Tag: epilepsy and nutrition

The First Week Going MAD

Tuesday marked the end of my first week on the Modified Atkins Diet for my epilepsy. It’s far too soon to know if the MAD has impacted my seizures at all, but I can say that I have seen some changes and have learned a bit too in this past week.

Before I started this journey I created a list of “MAD Hopes”, 25 hopes and goals that would help me know if I am succeeding or not. These hopes and goals include things related to my epilepsy like seizure freedom and decreasing medication as well as other things related to my overall physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Reviewing my list this morning I can say that I am doing well. I am five pounds closer to my goal weight. I don’t have the bloating that I did before I started. My breathing is better and my athlete’s foot is clearing up. I think I may be starting to sleep a little better. I definitely feel good about my food choices and how they impact the planet and myself. Thus far, the MAD is doing good for me.

It’s not been a perfect trip so far. Each day I check my ketone levels at least once using a urine testing kit. Each day now it seem my ketone levels show up high on the scale. Some days this is not a big deal. Other days it comes with a bit of fatigue and maybe some nausea and stomach discomfort. These are signs of low blood sugar and could indicate significant problems coming. Thankfully, a great lesson I’ve learned this week is one that many people with diabetes have known for years– the amazing healing powers of apple juice. Two tablespoons of juice and I am back within normal ketone levels and fully operational. I am told that my body will likely adjust, my ketones will come into balance, and I won’t be needing apple juice regularly any more.

I’d like to say that the new diet has increased my energy and clarity, but it’s hard to say. My life has been a bit unusual having had a few weeks off looking for my next place of employment. It’s meant a lot more time sitting and typing and hanging out with the dog, not a time that requires a great deal of energy or quick thinking. With luck and some work I will be back in the workplace soon, then we’ll see how the MAD has impacted my clarity and energy. Meanwhile, I am happy with what I am seeing.

MAD with Epilepsy Day 1

It’s already been a long journey even though I only began yesterday. Yesterday was the first day for me on my Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) for epilepsy. I am already learning.

I met with my dietician Kelly Faltersack in the afternoon yesterday. I’d already gotten my starter pack information and had read and watched quite a bit on the diet, so I felt safe eating within the diet for breakfast and lunch and making yesterday my first full day with the program. I will say that I encourage anyone who reads this and wants to start the MAD or another keto diet for your epilepsy or other health challenge, talk with your health team first. There are a lot of details they can help with to save you a lot of trouble and make success more possible.

Just in my first day I was struck by what it really takes to rebalance my diet and get sufficient calories. A number of years ago I worked with a different Kelly, an old friend of mine and a nurse practitioner, to do allergy testing and revamp my diet. At that point I moved from being a junk food junkie to really becoming a pretty healthy eater. I don’t keep sugar in my house. I also don’t keep chips or pop. I will sometimes have some potato chips or a non-caffeinated soda when I go out, or at least I would until now. The point being that for an American I eat well. Still, yesterday I found myself getting hungrier than usual between meals. I looked at the tracking system I am using and realized that even with adding what I thought was quite a bit of additional fats, my calories were too low. Yesterday I ended the day with a grand total of 888 calories. ( *Note- calorie counting is not a regular part of MAD for epilepsy) That was okay for a day, but clearly not healthy for more than a few days in a row. It became rapidly clear that I need to figure out a new way of understanding servings. It is an interesting puzzle– how to get sufficient calories without going over 20 grams of carbohydrates in a day.

So, today I am working on the puzzle. I added another egg and two tablespoons of heavy cream to my scrambled eggs. I am glad to say that I’m not feeling as hungry today so far. It is still fairly early in the morning though. It’s interesting to look at food servings in that different way. Normally, I would want to add something bigger, something that takes up more space or seems heavier to fill myself. It is strange to me to think of just a tablespoon or two of liquid as a large source of calories and energy. It’s always been true. I’ve just never thought of it before.

My other challenge for the day will be building up my water intake. Typically, people are encouraged to drink at least 64oz of water per day which many of us don’t succeed in doing. Because of my epilepsy medication and being on the MAD my neurology team is advising me to drink 74oz. That’s a lot of water! But, it sounds a lot better than the alternatives of constipation and possibly kidney stones, so I am holding up my water bottle and toasting good health to us all.

Is anyone else out there using the MAD to address epilepsy or other health issues? I would love to hear your stories. Please share.

