Our world is rapidly advancing in science and technology. In the field of medical sciences there are major breakthroughs, but at times when medication do not succeed then we turn to alternative therapies.
An alternative diet therapy for uncontrolled epilepsy – the ketogenic diet was scientifically introduced by Dr. Howland of the John Hopkins Hospital, USA and Dr. Wllder of Mayo Clinic in 1950’s.
This is not a new therapy, it is as old as the Bible or Ayurveda.
From the Bible:
17 : 15
Lord had mercy on my son, for he is possessed by the demons (epileptic) and suffers severely, for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
17 : 18
And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him: and the child was cured.
17 : 21
However, this kind does not go out, except by prayer and fasting.
This is one of the earliest recorded cures of epilepsy by fasting.
However, around 400B.C. Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine said epilepsy arises in the brain and added that purging and fasting can cure this.
The use of the ketogenic diet introduced in the 1920s is a calculated, scientific diet which was very successful. But, it fell into disuse with the advent of several antiepileptic medications, like phenytoin (Eptoin), carbamazepine (Zeptol, Zen, and Tegrital) and later over 10 newer AEDs.
However, the Johns Hopkins Hospital kept the use of the ketogenic diet going for those with uncontrolled epilepsy. In 1996, Dr. J. Nathan was invited to Johns Hopkins Hospital and later successfully introduced the Indianised version of ketogenic diet in patients where medications have failed to control seizures.
The ketogenic diet is a rigid, mathematically calculated, doctor-supervised diet. Therefore it is highly individual. Ketosis is produced by the ketogenic diet similar to that produced by fasting.
How do fasting and the ketogenic diet work?
Our body cells use glucose (which is the simplest form of carbohydrate) for their daily energy needs. This carbohydrate comes from our food which consists of carbohydrates (rice, wheat, vegetables and fruits), protein (Pulses (dals) and milk in vegetarians and eggs, and meat in non-vegetarians) and fats (ghee (clarified butter), butter, cream and vegetable oils (groundnut/peanut, sunflower, safflower, and corn oils). Carbohydrates is a major part of our diet and in Indians is around 60-65%, protein is around 10-12% and fats around 20-25%.
Any excess intake of carbohydrate in the body, is converted and stored as fat. When we fast and take only water then the carbohydrate reserve in the body is sufficient only for 2-3 days. Still people can live on water only for several days. That is because they then burn stored fat in the form of ketones which are utilized exquisitely by the brain cells. These ketone bodies are antiepileptic. Thus in the fasting state the body manufactures its own antiepileptic medication.
The ketogenic diet replicates the effects of fasting by providing a high fat, low carbohydrate but normal protein diet. This forces the brain cells to use ketones for their daily energy needs. Thus seizures are brought under control. The high fat diet does not cause an increase in body weight as the calories are controlled to maintain an ideal body weight for the age and height of the individual.
It is usually administered for an average of 3 year.