When was the last time you looked at how much sugar/carbs were in your medicine? Often, we don’t even begin to think about how much of an issue this could be, but when it comes to children with epilepsy who are on a ketogenic diet, this can be particularly troublesome.
A recent study examined 38 epileptic patients prescribed a ketogenic diet. 145 oral medications were prescribed to these patients and found that liquid medications had significantly higher carbohydrate content than solid oral dose forms. The median carbohydrate content in medications was about 1 gram/day with patients receiving an average of 9 medications/day. As we start to learn more about epileptic medications, in particular, we need to be more aware of the carbohydrate content within in order to prevent possible triggers for seizures. 
What About Other OTC Medications?!
As we embark on cold and flu season, it’s important to be aware of the carbohydrate content in OTC medications – should you decide to take them. As disgusting as most cough and cold liquid medications are, they would be significantly more disgusting without sugar/high fructose corn syrup, etc. in them. However, they aren’t required in many cases to directly disclose how much is in a serving (plus, people rarely take just 1 serving when they are trying to get better).
Some examples that are extremely high are NyQuil Cold and Flu Nighttime Relief boasting around 20 grams of carbohydrate while DayQuil Cold and Flu Relief have 24 grams!
Therefore we suggest the following tips:
1) Try and optimize your immune system through other means (i.e. probiotics, quality sleep,
good nutrition, and exercise)
2) Before buying OTC medication, research the carbohydrate/sugar content online
3) Try and opt for sugar-free alternatives
4) If possible, choose pills instead. With pills, companies don’t need to add as much sugar
to overcome the bad taste
Lastly, might it be that the 20 grams of carbohydrates give someone an instant placebo effect with that sugar rush hence why they feel a bit better immediately after taking NyQuil or DayQuil? Interesting to think about…
What Do You Think About the Carbs in Medicine?
Comment below and share your thoughts!
Sawangrit, T., Chomtho, S., and Siritientong, T. (2020). The carbohydrate content of medications prescribed to children treated with a ketogenic diet. Pharmacy Practice and Research, https://doi.org/10.1002/jppr.1642
Dr. Ryan P. Lowery is the CEO of Ketogenic.com, author of The Ketogenic Bible, President of the Applied Science and Performance Institute and KetoPhD™. His mission is to spread awareness around the Ketogenic Lifestyle and its’ many benefits beyond body composition. He earned his BS and MS in exercise physiology and exercise and nutrition science from the University of Tampa and completed his doctorate work at Concordia University in Health and Human Performance with a focus on “The Effects of a Well-Formulated Ketogenic Diet and Exogenous Ketone Supplementation on Various Markers of Health and Body Composition in Healthy and Diseased Populations.” Over his career, Ryan has published over 150 papers, abstracts, and book chapters on human performance and sports nutrition and has dedicated his life to educating the masses. In his free time, Ryan enjoys spending time with his best friend, Scoot the Keto Pup, jet skiing, and traveling around the world. The way to his heart is through a good glass of wine and Keto desserts.