It is important that people with epilepsy follow a nutritious, well balanced diet. Good nutritional habits and a healthy lifestyle are important in obtaining optimal seizure control. However, no special diet is prescribed for epilepsy itself.
To avoid dietary deficiencies, ensure proper intake of nutrients through a diet containing adequate folic acid (commonly found in raw and slightly cooked fruits and vegetables), calcium and magnesium (dairy products are the richest source), Vitamin B12 (animal and diary sources), and vitamin K (leafy green vegetables and cereal grains). Vitamin D is found in fish oils and flesh, supplemented milk, and is made in the body in response to sunlight. Rules for a healthy diet are outlined in “Canada’s Food Guide”.
If you have some other condition in addition to epilepsy, that requires a special diet (diabetes, for example), it is important that you follow the diet needed for that disorder.
Can caffeine, alcohol or smoking cause problems?
These substances are best considered drugs rather than part of the diet. Like other drugs they can do harm, particularly if taken too often or in large amounts. Alcohol is of special concern. When used frequently or in large amounts, alcohol may interfere with the anticonvulsant medication and may lower seizure threshold. Having a seizure while smoking could lead to fire.
What is the “Ketogenic Diet”?
This special, high fat diet approximates the metabolic circumstances of starvation. This state (in which the excessive fats produce chemicals called ketones) has been effective in controlling seizures in young children when anticonvulsants proved ineffective. The diet seldom works in children over 16 years of age and is not effective for all seizure types. The majority of caloric intake is obtained from fatty foods. It is quite unpalatable and difficult to maintain. Overall, it is reserved for children with epilepsy who are unresponsive to anticonvulsants.
Another version of the diet has recently been developed – the medical chain triglyceride (MCT) diet.
Is it important to eat regularly?
Yes, some individuals are sensitive to missing meals. If meals are missed or delayed, seizure frequency may increase. Therefore, regular meals and balanced diets are recommended.
Read our complete fact sheet on Epilepsy & Nutrition on our Fact Sheets page.