Reply To: ADHD and macro nutrients

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I agree with Brad’s answer. To add to that:

Fat should be a priority. The brain is made up of over 80% fat. There are a number of other dietary changes you can make. You only asked about macronutrients, but here is a list I keep on hand for people who ask:

  • Consume lots of good fat. If you only take one of these recommendations, make it this one. I cannot emphasize high-quality fats enough. Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are important for everyone and were probably the biggest life changer for me. This is why food lifestyles such as the ketogenic diet are good for neurological issues. Keto has been helping people with seizures for decades. Its popularity began to soar because it works, and then food faddists starting following it. (Though doctor-prescribed keto tends to differ from everyday keto.)
  • Probiotics. A healthy gut is necessary for a healthy brain. The gut microbiome is sometimes referred to as the “second brain.” 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced by the gut nerve cells, and every class of neurotransmitters found in the brain is also found in the gut. Microbiota and nerve cells in the gut products more than 40 neurotransmitters. Also, most of your immune system resides in your gut. It also helps create a lot of the neurotransmitters that help relay messages between neurons. The production of melatonin depends on zinc. It also helps with immune function. Lots of us with brain health issues have problems with inflammation in the brain and inflammation is an immune response. In studies of children, those with the lowest blood levels of zinc had the highest levels of inattention, distractability, hyperactivity, impulsivity and other symptoms.
  • Vitamin B6. It helps form dopamine. In one study of children with ADHD that was done in 1979, vitamin B6 was as effective as Ritalin at controlling symptoms. (Source: A study published in Biological Psychiatry and referenced in James Greenblatt’s recent book Finally Focused). In other studies on adults cited in that book, vitamin B6 improved attention and decreased other symptoms.
  • Carnitine may help regulate dopamine and ADHD.
  • Vitamin D is a neurotransmitter precursor that helps produce serotonin.
  • Depending on symptoms and type of ADHD, different neurotransmitter precursors might help. Studies show that the ADHD brain blocks tryptophan and that low levels of GABA cause impulsivity. So, GABA might help people who are impulsive and hyperactive. L-tryptophan helps with sleep problems and anxiety.
  • Watch the sugar and caffeine. Low sugar or no sugar. Be honest with yourself about whether or not you can tolerate caffeine. Some people with ADD are helped with caffeine and have better focus and clarity, and can drink it before they go to bed without sleep disruption. Some people find that caffeine causes anxiety. Some go through periods of each. Caffeine is a drug. If it helps you, go for it.

Hope this helps