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Seizures reduced by 90 percent after nine month diet

By Paula Walter
The Tomahawk previously introduced its readers to three-year-old Xavier, who suffered from countless seizures every day. His parents had noticed from a very young age that his eyes would flutter or he would pause for just a moment during playtime to catch his balance. After a consultation with a neurologist and many tests, Xavier was diagnosed with epilepsy. Despite taking up to four medications per day, the seizures did not abate. His parents witnessed at least 40 episodes per day. Desperate for help for their son, the family turned to a drastic change in Xavier’s diet and adopted a modified Atkins diet.
The diet itself only allowed 10 grams of carbohydrates per day. One piece of bread is close to 12 grams of carbohydrates, so Xavier was very limited in what he could eat. His meals consisted of protein, vegetables, and large amounts of foods with a high fat content such as milk, cheese and yogurt. The family had noticed a drastic reduction in the number of seizures they saw every day soon after starting the diet. They were impressed Xavier had responded so quickly.
Despite some creative meal preparation on the part of the family, they found the diet very difficult to follow but managed to stick with the new regime for nine months. Xavier became sick with the flu and refused to eat. In desperation, the family went off the diet and gave their son some of his favorite foods in order to rebuild his strength. The family immediately noticed that despite giving up the restrictive diet, Xavier’s seizures continued to be minimal and much shorter in duration. “There was no increase in seizures,” said Julie Chapa, Xavier’s mother. “We watched for it.”
It has been three months since the family stopped the modified Atkins diet. Xavier’s seizures did not increase. The results of a recent electroencephalography, the study of electrical activity along the scalp, showed a 90 percent reduction in seizures. “We’re amazed,” said Chapa. While Xavier remains on several medications, his neurologist has approached the family about implanting a vagus nerve stimulator. This device has proved to be an effective treatment for intractable seizures that do not respond to typical treatment and could eliminate the need for medication. According to Chapa, her understanding is the unit can decrease the amount and duration of seizures, along with eliminating many of the side effects of the medications.
Xavier has recently received an official diagnosis of autism. Nearly one third of people with autism are also epileptic. He continues to have developmental delays. His only words are “banana” and “night night.” Since his seizures have diminished so drastically, Chapa has noticed he is more alert and more engaged with his family. “We definitely see him being more social,” she said. Xavier is starting to imitate more, an important component to learning. He recently caused some excitement in his home when he used sign language to put two words together, “water please.” Xavier is now excited when his mother comes to pick him up after work, smiles at her and lets out a big squeal and hurries over for a hug. “He has never done that,” Chapa said. “He is becoming more attached.” Xavier recently climbed out of his toddler bed and wandered into his parents’ bedroom room for the first time wanting to sleep with them.
While Xavier is becoming more social and increasingly interacts with others, he continues to exhibit other signs of autism or autism spectrum disorder by flapping his arms when he is excited, walking on his toes and being obsessed with parts of toys rather than the entire toy itself. He is more interested in objects rather than people and has yet to respond to his name. Despite these delays, the family is encouraged with his progress. He has begun to associate words with sounds, such a “bbbb” for basketballs and butterflies and a hissing noise for snakes.
Xavier started an early intervention program in school and enjoys grabbing his backpack each morning as he heads out to wait for his bus. While he initially was more concerned with confiscating cookies and treats from other children, his teachers report he is cooperative and knows the classroom routines.
Autism continues to be on the rise. The Center for Disease Control just released statistics that indicate one in every 68 children in the United States falls in the autism spectrum. This is a 30 percent increase from just two years ago. One in 42 boys are likely to receive an autism or autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, five times the rate of girls.
The Center for Disease Control recently released the results of a new study that show the rate of autism has increased approximately 30 percent between 2008 and 2010.