Ketogenic diet: Dietary therapy for epilepsy and migraines

Using a high-fat, low carb diet has been shown to reduce seizures in adults with epilepsy and may also help with migraines. Talk to your neurologist to see if a ketogenic diet is an option for you.
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Overview

The ketogenic diet

A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, which burns fat and provides energy to the brain. This has been linked to reducing the number of seizures in some patients with epilepsy.

If medicine does not control your seizures or migraines, a special diet may work. A very low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet forces your body to use fat for energy instead of carbs.

Studies show that 50 percent of patients who eat a ketogenic diet see a 50 percent or greater reduction in seizures. Some people report having less frequent or less severe migraines while on a ketogenic diet.

About

What types of foods can I eat?

A healthy keto diet is built on whole, nutrient-dense foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, berries, avocados and healthy fats. Avoid bread, pasta, rice, cereal, potatoes and sugary sweets such as candy, cookies and cakes.

Who is it for?

  • Patients living with epilepsy or migraines

  • Patients with epilepsy or migraines who are interested in lowering medication or who have side effects from medication (note that patients are not typically able to completely come off medication)

  • Patients with drug resistant or uncontrolled epilepsy or migraines

  • Patients interested in other treatment options

  • Young adults on a ketogenic diet since childhood who need to transition to an adult provider

EpilepsyWhat is the keto diet?
While the keto diet has become a popular diet for losing weight, ketogenic dietary therapy has been proven effective in the treatment of epilepsy.

Treatment process

What to expect

Many of your appointments and sessions with the care team can be done via video visits.

  • You will meet with a neurologist and dietitian to learn more and decide if diet therapy is right for you.

  • If you would like to try diet therapy, you will have labs drawn and fill out a three-day food record.

  • You will meet with the dietitian for an education session. We provide resources, recipes and books to help you succeed.

  • You will meet with your doctor and dietitian one month after starting the diet and about every three months while on the diet.

  • Routine labs are typically checked every three to six months. Sometimes labs are checked more often for specific situations.

You might see benefits right away, or it might take a couple months. We advise trying the diet for three months. If it is not helpful and/or not compatible with your lifestyle, the diet can be weaned after three months.

Dietary therapy clinic

Adult Neurology Ketogenic Diet Therapy Clinic

Patients who follow a medical ketogenic diet will work with our Adult Neurology Ketogenic Diet Therapy Clinic. Patients will be provided with nutrition information, meal planning resources, recipes and will be closely monitored by our providers.

We also offer quarterly ketogenic cooking classes for our patients. Held in the Learning Kitchen at UW Health at the American Center, these classes provide an opportunity to work with ketogenic-friendly ingredients, test new recipes, expand cooking skills and learn how to make keto friendly versions of their favorite dishes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these classes are currently on hold. We hope to restart them in 2022.

Stories

How the ketogenic diet changes lives

Patient storyTom's journey
Now a young man, Tom's journey hasn't always been an easy one. When medication wasn't enough to control his seizures, the ketogenic diet helped reduce their frequency.
Patient storyKetogenic diet helps reduce Brandi's seizures
When Heidi Gonzales talks about how the ketogenic diet has helped her daughter, Brandi, one word comes up over and over: miracle.

Meet our team

An expert team by your side

The Adult Neurology Ketogenic Diet Therapy Clinic is made up of a team including neurologists (see profiles below) and

  • Dieticians: Kelly Faltersack, MS, RDN, CD and Megan Grassl, MS, RDN, CD

  • Pharmacist: Lisa Hawk, PharmD

  • Nurse: Hailey Hicks, RN

Our team

Locations

Convenient care

Our clinic is located at University Hospital in Madison, and we also offer telemedicine and video visits for your convenience.

  • University Hospital Adult Neurology Ketogenic Diet Therapy Clinic
    • 600 Highland Ave / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-5442
    • Closed now
    •  
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Life-changing care for brain and nervous system disorders

At UW Health, you will partner with doctors, dietitians, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other skilled health care providers to treat and manage symptoms of your condition.

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