The power of 3 in treating epilepsy
Many people think the ketogenic or “keto” diet is just another modern weight-loss program. In reality, it was developed a century ago to treat epilepsy and reduce seizures. In this article, we’ll explain the diet and discuss how using it in conjunction with meditation and exercise can be a powerful treatment to help reduce seizures.
What is the keto diet?
Today, the high-fat, low-carb, low-sugar keto diet is used as a non-pharmacological approach to manage epilepsy when medication isn’t effective at controlling the disease.
The diet also helps with other health conditions, including diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s and chronic inflammation. It’s crucial for people with epilepsy to reduce inflammation in the brain, as that can help decrease seizure activity, and that’s why many patients look into the ketogenic program.
Typical daily food consumption under the keto diet is about 70-80% fat, 20% protein and 5-10% carbohydrates, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While the medical community doesn’t have a firm grasp of why the diet reduces the frequency and severity of seizures, they theorize that it alters your brain energy metabolism and enhances neuronal stability.
In simpler terms, the keto diet reprograms how your body processes the food it consumes. Humans ordinarily get their energy from carbohydrates. But the diet helps retrain your body to burn fat and produce ketones, which become the new source of energy that regulates your brain’s electrical activity. They stabilize the overexcitability (electrical activity) in the brain that can lead to a seizure.
The diet is primarily recommended for children with epilepsy, but sometimes is used as a short-term treatment for adults since it’s a rigid program that is difficult to sustain for long-term purposes.
Is the keto diet a good move for you?
Don’t jump into the keto diet without talking to your doctor, as you must determine the right combination of foods and then be carefully monitored for side effects through testing. Some of the risks of going on this diet include higher cholesterol, kidney stones, lower bone density that leads to broken bones and constipation. At Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, 1,500 children have been put on the ketogenic diet to control seizures, and they work with a ketogenic team to ensure the treatment continues to be viable.
If you do start the keto diet, it’s important to combine it with two other drivers that lower inflammation in the brain and reduce stress: meditation and exercise.
Meditation is widely known for its stress reduction and relaxation benefits. Since stress is a potential trigger for seizures, adding meditation into your daily routine will help improve your overall brain health. Often people are intimidated by meditation thinking there might be difficult concepts to understand. There are lots of books and videos about meditation, but meditation doesn’t require you to take a class. You can start today. Right now. It’s about finding an easy way to relax yourself and stay in that calm state for 5, 10 or 20 minutes – whatever you can spare.
A simple technique is to sit or lay down comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If you are distracted, relax and resume focusing on your breathing. Getting distracted by other thoughts is natural, and you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Just let it go and return your thoughts to the deep breaths you are taking in and out.
Meanwhile, visualize something you find soothing, like watching the waves on a beach or sitting outside in the sun on a warm spring day. Some people repeat a phrase that relaxes them and helps them feel calm. When you’re stressed, stop a few minutes and take time to meditate.
Meditation gives your brain the freedom to take a mental break and recharge during the day as needed. It’s helpful to begin and end your day with meditation and do it at regular times. As you practice this technique more and more, you’ll find it to be an excellent form of stress relief.
Now that you’ve begun your form of meditation, the final element you need to add to the mix is exercise. We all know the benefits of exercise, yet it’s hard to get into a routine. Choose the shape and form of exercise that appeals to you most, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
If you don’t exercise at all, start small and do what you can. As with meditation, don’t worry about what you’re doing. Just get moving. The whole point is to reduce stress. If you can only exercise for 10 minutes, start with that. Stretch. Walk, run, do aerobics or swim. Mix it up throughout the week. Increase the time you exercise by a few minutes each day until you get into a healthy routine. At first, exercising will make you tired, but after you do it consistently, you will find that it energizes you.
As your body gets used to exercising daily, you will notice a huge difference in your moods and overall well-being. Exercising routinely promotes neuroplasticity, enhances cognitive function and decreases your susceptibility to seizures.
Now that you understand the basics, get started on meditation and exercise, and talk to your doctor about whether following the keto diet is a good option for you. Doing all three in tandem might be the holistic treatment you’ve been waiting for to reduce inflammation, stress and seizures.