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Ketogenic Diet for Kids with Seizures

Updated on September 28, 2012
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney is a mom trying to evoke a healthy, happy life for herself and her family.

Ketogenic Diet

There aren't too many people who have heard about the ketogenic diet, and most of the people who have are those who have experienced seizures or know someone who has a seizure disorder. The ketogenic diet is being prescribed more and more to children who suffer seizures.

My younger brother was reccommeded to start the ketogenic diet, as was a co-worker's 4 year old son.

The diet is hard for parents to start their child on, as it cuts out most foods that kids love, but it is a healthy diet that has helped many children with their seizures.

Basically, the ketogenic diet forces the body to burn fat around the clock. By burning fat for energy instead of glucose, the diet is able to prevent seizures from occurring. The diet doesn't work for all children, but it is recommended by many doctors that children who suffer seizure disorders try the diet to see if it will help.

The diet consists of low calorie intake and high fat consumption. The diet is about 80% fat and 20% carbohydrates and proteins. 

The food and liquid intake must be carefully measured for each meal or snack for each individual person. Everyone is different, so the diet isn't 100% the same for each person.

Never start a child on the ketogenic diet without medical guidance, as the meal plan will be a little different for each child. Plus, the child needs to be carefully monitored by an experienced team.

Side Effects of the Ketogenic Diet

There are some potential side effects with putting a child on this diet for seizures. Your child may or may not be affected, but it's always good to know what the potential problems are before you get started, so that you know what to watch out for.

Just remember to keep a close eye for any irregularities because some of the side effects can go away if caught early, and the child can continue on with the diet.

Potential side effects include:

  • High cholesterol
  • Kidney stones or gall stones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Poor growth
  • Vomiting

  • Constipation
  • Decreased bone density
  • Dehydration
  • Eye problems
  • Fat buildup in the blood
  • Frequent infections

Starting the Ketogenic Diet

If you and your child's doctor decide to try your child on the Ketogenic diet, you will want to make sure to discuss your current medication plan. Most doctors will want the child to continue on his, or her, anti-seizure medications.

Your doctor will suggest that once you start the ketogenic diet, you stick with it for at least one month, but most will recommend staying with the diet for two to three months in order to get a full idea as to whether or not the diet will help your child's seizure disorder.

In most cases, children will start the diet while in the hospital, so that doctors and nurses can carefully monitor any progress and make sure that the diet is kept very strict. Typically, the child will be put on a fast so that the body will cleanse itself before the diet is started.

While in the hospital, a dietitian and nutritionist will speak with you about how to continue the diet at home. You will learn what foods to offer, what foods to avoid, how to make a meal that is high in fats, and how to read ingredient labels.

This diet will not work if it is not followed carefully.

You will need to monitor your child very carefully, making notes of seizure activity, blood sugar levels, body weight, fluid consumption, and any irregularities. As your child ages and grows, the doctor may want to alter it to ensure that your child has enough energy to function.

You want to make sure that when you take your child in for follow-ups, you provide all the notes that you've been taking in-between the appointments. Some doctors will want to see the child every month for a few months after initially starting the diet, but the appointments will start to be spread to out depending on the case.

Guide to Ketogenic Diet

Ketogenic Diet Menu

Basically, the Ketogenic diet consists of about 3 to 4 meals a day. Each meal is small and oily, and because the diet doesn't contain a lot of essential vitamins and minerals, it is recommended to put the child on a good daily vitamin and supplements.

You will have to keep the diet at a ratio of about 3 to 4 grams of fat per 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein. Most infants, children, and adolescents are put on a 3:1 diet because they need more proteins, whereas a 4:1 diet is more strict diet that is typically more common for adults.

When determining how much to offer, most doctors recommend about 1 to 2 grams of proteins per 2.2 pounds of weight, so multiply that by 3 or 4 depending on which diet the child is on, and you can figure out about how many grams of fats to provide.

You need to be very careful of what foods you offer a child who is on a ketogenic diet because there are sugars (the breakdown product of carbohydrates) in a lot of products we use daily, to include toothpaste, and the carbohydrates that the child consumes needs to be most carefully monitored. For the first month or so, your doctor may restrict carbohydrate consumption to just 10 grams a day, so it will be very important to monitor consumption.

The child will be on a high fat diet with plenty of mayonnaise, butter, oil, heavy creams, and other fattening food ingredients. This doesn't sound like a very healthy diet, but with proper supplementation and very close monitoring, the diet is healthy and can potentially reduce seizure activity in children.

A sample diet may look like the below menu. Just remember that the diet will vary per child's condition and age. Below is a sample diet from diet.com, basing the menu from a standard 4:1 ratio diet with 1500 calories a day.

  • Breakfast: egg and bacon mixed with a heavy whipping cream and butter, and an apple
  • Snack: peanut butter mixed with butter
  • Lunch: tuna salad made with celery, mayonnaise, and heavy whipping cream, served with lettuce
  • Snack: keto yogurt (made with heavy whipping cream, sour cream, strawberries, and artificial sweetener)
  • Dinner: cheeseburger with lettuce and green beans
  • Snack: keto custard (heavy whipping cream, egg, and pure unsweetened vanilla flavoring)

When putting your child on the ketogenic diet, it is very important that you carefully monitor and measure your child's food portions. You want to make sure that you are able to control the portion sizes of each thing your child gets on his plate.

Staying on such a strict diet can be hard to do, but in some cases, it is actually worth while.

Success of the Diet

When kept on the diet, about 1/3 of children will not experience any more seizures or are just about free of all seizures, whereas another third will have some seizures but will see some improvement. The remaining 1/3 of children do not remain on the diet because it is too complicated continue, the child didn't like the food, or the seizures did not subside.

So, basically about 1 in every 3 children have success on the ketogenic diet.

When kept on the diet long-term those children who do not experience any seizures, may be able to slowly wean off the diet, as in some cases, the brain chemistry has been altered permanently. While weaning off the ketogenic diet, the calories from fat consumption will be reduced, while calories from carbohydrates and proteins slowly increased.

Low Carb Pyramid

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed physician. If you have any questions, please consult your child's pediatrician and neurologist for any specific questions or concerns relating to the ketogenic diet.

Comments

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    • ericscholes profile image

      ericscholes 7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the diet. I hope it will help me get healthy body.

    • profile image

      jowella 7 years ago

      thank you for thses research..it adds me more knowledge bout ketognc diet,,next month also may child will be starting for this.just preaparing for the money to be used.im quite excited and scared,,but i pray that this one will wor for her..

    • profile image

      Laura 7 years ago

      Thank you for this summary. My 4 year old daughter is about to start the ketogenic diet in the next month to try to control her epilepsy. We are very hopeful that this will work for her.

    • InfinityVal profile image

      InfinityVal 7 years ago from NNY

      I'm so glad to see this hub. I remember seeing a show about kids and seizures and how this diet was a godsend. This can help a lot of people.

    • profile image

      i scribble 8 years ago

      Interesting. I never heard of this diet. It does sound difficut to follow, but for severe, uncontrolled seizures, it could be a godsend.

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