The ketogenic diet program at Children’s Mercy helps children with epilepsy and other seizure disorders to reduce or eliminate seizures through a medically prescribed personalized diet plan.
The ketogenic diet—high in fat and very low in carbohydrates—helps children whose epilepsy does not respond well to medications alone.
The typical American diet is about four parts carbohydrates to one part fat and protein. The ketogenic diet reverses this ratio so that the majority of the diet is fat and only a very small amount is protein and carbohydrates.
How does the diet work?
For reasons scientists are still working to understand, changing the body’s main source of energy from carbohydrates to fats has a calming effect on the brain.
What we do know is that it significantly improves the quality of life for more than 90% of the kids in our program. For many of them, eating “keto” (usually together with medications) means they can finally experience life with fewer or even no seizures for the first time.
Is the ketogenic diet right for my child?
Talking with your epilepsy team is the first step to determining whether the ketogenic diet might be a good fit for your child.
At this time, medication is still the first line of treatment for most kids with seizures. In most cases, your child will have tried two or three different medications without success before entering the ketogenic diet program at Children’s Mercy.
What to expect
The program starts with a week-long hospital stay to begin the diet, monitor your child’s health, and educate your family about how to prepare food for your child. This gives your child’s system time to adjust to the diet and allows her care team to watch closely for any concerns.
You’ll stay connected with your health care team and follow up with them periodically to make adjustments to your child’s diet and medications.
Our ketogenic diet program for children with epilepsy is much more rigorous than most of the popular “keto diets” for adults. It is a medically prescribed treatment plan that must be carefully monitored by a team of doctors, nutritionists and dietitians. Children on the diet require several kinds of nutritional supplementation and can experience serious side effects if not under a doctor’s care.
While some kids can transition off the diet after a period of prolonged improvement, others will need to follow it for life, making it a significant commitment for kids and their families.
Modified Atkins diet
We’ve found that some kids who are unable to handle the ketogenic diet still have fewer seizures by following a modified Atkins diet. This diet carefully controls carbohydrates, but is less strict about the amount and type of other foods a child can eat.
Similar to the ketogenic diet, it requires a family commitment and follow-up clinic visits periodically to monitor your child’s health.