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, please contact Epilepsy Action Info_Requests_Helpline

  • Updated June 2019
    To be reviewed June 2022

Comments: read the 1 comments or add yours


I am 51yr old female (so in my hormonal years again!) I have been doing a keto diet since March 2021, so 9mths now, I feel so much better, a list of health benefits. namely my hormones have calmed down, hair regrown, skin better, sleeping better, which has the knock on effect that my brain feels better. OK I have been a controlled epileptic on Epilim since I was 16yrs old, so a LONG time!.... so that's a life full of control, no all night partying etc, clean living, and monitoring stress..... even leaving a long time job because of it
I have slipped into fasting due to having less appetite on keto, if i slip up and eat more carbs my brain feels less happy with me these days, (bouncing insulin levels is not good on the system) fasting seems to cause no problems because my body is now totally adjusted to fuelling my body on fat, which I belive back in the 1920s the kids treated with a keto diet had success
I would highly recommend a keto diet to any fellow controlled hormonal women out there wanting to reduce risks of fits in those years. Also i wouldn't just dive into fasting without doing keto first as it would be too much of a shock to the system, I only extend a fasting window if I feel well within myself, not stressed or anything, currently I do 16:8, intermittant fasting a few times a week and did a 1 day fast recently, which went well.

Submitted by Angela

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