A ketogenic diet is a diet rich in fats and oils is sometimes prescribed for children whose seizures have failed to respond to all appropriate antiepileptic medication.
A ketogenic diet forces the body to burn fat, instead of glucose, for energy. It is seen by many as a rigid diet that the child has to maintain for quite some time. For those children and carers to whom it brings relief it is often seen as a godsend. While some children do spontaneously stop having seizures, enough successes with this very controlled diet have now been reported and replicated in different places. It has a deserved following of people who have found that it can make a difference in the lives of children living with epilepsy that is not responding well to conventional medications.
The diet relies on inducing what is known as a state of ketosis. This is easiest to achieve with children over 1 year and under 10 years. It can be used by children with all seizure types. Anyone who considers following this diet should do so under the direct and close supervision of a specialist physician and dietitian.
Going on to the diet requires quite major dietary change that should be initiated in a hospital setting. In the first weeks of the diet in particular, it is critical to monitor the doses of antiepileptic drugs being taken and any changes to seizure activity. Your local epilepsy association will almost certainly be able to put you in touch with other families who have used the ketogenic diet appropriately, and often with success, and whose advice and support you may find very useful.
The ketogenic diet is not a cure-all and there are many that get right into it only to be bitterly disappointed. There are some parents who report some easing in their children’s seizures even if it is only short term and then of course, there are those with amazing stories to tell about complete seizure cessation.