I've heard it said that history is one of our best teachers. This realization hit hard for me while doing research in a hospital library. Tears blurred the pages and painful emotions tore at me from the deadly diagnosis the neurologist had announced earlier. I was desperate to save my child. Foreign medical jargon and terminology beyond my education inked the pages, but even so I understood enough to know we hadn’t been given all the treatment options. Why?
At the library that day, I read about a diet, developed in the 1920s, that stopped seizures in children. Dr. R.M. Wilder, a diabetologist, and his team at the Mayo Clinic had been working to stop seizures in diabetic children. This research had actually started four hundred years before Jesus walked on Earth by a physician named Hippocrates. Hippocrates believed in healthy eating to heal our bodies. His research on epilepsy included dietary intervention and fasting for kids with seizures. In addition to that, a story in the New Testament, chronicled by Matthew and Mark, told of a boy with epilepsy who was healed by Jesus. "This kind of healing comes from fasting and prayer" (Mark 9:29 NIV).
Inspired by the studies and writings mentioned above, Dr. Wilder prescribed fasting for diabetic seizure children. Do you think he was surprised when many children stopped seizing? It's just my hunch, but I think he expected it. Who wouldn't if the history is taken seriously. Either way, Dr. Wilder then took chemical components in the blood and urine and formulated a diet that simulated the same. In other words, they developed a diet that mimicked fasting--and it worked. The diet was named Ketogenic after the ketones we measure when our body burns fat. The diet was used with great success until the 1950s when anti-seizure drugs were invented, then became prehistoric in a sense. Today we know that thirty to forty percent of patients don't respond to medication. Shouldn't we question whether we should be taking a look back in time?
The answer to the above question of why doctors don't always prescribe the diet is alarming: many simply don't believe the diet works. Some cite it's too complicated (a diet--too hard?). Others simply don't know much about it, or they simply don't have a dietitian trained in administering it. For our family, we felt as though information had been withheld and our daughter's life had been put at risk by not being informed of all the treatment options.
During a speaking event in Madison, Wisconsin, two women marched in with copies of Good Morning, Beautiful tucked in their arms. As tears streamed down one of the women's cheeks, she took my hand in hers and told me how proud she was of me. I was certain her grandchild or child was on the diet, but I was wrong. "I was the one," she exclaimed. In the 1950s, when all medications failed, she was put on the ketogenic diet and it saved her life. She reminisced about her doctor, stating he was old enough to remember the diet's discovery and smart enough to use that information to spare her life.