13 February 2007

Epilepsy and diet

The so-called Ketogenic Diet has been used to treat epilepsy, but this remains controversial.


Step 1: Understanding the relationship between epilepsy and diet
Diet does not play a significant role in causing epilepsy. However, alcohol abuse can cause seizures and should therefore be used in moderation.

Medications used to treat epilepsy may interfere with the uptake of certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. Supplementation is therefore necessary.

In young children, the so-called “ketogenic diet” is sometimes used. This diet is, however, controversial and as it is a very restrictive diet, it should only be followed under strict medical supervision.

Step 2: Adopting healthy habits

  • Stick to a well balanced diet.
  • Eliminate alcohol.
  • Get sufficient sleep.
  • Avoid changes in routine.
  • If you need to take any other medication than that prescribed for epilepsy, check this with your doctor first.
  • Avoid certain situations or activities known to promote seizures.

Step 3: Understanding the basic principles of a diet for epileptics
The medications used to treat epilepsy may interfere with the uptake of certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. If you are taking phenobarbital, phenytoin or primidone, then vitamin D supplementation is recommended to prevent softening of the bones.

Conversely folic acid may interfere with the action of phenytoin, so it is advisable not to take folic acid supplements while using this drug. Alcohol is usually not permitted if you use phenytoin as it can cause seizures.

In young children a so-called “ketogenic diet” is sometimes used but this remains controversial. The diet gets most (80%) of its calories from fat and a slight deviation could trigger a seizure. It is a serious medical treatment and not a “do it yourself” diet. Without proper medical guidance (usually by a team), it could have serious consequences.

Learn everything you need to know about epilepsy in our Epilepsy Centre.

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