A 5-year-old girl has almost been cured of severe epilepsy after being put on a diet which involved eating thousands of avocados.
Leafy Liu was born with a brain disorder which meant she suffered up to 60 seizures a day.
After conventional medication failed to stop the fits, her worried parents researched alternative treatments and discovered the ketogenic diet.
“We both hoped that she would grow out of it and it’s not too uncommon for babies to have seizures. But three weeks later she had her second seizure and it continued like that — every 21 days or so, she would have another fit. When she was having one, she would stop responding or looking at me. Her face would fix in one direction and she’d start to shake.”
“It was exhausting for her – every time that she had one, she would sleep for hours afterward. But progressively it got worse and the regularity of them increased. Some of them would be brief, other ones would be much longer, lasting up to half-an-hour.”
“She was susceptible to little bugs — colds and fevers — which would increase the likelihood of her having a seizure.”
In a desperate bid to cure their daughter, the family moved to Perth in Australia, where Justin is originally from, hoping the warmer climate would alleviate Liu’s symptoms.
Her mother added: “As parents, we had horrible thoughts. We couldn’t sleep at night, we would stay up worrying what sort of life she’d have. We felt that the outdoor lifestyle in Australia would make a difference, that she would be less susceptible to viruses and that the likelihood of her having seizures would drop significantly.
“Justin is self-employed and at the time I was caring for the kids, so we felt that if it worked out we could make it a permanent move.”
“But, in reality, it had the opposite effect. Within minutes of landing, she had to be rushed to hospital with a severe seizure. The whole situation went from being manageable to being completely out of control. She’d have lots and lots of them in a day — up to 60.”
“Her longest seizure was 45 minutes long and it was shortly after that that she was diagnosed with epilepsy, which was our fear.”
“Once she had that diagnosis, things changed for us. We did a lot of research online to find the best solution. We didn’t want to go for an anti-epilepsy drug because we were concerned about the side-effects.”
The couple finally discovered the ketogenic diet which burns fat instead of carbohydrates.
Justin, an e-commerce manager, said: “We thought that we would give it a go and were stunned by the effect that it had.”
“The diet is high fat, low carbohydrate. It means that, instead of burning carbs for fuel, you burn fat, which is better for the brain.”
“We thought we’d give it a try and within two days it had impacted upon Leafy. Where once she would have 60 minor seizures a day, it dropped dramatically to the extent that they are now very rare.”
“Before we started it, she would have two major attacks a week — but quickly that became one a month. We’re now at the point where she only has four seizures a year, it’s a miracle.”
“Almost as soon as she started on the diet, she felt fit, happy, healthier, more relaxed, everything you’d want for your little girl. The avocado has been a real staple, she absolutely adored it from the word go. We’ve spent a fortune buying them but it’s been worth it. They are wonderful.”
“It ticks all the boxes in terms of sticking to the diet but is also something that can be served with any meal — breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even as a snack.”
“Along with salmon, it’s probably her favorite thing to eat.”
“It’s amazing. When I see what other children are eating for lunch and compare it with what Leafy has, I think it’s so much healthier this way. When she was at her worst, I could never have envisioned that avocado would be the thing to help her through, but that’s how it’s turned out.
“We’re just so thankful that we discovered the diet when we did because it’s changed all of our lives for the better.”
Experts believe the way the body burns up carbohydrates can trigger epileptic fits so switching to a high fat, low-carb diet can reduce that risk.
Incredibly, after eating at least two avocados a day for the last four years, Liu now suffers just four seizures a year.
Her parents, Claire, 39, and Justin, 45, of England, have spent around $1,700 on the diet as Liu has chomped her way through around 3,000 avocados.
Liu’s mother, a nutritional advisor, said: “Up until the age of six months, Leafy was just an ordinary baby. But then she had her first seizure and everything changed. It lasted about 25 minutes which was really scary.
“In the end, she had to be taken to the hospital, where she was given medication to bring her back to normal.”