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Epilepsy: How Your Diet Plays a Role

Tuesday, 22 Feb 2011 04:21 PM

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures. Epilepsy can be controlled with medication but special epilepsy diets are also used to increase efficacy of treatment. The diet for epilepsy is called a ketogenic diet, and it works by changing the composition of nutritional elements in the body that result in the control of epileptic fits.

In the early 20th century, seizures were controlled by a period of fasting which led to the removal of the toxin that was responsible for creating the fits from the blood stream.

With advances in medicine, the most efficient epilepsy diet today is a ketogenic diet. It is a high fat, moderate-protein. low carbohydrate diet that was developed almost eighty years ago. A ketogenic diet simulates a "starvation" state in the body by flooding it with fats and no carbs. As a result, the body uses fats for energy and not carbohydrates. Normally, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which fuels the brain. In an epilepsy diet, there exists a low-carb environment. Therefore, fats are broken down into fatty acids and ketone bodies. An increased amount of ketones in the body produces a condition called ketosis which reduces epileptic seizures.

Intake of 4:1 by weight ratio of fats and protein (4) to carbohydrates (1) provides the correct nutrition for growth as well as enough ketones for ketosis. Hence, inclusion of high-fat foods such as cream, butter, cheese and exclusion of high-carbohydrate foods such as bread, biscuits, pasta, grains, sugar, and vegetables comprise a classic ketogenic diet or a diet for epilepsy.

Another tested diet is the modified Atkins diet which works in a similar manner as the classic ketogenic or epilepsy diet. The low-glycemic index diet is another type of ketogenic diet that has proven efficient in the treatment of epilepsy. The medium-chain triglyceride diet (MCT diet) is yet another ketogenic or epilepsy diet that is used in treatment. An MCT diet allows for more protein and up to three times more carbohydrates than the original epilepsy diet. According to this diet, oil is mixed with skimmed milk and other foods to make it more palatable.

An epilepsy diet must be followed strictly to enhance efficiency of treatment. It may result in side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and so on. Therefore, it is important that you consult your physician before you start on the diet.

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