A ketogenic diet can reduce seizures in children with refractory epilepsy, which is a type of epilepsy that cannot be controlled by medications. Since 2005, the Norton Children’s Ketogenic Diet Clinic has offered a keto diet program for children with epilepsy.
Once a child’s neurologist has identified the child as a good fit for the clinic, they will be referred to our ketogenic dietitian for a consultation and more education. After the education consultation, if the family wants to go ahead and the dietitian agrees the child is a good candidate, we run tests. These include metabolic testing and imaging studies to look for underlying conditions that could be made worse by the diet. While on the diet, if the child is taking liquid medication, which contains sugar, they will need to change to tablets.
The child comes to Norton Children’s Hospital for four to five days, and we slowly transition them from their usual diet to the ketogenic diet. Children are hospitalized so we can closely follow their blood sugar levels, ketone levels and clinical status.
The hospital stay also is an opportunity for education. Families learn how to prepare meals and monitor blood sugar and ketones, among other things.
The exact mechanism of how the diet works is still being investigated. The ketogenic diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, and protein is strictly controlled. The diet prompts the body to switch its fuel supply almost entirely to fat. When the brain’s primary fuel is ketones, which are generated from fat, it doesn’t seem to seize nearly as easily or as frequently as a brain fueled by sugar.
Most patients will have a significant decrease in their seizure frequency and/or intensity, and many become seizure-free. Families also report increased alertness and improved development in their children.
Other Diets That Can Be Effective
We also use the modified Atkins diet, in which carbohydrates are restricted but protein is not.
The low glycemic index diet also has been shown to reduce seizures.
It’s extremely important that before trying any of these diets, patients and families talk to their neurologist.
The Norton Children’s Ketogenic Diet Clinic core team consists of board-certified, fellowship-trained physicians, therapists, nurses and other health care professionals in various specialties, including:
Norton Children’s Ketogenic Diet ClinicOpen bimonthly
Novak Center for Children’s Health, Level 6411 E. Chestnut St.Louisville, KY 40202