Ketogenic Diet Plan for Seizures in Children and Adults

Medicine thinks in terms of drugs. Thoughts on diet & supplements are rare & incomplete. A ketogenic diet plan for seizures in children & adults is powerful.

The ketogenic diet is similar to the Atkins’ diet, in that it is very high in proteins and fat. The argument against the ketogenic diet is that it is hard to remain compliant with, because apparently having your brain damaged by aberrant firing of neurons is not as important as that slice of bread.

When it comes to seizure control, the ketogenic diet is amazingly powerful. Consistently across studies, 1/3 of those on a ketogenic diet have >90% seizure reduction and another 1/3 have >50% reduction. This is an amazing response rate. Far, far more effective than any anti-seizure medication available, and yet it is considered as a last line of approach to seizure control (especially in children) instead of the first line.

The question of compliance has already been worked out.  In a long term follow up study of the ketogenic diet in children over 20 years, 65% of the patients remained on the diet. I can tell you that, in terms of medication, to get 64% of patients to be compliant with taking a medication for TWENTY years is practically unheard of.

I’ve recently had an opportunity to talk to a mother of a 6 year old epileptic child.  Her epileptologists (neurologists that specialize in seizures) have told her that the ketogenic diet would not work for her daughter because she has a rare form of epilepsy.  Of course, the medications are not working either, but that doesn’t seem to phase the physicians.

Here’s the rub that many would not agree with.  Regardless of how rare or common or distinct a form of epilepsy may be, the brain cells all still work the same.  Sure, there may be an enzyme system running slow or not working at all.  The number of mitochondria may be reduced.  There may be more activity in one area of the brain than another.  But I would think that even epileptologists would find it hard to disagree that the overall physiology of the neurons in every form of epilepsy is different.

Although we do not fully understand how the ketogenic diet plan works yet (there are some suggestions that gluten avoidance may be important) you can be sure the benefits are non-specific.  Rather, it’s benefits probably lie in the way it improves the overall functioning of the brain cell, rather than blocking receptor X or stimulating receptor Z.  So it makes absolutely no sense to suggest that the ketogenic diet plan may not be successful for this child.  It clearly does not work in everyone, but when it does, it works well.

To demonstrate just how important the ketogenic diet plan is to seizure control, I am not providing a link to a particular article as I normally do.

Rather, the entire July 2012 issue of the journal Epilepsy Research is dedicated to diet in the control of epilepsy and certain other neurological disorders.  By now, if you suffer from epileptic seizures and your doctor has not discussed the ketogenic diet with you, you can be sure he or she has not cracked a medical journal in some time now.

I would like to share with you 3 stories in this journal written by the parents of children with seizures who tried the ketogenic diet plan:

  1. Carson, who with infantile spasms, was able to access the diet as her first line treatment without any medication being taken. Carson is the inspiration behind the Carson Harris Foundation and her family promote dietary awareness in USA.
  2. Matthew, with Dravet Syndrome, was refused for the diet for years, suffered brain damage and was put on a whole host of unsuitable medications before finally managing to get the diet. The diet proved his saving but what could have been the outcome if the family had got the diet when it was first asked for? Matthew is the inspiration behind the Matthew’s Friends – Dietary Treatments for Epilepsy organization
  3. Charlie, suffered with intractable epilepsy, was put on a whole host of medications that did not work and underwent brain surgery before finally getting to the diet that cured him of his epilepsy. He is the inspiration behind The Charlie Foundation in the USA and his father, Jim Abrahams made the film ‘First Do No Harm’ which told the true story of a child who was cured of his epilepsy using the Ketogenic Diet, just like Charlie and thousands upon thousands of other children around the world.

So, I would ask the neurologists of the child I have recently come across, if the ketogenic diet plan can work for Dravet Syndrome (1 in 30,000 births), then why on Earth would we not recommend it as a trial for all children with seizures, especially intractable ones.

If your child has seizures, have you tried the ketogenic diet plan?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.