Epilepsy Talk

Three Anti-Seizure Diets That Could Change Your Life… | February 15, 2018

Just when you feel that all is lost, and you’re about to give up on your meds, there is another option.  (In fact, there are three!)

They may not beat your epilepsy (although some people say they do!)

But they can help reduce your seizures and the amounts of medication needed.

The Ketogenic Diet — one of the oldest treatments for epilepsy.

There are many children for whom epilepsy medications like Lamictal, Depakote, and Zarotin are ineffective in controlling or even reducing seizures.

These drugs, especially in combination, can also cause unpredictable and serious side-effects.

That’s why many parents have turned to alternative therapies for seizure management.

Because ketones seem to have an anti-convulsive effect, one of the most promising and least invasive alternative treatments for seizures has been the Ketogenic Diet.

The diet is a high fat, adequate protein, low carbohydrate diet which works by fasting which in turn, creates ketones, which are by-products of the fat-burning metabolism that happens while fasting.

And during this time, the body goes into a state known as ketosis— which has an anti-convulsant effect. 

Seizures often lessen or disappear during these periods of fasting.

With careful and proper monitoring, the Ketogenic Diet has been found to reduce seizures in two-thirds, and eliminate seizures in one-third, of all children for whom anti-epileptic drugs are ineffective.

And if it is successful, it’s usually continued for two years.

During this time, children are often gradually able to lessen or discontinue the amount of medication they take for seizures.

And interestingly, many children seem happier and more alert on the diet, even before medication is significantly lessened.

The Atkins Diet — may reduce seizures in children with epilepsy.

Along with helping some people shed unwanted pounds, the popular low-carbohydrate, high-fat Atkins Diet may also have a role in preventing seizures in children with epilepsy. 

That good news comes from the prestigious Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

In a limited study, patients 12 years old and younger on the Atkins regimen for at least four months.

Two children and one young adult were seizure-free and were able to reduce their anti-convulsant medications.

Findings of the study, also showed that seizure control could be long-lasting on the diet…for as much as 20 months.

The researchers caution that the Atkins Diet should not lead to routine use in children with epilepsy, nor should it be used to replace the Ketogenic Diet — the rigorous high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet already proven to reduce or eliminate difficult-to-control seizures in some patients.

The common elements in both diets are high fat and low carbohydrate foods that alter the body’s glucose chemistry.

The Ketogenic Diet mimics some of the effects of starvation, in which the body produces ketones, a chemical byproduct of fat that can inhibit seizures.

The Atkins Diet, while slightly less restrictive than the Ketogenic Diet, also produces ketones.

In the short-term, the Atkins Diet could be used by selected patients as a “trial run” for those considering the Ketogenic Diet in the future.

In the Johns Hopkins study, five out of six patients attained ketosis within days of starting the Atkins Diet and maintained moderate to large levels of ketosis for periods of six weeks to 24 months.

MAD — Modified Atkins Diet — more user-friendly.

Although it’s referred to as “MAD”, the Modified Atkins Diet is really the best of both possible worlds.

This modified version of the popular high-protein, low-carbohydrate Atkins Diet can significantly cut the number of seizures in adults and children too.

Offering a new lifeline for patients when drugs and other treatments fail or cause complications.

It’s a less restrictive, higher in protein and carbohydrates, a dietary therapy for epilepsy for those who would otherwise use the Ketogenic Diet.

So far, it’s been used and researched for the past five years with outcomes similar to the Ketogenic Diet.

Recent data has also suggested this valuable new therapy leads to a rapid seizure improvement when effective.

It’s not exactly know, how ketones reduce and eliminate seizures, or why the diet works for some and not others.

Researchers are especially interested in why some children remain seizure-free after discontinuing the diet.

Further research is needed, since the Modified Atkins Diet has only been used since 2004.

But it’s promising to note that clinical research did show that about half the patients experienced a 50 percent reduction in the frequency of their seizures by the first clinic visit.

About a third of the patients halved the frequency of seizures by three months.

Side effects linked with the diet, such as a rise in cholesterol or triglycerides, were mild.

In general, the Modified Atkins Diet is recommended for: adolescents, adults, and younger children with difficulty staying on or starting the Ketogenic Diet…families with limited time…those lacking financial resources to cover the costs involved with the Ketogenic Diet…and patients at centers with limited dietitian support.

Good news: The Modified Atkins Diet doesn’t deprive you of rich foods like butter, peanut butter, mayonnaise, oils, cheese, bacon, eggs, hamburger, and whipped cream.

The diet doesn’t cause children to become overweight, and overweight children often lose weight.

But daily supplements are necessary to replace vitamins that are missing in the diet. 

Suggested vitamins include: Vitamin B-1…Vitamin B-2…Vitamin B-3…Vitamin C…Folate…Vitamins D…and E.

Check your multi-vitamin to see if ALL of these are included..

Although there are considerably fewer side effects than with drugs, the Modified Atkins Diet for seizures can cause dehydration, constipation and, occasionally, kidney and gall stone complications.

