Ketogenic diet can help prevent seizures, especially if medication isn’t working

In January, Norton Neuroscience Institute will open a ketogenic clinic staffed by epilepsy neurologists, nurse practitioners and dietitians.

Hollywood fad or potential game-changer for people with epilepsy? The ketogenic (keto) diet could very well be both.

In recent years, celebrities and fitness bloggers have touted the keto diet as a quick way to lose weight. But as far back as the 1930s, the keto diet has been used as an epilepsy treatment.

Maureen Murray, APRN, Norton Neuroscience Institute, said people with epilepsy who follow the keto diet can see significant results.

“Many patients have an opportunity to experience a significant decrease in their seizure frequency or intensity, and some patients have experienced seizure freedom when the diet is combined with medicine,” she said.

How does it work?

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The keto diet is high in fat, low in carbohydrates, and protein is controlled. On the diet, the body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. The exact mechanism of how the keto diet works is still being determined, but it seems to center around replacing the brain’s primary fuel from sugar to fat. This results in a change in how neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the nervous system) act in the brain.

Who is eligible for the keto diet?

Maureen said a lot of adults with epilepsy can benefit from this diet therapy.

“The aim is to use the diet in combination with medical treatment,” she said. “Given the serious side effects of some anti-epileptic drugs, the addition of an alternative treatment is often appealing.”

But making the switch to a keto diet isn’t easy and requires some willpower and support.

“It’s a lot of work and can be complicated to maintain,” Maureen said. “Anyone who tries it needs to be disciplined with their meals or the treatment won’t work. Norton Neuroscience Institute’s Ketogenic Clinic will be able to help find strategies to stay on course.”

Ketogenic Clinic coming in 2019

The Norton Neuroscience Institute Ketogenic Clinic will open in 2019. Staffed by three neurologists with advanced specialization in epilepsy, three acute care nurse practitioners and two registered dietitians, the clinic will offer monthly group education seminars and follow-up appointments for approved patients.

“Trying any type of new treatment requires a detailed plan and approach,” Maureen said. “Our hope is that we can offer many different approaches to care so that patients can get back to enjoying life.”

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