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Epilepsy, Children, and the Ketogenic Diet

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The Drawbacks of the Ketogenic Diet

There are many difficulties following the ketogenic diet:

  • Weighing food precisely is important.
  • Even little lapses -- like sneaking the crumbs of a cookie or swallowing a nasal decongestant -- can result in a seizure.

"You even have to measure the carbohydrates that are in your toothpaste," says William R. Turk, MD, Chief of the Neurology Division at the Nemours Children's Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

As you might imagine, it's a challenge for most parents to keep their children on this diet. Children may accept foods from other kids at school, or over at a friend's house. Older children may already have strong opinions about what they want to eat. The ketogenic diet works best in young children who haven't yet developed strong tastes in food.

Children on the ketogenic diet also often feel very hungry, at least at first. You need to monitor all of the food in the house, including food in the dog's bowl.

You may also be concerned about the effects of eating all that butter and cream. After all, isn't fat supposed to be bad for you? A recent study confirmed that children on the ketogenic diet do have significantly higher levels of cholesterol than most kids. But damage from a high-fat diet generally comes only after many years. Children usually follow the ketogenic diet for just a few years.

Starting the Ketogenic Diet

This high-fat/low-carb diet may sound like any number of protein diets you've read about. In fact, some popular protein diets also claim to cause the process of ketosis. But the ketogenic diet is not like a typical protein diet and you can't do it on your own.

"It's very important that a family have a doctor and a dietician working with them on this diet," says Solomon L. Moshe, MD, director of Clinical Neurophysiology and Child Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Otherwise, it won't work and it isn't even safe."

A dietitian can also help you adapt the strict rules of the diet to real menus, so you can come up with meals your child may enjoy.

If you're considering the ketogenic diet, don't assume your child will fight the strict rules. Talk it over together. Your child probably wants the seizures to stop, too, and may cooperate willingly.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on July 11, 2014
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