Epilepsy is a disorder of the nervous system characterized by the appearance of seizures that recur with an indefinite and unpredictable frequency. Seizures are episodes of uncontrolled and abnormal activity of neurons that can cause changes in the child's attention or behavior. Is there a way to space or decrease the intensity of epileptic seizures? We tell you what is the ideal diet for children with epilepsy.
The cause of epilepsy can have its origin in an injury or disorder that affects the brain that the child has suffered during the mother's pregnancy or at the time of delivery, it can be hereditary, occur as a result of other diseases such as meningitis or have a completely unknown origin. This means that an exact moment of onset cannot be predicted and that it can manifest at any age.
It is a fairly common disease, and according to the World Health Organization an estimated 50 million people in the world suffer or have suffered from epilepsy at some point in their lives.
Symptoms vary from person to person, ranging from mild absences, loss of consciousness, or violent tremors. Usually, the type of seizure and its severity depends on the part of the brain affected.
The doctor is in charge of examining the child and ordering different tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as an encephalogram, which measures the electrical activity of the brain. Other tests that lead to the origin and cause of this disease, such as blood tests or magnetic resonance imaging, may also be recommended.
Depending on the results obtained in these tests, a treatment will be established and, although obviously the treatment of epilepsy is pharmacological, following a proper diet can help to space out crises and reduce their seriousness.
It has been experimentally observed that ketogenic dietIn other words, a diet rich in fat and low in carbohydrates can be beneficial especially in cases of children in whom the medication does not achieve the desired effect.
Approximately 40% of the children in these studies showed a reduction of up to half in the occurrence of seizures, and were more alert and in a better mood after following this diet for 3 months. However, any change in diet should not be taken lightly but should be directed by a nutrition professional in addition to the pediatrician, as it can have side effects.
Traditionally, the ketogenic diet has a fat intake of approximately 3g for every g of another macronutrient (protein and carbohydrate). It is a very severe diet that requires that the child completely avoid, among others, bread, pasta or potatoes. However, there are more flexible alternatives that have also been successful.
As a general recommendation, and without following a diet as strict as ketogenic, it seems proven that a diet with a higher inclusion of fat than the usually recommended is beneficial for children with epilepsy.
The usual recommendations suggest no more than 25% of the energy intake from fat, while for children with epilepsy, it might be advisable to increase it to 65%. Whole dairy instead of semi-skimmed, meat pieces without eliminating visible fat or blue fish instead of white can serve to increase the fat percentage in the child's diet.
Regarding the carbohydrates, these should be low glycemic, that is, those that maintain a stable glucose level in the blood, without modifying it excessively.
It will be necessary to select vegetables such as broccoli, bell pepper, raw carrot or zucchini, fruits such as cherries, strawberries, pears or tangerines (those with the least amount of simple sugars), whole grain pasta and rice, dried fruits such as walnuts or pistachios, legumes like chickpeas or soybeans.
As we have mentioned above, it is a different diet than the one that a child usually has to eat, hence a series of considerations must be taken into account before putting it into practice:
- You have to talk to the doctor. It is not something for parents to decide on our own. Before changing or modifying the child's diet, it should be consulted with the pediatrician.
- It's not miraculous. You have to know that it is not a 100% guarantee of noticing improvement, and it is something that may work in some children, but not in others.
- Establish a diet plan. It is a meal plan that, if it works, the child should also carry out outside the home, for example, at school, so you have to talk to him about it.
- Possible adverse reactions. As it is a diet that, for example, includes dairy, it must be ensured that the child does not suffer from any allergies or intolerances.
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