If medicine doesn't control seizures in epilepsy,
sometimes doctors prescribe a ketogenic (or keto) diet. A ketogenic
diet is a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that can reduce, and sometimes stop,
It's called "ketogenic" because it makes ketones in the body.
Ketones are made when the body uses fat for energy. By replacing carbs with fat in
the diet, the body burns more fat and makes more ketones.
The ketogenic diet is prescribed by a doctor. Kids on the diet need to be followed
closely by a dietitian to make sure they follow the diet and get the nutrients they
need. The diet starts with fasting during an overnight hospital stay.
Studies show that the ketogenic diet also may help treat other conditions, such
and even cancer.
How Does a Ketogenic Diet Work?
Although the ketogenic diet for epilepsy has been around since 1920, doctors aren't
exactly sure how the higher ketone levels works. Some seizure types seem to respond
better than others to the ketogenic diet.
In babies, the keto diet is given in formula. Young children may be fed by a tube
that is place in the stomach by a surgeon. This helps the child stay on the diet.
How Long Do Kids Need a Ketogenic Diet?
You should know if a ketogenic diet works for your child within a few months. If
it does, your doctor may recommend weaning your child off the diet after 2 years of
seizure control. The weaning process is done over several months to avoid triggering
Some people stay on a ketogenic diet for years.
Are There Any Risks?
The ketogenic diet is a safe treatment for epilepsy in children. There are some
possible side effects with long-term use, though, including: