Most doctors agree that proper nutrition is essential in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Along with healthy eating, some vitamins and minerals may help improve ADHD symptoms.
It’s important to consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting to take any supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids are very important in brain development. Not getting enough may affect cell growth.
Omega-3 essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential part of nerve cell membranes. Studies have shown that people with behavioral and learning disorders, including ADHD, have lower blood levels of DHA compared with people who do not have these disorders. DHA is usually obtained from fatty fish, fish oil pills, and krill oil.
Animal studies have also shown that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids leads to lower amounts of DHA in the brain. This may also lead to changes in the brain’s dopamine signaling system. Abnormal dopamine signaling is a sign of ADHD in humans.
Lab animals born with lower levels of DHA also experienced abnormal brain function.
However, some brain functioning normalized when the animals were given DHA. Some scientists believe that the same may be true for humans.
Zinc is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in many bodily functions. Its importance in proper immune system function is well-known. Now scientists are beginning to appreciate the important role zinc plays in brain function.
In recent years, low zinc levels have been linked to a number of brain disorders. These include Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and ADHD. Scientists have an idea that zinc affects ADHD through its influence on dopamine-related brain signaling.
Studies have shown that zinc levels are lower than normal in a majority of children with ADHD. Clinical trials suggest that adding 30 mg of zinc sulfate to one’s diet every day may help reduce the need for ADHD medications.
One study concluded that women who don’t get enough folate, a type of B vitamin, during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with hyperactivity disorders.
Other studies have suggested that taking certain B vitamins, such as B-6, may be beneficial for the treatment of ADHD symptoms.
One study found that taking a combination of magnesium and vitamin B-6 for two months significantly improved hyperactivity, aggression, and inattention. After the study ended, participants reported that their symptoms reappeared after they stopped taking the supplements.
Studies indicate that people with ADHD may be deficient in iron, and taking iron pills may improve symptoms of the disorder.
A recent study used MRI scans to show that people with ADHD have abnormally low levels of iron. This deficiency is linked to a part of the brain having to do with consciousness and alertness.
Another study concluded that taking iron for three months had similar effects to stimulant drug therapy for ADHD. The subjects received 80 mg of iron every day, supplied as ferrous sulfate.
It’s important to talk with your doctor before starting to take supplements. Sometimes supplements can interact with prescription medications and cause serious side effects. Your doctor can also help you determine the best dosage level for you.