ATKINS MEAL PLAN IDEAS FOR PEOPLE WITH EPILEPSY
by Oliver Jackson
There has been much interest over the past decade or so in how the Atkins Diet might help epilepsy sufferers. Low carbohydrate diets were in fact used widely as a treatment for epilepsy as early as the 1920s but fell out of fashion as anticonvulsive medications became available. A resurgence in interest in the low-carbohydrate regimes occurred in the 1990s, particularly for those who had failed to find an effective anti-convulsive.
A modified version of the Atkins diet can provide an alternative to more traditional ketogenic regimes, which is simpler to adhere to and easier to manage both at home and when eating out. Although widely used to treat children with epilepsy, this article deals exclusively with the use of the diet for adult sufferers. Whether the aim of the diet is to reduce weight or to control seizures or both, this regime should not be attempted without consultation with your neurologist and more monitoring is necessary than for non-sufferers, such as the use of indicator strips a couple of times per week to measure ketone levels in the urine.
Why does the Atkins Diet work for epilepsy sufferers?
Firstly, it is important to note that the Atkins diet does not reduce seizures in all patients, although well over half experience a marked improvement in their condition. Where it does have an effect, this seems to be because given a low level of carbohydrate in the diet, the liver is driven to convert fat in the body into fatty acids and ketones. These ketones replace glucose as an energy source for the brain. It is the elevated level of ketones which seems to reduce the frequency of seizures.
The advantage of the Atkins Diet over more traditional ketogenic diets is its relative simplicity; it requires no measuring of foods, no restriction on protein levels, no calorific restrictions and a slightly higher carbohydrate allowance. It also avoids the need for an initial fast and requires less dietary supervision due to its simplicity.
When following the Atkins diet for seizure reduction, which should only be done under medical supervision, the initial introductory phase (Phase 1) is extended indefinitely and fat consumption is particularly encouraged in order to maximize the production of ketones. Carbohydrate levels should initially be no higher than 15g for an adult. There is also no fluid restriction – indeed, fluid intake is essential to maintain good health while on the diet. Dietary supplementation is vital for the duration of the diet and a specialist doctor or dietician should advise on what supplements to take.