The Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy

Most of the time I will post Ketogenic lifestyle hack, tips, recipes, reviews and personal experiences with the Ketogenic/low carb lifestyle that I’m following in a fun and playful manner… because I’m only a qualified expert on….myself and I make posts in the hopes that my interpretation of the ketogenic lifestyle resonates with people and in some way can relate to their own lives and make a positive change.

Writing this fun and playful blog is primarily for weight management/ fat loss etc, because that’s my struggleLong before my Super Size Big Mac & Fries addiction was cured by the Ketogenic Diet, doctors were prescribing the Ketogenic diet for epilepsy patients. Below are excerpts from a 2018 report by Mark J. Occhipinti, Ph.D. What is the History and Evolution of the Keto Diet?

Mark J. Occhipinti, PHD.is the president of the American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA). He has presented at over 100 fitness conferences in 46 states and abroad, presenting to over 120,000 health and fitness professionals, including appearances on BBC and various international television and radio broadcasts. Mark received the CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year. Served on the medical advisory board of several online health websites, and as a fitness expert for several U.S. newspapers.


Custom Keto Diet

The Basics of Ketosis


At a basic level, the ketogenic diet is rooted in the idea that limiting your carbohydrate intake and consuming fats instead will put your body in a “fasted state” where it will burn ketones instead of glucose- resulting in better health for you.

The central idea is that following a meal plan that’s 60-75% fat, 15-30% protein, and 5-10% carbs puts the body in a state called ketosis. While your system primarily chooses to run on glucose (sugar), restricting your carbohydrate intake will cause it to feel that it’s starving, so it will generate a secondary energy source from fat to continue sending glucose to the brain. When you limit your carb supply, your body starts to break down fat into compounds called ketones, which are an alternative fuel source that many people believe has impressive benefits for your health and weight.

The key here is that when you’re in ketosis the body thinks that it’s in a Fasted State. It’s this fasted state when the body breaks down fat into ketones and burns it for fuel that low carb dieters strive for. As Dr. Occhipinti points out in this next section, Fasting plays an integral part in the nutritional treatment of epilepsy.

A History of Epilepsy Research


While the term ‘ketogenic’ wasn’t used until the 20th century, there’s a historical precedent for fasting for health. Ancient Greek physicians advocated for restricting one’s diet to treat diseases like epilepsy and other health problems, and fasting was considered to be integral to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, fasting is the only epilepsy treatment recorded by Hippocrates, and it was standard practice across much of the world for over two thousand years.

While most people today start the ketogenic diet to lose weight or otherwise improve their health, the eating strategy originated as a treatment for epilepsy. The research story begins with the first modern study of fasting and its role in epilepsy, which took place in France around 1911. The study found that epilepsy patients who consumed low-calorie diets combined with periods of fasting experienced fewer seizures and had fewer adverse health effects from the condition.

Around the same time, an American osteopathic physician named Hugh Conklin began to recommend fasting to his epileptic patients to help them get their seizures under control. Using a method that caused epileptic patients to fast for 18-25 days at a time, he boasted a 50 percent success rate for adults, and as high as 90 percent for children.

The Ketogenic Diet: A Compromise from Fasting

At first glance, these results were impressive. However, there was one glaring problem. While researchers had proof that fasting could control seizures, the obvious complication was that fasts are meant to be temporary. Many patients found that their seizures came back once they returned to their regular diet. As other doctors began working to replicate these results, some experimented with modified fasts that focused on eliminating starches and sugars, rather than restricting all calories equally. Specifically, Dr. Wilder at the Mayo Clinic observed that certain epilepsy patients had fewer seizures when their blood sugar was lowered from eating a high-fat, low-carb diet. He consequently created the ketogenic diet as a way to mimic the metabolism that fasting produces.

While there were plenty of cases where the ketogenic diet proved successful in 1938, with the discovery of phenytoin, an anticonvulsant drug, the focus shifted to developing new compounds of this kind….hard to believe that doctors would rather prescribe a drug versus having patients maintain a nutritional regimen. (insert sarcasm here!). To be fair, the world was a different place in the late 30’s, they had a global crisis of their own and they were just entering the “wonder drug” era… however, there was more money in selling monthly medication prescriptions than prescribing a diet… a paradigm that still exists today!

