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Fasting and epilepsy

There are various reasons why a person may fast. The more common ones are:

  • Religious reasons
  • Dietary reasons
  • Before an anaesthetic

What is the danger of fasting for a person with epilepsy?

Research has shown that fasting can put people with epilepsy at risk of more seizures. So before you fast for any reason, it is important to get advice from your family doctor, epilepsy nurse or epilepsy specialist.

Why can fasting be a problem?

Some research was carried out on people with epilepsy who were fasting during Ramadan. The research showed that some of them had more seizures during this time. This increase was probably due to:

  • Changes in the way epilepsy medicines were taken
  • Sleep patterns being disturbed
  • Going for a long time without food
  • Emotional stress and tiredness

These are all things that are known to trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy.

So, whether you are fasting for religious reasons, or you are thinking about doing a diet which involves fasting, you need to be aware of these risks. And it is important to get medical advice before deciding if you are going to fast.

Having an anaesthetic

For some types of anaesthetic, people are told not to eat or drink for at least 8 hours before surgery. You should, however, be able to take your epilepsy medicines at their usual time, with a sip of water.  You can discuss your own personal situation:

  • With the consultant referring you for surgery or
  • With your epilepsy specialist nurse or at your pre-op appointment

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050. 


This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated June 2019
    To be reviewed July 2022

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