Specialty Program

Diet Program

Dietary treatment for epilepsy involves the use of specific food plans to help manage and reduce seizures in individuals with epilepsy. This is a non-pharmacological approach that might be considered when medications fail to adequately control seizures or when individuals experience significant side effects from medications. In certain metabolic conditions, such as GLUT 1 transporter deficiency epilepsy diets may be the only effective treatments.

At Epilepsy America, our diets are developed for the individual child, keeping in mind what the child likes to eat and if possible, including these foods as part of their diets. If the child has allergies or food intolerances, our team will take this into account as well.
Also, because children are in growth mode and their tastes may change over time, we make sure to adjust their food plans accordingly.

If you and your child’s medical team are considering a specialized diet to treat your child’s seizures, this is what you might expect:

• First appointment: Your first meeting with the diet team is considered a “new” appointment that typically can last about an hour. In it, you meet with a nurse practitioner, social worker and a dietitian. You hear about how the diet would be initiated, specifics about how to manage it at home, useful recommendations and possible challenges that might be encountered, etc. If the diet team and your family agree the diet is a viable option, an “inpatient initiation appointment” is scheduled.
• Inpatient stay: In order to start the diet, the child is admitted to the hospital for around four days. Anyone who is actively involved in taking care of the child (e.g., babysitters, family members, etc.) is educated about the diet. The inpatient stay is also used to make some initial adjustments to the diet ensuring that the child tolerates it well.
• Second appointment: A month after the child’s initiation, the family comes in for a follow-up appointment to determine how the diet is working for the patient and the family. Any questions or issues are addressed then.
• Additional support: Of course, if any questions or issues arise at any point in this process, families are encouraged to contact our team via phone or patient portal messages.

More information about diets for epilepsy and seizures:

Several types of diets have shown efficacy in reducing seizures in certain individuals with epilepsy. The most commonly used dietary therapy is the Ketogenic Diet (KD), a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, and adequate protein diet. It aims to induce a state of ketosis in the body, where ketones derived from fat metabolism become the primary energy source instead of glucose. The KD typically consists of a specific ratio of fat to combined carbohydrates and protein, often calculated by a dietitian. The exact ratio and specific foods may vary depending on the individual’s age, health status, and dietary preferences.

The KD has been shown to be effective in reducing seizures in some individuals with epilepsy, particularly children with difficult-to-control seizures.

Another diet that can be used for epilepsy is called the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD): MAD is a less restrictive variation of the ketogenic diet. It emphasizes high-fat foods but allows for more flexibility in terms of protein and carbohydrate intake. It restricts daily carbohydrate consumption to a certain amount (usually 10-20 grams per day) but does not require strict macronutrient ratios. It is often more palatable and easier to follow than the ketogenic diet.
MAD has demonstrated effectiveness in seizure reduction for some individuals, especially adolescents and adults with epilepsy.

A third dietary treatment is called the Low Glycemic Index Treatment (LGIT) which focuses on consuming carbohydrates with a low glycemic index; these cause a slower and more gradual rise in blood sugar levels. This approach aims to stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent rapid fluctuations that may trigger seizures. The LGIT is less restrictive in terms of overall carbohydrate intake compared to the ketogenic or MAD but still emphasizes healthier, low-glycemic index food choices.

It is also important to remember that dietary therapies are not for everyone. Before initiating any dietary therapy for epilepsy, a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional, including a neurologist and dietitian, is necessary to determine the suitability and appropriateness of the specific diet for the individual. The healthcare team will assess the individual’s seizure type, medical history, nutritional needs, and potential contraindications. Implementing dietary therapy for epilepsy requires careful monitoring and ongoing support from healthcare professionals. These diets are often deficient in certain minerals and vitamins and hence supplements may be needed under the supervision of the medical team. There are potentials risk due to the diet including constipation and kidney stones. Regular bloodwork and, at times, ultrasounds or bone scans may be needed for patients who are on the Ketogenic Diet for a longer period of time. Hence it is extremely important to work with a medical team for epilepsy dietary therapies if using this treatment modality.

In conclusion, regular follow-up visits with the healthcare team, including neurologists and dietitians, are necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the diet, monitor nutritional status, and make any necessary adjustments. The healthcare team will provide guidance on meal planning, supplementation (if necessary), and managing any challenges or concerns that may arise during the dietary intervention. By working closely with healthcare professionals, individuals can determine the most suitable dietary therapy and receive the necessary support to maximize seizure control and improve their quality of life.

Scroll to Top