The Ketogenic diet had a resurgence in the late 90’s, when Jim Abrahams, American movie director, producer & writer, best known for iconic spoof movies such as Airplane, Kentucky Fried Movie & Hot Shots among others, his son, Charlie who had difficult-to-control epilepsy that began in 1992 since he was one-years-old. As a last resort, they turned to the Ketogenic Diet through the John Hopkins hospital for help.

Click here to see it on Amazon

The diet worked! Within 48-hours, Charlie miraculously went from having about one hundred seizures a day to none at all and get off of the 4 anti-convulsant medications he was taking within a month. Remarkably, Charlie became epilepsy-free for over twenty years.

Their story & the Ketogenic diet got national attention in 1997 when Jim wrote directed “…First, Do No Harm” starring Meryl Streep and Fred Ward…. I need to see this movie again, I don’t fully remember it, but if Meryl Streep was in the movie… I know I saw it because my wife is a HUGE Meryl Streep fan!

Final thoughts

As I said earlier, this post is a little out of the norm for me… since I look to write “fun & playful” posts. I hope that you found this informative and interesting and would love to read your comments… my pledge is to respond to every comment in a timely manner.

Just to stay grounded and add a little fun and some more value here… check out the video and recipe below for Strawberry Cheesecake fat bombs from the folks at Custom Keto Diet… I’ll look to make these in the future and upload a post to see if I was able to make them as good as they look like here in the video

Keto Strawberry Cheesecake Fat Bombs


Custom Keto Diet

Preparation time: 1 hour

🍽 Servings: 3 fat bombs

Ingredients:
30 grams of Strawberries (fresh or frozen), diced
100 grams Cream Cheese, softened
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 Tbsp Erythritol
1/3 cup Coconut Flour

Procedure:
1) Puree the strawberries and erythritol in a food processor.
2) Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
3) Divide the dough into balls and chill until ready to serve.

➡️ Nutritional Information:
Energy – 146 kcal
Protein – 2.6g (7%)
Fat – 14g (85%)
Carbohydrates – 3g (8%)
Fiber – 0.8g

38 thoughts on “The Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy”

  1. Very interesting and thorough article. Keto has really taken off and although it’s a tough follow, it goes along with life’s challenges. Great stuff-

    1. Elise,
      Everything in life can be a tough follow for someone. I think it comes down to what you want out of life and what you’re willing to do to get it. Wearing a mask and gloves and staying locked in at home is a tough follow, but I want to keep me and my family safe and if that’s what it takes as uncomfortable as it is that’s what I’m going to do.
      Thanks for the read and the feedback
      Bob

  2. The ketogenic diet and epilepsy is going to help many people with epilepsy to feel so much better, and if this diet can help people with epilepsy do you think it will help people with other autoimmune diseases?

    Jeff

  3. Awesome information about the effects of the Keto diet for people with epilepsy. I personally haven’t thought about trying a Keto diet but I’ve had experience with intermittent fasting and had mixed results. I was able to follow it pretty well during the week, but the weekend came and it was tough to continue. I may try it again in the future, but now I focus on trying to be as balanced as I can. I also agree that any remedy for a condition that doesn’t involve taking a medication is worth looking into, so I’m glad to see there is this option for folks who suffer from epilepsy. Thank you for sharing this knowledge!

    1. Dereck… Following a keto diet before and after a fast could help you increase the fat burning effects of ketosis… then go back to your standard diet. This might suit you better and increase desired effects
      Thanks for Reading and commenting!

      Bob

  4. Hi Bob, Your fun way of writing is wonderful, enjoyable to read. Very informative, I come from the time zone where carbohydrates was the way to go, I remember been told to eat as much potatoes as I could fit in before an ultra paddling marathon, then years later we went onto eating steak before the event, steak was better. It’s important to stay in touch with developments of how actually our body works and what is good for it. Thanks.
    Regards Barry

    1. Barry I’m right there with you… I did the low fat diet for a while and combined it with consistently hitting the gym 3+ days per week… and it worked! I consumed carbs like they were going to stop making them. Any diet, (keto included) can be successful, there are no shortages in the “testimonial aisle” like there are in the paper goods aisle. I think the key is getting to know yourself and getting to know how your body reacts, getting to know what supports you and what your body reacts adversely to and making decisions from there and owning them.
      Thanks for the read and the kind words!

