The Ultimate Guide to Supplements for ADHD in 2023

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that significantly impacts the daily lives of millions of people. Symptoms often include difficulty concentrating, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. While there is no cure for ADHD, proper treatment and management can help individuals with the disorder lead more productive and fulfilling lives.

In addition to traditional treatments such as prescription medications and therapy, supplements for ADHD can play an important role in helping manage symptoms.

These supplements can improve focus, reduce impulsivity, and boost cognitive function.

This article will explore natural ADHD supplements, including which are most effective and how they should be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.

Understanding ADHD

ADHD is a behavioral condition that affects a person’s ability to function in social, academic, or work environments due to severe and frequent inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

While most people experience these behaviors occasionally, those with ADHD experience them more frequently and to a greater degree.

Based on the most prevalent symptoms, the condition is classified into three subtypes (Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined). It’s important to note that symptom clusters can change as individuals mature and develop [1].

ADHD’s root cause remains uncertain, but research suggests that the disorder is linked to changes in brain areas that handle executive function, memory, and information processing[2][3].

These changes may involve structural and neurochemical differences. Norepinephrine and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that impact these brain regions, are generally lower in individuals with ADHD than those without.

ADHD is highly influenced by genetics. If you have a parent or sibling with ADHD, your risk of developing it increases by 2-8 times. Pooled twin studies indicate that ADHD is approximately 80% heritable[4].

Symptoms may start during childhood, but some adults continue to experience symptoms that can disrupt their daily life.

Many adults with ADHD are not even aware they have the condition. Research suggests that persistent adult ADHD (which started during childhood) affects an estimated 2.5% of the global population, while symptomatic adult ADHD is estimated to affect 6.7% [5].

ADHD symptoms can differ in adults versus children. Hyperactivity in children shows through running, jumping, or making noise. But for adults, hyperactivity comes as restlessness or scattered thoughts[6]. Additionally, adult-specific symptoms include struggling to prioritize tasks, plan, manage time, and regulate emotions[7][8].

Various natural supplements have been studied for ADHD, which we’ll discuss in detail below.

The Best Supplements that May Improve ADHD Symptoms

Magnesium

Magnesium significantly impacts the regulation of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which can affect ADHD and depression.

One study showed that co-supplementation of magnesium improved behavior and mental health in ADHD children [9].

Although there is limited evidence, magnesium supplementation may be useful for children with ADHD who may suffer from magnesium deficiency. It could be beneficial as a supplementary therapy alongside standard drug therapy, although its effectiveness is yet to be fully determined.

Vitamin D

Research suggests vitamin D, alongside medication, can help improve behavior and mental health in children with ADHD. On the other hand, low vitamin D levels in mothers during early to mid-pregnancy may increase the risk of their children developing ADHD [10].

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Studies have shown that taking fish oil supplements containing the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA can benefit those with ADHD. DHA in doses over 300mg has been found to reduce symptoms in children.

Additionally, EPA alone may have some benefits. One study found that children between the ages of two and six with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, performed better on cognitive tests[11][12].

Melatonin

ADHD patients frequently experience sleep disorders. The delay in their circadian rhythm contributes to this, making their body’s sleep response to melatonin slower than normal. According to one study, taking a low dose of melatonin helped those with ADHD and delayed sleep phase syndrome and is most effective in shifting circadian rhythm when taken three hours before DLMO [13][14].

Zinc

Zinc is a vital mineral for brain health as it helps with brain function, and a deficiency can impact other important nutrients. Children with a zinc deficiency may show signs similar to ADHD, including jitteriness, inattention, and delayed cognitive development. Taking 15 mg/day of zinc supplements with methylphenidate (1 mg/kg/day) can improve symptoms of ADHD, as reported by parents and teachers over a 6-week trial [15].

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba boosts blood flow and serotonin/norepinephrine signaling in the brain, potentially helping ADHD symptoms. It seems to have a mild positive effect, but the EGb-761 extract (80-120mg) is less effective than ADHD medications, such as Ritalin (20-30mg) for managing symptoms [16].

Iron

Iron deficiency seems to be correlated with ADHD. Research has shown that individuals with ADHD exhibit lower serum ferritin levels than those without the condition. A small pilot study involving 23 children with ADHD and low serum ferritin levels found that a daily intake of 80mg iron supplementation significantly improved inattention and restless leg syndrome compared to a placebo. Furthermore, combining 5mg/kg/day of an iron supplement with 1mg/kg/day of methylphenidate improved hyperactivity and impulsiveness in these children [15][17].

Multi-vitamins

Adults with ADHD frequently lack vital vitamins such as folate, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and compounds that can aid brain function, like choline, lycopene, and inositol. In addition, while vitamin C deficiencies are uncommon, taking a supplement might help reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Therefore, research indicates that supplementing with vitamins and minerals may improve symptoms of ADHD. Although data on vitamin levels in ADHD are limited, micronutrients containing vitamins are said to reduce ADHD symptoms[18].

Safety and Precautions

When it comes to ADHD treatment, it’s important to take certain precautions. Consulting an experienced healthcare professional before starting any supplement is essential for proper guidance and dosage.

Monitoring for side effects and potential interactions with other supplements or medication is also important. When choosing supplements, look for products with high-quality ingredients tested by regulatory bodies.

Lastly, it’s important to combine supplements with other forms of treatment for optimal results, as supplements alone cannot provide a complete cure for ADHD.

Additional Natural Remedies for ADHD

Various natural remedies & alternative treatments have been shown to help treat ADHD symptoms. For instance, nutrition is an essential factor in managing symptoms.

Research has shown that a diet low in fruits and vegetables can lead to more severe ADHD symptoms, while a diet high in refined grains has the potential to reduce these symptoms. Additionally, an 8-week study of supplementing omega−3 helped to reduce impulsivity in children with ADHD [19].

Movement is a highly recommended natural treatment for children and adults with ADHD. Physical activity has been proven to promote dopamine release and raise brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. Research has demonstrated that physical activity regulates behavior, increases attention, and improves overall symptoms of ADHD and executive function [20][21].

For children and adolescents with ADHD who struggle with sleep disturbances and insomnia, mindfulness meditation has shown promising results as a remedy. Mindfulness-oriented meditation can improve sleep quality and problematic behaviors commonly associated with ADHD.

Conclusion

When it comes to managing ADHD symptoms, a holistic approach is important. Supplements can be effective tools in management, but it is essential to remember that they should be used with professional guidance.

Before starting any ADHD medication, seeking medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider is key. Taking ownership of your health and well-being with an individualized approach can empower you to manage your symptoms effectively.

With the right combination of supplements, natural remedies, and professional guidance, you can take control of your ADHD and live a more fulfilling life.

REFERENCES:

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.