Although anti-epileptic medications usually help to control seizures, some people find that these medicines aren’t as helpful as they initially hoped. Situations like this can be very frustrating for patients, families, and doctors. In order to further manage seizures, many people turn to the ketogenic diet, which can be used with or without other therapies based on a doctor’s recommendation.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The body creates ketones when fat is burned for energy instead of sugar. Research has shown that a high level of ketones in the body correlates to a reduction in seizures for many patients. As such, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, and low-protein diet, which forces the body to burn fat for fuel.
In order to maximize the efficiency of the diet, fats and proteins/carbohydrates are carefully calculated in a 4:1 ratio. A typical breakfast might be scrambled eggs with butter, while lunch and dinner could consist of spaghetti squash with butter and Parmesan cheese or hot dog slices with sugar free ketchup.
How do I know if it is right for me?
The Ketogenic diet is primarily used to treat epilepsy in children and adolescents, and is less successful at controlling seizures in adults. In one study, 4 out of 10 children experienced a 50% decrease in seizure frequency after beginning the diet. In another study, those on the diet had, on average, ¼ as many seizures as those who were not on the diet.
But despite these positive results, the ketogenic diet can cause unwanted side effects. These include dehydration, constipation, vomiting, high cholesterol levels, kidney stones, behavior changes, and slower growth rates. Typically, a nutritionist will work with patients on the diet and can help tweak the diet over time in order to minimize the impact of side effects on you or your child.
If you decide to try the diet, your doctor will recommend that it be started in a specific, controlled way. This usually takes place in the hospital, where you or your loved one can be monitored while the transition from carbohydrates to fats takes place. Consult your doctor for more information regarding beginning the diet, as well as the following guidelines from the epilepsy foundation.
How do I help my child deal with food restrictions?
The Ketogenic diet is usually used to control seizures in children, and kids often find the diet’s restrictions particularly difficult. Many events, such as school celebrations and birthday parties, involve foods that are not safe for keto kids to eat. Try to plan ahead for these events, so that you can have a keto-friendly treat available for your child in these situations. Talk to your child about why they are on the ketogenic diet and how it helps their body control seizures. When classmates and peers ask about their diet, some kids like to respond with fun, confidence-boosting answers, such as “I’m a special kid on a special diet!” You may find that your child is more resilient than you ever assumed!
What about Special Occasions?
“The holidays can be a tough time to watch what you eat. Being faced with candies and cookies at every turn can make sticking to a diet hard enough, but having to follow a plan as rigorous as the Ketogenic Diet can be practically impossible this time of year. Since there will be parties at home, work and school, it might help to have some keto-friendly recipes in your back pocket.
Below are a few festive items that you can keep around the house or even bring to a party:
As a rule of thumb, calculate approximately 10g of raw, mixed egg for every 40g of cream cheese. Use up to the same amount of heavy cream as cream cheese. All of the carbohydrate remaining can be allotted to fruit (for garnish or mixed into the recipe). Canned, unsweetened pumpkin or unsweetened cocoa can also be incorporated into the recipe.
This is a soft, cake-like brownie that is mildly sweet. A brownie may be incorporated into a meal or snack. After baking, cut brownies into 10 pieces which results in a final weight of 21gm each containing 100 Calories with 1gm carbohydrate and a 3:1 ratio. Check out the KetoCalculator for help with recipes like this.
These mini pizzas are simple enough to make in just minutes and would be festive at a party. Using large slices of pepperoni, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, enjoy this treat anytime.