Published on ADDitudeMag.com
6 Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Managing ADHD
Omega-3s for concentration. Zinc for impulsivity. Iron for better behavior. Plus three more supplements shown to improve ADHD symptoms. How to augment your treatment plan with vitamins and minerals that work — and skip those that don't.
When to Go Beyond Food
professionals recommend eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, and some lean protein
with every meal to help manage symptoms. However, not everyone eats the right foods to achieve beneficial levels of certain nutrients. In other cases, our bodies don’t produce some nutrients we need, so we have to get them from supplements. Find out which vitamins, herbs, and
supplements may treat ADHD symptoms.
Omega-3s for Brain Function
If you are
looking for a single supplement to add to your diet, it is omega-3 fatty acids
. Besides being good for heart health, recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids improve symptoms of ADHD. A comprehensive look at many studies showed that omega-3’s are about 40 percent as effective as stimulants in
Take Optimal Amounts of Omega-3s
According to Dr. Sandy Newmark, author of ADHD Without Drugs
, kids between four and eight years old should take between 1,000-1,500 mg. a day. Older kids
should get 2,000-2,500 mg. daily.
Look for a product that has twice the amount
of EPA to DHA—the two main types of omega-3s. Liquid or capsule
forms of omega-3s are best. Other versions have
lower amounts of EPA and DHA. (See our recommended omega-3 supplements for kids who hate pills.
Zinc for Impulsivity
Some studies have shown that children with ADHD may have lower levels of zinc. Taking zinc supplements
may reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity but not inattentiveness.
High levels of zinc, however, may be dangerous.
Have your doctor check zinc levels before taking a supplement. If you do add a zinc supplement, Dr. Newmark suggests that children with ADHD take 20 mg. daily.
Iron for Better Behavior
believe that iron deficiencies
may contribute to ADHD symptoms in children. A 2008 study showed that children who were not anemic but had low
ferritin levels, a protein needed to store iron in the blood, showed improvement of symptoms after 12 weeks of iron supplements.
Before taking an iron supplement, speak with your doctor about checking iron
levels: High iron levels can be dangerous.
Magnesium for Relaxation and Sleep
of magnesium in the blood
can help relax children with ADHD. Some small studies have
shown that adding magnesium supplements decreases some symptoms of ADHD. Magnesium helps with sleep and relaxation – big challenges for children and adults with ADHD.
Vitamin C for Dopamine
C, says Dr. Ned Hallowell, is important in modulating the neurotransmitter dopamine
at the synapses in the brain. (ADHD stimulants are effective because they
increase dopamine levels in the brain.) Hallowell recommends getting vitamin C
from food, but if your
child doesn't eat a healthy diet, try a daily supplement.
caution: Don't take vitamin C less than an hour before or after taking ADHD
meds. It prevents the med from being absorbed.
Protein for Focus
child doesn’t eat high-protein foods
, which are key to increasing attentiveness and focus, or is a picky eater, give him a protein-powder drink in their place.
You can mix it with his favorite juice or milk to help the protein go down
easier. Look for brands that are low in sugar and free of artificial flavors
Cover Your Nutritional Bases
multivitamin, containing the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and
minerals, is important for optimal brain health. Many of the
multivitamin/multimineral products on the market contain sugar, preservatives, and
artificial colors, which may increase hyperactivity in children. Look for brands
that are low in sugar with no artificial colors or flavors.
Help for Sleep
limited evidence that supports using herbs in treating ADHD. The herb valerian
can calm hyperactivity and may reduce anxiety, but it doesn’t improve
Valerian also helps with sleep problems and lessens the “rebound
effect” that some kids experience when stimulants wear off. Talk with your
doctor or a nutritionist who specializes in herbs about valerian.
More Help at Bedtime
a natural hormone produced in our bodies to help us get to sleep. When we turn
off the television, dim the lights, and settle down for bed, our body produces
melatonin and we become sleepy. But for those with ADHD, sleep is sometimes
difficult to come by. Melatonin supplements can help and are safe to take.
Always start with the smallest possible dose.
Give Ginkgo and Ginseng a Try?
studies show that Ginkgo biloba helps improve memory and, when taken with
ginseng, can decrease impulsiveness and distractibility. Other studies have shown
no or minimal improvement.
Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist before trying them. These herbs can cause health problems,
especially if you have a history of diabetes, seizures, or schizophrenia.
Heed the Warning
natural” is not synonymous with “safe.” Many herbs and supplements have side
effects, may cause or worsen health problems, or interfere with prescription medications.
Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. When your doctor asks if
you are taking any medications, be sure to tell him about all vitamins and
supplements you take on a daily basis.
Listen to Your Body
supplements, there isn’t a lot of research to determine a recommended daily
dose. Pay attention to your body and adjust the dosage if you notice something
is wrong. For example, you may be taking zinc supplements and find yourself
getting stomachaches. Discontinue or cut back on the supplement to see if the
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