliminate seizures. Your body will also use body fat for fuel when you fast but fasting is clearly not a long term option.