Going MAD With Epilepsy

I was diagnosed with epilepsy nearly a decade ago. I’ve tried numerous medications with some success, but also with quite a few challenges brought on by allergies. A few years ago I had a vagus nerve stimulator implanted to assist in stopping my seizures. It helped significantly, but I still have a seizure every month or two. A seizure once every month or two isn’t much in comparison to the many others who deal with dozens or even hundreds of episodes every day, but it is enough to impact daily life.

A few months ago I gave up driving after an accident involving a seizure behind the wheel. I don’t know if I will ever drive again. Instead, I returned to Madison, a city with reasonably good public transportation and known for its walk/bike-ability. Now, I find myself waiting to find out if a potential employer may withdraw a job offer since I was open with them about my disability, deciding what to do and remembering past similar experiences. Even with just one seizure every month or two it is an interesting learning experience in understanding living with disabilities.

It is a challenge. There are struggles. There are also opportunities to live, to improve life, to grow, to heal, and to become a better me. I am setting forth on the journey of one of those opportunities. I’ll be meeting with Kelly, the dietician on neurology team, on Tuesday for a educational session that will start my Modified Atkins Diet (MAD), a form of the Ketogenic diet.

The Ketogenic diet has been being used effectively to treat .epilepsy since the 1920’s. As medications for the disability became available use of the diet disappeared because of the challenges associated with maintaining it. Over the past two decades it’s become used increasingly with children and now is beginning to be used more with adults as well in forms like the MAD.

Over the past week I’ve been mourning the letting go of foods that I associate with comfort, treating myself, or maybe the “good life.” I’d already made significant changes to my diet a number of years ago, so I don’t eat fast food nearly every day or make pasta a regular part of my diet like I used too. In fact, I don’t even have any cane sugar in my house. Still, I’d rather have a burger with a bun than without, prefer potato chips over kale chips, and like a good piece of pie with ice cream every once in a while. Some things I will say goodbye to, others will be significantly limited. The average American eats about 250 grams of carbohydrates daily. It’s my understanding that the MAD will put me at about 20 grams of carbs each day. My intake of fats will increase and many of my go-to carbs will disappear. This will allow my body to go into ketosis, using fat for energy.

This morning I sat down and created a list. It was a list of “MAD Hopes.” I am beginning my celebration of a new beginning. It began with a list of hopes for what I will achieve from this journey, both small and huge. The most important among them being reaching seizure freedom. Over the upcoming days, weeks, months, and maybe even years I hope to take you on this journey with me as I blog about my story, share my joys and struggles, and what learn along the way.

The End of the Challenge

Well, so I will admit that I disappeared for a while. I’ll also admit that wasn’t good. I haven’t been eating like I should. There’s been too much pizza and snack foods and not enough light and healthy vegetables. The result has been an additional 5 lbs.

I can feel it in how I’m breathing. I can feel it in my mood. I am just starting to feel the edge of sadness. I need to get back on track and it’s a tough time to do that. I got offered a new job and I got an interview for another position. So, right now I am finding myself waiting and deciding which of two very different roles might be the right one for me. I am getting to ask myself about my values. I’m getting to ask myself what I need and what I want. I’m in a space of making hard decisions.

I need my health to help and not hinder my ability to make good choices. So, I will keep trying. I will move forward. I have learned from this experience and I will take that learning with me.

There will be more posts to come. I hope you’ll keep reading.

60 Days and Where Am I?

So, I’ve not been entering my blog posts as religiously as I was for quite a while in this exercise. It doesn’t mean that I’ve given up, not at all.

I think what I have done is made a regular habit of be conscious of the fruits and vegetables that I am putting into my body. I don’t always get the full 6-9 cups, but I am always getting at least three which is more than a daily serving. I feel good about what I am accomplishing.

Things are busy with work picking up at the university and my considerations of moving back to Wisconsin. Still, I am eating well over all and getting out to be social and exercise as well. This weekend I got to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law who I normally only see once or twice a year. It was a great day at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion. It’s really amazing how many people attend it each year. It’s just such a delightfully innocent, old-fashioned, simple kind of fun. And, this year it was filled with laughter and stories from our growing up years. Yesterday and today were for hiking. Buddy and I probably put in about eight miles at our nearby state parks. He loved it! It amazed me how after walking four or five miles yesterday he was ready to run when we stopped by the dog park. He played with friends for over an hour! Tonight, he’s a bit more relaxed. I suspect that it’s due to the flea and tick and heart worm preventative medicines.

All of these things, along with taking my supplements and drinking lots of water, and offering prayer each day are helping me feel my best. It is a good life and I am thankful.

Day 54

It’s a journey, but I am getting back on track.

