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ADHD and Omega-3s: An Effective Treatment for ADHD Kids?

My daughter, Natalie, doesn’t mind taking omega-3 supplements as an alternative treatment for her ADHD symptoms. But can fish oil really help her manage outbursts and inattentiveness?

Spoon filled with fish oil capsules on burlap tablecloth, a good source of Omega 3 for people with ADHD
Spoon filled with fish oil capsules on burlap tablecloth, a good source of Omega 3 for people with ADHD

The following is a personal essay, and not a medical recommendation endorsed by ADDitude. For more information about treatment, speak with your physician.

As we talked through my daughter Natalie’s recent increases in agitation and aggressive behavior at our last psychologist visit, the doctor asked me, “Does Natalie take fish oil supplements?” He explained how omega-3 containing fish oil is believed to help some symptoms of ADHD, in terms of brain science, and that it may help medications work more effectively.

“Um, not regularly,” I admitted, despite the fact that Natalie recently did a taste test of several omega-3 products, for a piece about fish oil for kids for ADDitude. I can research and write about complementary treatments all day long; my downfall is my lack of follow through in actually implementing what I learn. I mentally recommitted to make giving Natalie omega-3 supplements a priority.

“There are so many choices out there. Is there a certain product — and a certain dosage — that you recommend?” I asked. In answer, the psychologist turned to the computer on his desk, pulled up a file, and hit print — then handed me “The ADDitude Guide to Alternative ADHD Treatment”. I found it slightly ironic that our psychologist was directing me to information from the magazine I write for!

He suggested that people with ADHD follow Dr. John Ratey’s advice on fish oil that’s quoted in the guide: Choose a product that delivers at least three times the amount of EPA to DHA and give children up to 2.5 grams per day. (Adults can take up to 5 grams.) Natalie is able to swallow pills, so I decided to look for softgel capsules instead of the chewable tablets or liquids we’ve previously used. When I told him I worried about fish burp, he said to look for softgels with enteric coating.

I looked at four different stores before finding a product that offered approximately a 3:1 ratio of EPA to DHA, and luckily, its label carried the other two words I was looking for: enteric coated. The product I bought is GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil. Each softgel capsule contains 900 mg omega-3s: 647 mg of EPA and 253 mg of DHA. I’m going to try to get Natalie to take two each day – each and every day.

We’re only on day one, but Natalie willingly swallowed her first capsule with supper. Now, it’s up to me to make giving them to her a habit.

Is there an omega-3 supplement that your child takes willingly and that you see as an effective adjunct treatment for ADHD? And do you have tips to help me follow through with having Natalie take them?

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