Epilepsy affects approximately 1% of the population. In India with a population of over 1 billion this translates to around 10 million or 100 lakh persons with epilepsy. 30% (30 lakhs) of these will prove to be resistant to any medication and fall in the category of uncontrolled epilepsy. For these unfortunates till recently there was no hope. Epilepsy surgery can at best be offered to 10% of these. The cost of surgery to the patient is anywhere between 1 lakh and 3 lakhs. The cost of setting up a Comprehensive Epilepsy Surgery department is around Rs. 1.5 to 2 crores.
Now a diet is available which costs near to nothing as only a change in the type of food is involved.Â Dr. J. Nathan was invited as a visiting Professor to the Pediatric Epilepsy Department of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1996 where he spent around 6 months. He saw a lot of high-tech Epilepsy Surgery but soon realized that this would not be able to reach the average Indian because of the high cost involved.Â He also worked with Dr. John Freeman who was then the Professor and head of the Pediatric Epilepsy. He was using an age-old remedy for treating uncontrolled seizures, namely the ketogenic diet. Dr. Nathan was lucky to work with Ms. Millicent Kelly, Dietitian. Both of the above had worked with Dr. Livingstone, Pediatric Neurologist and who still has the largest number of patients treated with the ketogenic diet and worked in this field from 1920s to 1960s.
Dr Nathan is the pioneer and started this diet therapy in India in Jan 1997.Â His first patient was a two and a half year child who had severe birth injuries leaving him with paralysis of the entire left side and severely mentally and physically retarded. He also had uncontrolled seizures getting one ever 2-3 minutes and therefore running into several hundred per day. Anti-epileptic drugs had been tried in very high doses but to no avail. He was put on the diet and his seizures stopped on the third day itself and never recurred again. His medication was withdrawn and after three years of the diet he was slowly put on a normal diet again. He has never had a recurrence.
This center has never looked back and has treated persons with uncontrolled epilepsy from all over India and even from Middle East, East Africa, Japan and Australia.
His team has Indianized the diet to suit the palate of Indians and have published a book of 100 recipes to suit all regions of India. He has made the ketogenic diet simpler and easier by eliminating the fasting period, hospitalization and by reducing the fat content required to make the diet more palatable..
- The diet is as if not more efficacious than the medications.
- The newer medications have around 30-50% efficacy while the diet has around 40-70% efficacy. In our center and in Korea the efficacy is over 75%.
- There is further a great saving in the reduction or elimination of medication
- They have treated over 200 patients
- They also have a website www. ketogenic dietindia.org
Epilepsy camps are held three times a year in Bidada (Bidada Sarvodaya Trust) and Bhojay (Bhojay Sarvadaya Trust), Kutch, GujaratÂ In these camps EEG is done free. Consultation and advice given by Dr. Nathan is also free. Detailed counseling is done by trained Kutchi-speaking volunteers.Â Allopathic medication is given at concessional rates.