Ketogenic Diet Menu For Seizures – Thomas White, center, of Hazel Green, Wisconsin, is working with his parents, Todd and Lisa, on a ketogenic casserole recipe for green beans. He tries a ketogenic diet to control seizures in hopes of getting his driver’s license. John Maniasi/YOUR Health
When Elizabeth Felton walks into UW Health’s new facility on the east side of Madison with her patients, the delicious aroma of their recipes fills the air: the smoky smell of fried bacon and the savory aroma of rosemary-onion dinners just out of the oven. come.
Ketogenic Diet Menu For Seizures
Turkey and cauliflower puree are also on the holiday menu, made with a party recipe that has just 10 grams of carbs per dinner. The rest of us eat hundreds of grams of carbs on Thanksgiving, but these cooks have epilepsy. And they come from as far away as Iowa and Michigan to UW Health’s learning kitchen to learn how to create a high-fat, low-carb diet that can control their seizures.
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You may remember the story of young Charlie Abrahams, who appeared on our pages more than twenty years ago, smiling at a plate of bacon and eggs. His father, Hollywood writer and producer Jim Abrahams x’66, recently set up a foundation in Charlie’s name to spread the word about the ketogenic diet that cured his son’s persistent seizures. Twenty-two years later, the diet has spread to India and Brazil and has a home in UW-Madison.
Charlie is doing well today. Five years on the diet cured her seizures, as did about 20 percent of children who tried it, and she was then able to resume a normal diet. She is now a graduate of community college and works as a teacher in California. He barely remembers dieting as a toddler, and his parents strapped him into a car seat for safety because he had up to 50 seizures a day.
While Jim Abrahams is still a Hollywood script doctor, the Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapy has become his life’s work — and a global force in promoting the diet.
“I really thought I’d do it for a year, and when people found out there were alternatives to taking all these drugs, it was going to go mainstream,” Abrahams says. But obstacles remain. Some neurologists don’t recommend a 90 percent diet because they think it’s too difficult for patients to stick to. Dietitians trained in this field are also scarce and insurance companies may find it difficult to pay for appointments.
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But progress has also been made since the 1990s, when one of the last people to know much about nutrition was a Baltimore dietitian about to retire. The diet was known to control seizures by forcing the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates, a metabolic process that causes ketosis. But with the development of anti-epileptic drugs, that came to an end.
Flash back to September 2016, when more than 600 doctors, researchers and nutritionists from 32 countries gathered in Banff, Alberta, to share their research on the diet’s potential to control epilepsy and treat brain diseases ranging from the disease from Alzheimer’s to cancer.
The group included nutritionist Beth Zupek-Kania ’81, whose career was drastically changed by the Charlie Foundation. In the 1990s, she was a registered dietitian-nutritionist at the Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee. The hospital’s phones went off hook after Abrahams appeared on a national news show and produced a fictional film, First Do No Harm, starring Meryl Streep, which reflected Charlie’s success on the ketogenic diet. Parents in Milwaukee wanted their kids to try the diet, so a neurologist there asked Zupec-Kania to help set up a ketogenic diet clinic.
During her research, Zupek-Kania discovered old hospital records showing that the Children’s Hospital offered food to children in the 1920s and 1930s. He later met a Milwaukee woman in her 60s who spent her childhood in the hospital on Saturdays, fasting and taking her vital signs.
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Dietitian Beth Zupek-Kania, a global expert on the ketogenic diet, has trained staff at nearly 180 medical centers, including the UW. Bob Pearson
“He just wanted me to know that the diet worked for him,” recalls Zupek-Kania. “He was seizure free and lived a full, healthy life.”
Since becoming one of the world’s foremost nutritionists, the dietitian has trained staff at 180 medical centers, including at UW, and has worked for the Charlie Foundation since 2006, developing materials and recipes.
He consults with physician-supervised patients who use diet as part of their treatment for conditions ranging from diabetes to severe migraines. One of his early patients tried to relieve attacks of an inoperable brain tumor. To everyone’s surprise, the diet slowed the tumor’s growth and he lived a year longer than doctors had predicted.
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Since then, Zupek-Kania has worked with many more cancer patients. The National Institutes of Health is conducting a clinical trial of the diet for glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Other studies look at conditions such as autism, brain injury, and diabetes. Neurological intensive care units at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison and elsewhere are using the ketogenic diet to relieve seizures in patients with epilepsy, a dangerous condition in persistent epilepsy.
Zupec-Kania’s latest work focuses on children with Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes compulsive eating and dangerous obesity. He found that a low-carb diet improved children’s behavior by reducing appetite and decreasing food-seeking behavior.
Banff presenters included physician Elizabeth Felton MS’02, PhD’07, MD’09, the driving force behind the UW’s epilepsy cooking class. Felton is a neurologist trained in diet therapy at Johns Hopkins University who kept the diet alive after it fell out of favor. The UW, which already had a diet clinic for children, hired Felton to help set up one for adults whose epilepsy is not controlled by medication. It is the first clinic of its kind in the state and one of eight nationally for adults.
The adult diet is a little less strict than Charlie Abrahams in the 1990s. Researchers have found that adults can tolerate up to 20 grams of carbohydrates per day without having seizures. (The diet is similar to the early stages of the popular Atkins diet.) Felton says that in patients whose epilepsy is not controlled by medication, the diet reduces seizures by about 50 percent in about half of patients. .
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“Usually we try medication first, but if a patient really wants to try diet first, I wouldn’t say no,” she says. On the plus side, patients feel mentally sharper and often lose weight and show improvements in blood pressure and diabetes. Sticking to a diet so different from the mainstream is problematic.
To cut carbs, the diet relies on nuts and coconut, sugar substitutes, and plenty of fat, including avocado and heavy whipping cream. But traditional recipes that rely on flour, sugar, and cornstarch have to be tinkered with to make them low-carb.
“Cooking classes help take the mystery and stress out of starting a diet,” Abrahams says. “Compliance (with diet) must be 100 percent. You can’t take a meal or a day off or you could trigger a seizure.”
That’s what one of the patient chefs learned the hard way during a keto cooking class on vacation in Madison. Madison pediatrician Christine Seaborg ’97, MD’01 was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager and found, like many, that drugs were not completely controlling her seizures. his memoirs,
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She started the diet in early 2016, after eating the last of the holiday candies. Like many, he found weight loss easy and found that the diet cut his attacks in half from two per month to one per month. But he lacked carbs so much that he dreamed of chasing a giant loaf of bread across a lawn. After six months of dutiful obedience, he decides to cheat and is given a piece of cheesecake.
“The next day I had multiple seizures and recurring auras throughout the day,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Damn, it works.’
While he still lacks carbohydrates, Seaberg says the biggest problem with his diet is lack of time. She and her husband have three busy school-age children and a full schedule of sports and other activities.
“As a mom, it’s hard to cook for your family and then have to cook a separate menu for yourself,” she says. “On Sundays I cook for them all day and then eat a whole bunch of peanut butter and cheese for my own meal.”
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Felton noted that fasting to stop seizures is mentioned in the Bible (Matthew 17:14-21) and in the writings of Hippocrates, which is believed to be the source of the ancient Greek saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine your food.” Two millennia later, Hippocrates
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