This morning started with a bowl of blueberries and banana with a bit of almond milk. Last night I cooked up a couple chicken breasts with squash, beans, and tomatoes. So a bit of that was lunch. Before dinner I walked out to my garden. It’s a bit of an overwhelming and neglected space. I came home with a big bag full of squash, cucumbers, some sort of little red peppers, and tomatoes. Dinner was scrambled eggs with peppers and tomatoes with a side of cucumbers with hummus. Dessert was blueberries, strawberries, and bananas with a bit of almond milk.

It was the healthiest mix of food that I’ve had in about two weeks. With that and the students returning to campus I am feeling in a better state of mind than I have been in the last week or so. It is good. Now, to keep it going again and see what great things can happen.

51 Days and I’m Back

Okay, so I disappeared there for eleven days. I went home to Wisconsin for a few days and used the excuse of a vacation to not pay a whole lot of attention to tracking my fruits and veggies. I still ate pretty good for the most part though I did indulge in some sweets and definitely took on some of Wisconsin’s greatest cheese and beer. I would strongly recommend the raspberry tart beer from New Glarus. That’s saying a lot since I’m really not much of a beer fan.

I haven’t gotten back on track fully yet even after a week back in Minnesota. There’s still sugar in my system and I’ve not fully backed away from it. I’m not fully back up to 6-9 cups of fruits and vegetables though I am getting some. I just added in some coconut oil and started a turmeric supplement today. I’m hoping that this stuff will help heal my brain.

I am seeing the need to get away from sugar again and just get back on track. I’ve been feeling grumpy the last few days and need to revive. I am putting lots of work into my next adventure. Sending off my applications and hoping to get back to Wisconsin soon. But, meanwhile this is home and there must be joy here somewhere.

40 Days, Over Halfway There

Okay, I admit it. I didn’t measure my food today. I operated visually. I need to get back to measuring to assure my accuracy.

I don’t think I hit six cups today, but I was close. I started the day with my fruit with almond milk. Had a lunch of pizza and a large salad. Dinner was plenty of refried beans with tomatoes and and some chips. So, not a great health food wonder day, but it wasn’t horrible either. For years my typical days had cereal, grilled cheese, and pasta with sauce from a jar pretty often. Today had some green stuff. Heck, it had multiple colors of fruits and vegetables. I feel okay about that. It was kind of slacker, but kind of good caring too. That’s an okay thing to do.

The Question of the 39th Day

39 days in to this challenge to increase my fruits and vegetables intake and I’m doing well with getting at least six cups a day. Since I added in an effort to increase my water intake a couple weeks ago I’ve been mostly doing better on that too though the last couple days I’ve probably been running a bit dry. I can feel the dull headache now and need to get myself a couple more cups. I’m not doing well on decreasing the number of times I go out for pizza or the amount that I eat. I am going out to other restaurants less though.

That brings me to the question. I’ve been having a tough time at my work for quite a while now, but it ebbs and flows. Recently, it’s been quite frustrating and I’ve found myself feeling my self-confidence ebb away and just generally feeling down. Then, I go out for pizza. I find myself wondering– is it the fact that I am feeling worn, beaten by my workplace, and just down on myself that leads me to eating something that I know isn’t good for me and that doesn’t even taste as good as the many homemade dishes that I can treat myself with or is that I am eating something that doesn’t taste all that good and isn’t good for me that is pushing me into feeling down, worn and beaten? It is that circle, much like the cycle of addiction I suppose. So how do I get out?

Six Weeks and Where Am I At?

Okay, so I disappeared for a few days there. I needed to step away for a bit for my own self care. Work has been a challenge. I love my job and the people I work with are great. Moving from working in grassroots organizations to a liberal arts university in a time that is particularly difficult for small, public, liberal arts universities is tough.

Some days things go well and some days, not so much. There is much more behind that, but as those who work in large hierarchical organizations know, sometimes those stories need to wait. I will say that I was proud of myself this past week on one of those really tough days at work. Instead of diving into depression with sugar and junk food for my lunch, I found a quiet spot outside and rested my spirit with fresh vegetables and hummus and fed myself with positive self talk. That’s a huge step.

From there I just needed a few days to not think too much about my current work and instead once again focus on dreams. There are some possibilities that dreams may come true. I’ve got two interviews coming up in the next week or so with nonprofits focused on healthy eating and growing food. Both are back home in Wisconsin and within any easy travel time to my family. Taking care of myself is a good thing and may just be giving me a path to taking care of my community.

Meanwhile, I’m remaining pretty consistent with about six cups of fruits and vegetables a day. There is much to be proud of.