Epilepsy is a brain disorder that triggers seizures. While that may seem straightforward, epilepsy can impact people differently, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that there are many different kinds of seizures and causes.
With so many different factors to adjust for, controlling epileptic seizures with medication is not always possible. According to research, 20% to 30% of people with epilepsy are medically resistant to anti-seizure medications.
For some, that means surgery and other alternatives need to be pursued. Another modality that has a growing body of research behind it is the use of the keto diet to help reduce seizure frequency, seizure severity, and improve quality of life.
What Is The Keto Diet And Who Is It For
You have likely heard about the keto diet in the context of it being a weight loss plan. That can be one of the side effects of the keto diet, as it emphasizes high-fat intake and low carbohydrate consumption.
Depending on the keto diet variation you choose, your macronutrient breakdown may be 4-17% carbohydrates, 6-30% protein, and 60-90% fats. It is best to discuss what breakdown of macronutrients is good for you with your physician or dietician that is familiar with your condition.
As for who should try the keto diet, researchers have found that keto can be effective for those who are looking to reduce weight and for type 2 diabete patients, reducing their medication intake.
In the studies referenced below, we will explore the merits of the keto diet to help people who suffer from epileptic seizures.
The Keto Diet And Epileptic Seizure Reduction
In recent years, there has begun to be more research concerning the effectiveness of the keto diet when it comes to helping to treat medication-resistant epilepsy. Below are studies that have pointed to the positive impact of the keto diet on treating epilepsy and associated seizures.
Ketones Anticonvulsant Effects
In a 2018 publication, researchers re‐evaluated the ketogenic diets’ best practices, 10 years after the previous guideline publication. They recommended children who struggle with seizure episodes to avoid waiting for other anti-seizure medications not to work, and be put on the keto diet––especially if the patient has difficult-to-manage epilepsy.
Part of why it is recommended is that the ketones produced by following the keto diet can act as an additional fuel source for the patient’s developing brain.
Improve Quality of Life
A recent 2019 study pointed out the quality of life improvement epilepsy patients had when sticking to the keto diet. Out of the participants, 87% of them reported that they experienced an improvement in their quality of life, thanks to the keto diet.
Following The Keto Diet Long-Term
While there are many benefits for those with epilepsy in following the keto diet, a 2017 study pointed out that even with the benefits, some patients find it difficult to follow. For one thing, having a high-fat diet has had gastrointestinal impacts on some people. Adjustments to the keto diet and increased fiber can help alleviate this issue.
For some people, it is simply difficult for them to stick to the keto diet guidelines. In the meta-analysis included in this study, it found that over half of keto diet participants dropped out. As the keto diet takes active work to plan and follow, not everyone is prepared to commit to a rigorous diet or may even work for everyone.
Should you be considering the keto diet to assist with your epileptic seizures and are worried about the above issues, be sure to speak about this thoroughly with your physician.
How To Start The Keto Diet
Before you embark on any new dietary or exercise regimen—particularly if you have existing medical conditions—it is essential that you talk to your physician. They may have a good reason why they haven’t recommended the keto diet to you before, so be sure to seek your doctor’s advice before starting the keto diet.
If you are looking to ease into the keto diet, the best place to start is with cutting processed foods out of your diet. Though these foods can often be high in fats, they are also often very high in carbs and sugar, so it is best to eliminate processed foods and stick to whole foods.
Whatever you end up doing, be sure that you and your physician create the right plan for you so that you can be sure that you are going about your epilepsy treatment safely.