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of everyone affected by epilepsy

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.

For more information on fasting and health see the NHS Choices website.
Website: nhs.uk

Having an anaesthetic

For some types of anaesthetic, people are told not to eat or drink for at least eight 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 appointments

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. 


Epilepsy Action would like to thank Jane M Archibald, Sapphire Epilepsy Nurse Specialist, in Neuroscience Cumbria for reviewing this information.

Jane has no conflict of interest.

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

  • Updated September 2016
    To be reviewed September 2019

Comments: read the 6 comments or add yours


Can someone tell me WHY fasting is only considered with a religion called "Ramadan?" As a Christian I fast for many reasons. Why is it that "Ramadan" is the only religion that is mentioned in this article? That offends me as a Christian. Let's just talk about ANY religious reasons. there are MANY religions besides the Muslim religion.

Submitted by common sence on

You are right; I am aware of other religions which also have fasts as part of their tradition, such as Hinduism.
There is no mention of this on any NHS or charitable websites either, even though there are British Hindus who also have epilepsy.
Furthermore, many people choose to participate on the famous 5:2 diet, which involves fasting. Some referral to this would be useful too.
It is a shame but it seems when it comes to resources related to religion, only those who shout the loudest (aka cause the most fuss) are heard anymore.
This is otherwise a very good website, and I hope that they may be able to make some improvements on this page to ensure there is equality for all users (with or without religious beliefs) on this issue.

Submitted by s on

Dear s
I have re-examined our page on fasting. The first reference to Ramadan is specifically to a piece of research. But I have changed the NHS Choices information so it makes it clear that the information is for anyone of any or no religion who may be considering fasting. Below the information on religious fasting is the information on diets and fasting.

Thank you for your comment. We are always grateful for feedback on our information. And I hope this feels a little more satisfactory to you.

Epilepsy Action Advice and Information team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

Thank you Cherry for your equality-friendly amendments on this page on behalf of all members of society; religious and atheists alike.
I hope that these equality-friendly principles will be transferable across all of the resources published by this organisation.
Your acknowledgment of the irritating imbalance on issues related to religion, and subsequent rectifying action is much appreciated by myself, and I am sure by many other users such as the original commentator.
Thank you again for your excellent amendments to this page.

Submitted by s on

Fast was one of the first treatments for epilepsy. It is true that if someone is going to fast for any reason they should consult their doctor if they have a medical condition and if they are taking medications that could be affected by fasting. But, if you research the this, you will find that fasting and the ketogenic diet that continues the presence of Ketosis that occurs during fasting are a beneficial treatment for epilepsy.

Submitted by Rinchen on

Hi Rinchen

Fasting may have being tried in the past to try help treat epilepsy, but it’s not an option we are aware of in modern treatments.

With the ketogenic diet people do not fast. They are following a strict diet under the supervision of a dietician. It may mimic fasting but in fact it’s higher in fats and lower in carbohydrates diet.

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on