Conference Explores Diet Tied to Improvement in Neurological Conditions

Laura Hall has dealt with epilepsy since the age of 16.

Now 31, she’d recently been experiencing debilitating seizures about twice a month, which would often lead to migraine headaches or exhaustion, making it difficult to get through her days.

She’d been working to adjust her medications to get the seizures under control when she decided to try the ketogenic diet, which is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate way of eating which has shown promise in the treatment of epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

After adhering to the diet, Hall has had one seizure in the past three months, which she said was not nearly as strong or intense.

While the diet has long been recognized as an effective treatment for epilepsy in children, renewed interest and scientific research has shown promise and multiple benefits to other patients, including adolescents and adults with epilepsy and those suffering from brain cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s and other neurologic conditions.

A Ketogenic Diet Conference and Open House will be presented by Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences on Friday, April 14 from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids. Conference attendees will experience a practical review of the diet from nationally-recognized experts, its use for epilepsy and its different applications for other neurologic conditions. The open house will offer the opportunity for patients and families to learn more about the diet and its variations, sample ketogenic foods and attend cooking demonstrations.

The promise of potentially reducing or eliminating medications, which recently have caused side effects for Hall such as confusion and a loss of words has made the switch to a diet radically different than she was used to worth it.

“It’s very different from my previous diet because I was a vegetarian,” Hall said.

She went from beans, veggies and fruits to a diet that contains 80 percent fat, including meat. She cooks with a lot of coconut oil, vegetable oil, olive oil and butter. A typical day for Hall includes eggs cooked in butter for breakfast, a large salad with lots of greens, low-carb veggies, chicken and a fatty dressing for lunch, and fish or chicken with veggies for dinner, all cooked in oil or butter.

Her family has jumped on board with the meal plan, eating what she eats, although sometimes they include a starch such as rice or mashed potatoes at dinner time. Even her mom has started the diet with her as moral support. Having a strong support system in place has made it easier to stick to the plan.

“Anything’s hard to do by yourself,” Hall said.

For those looking to start a ketogenic approach to eating, Hall enthusiastically supports giving it a try, especially when the potential benefits can be so life-changing.

“I just think you have to be ready and if you live with people they have to be on board as well,” she said. “For me, it’s been easy to stick with.”

Find out more information about the ketogenic conference and open house here. For late registration, contact K.C. Harkness at 616-685-6142.  

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Photo credit: Ján Sokoly

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