Can diet cause seizures? 

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AmbitCare

June 27, 2022

Every Child Needs a Variety of Healthy Foods 

Everyone, including children who have seizures, should consume many types of healthy foods. A healthy diet can aid in the development of a child that is living with a seizure disorder. In general, this would include proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy. 

Proteins:

  • Fish
  • Lean meat and poultry like chicken
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Soy products
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds

Fruits and vegetables:

  • Choose foods with color from across the rainbow
  • Apples
  • Squash
  • Leafy greens

Whole grains:

  • Wheat bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Brown or wild rice

Dairy:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Soy beverages with added nutrients

Some children can take in foods by mouth, while others may require enteral through a feeding tube or parenteral nutrition through an IV (intravenous). Your child's healthcare provider will select a formula that meets nutritional needs. 

Can a Specific Diet Help Control Seizures?

Numerous studies have confirmed the link between diets, such as the DASH diet and blood pressure, and the link between carbohydrates (foods high in starch or sugar) and blood sugar levels. So, is there a diet that can help control seizures? 

Over the past few years, a few studies have researched the link between specific diets and seizure activity. In some children with a seizure disorder, a ketogenic diet reduces the number of seizures.

Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet and should be started under the guidance of a healthcare team. Up to 90% of the ketogenic diet is fat, such as oils, seeds, avocado, and whipping cream. The rest of the diet is comprised of proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Starch and sugars, such as bread and cereals, are removed (Epilepsy Society, 2022).

Does it work? 

It depends on several factors, including genetics, diet compliance, and the severity of the seizure disorder. About 1/3 of patients who adhere to a ketogenic diet will have less than 50% reduction in seizures, 1/3 of patients will have a greater than 50% reduction in seizures, and about 1/3 will have a greater than 90% reduction in seizures (Texas Children, 2022). 

What are the potential side effects? 

  • Low blood sugar
  • Blood may become too high in acid, confirmed by a blood test
  • High Cholesterol
  • Gastrointestinal issues, like vomiting and constipation
  • Kidney stones
  • Due to the risk of side effects, the ketogenic diet is always initiated in a hospital


Is my child a good candidate for the ketogenic diet? 

Never begin a ketogenic diet without speaking to your child's pediatrician or neurologist. You must make an appointment and talk with your child's care team to determine if your child could benefit from a ketogenic diet. 

Can specific diet trigger seizures? 

No. However, in children who have reflex epilepsy (when seizures occur in response to a trigger), certain foods may trigger a seizure. 

Certain colorings, artificial (not natural) sweeteners, and preservatives (chemicals added to foods to make them last longer), like monosodium glutamate (MSG), may trigger seizures(Epilepsy Society, 2022). 

Grapefruit & pomegranate juicemay affect the ability of an anti-seizure medication to control seizures.

Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and may trigger seizures, although, in some people, it protects against seizures (Epilepsy Society, 2022).

Every child with a seizure disorder is different and may or may not respond to modifications in diet to control seizures. Therefore, it's a must that every parent, along with their child's healthcare team, speak about which diet can give the best quality of life. 

Learn more about the ketogenic diet

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