Today, November 17, is National Epilepsy Day. Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that causes recurrent seizures, where there is an unexpected rush of electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy can be diagnosed at any point in time and in any age group, which exhibit distinct concerns and problems to the person affected. This health event highlights the importance of the need for prompt diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and people are not left behind without any support. As per the statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 50 million people are affected by epilepsy across the globe and 80 % of these people are currently living in developing countries.
Seizures are of two types, generalized affecting the whole brain and partial seizures affecting just one part of the brain. Mild seizures are most often left unnoticed, it lasts for a few seconds. Stronger seizures cause spasms and uncontrollable muscle jerks which last for a few seconds to several minutes, where people may lose consciousness.
There are various reasons that you may get a seizure. These include- high-grade fever, head injury or trauma, hypoglycemia, and alcohol withdrawal. About 70 million people are affected by globally, by people of all age groups.
How Is Epilepsy Treated?
Epilepsy treatment plan is based on the severity of symptoms, health conditions and how good you act in response to treatment. Some of the treatments options are - using prescribed anti-epileptic drugs, vagus nerve stimulator where a device is placed under the skin on the chest that stimulates the nerves and can help prevent seizures.
Surgery in the area of the brain that causes seizure, that can be partially removed or altered.
Dietary management is an approach to control seizures, together with prescribed medications. The Ketogenic diet, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, is generally prescribed to help control seizures in both children and adults.
What Is Ketogenic Diet?
Keto diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate, moderate protein diet that is strongly recommended for the treatment of epilepsy. It is prescribed when medications fail to work.
How A Ketogenic Diet Works?
The body uses glucose from carbohydrates (found in foods like sugar, bread or rice) as a source of energy. Chemicals called ketones are released when the body uses fats as a source of energy (this is called ketosis). Ketones together with a chemical decanoic acid, produced in the diet help to reduce seizures for some people.
There are different types of the ketogenic diet, based on the kind of food given, each diet has proven to be effective in reducing seizures.
In this diet, the sources of fat are cream, butter, oil and other natural fatty foods with a minimal amount of carbohydrate and protein. This diet must be strictly in the measured ratio of fat to carbohydrate and protein.
Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Diet
In this diet, the portion of carbohydrates and protein are more which offers variety with some fat from natural fatty foods, as well as MCT supplement oil or emulsion is also included. This supplement is available on prescription and can be mixed with food or milk.
Ketogenic diet provides 3 to 4 grams of fat for each gram of carbohydrate and protein, that covers 90% of calories from fat. The type of foods that provide fats are butter, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise, and oils (canola or olive). However, it must be monitored carefully, as carbohydrate and protein in the diet have to be restricted.
These diets are more flexible and suitable for teenagers or adults, the diet plan must be prescribed by a dietitian for each person so that it is safe and nutritious and meets all requirements. If needed vitamin and mineral supplements are recommended.
Some of the precautionary measures that one should take to nullify the effect of the seizures include:
The patient should stay calm and must not panic.
Don’t try to curtail the person during a seizure attack.
Try to lose any skin-tight neckwear.
Slide the person to the side so that any fluid can easily come out from the mouth.
Give the patient head support with a soft material.
Don’t put anything in the patient’s mouth.
Call for the ambulance as soon as possible and wait for medical help.
Let the person take good rest.