      Bob

  5. Hey, nice post. It is very helpful for those in need and I am sure that it will be ranked very fast and good. Personally, I have never searched for weight loss solutions because I do not need to lose weight (but to gain a bit) and that is the reason I do not know anything about weight loss
    However, your post is very helpful and it also made me understand a bit about ways of losing weight.
    Codrut.

    1. Codrut,
      You are blessed, be thankful. Weight management is important too. There are many people that struggle to gain weight. When I think of what happens when I lose all the weight that I want to… what then? This journey has taught me to be cognizant of what I put into my body and to feed my body the nourishment it needs to work at it’s optimal performance…. we’ll see check back in every now and then!
      thank you
      Bob

  6. Hi Bob. Great post. I honestly didn’t know what this was until I read your article. It is a very interesting read. It’s great that you have actually used this yourself as it provides honest feedback to the reader. Brilliant article.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful post. I am going to share this with my doctor and nutritionist friends who may be able to help better than me 🙂

    1. Great idea… take a deeper dive into it and consult with people that you trust and explore whether low carb living makes sense for you and your weight management goals
      Thanks for reading and for the kind words!

  8. Hey Bob,

    This is an unusual article, as I never would have thought the ketogenic diet and epilepsy would go together.

    I have a friend who has epilepsy and his seizures are triggered when he eats. He doesn’t have full on fits, he just spaces out a bit and it only lasts for a few minutes.

    I think he would benefit from your article, so I have forwarded it on to him and advised him to comment. I’ve also recommended that if he has any questions then he should contact you.

    Thank you for sharing such a great post and keep up the amazing work on your site.

    All the best,

    Tom

    1. Wow… thanks Tom. I’m happy to just raise awareness. I’m certain that your friend already knows about Fasting/Ketogenic diet and the effects on epilepsy… but if this spurs him on to take a deeper dive and he finds value in it… I’m thrilled!
      Thanks Tom!

      Bob

  9. Hey Bob,
    Nice article. Lately, I read a lot about all types of diets. Since the COVID-19 locked us all in houses, I find myself eating more than I actually should.
    Most of the time I’m not even hungry, but I feel I’m eating out of boredom. I’m considering starting with a keto diet. Although I don’t have epilepsy, thank God, I find your article very informative. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.
    Great recipe at the end 😀

    1. Thank goodness for this blog or all I would do all day is eat. Being locked away in the house all day we’re continually planning our next meal… which reminds me I have to thaw the chopped meat.
      Thanks… check back soon to see what I’ve distracted myself with today instead of eating 🙂

      Bob

  10. I now know a hell of a lot more about the Ketogenic Diet than I did before I read this article.

    I’m sure many health conditions could be avoided by good healthy living, and sure the “Rubbish” that is in those products help to cause and trigger these conditions.

    I’m not a great one for diets but I do eat healthily for a period of time than sort of drift back into bad habits, and I think a lot of it is down to laziness, and we always seem to not have the time.

    It’s only when something is triggered later in life that we start to look at our eating habits differently.

    Thanks for sharing

    1. I agree Mick…. I wish that I could jump in the DeLorean and tell my younger self to be mindful of the food he’s consuming… younger-self would most likely nod politely, order another beer and an order of Chili-Cheese fries!
      Thanks for commenting!

  11. Hugh Gallagher

    I heard ketogenic diet has also been linked to cancer prevention, and if I remember correctly, as part of a cancer cure protocol. It was one or the other. Have you heard about this?

    The Ketogenic Diet (KD), a high-fat/low-carbohydrate/adequate-protein diet, has recently been proposed as an adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment. KDs target the Warburg effect, a biochemical phenomenon in which cancer cells predominantly utilize glycolysis instead of oxidative phosphorylation to produce ATP.

    Another study in mice found that a ketogenic diet alone does have some tumor-growth inhibitory effect in squamous cell cancer.

