The ketogenic diet is well-known for improving overall health and facilitating weight loss in adults. What’s less known about the popular diet, however, is how it impacts children under the age of eighteen. While it’s generally not encouraged to put children on strict diets like the ketogenic diet due to their different nutritional requirements, there are some circumstances where this diet can be beneficial and perhaps even life-changing for kids.
The most common reason for children to be placed on a ketogenic diet is to combat the effects of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological condition resulting from abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This condition results in convulsions, loss of consciousness and other sensory changes that can be disruptive to living a happy and healthy life. Many children react well to epilepsy medications that have been prescribed by their doctors, but some patients aren’t so fortunate as to find the right combination of drugs that manage their symptoms effectively.
In these desperate and often dire cases, a ketogenic diet may be prescribed.
Since the 1920s, the ketogenic diet has been used to help epilepsy sufferers reduce and even eliminate the symptoms of this life-disrupting condition. While the exact science behind the release of ketones (a byproduct of fat burning produced when the body enters a state of ketosis) is not yet fully understood, even some medication-resistant patients have seen tremendous success with the keto diet.
Still, there are some struggles that parents and caregivers of epileptic children can run into when they choose to attempt keto as a treatment for their sick child.
Getting Children Adapted to the Ketogenic Diet Isn’t Easy
Keto is considered restrictive to adults, so for kids it can feel even stricter and even agitating. On this diet, they cannot enjoy the same foods that many of their classmates do. It can be challenging to explain to young children why their diet needs to be so strict in order to protect their health and reduce their epilepsy symptoms. Older children might understand this concept with a bit more clarity, but that doesn’t mean that the temptation to “cheat” on the keto diet won’t exist and even feel overwhelming.
Keto Isn’t a Fit for All Children
Prior to being considered as a healthful candidate for the ketogenic diet, children must be given a full evaluation to ensure their continued health. If a child is considered healthy enough to start this low-carb, high-fat diet, they can be on keto for as many as two years before being weaned off of it – providing that the diet does, in fact, help with their symptoms. During these two years, even otherwise healthy children can experience side-effects like bone density loss, slowed growth, constipation, dehydration and vomiting. It is absolutely essential that all children being placed on the ketogenic diet be monitored by their caregivers and their physicians.
A ketogenic diet is a powerful tool for healthfulness that has the potential to minimize and even eliminate the symptoms of epilepsy, a life-disrupting condition that can prevent individuals from living their fullest lives. In children who are resistant to the medications they’ve been given for their condition the ketogenic diet can be prescribed for a period of up to two years – but it isn’t easy to adapt to.
Yes, the ketogenic diet can be a healthy solution for childhood sufferers of epilepsy. But due to the different nutrient requirements that children have versus those of adults, these patients should be monitored by the medical professional who has prescribed the diet.