Side effects can also develop in children who are unable to digest large amounts of fat.

As with all treatments, initial evaluation and careful monitoring by parents, a neurologist, and a nutritionist are all mandatory.

We do know that the Modified Atkins Diet for seizures is as effective, less restrictive, and far easier than the Ketogenic Diet.

It’s an inexpensive alternative treatment option with few side effects that often works when all else has failed. 

And that is good news for all of us who have tried previous diets and given up hope or even the strict discipline.

G.A.R.D –The Glutamate-Aspartate Restricted Diet – a life-long elimination diet.

Let me start by saying the G.A.R.D diet is highly controversial. 

While some claim “dramatic improvements in the severity and frequency of their seizures,” others find it a diet difficult to maintain. 

And if you cheat a smidgen, your seizures will come back.

So, consider this a life-long commitment…or else just skip it.

Essentially, the G.A.R.D is an elimination diet, specifying definite foods (which includes food products and ingredients) that must be avoided. 

So strict vigilance is mandatory for this diet to work.

Here is a line-up of the forbidden foods: gluten – commonly derived from wheat and grains…casein – protein found in cow milk (and most dairy products)…soycorn – including corn syrup and corn derivative products…MSG (mono-sodium glutamate) – a very common food ingredient in processed foods even though it is rarely clearly labeled as such…aspartame – commonly used as a sugar substitute…glutamate – found in high concentrations in most beans/legumes…and hydrogenated oils.

And if that’s not depressing enough, there are no clinical trials proving the effectiveness of the G.A.R.D Diet, just anecdotal evidence. 

However, if it does work for you, seizure control could begin within days to weeks after starting the diet.

The only good news I can see, is the G.A.R.D Diet is a carbohydrate junkie’s dream come true.

But there’s so many other foods and ingredients you have to sacrifice, it hardly seems worth it to me.

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  1. Any of this work on adults? And to quote Captain Jack Sparrow – “What about the rum?”

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kate Jacques — February 15, 2018 @ 10:56 AM

    • Both the Atkins Diet and the Modified Atkins diet. I find the Modified Atkins Diet to be most user-friendly.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 15, 2018 @ 11:24 AM

  2. Hi Phylis-

    Always interesting articles. I have read about this diet before; but the problem lies in the carbohydrates; I am diabetic and therefore a certain number of carbs is required each day. Also, I cannot have aspartame. It gives me headaches.

    Thanks anyway!


    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Karen Frandsen — February 15, 2018 @ 12:05 PM

    • Just as well you stay away from any aspartame.

      Aspartame interacts with anti-seizure medication.

      And over the years, various reports have implicated aspartame in headaches, memory loss, seizures, vision loss, coma, and cancer.

      It also appears to worsen or mimic the symptoms of such conditions as fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, ADD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, and depression.

      And, after receiving some 10,000 consumer complaints, the FDA compiled a list of 92 symptoms linked to aspartame — including death.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 15, 2018 @ 2:30 PM

  3. I have been on the Modified Atkins diet for nearly three years. It has been very effective at controlling the complex partial seizures. It has not reduced the auras (simple partial seizures) which I have everyday. So far, the meds my doctor has tried, have also failed to control the auras, often making them more intense. I am very happy with what the diet does for me and do not consider it difficult to keep up with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by david — February 15, 2018 @ 12:07 PM

    • I’m also a fan of the Modified Atkins diet.

      But what about those auras? Is there a trigger? A reason? A diagnosis?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 15, 2018 @ 2:32 PM

    • Hi David,
      Just read article on Keto diet and MAD helping with seizures. I have friend with increasing seizure and change in meds due to bone marrow suppression.. Looking for any alternative or complimentary adjunct to helpd decrease severity. So MAD worked for you?
      Thanks for your time,

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Beth — September 30, 2018 @ 8:42 AM

      • I’ve found the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) to be the most user-friendly of the epilepsy diets.

        Plus there’s the advantage of weight loss and/or weight control.

        Here’s some more information:

        The Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) for Seizures



        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 30, 2018 @ 11:09 AM

  4. The G A R D option seems to be more of a realistic choice, after learning THE HARD WAY that KETOGENIC & MAD diets both have MSG’s in the foods or fermented foods are included which can produce more glutamate in the brain, while no MSG would be in the food itself. So what is the problem to tell any person with a seizure condition that all EXCITOTOXINS aka food preservatives, additives & chemicals like MSG’s ASPARATAME’s, NITRITES & NITRATES can all cause seizures & to stay away from any of those foods in your life ? Really this has been a problem for me for over 50 years & still no neurologist will ever make this a TOP PRIORITY in treating & maybe curing anyone living with a seizure condition. It can not be a DISORDER, when any food or many foods ARE THE ROOT CAUSE for why seizures can & will happen. If it were a DISORDER as everyone loves to call it,, there would be more concern maybe of the condition, if there were a drug to solve it, but wait for FDA to ban all of the GOOD coconut oils in the future, as they are not all the same, that some do have MSG in them that FDA allows.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by C D — February 15, 2018 @ 1:10 PM

