The Ketogenic Diet Program at Texas Children’s Hospital is a robust program of medical professionals dedicated to reducing seizures in children. Referrals to our program come from epileptologists when they see children who continue to have a significant seizure burden after trying more than one anti-seizure medication. Our coordinated team of dietitians, nurses and doctors will support you as you start the diet and continue to offer education and adjustments to the diet plan as long as it’s working for your child.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, adequate protein diet. Eating this way induces a state of ketosis in the body, which means that your body is using fat for fuel rather than carbohydrates. Being in a state of ketosis causes the body to produce different chemicals that are neuroprotective.
A traditional ketogenic diet is the strictest type of ketogenic diet. Decades of research show that this diet can significantly decrease seizures in children. It’s most appropriate for children who have little control over what they eat, such as formula-fed infants and children who use feeding tubes, but can be used by anyone who’s dedicated to making a significant lifestyle change to treat their seizures.
We strongly encourage anyone who is considering starting a traditional ketogenic diet to discuss their plan with a doctor. All children starting a traditional ketogenic diet with our program are admitted to Texas Children’s for a few days so that blood sugars and electrolytes can be monitored closely.
A modified ketogenic diet is also a part of our Ketogenic Diet Program. People who follow one of the modified ketogenic diets can allow for more carbohydrates in their diet, although the amount is still limited. Less research is available about the benefits of a modified ketogenic diet for children with seizures, but initial investigations do show a reduction in seizure activity.
Because this diet is not as strict, you can start it at home after receiving education from our doctors and dietitians.
How long will my child continue a ketogenic diet?
We suggest an initial trial phase of 3–6 months. If you see a significant reduction in the number of seizures your child is having, the diet is continued. If you don’t see a significant reduction in seizure burden, or if your family is not able to comply with the diet, it’s discontinued or adjusted.
For children who benefit from the diet and can adhere to the guidelines, the diet is continued for 2 years, during which time you have continued support from our clinic. After 2 years, you will meet with a doctor through the Ketogenic Diet Program to decide whether to continue the diet or try to wean off it. Many children who can maintain a ketogenic diet for 2 years will retain the reduced seizure benefit after returning to their usual diet. Some children will have increased seizure activity and will choose to continue the ketogenic diet for years.