Monday, April 30, 2012

Fighting Epilepsy with a Fork

One more week until we start the ketogenic diet.  I am looking forward to it with every fiber of my being!  The more I research it, the more I read about children who have been miraculously cured of seizures, even after returning to a normal diet.  It does, after all, date back to biblical times.  Here is an interesting article I found from 2008 that explains it pretty well.  I believe some things have changed slightly since then, but the general idea is still the same.

"Fighting Epilepsy with a Fork" by Jeffrey Sheban
The Columbus Dispatch,  March 2008

D.J. Fosselman went two years without eating fruits and vegetables.
His mother not just allowed but supplied a steady diet of bacon and cream cheese instead.
The 8-year-old first-grader from Orient is among an increasing number of children with epilepsy whose lives have been transformed by a diet dating from biblical times.
The high-fat ketogenic diet is becoming a treatment of choice to combat seizures in youngsters who don't respond to drugs alone.
"Most children will be controlled on the first medication they take, but, for those who aren't, we can consider the diet," said Debbie Terry, a pediatric nurse at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "It's not a first-line treatment, but we are increasingly using it as an earlier option."
The hospital has put more than 70 children on the ketogenic diet since 1995.
Of the 54 patients who started the diet between 1998 and 2006, 52 percent had at least a 50 percent reduction in seizures; 14 percent had at least a 90 percent reduction.
"It does work, and, for some kids, it's dramatic," said Nancy Brantner, executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Central Ohio.
D.J. had his first seizure on Sept. 30, 2003, at age 3 1/2.
His mother, Thelma, was playing with him on the floor. Suddenly, the boy went to his side; his eyes rolled back, and his face turned blue. She thought he was dying.
By the time the rescue squad arrived, however, he was breathing normally.
Weeks later, he was having "drop attacks" -- short, total blackouts that left him dazed, confused and often bleeding from the chin after hitting the ground.
The cause: epilepsy.
Within several months, D.J. was having as many as 100 seizures a day and wearing a protective helmet at all times.
Doctors tried four drugs over 15 months, but nothing helped.
D.J. couldn't form complete sentences and didn't recognize his mother.
"I'm thinking, 'I've lost my son,' " said Fosselman, a registered nurse.
Then the family heard about an Atkins-like diet -- the primary treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s but a largely forgotten approach after anti-seizure drugs were developed two decades later.
Within a week of going on the strict high-fat, low- carbohydrate regimen, D.J. was seizure-free.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the diet saved him," Fosselman said.
D.J. is among many beneficiaries of the ketogenic diet, according to Brantner.
Yet medical experts aren't sure exactly how and why it works.
Because of the side effects -- including constipation, vomiting and weight loss -- health experts prefer that children not remain on the diet for much longer than two years.
D.J., who abandoned it a year ago, still follows a less-strict version.
Some people view the biblical tale about fasting to end fits, possibly epileptic seizures, as an early reference to the ketogenic diet.
The diet was catapulted back into popularity in 1994, when a movie executive who had a child with uncontrolled epilepsy took him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where a ketogenic diet halted his seizures.
His father promoted the treatment and produced . . . First Do No Harm, a 1997 made-for-TV movie starring Meryl Streep.
The regimen, which bears some similarities to the high-fat and -protein Atkins diet, essentially puts a patient in a starvation mode by denying carbohydrates, forcing the body to burn fat.
The liver then produces ketone bodies, which circulate through the body, including the brain, and become concentrated in the blood.
For children on the diet, about 90 percent of their total calories come from fat -- almost twice that of the Atkins diet.
A typical dinner might consist of a breadless "sandwich" of fatty ham or bacon, cream cheese and mayonnaise, washed down by a "milkshake" of heavy cream, artificial sweetener and cinnamon or another spice.
Fruits, vegetables, bread and sugary snacks are out.
Most doctors and parents prefer medication to control epilepsy because of the lifestyle changes and discipline required by the diet, said Dr. E. Steve Roach, the director of child neurology at Nationwide Children's and a professor of pediatrics and neurology at Ohio State University.
"It's a good treatment, but it's not for everyone," he said.
Still, "If it comes down to a choice between a regimented diet and seizures, I think that's an easy choice."
Three years ago, the daughter of Amanda and David Lortz of Westerville was found to have epilepsy.
Lauren, then 2, was having thousands of seizures a week and not being helped by drugs, her mother said.
Emily C. de los Reyes, a pediatric neurologist at Nationwide Children's, put Lauren on the ketogenic diet a year ago.
"It was our only hope," her mother said.
Within a week, Lauren was back in preschool -- after missing most of the previous year because of seizures, which have been reduced by about 95 percent.
The girl continues to take an anti-seizure drug, but her mother is convinced that the diet makes the difference.
"This diet has given her her life," she said. "I can't say enough good things about it."
Information from the Contra Costa Times in California was used in this story.

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