Monday, July 16, 2018

Why My Family Tried the Ketogenic Diet

It was 3 years ago when my son was 10, that I learned about the ketogenic diet. He had a seizure when he was sick with the flu. We took him to se a neurologist at UF who said that his EEG looked great and he was healthy, so goodbye.

I knew (and I was right), that something was going on with my brilliant child's brain. It was a type of autoimmune encephalitis and PANS, but I didn't know that yet.  I looked up natural ways to help with seizures. That is when I came across the ketogenic diet and learned that it has just as much affect on stopping seizures as medication does. This fact is proven by scientific studies. The diet was invented after doctors knew that fasting helps seizures. So they created a diet that mimics starvation, without actually robbing the body of healthy foods. It seemed legit. I also read that the keto diet was used as a LAST resort for kids with seizures, meaning that neurologists recommend to give meds to children before trying the keto diet which is basically taking away sugar and carbs. I thought as I read this, that perhaps keto should be the first try, then meds be the second in line of treatment options.

Thankfully my son didn't have anymore seizures so I forgot about the diet for a while. Then I rediscovered it recently when my father-in-law mentioned to us in an email saying that keto is supposed to help with Alzheimer's disease. This made me interested in it again and I looked up more information about it.

So basically the Ketogenic Diet is all about eliminating sugar and also taking away carbs, which turn into sugar. When the body has just absolutely no sugar left in it to burn for energy, it then switches over and begins to burn fat for energy. When this happens the whole body changes how it works. It tells itself that it is starving and creates metachlorines ketones, that are organic compounds in the body that bring down inflammation in the body and in the brain. I looked up ketones on Wikkepedia and didn't understand the complicated medical description. But after searching many different sources googling...what is a ketone? I am left with what I just wrote,..."simple, organic, water-soluble compounds, or, by-products of burning fat rather than sugar".

So I thought to myself, that if ketones bring down inflammation and fuel cells for more brain energy, then why can't that help my kids who have autoimmune issues? We can see with our eyes that the the diet helps seizures, because the seizures stop.  But there haven't been studies on this diet for autoimmune disorders so we don't know if it helps or not. But logically it should if ketones bring down inflammation. And it won't harm if done properly. So I did some MORE research, such as watching an hour-long presentation by Dr. Eric Kossoff, about the Johns Hopkins approach to the diet. Here is the link: The Promise and Challenge of Dietary Therapy for Epilepsy"

He mentions in this video how the keto diet is also used for autism and autoimmune diseases, so I decided to go ahead and try it with myself and my family.

Let me tell you, cutting out sugar is like the meanest and most horrible thing you can do to your child, EVER. BUT, there are sugar substitutes that aren't horrible. The most natural alternative sweetener is Stevia. But Swerve, tastes much better and is thought to be OK and much better than aspartame. My mom has made the most amazing blueberry pies with Swerve AND amazing brownies. So the kids have learned that the world doesn't actually end by cutting out sugar.

We have been doing the diet for a month now. The first week or two was a mish-mosh of still having some carbs and still eating bananas and apples and carrots. It is quite the learning curve and it is shocking to learn you shouldn't eat carrots. I mean...carrots. The healthiest and easiest of snack foods are suddenly gone. So is BREAD. So I started to think about it and this is what I came up with for snacks and lunches :

Turkey slices with cream cheese rolled up in them
Fathead bagels (I used this for bread and sandwiches)
Cereal made of almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and shredded coconut...all mixed with butter and toasted for 20 minutes (thank goodness for bulk bins at Wards).
Make-ahead meatballs
Boiled eggs
Banana (flavored) nut muffins

Dinners are easy because it is just meat and veggies. It is a bit daunting to not be able to have rice or pasta. But we are getting used to it now. Also, we have discovered "ramen" and make bowls of chicken broth with, spinach, chicken, mushrooms, and with kelp noodles from the Asian section at Lucky's. The kids love it. We even put a soft boiled egg soaked in coconut aminos (just like soy sauce) in the ramen. It is so yummy.

Pizza is still an option thank goodness Trader Joes has a frozen pizza with cauliflower crust. It still has carbs but not enough to kick one out of ketosis, so that is a good frozen pizza option. Also, Lucky's has very low carb cauliflower frozen pizza crusts that are just perfect and we also use them for soft taco wraps.

So we will see how this diet goes. We have the blessing from our amazing pediatrician to move forward with it. So we will continue on this journey and hope that it helps!

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