Ketogenic Diet Often Better Than Drugs for the Treatment of Epilepsy

This year marks the 20th anniversary of "First Do No Harm," a film directed by American movie director and writer Jim Abrahams. Based on real-life events, the film relates the successful treatment of one boy's severe case of epilepsy using a ketogenic diet. Prior to the fictionalized family's discovery of the diet, their youngest son, Robbie, was given many pharmaceutical medications, some of which caused constipation, fevers, rashes and other harmful side effects, including at least one near-death episode.

Aspects of the storyline mirror Abrahams' own experience with his infant son Charlie, who makes a brief cameo appearance in the film as one of Robbie's playmates in the hospital. Charlie was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was just 11 months old. Similar to the mother in the movie, played by Meryl Streep, after Abrahams watched his son suffer through multiple daily seizures, the accompanying accidents and injuries, and a slew of pharmaceutical drugs, he became aware of the ketogenic diet through personal research.

As with the boy in the movie, within the first month of implementing the diet, Charlie became seizure- and drug-free. Charlie continued on the ketogenic diet for five years, after which he resumed eating regular food, and has never had another seizure since. "First Do No Harm" will give you a sense of the intensity and desperation that often accompany serious illness. You also will get a glimpse of the emotional and financial burdens placed on families facing a major health crisis.

Moreover, the film shines a bright light on the harm that is routinely inflicted by doctors and drug companies through what may appear to be guesswork and trial-and-error procedures related to the treatment of complex health issues. If you've had doubts that looking beyond conventional medicine is worth your time, "First Do No Harm" will remind you again that so-called "alternative approaches," such as the ketogenic diet, actually underscore the value of plain old common sense when it comes to optimizing your health.

Why Are Drugs Often the First Choice in Epilepsy Treatment?

As you may know, epilepsy is a neurological disorder marked by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that trigger seizures. These sudden brief episodes can be intense and are generally characterized by altered or diminished consciousness, convulsions and involuntary movements. The Epilepsy Foundation suggests epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition, with an estimated 65 million people worldwide affected by it.1

Some 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with epilepsy annually, with children and older adults experiencing the highest incidence rates.2 The recurring seizures that accompany epilepsy can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, given the heightened risk of accidents and injuries.

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