The conventional treatment for epilepsy involves a regimen of anti-seizure medications. This remains the most effective method of seizure control. However, certain diets have been found effective as a complementary therapy with anti-seizure medications. These diets may stimulate the production of natural anticonvulsant chemicals in the body that may contribute to seizures. If you still experience seizures, despite anti-seizure medications, a change of diet may be help control your epileptic symptoms.
A June 2000 study, published in "The Lancet" medical journal showed the ketogenic diet effective in significantly reducing seizure activity in 50 percent of the children studied. The ketogenic diet works by tricking the body into believing starvation is occurring. In response, the body uses fat as an energy source and, in the process, produces ketones. Although it is unclear how ketones reduce seizure activity, studies have shown anticonvulsant effects of ketones. People following a ketogenic diet are encouraged to eat high-fat foods, while limiting fluids, carbohydrates and protein.
The Atkins diet is also a low-carbohydrate, high-fat regimen which -- like the ketogenic diet -- produces anticonvulsant ketones through the use of fat for energy. The website Epilepsy.com notes the modified Atkins diet is likewise effective in reducing seizures, especially for children whose seizures remain resistant to medication. The modified Atkins diet allows unlimited protein consumption and, unlike the ketogenic diet, does not restrict the intake of fluids.
Alcohol contributes to increased seizure activity in most kinds of epilepsy -- individuals with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, for example, are particularly susceptible to alcohol-related seizures. Depending on your seizure rate and severity, it may be beneficial to either reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. When you do consume alcohol, make sure to get plenty of sleep before and after alcohol consumption -- Epilepsy.com indicates sleep deprivation is another common seizure trigger.
Individuals may be able to identify certain "trigger foods" that have a noticeable effect on increasing seizure activity. Possible trigger substances vary from person to person and also vary with the different types of epilepsy. Sugar spikes or caffeine may act as seizure triggers for some, and if this is the case, then sugary and caffeinated foods should be reduced or excluded from the diet. Caffeine-containing foods and drinks include coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate and many brands of soda.
Don't undertake any major diet without medical approval and supervision. In particular, the ketogenic diet must be prescribed by a doctor and begins with a 24-hour inpatient hospital admission for fasting. It is possible for fasting or severe dietary restrictions to cause seizures. The high-fat diets that work by producing ketones also carry an inherent risk of raised cholesterol levels. Additionally, the ketogenic diet may cause dehydration due to its fluid restrictions. The benefits and risks of a seizure-controlling diet should be weighed carefully.
- The Lancet: The Ketogenic Diet for the Treatment of Childhood Epilepsy: A Randomised Controlled Trial
- "The Ketogenic Diet: A Treatment for Children and Others with Epilepsy"; John Mark Freeman et al.; 2007
- Epilepsy: Modified Atkins Diet
- Epilepsy: Alcohol
- Psychopharmacology: Changes in Caffeine Seizure Threshhold After Electroconvulsive Shock
- chocolate image by cherie from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.