  5. I agree that you shouldn’t dismiss the G.A.R.D. plan out of hand like that. It eliminates all the “junk” e.g. gluten, MSG, fake sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils. It doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. You can do some version of low carb and still keep an eye on these deadly pollutants.
    In fact, there is a lot of overlap between going low carb by cutting out bread, Twinkies, and crunchy things that come in a bag, and the G.A.R.D. protocol.
    In my personal experience, the G.A.R.D. protocol was the missing piece of the puzzle long after I had gone low carb.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by paleobird — February 15, 2018 @ 3:36 PM

    • Girl, you sure are more disciplined than me! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 15, 2018 @ 4:45 PM

      • I am re-reading the GARD plan now. I am replacing all cow’s milk and cheese with goat’s milk-see if this improves things. You may be interested to know that I had a hormone implant in my arm. This increased my seizures from 1-2 times a month to 4! There may have been complex reasons for this (mineral imbalance) Needless to say it’s now been taken out. You do have to be careful.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by teachersian — April 11, 2018 @ 11:02 AM

      • I’d love to know what happens. I find the G.U.A.R.D. diet requires really intense dedication.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 11, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

  6. The G.A.R.D. protocol also cures migraines. Just sayin’

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by paleobird — February 15, 2018 @ 3:39 PM

  7. I have been doing Modified Atkins Diet mixed with Paleo since 2014. I started with MAD alone from 2010-12 as part of a clinical trial through John’s Hopkins University. I have found it works even better with Paleo. My Functional Medicine aunt recommended that way to me after I went off a year and experienced seizures. MAD with Paleo has been great, plus I have been adjusting it as I find out things I am allergic to. I can’t have Splenda, so I use Lakanto (a Monk fruit sweetener) or Stevia-based ones. Been using a lot of nut-based milks and butters. Grass-fed butter too. Been using a lot of coconut oil too. Also coconut wraps in place of bread. I eat grass-fed meats on my diet, along with trying to get nitrite and nitrate-free bacon. I started the diet after my surgeries didn’t stop my seizures.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by trekkie80sgirl — February 15, 2018 @ 6:26 PM

  8. Thanks, Phylis! BWH recently had an epilepsy group that had a nutritional seminar on the MAD diet. I am glad you warned of kidney stones.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by megambon2164 — February 16, 2018 @ 8:53 AM

  9. I have grand mal seizures and had the first one I have known about in 20 yrs. I have not been on medication for more than that. I started Lamictal and Keppra generics as of last night. I have barely been able to function at all today and severely depressed. How long does this last for?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by DJ — April 21, 2018 @ 3:50 PM

    • Usually, it takes 4-6 weeks to cross the blood/brain barrier.

      I don’t take Keppra.

      But when I started Lamictal, it made me crazy/hyper.

      Once I adjusted my bedtime dose to 6:00 PM, all was well.

      No side effects and 99% seizure-free for 10+ years.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 21, 2018 @ 4:33 PM

  10. I never wanted to go onto the atkin’s Diet. I felt like it would not be what I would be interested in because of the types of food. I went onto my own type of food diet, starting back when I was 56 years old. I’m still on it, at my age of 60. I’ll be on this forever. Not 100%, but close to it, I’m gluten-free, soy-free, corn syrup-free, dairy-free, pestiside-free. It’s so much easier than it looks, I feel so much better!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by whittemore1958 — May 19, 2018 @ 11:34 PM

  11. I always tell people that they are purposely poisoning the food supply. It’s a form of population control. they know exactly what they are doing. Take GMO foods, and also trees and flowers. Food allergies are increasing as well as the fact we are ingesting the built in pesticides. Pollen in my opinion is worse every year. If the trees are hardier and ressistant to disease then it only makes sense that the pollen is stronger .

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tom — April 15, 2019 @ 2:47 PM

  12. An herbalist I know explained to me how ALL BREADS, no matter how they are made from whole wheat, grains or whatever, they all are saturated with chemicals that affects the CNS & all brain chemistry. It starts with the gluten & the MSG’s they use to make all bread have long shelf life, and years ago I remember as a kid & teenager, seeing store owners throwing out 3 to 4 day old bread out to the birds, dogs & cats to eat. DAVE’S BREADS you can get at WALMART & a few other stores & the bread SIMPLY NATURE that can be bought at ALDI stores are the only 2 I use of the wheat & grain brands. When you SEE & FEEL the differences in those 2 brands compares to all the other brands sold everywhere, you do not mind paying over $4.00 a loaf because I know how a seizure is a HIGH RISK chance of happening, if those other brands of bread were eaten. I need to look more into the replacement dough you can buy from my herbalist again, as it is near $5.00 + to make your own breads & pastas that will not have the toxins in that bread /yeast product.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by C D — April 22, 2019 @ 8:57 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

    View Full Profile →

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