Dietary recommendations for people with epilepsy

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The ketogenic diet is often recommended for children with epilepsy. This diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fats. The diet forces the body to use fat for energy instead of glucose, a process called ketosis.

The diet requires a strict balance between fats, carbohydrates, and protein. That’s why it’s best to work with a nutritionist or dietitian. Children on this diet must be carefully monitored by a doctor.

The ketogenic diet doesn’t benefit everybody. But when followed properly, it’s often successful in reducing the frequency of seizures. It works better for some types of epilepsy than others.

For adolescents and adults with epilepsy, a modified Atkins diet may be recommended. This diet is also high in fat and involves a controlled carb intake.

About half of adults who try the modified Atkins diet experience fewer seizures. Results may be seen as quickly as a few months.

Because these diets tend to be low in fiber and high in fat, constipation is a common side effect.

Talk to your doctor before starting a new diet and make sure you’re getting vital nutrients. In any case, not eating processed foods can help improve your health.

Learn more about how your diet can affect epilepsy »

Epilepsy and behavior: Is there a connection?

Children with epilepsy tend to have more learning and behavioral problems than those who don’t. Sometimes there’s a connection. But these problems aren’t always caused by epilepsy.

About 15 to 35 percent of children with intellectual disabilities also have epilepsy. Often, they stem from the same cause.

Some people experience a change in behavior in the minutes or hours before a seizure. This could be related to abnormal brain activity preceding a seizure, and may include:

  • inattentiveness
  • irritability
  • hyperactivity
  • aggressiveness

Children with epilepsy may experience uncertainty in their lives. The prospect of a sudden seizure in front of friends and classmates can be stressful. These feelings can cause a child to act out or withdraw from social situations.

Most children learn to adjust over time. For others, social dysfunction can continue into adulthood. Between 30 to 70 percent of people with epilepsy also have depression, anxiety, or both.

Antiseizure medications can also have an effect on behavior. Switching or making adjustments to medication may help.

Behavioral problems should be addressed during doctor visits. Treatment will depend on the nature of the problem.

You might also benefit from individual therapy, family therapy, or joining a support group to help you cope.

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