    1. I had read similar accounts and I’m in the midst of gathering data to make a post… thanks for the comment!

      Bob

  12. Hey, I know you said you want to keep a fun note to it but this is a very informative and deep article. I did a research on Keto myself and I can confirm what you say it’s true about epilepsy and seizures.

    What I found out is that the epileptic people were the only ones that should use it for health reasons. I know that Keto works for weight loss but according to studies not better that other diets – you still need to be in a calorie deficit if you want to burn stored fat, otherwise your body will only burn the fat you eat. 

    You did great research, it’s hard to find this detailed articles. Keep on the great work!

    Katya 

    1. Kat, 

      I agree with you. The Keto diet isn’t better than any other diet… it’s the diet that I’ve had some success with because I’ve been able to stay consistent with it. I found the “origin” of the Keto diet and the chain of events that raised awareness in the keto diet very interesting and thought I would share

      Bob

  13. Wow thanks for this amazing post. I have heard of the keto diet before and how it has helped people lose body fat. However I never heard of it treating epilepsy before which I find pretty amazing.

    Now do you think this is because people are losing weight is the reason for this, or do you think it is related to how manu carbs people are eating on a daily basis?

    1. I think that like all diets,  burn more calories than you consume. Foods high in fat & moderate in protein are satiating. Limiting carbs can bring on ketosis, So essentially, consuming too few carbohydrates forces your body to turn to fat for energy. As a result, the fat gets broken down into ketones and once you reach ketosis, these become your body’s main source of energy.

      Hope this helps

      Bob

  14. Hi Bob

    I’ve enjoyed reading your article on Ketogenic diet and the history behind it all. It’s wonderful to see this diet helps so many and specially the individuals with epilepsy. I’m happy it’s helped you also and will help many others in the future, It sound like a great way to eat healthy.  Thank you for your article, Regards Bernardo

    1. I think eating healthy and Keto are different things, both good… just different and not mutually inclusive. I agree with you, the history of the ketogenic diet is fascinating… I enjoyed researching it.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Bob

  15. It is good to know that the keto diet has been existing longer before now. i never knew that it was regarded as a method of treatment for epilepsy although i doubt that it is of much effect lately considering the advancement of our health sector and the technology. thank you very much for this.

  16. I’ve always found the ketogenic diet fascinating for the potential health effects it has. Then again I come from the school of thought that carbs are fine and should function as our main source of energy IF we have a healthy metabolism and are active.

    The fact that keto can prevent epilepsy proves that it has significant effects on a cellular level. I think I’ve read that keto can even reduce and slow down Alzheimers. That’s no surprise when you consider the fact that one theory behind many forms of dementia is actually disturbed glucose metabolism in the brain cells, i.e. “Diabetes Type 3”. Maybe you should do a write up of that if you haven’t already?

    1. Excellent thought… Thanks Jukka… I was thinking that I would mix up some fun and playful reviews with more serious & scientific fact based content… it takes longer to research and write, but I’m enjoying the education and I think it brings value, don’t you agree?
      Thanks for commenting!
      Bob

  17. Ketogenic diet has proven to be the be a very good way combat this epilepsy issue although i haven’t seen it i action but i am very keen to try it out as i have a cousin with this very embarrassing condition so i would indulge him to try it out and from there i would find out if it works.

  18. An epileptic condition is a very serious case as it doesn’t really have a confirmed cure but one thing that i know has proven to be a very good way to crub the situation os epilepsy is a good diet….but i don’t know yet if a keto diet would help minimise the number and times of this epileptic attacks…i do have a friend who is epileptic i would tell him to try it out.

  19. New studies show that the ketogenic diet, a high-fat, calorie-restricted diet used to treat epileptic seizures in children, alters genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain, which in return helps stabilize the function neurons exposed to the challenges of epileptic seizures.thanks for sharing i hope it helps others as it has helped me.

    1. Dave, 

      What I find mind boggling is that this high fat/moderate protein/low carb diet that didn’t have a name was an integral part of the treatment for epilepsy in the early part of the 20th century and that evaporated until the 1990’s

      Thanks for commenting

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