The ketogenic diet, which is sometimes recommended for weight loss, can help children and some adults control their epilepsy. Doctors may prescribe the diet for people who haven’t responded well to several different epilepsy medications. If you’re prescribed the diet, you’ll receive careful monitoring by both your doctor and dietitian.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet consists mainly of high-fat, low-carbohydrate foods. Generally, the body uses carbohydrates for energy. With the ketogenic diet, your body doesn’t get enough carbohydrates to properly fuel the body. This pushes the body to use fats and ketones (chemicals made by the liver) as primary fuel sources, thus promoting weight loss. While the exact mechanism is not known, many epileptic seizures are suppressed when the brain uses ketones as its energy source.
High-fat, low-carbohydrate foods for the ketogenic diet include:
- Low-carbohydrate vegetables
- Meat, such as beef and chicken
- Nuts and seeds
The Ketogenic Diet for Epilepsy
If your doctor prescribes the ketogenic diet for you or your child to control epilepsy, follow your doctor’s and dietitian’s instructions. There may be key differences in what people seeking weight loss would do versus people looking to control their epilepsy.
For children and infants, the ketogenic diet can be helpful in controlling all forms of epilepsy but is especially effective in conditions such as:
- Doose syndrome
- Dravet syndrome
- GLUT-1 deficiency
- Infantile spasms
- Rett syndrome
- Tuberous sclerosis complex
Usually, you’ll need to continue taking epilepsy medication with the ketogenic diet, but there have been cases when medication wasn’t needed. The diet can be used as long as there are no other medical reasons not to use it.
If you’re curious about the ketogenic diet for controlling epilepsy, speak with a doctor before starting.
For more information, visit the Epilepsy Foundation’s Ketogenic Diet page.