printer-friendly version   Printer-Friendly Version  

ADHD Diet: Food Supplements

The manufacturing processes used by the food industry today gives rise to food items that are depleted, if not totally devoid of the vitamins and nutrients they once contained.  By the time a product hits store shelves, foods that are supposedly rich in nutrients only have a fraction of the nutrients they once had.  Although there are a lot of organic vegetables and meats available now, the fast-paced lifestyle of the Western world makes it difficult for families to prepare meals from scratch. Often the pre-cooked, instant meals available in grocery stores contain ingredients that have been processed to death. As a result, many children today are deficient in important nutrients.

Nutritionists and doctors have developed several diets designed to help children with ADHD cope with the disorder.  Although there are many kinds of ADHD diets, their very essence involves removing food allergies or intolerances, detoxifying the body, and replenishing any deficient nutrients they may have. Often, these diets are complemented by food supplements.  Below are some of the food supplements that are recommended for children with ADHD.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Most children would rather eat junk food and candy rather than deep sea fish and green leafy vegetables.  This is unfortunate because those foods are natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed by the brain to perform higher functions like reasoning.  Studies have shown that children with ADHD have omega 3 fatty acid deficiencies, and there are several studies that document how children with ADHD were able to overcome most of their symptoms after weeks of taking omega-3 supplements. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you should definitely consider giving him omega-3 supplements. Some omega-3 formulations are better than others for ADHD. We will explore that topic in more details in another article.

Zinc

Most children with ADHD are also deficient in zinc, a nutrient that regulates neurotransmitter activity.  Besides hyperactivity and inattention, zinc deficiencies can cause other behavioral and mental problems like depression, lethargy, and mental retardation.  Clinical trials have confirmed that giving daily zinc supplements to children with ADHD resulted in marked improvements in behavior and school performance.

Iron

Besides synthesizing and regulating the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, iron supplements have another surprising benefit for children with ADHD: it helps neutralize the effects of lead exposure.  Lead affects the production of dopamine and inhibits the interaction between dopamine and dopamine receptors. Iron regulates the transmission of brain signals and gives nutrients easier passageway to the brain. However, iron can be toxic in high doses. This is why iron should only be supplemented after its deficiency has been confirmed by a blood test.

Calcium and Magnesium

Calcium and magnesium play important roles in hundreds of chemical processes in the body and brain. Some of these include regulating energy levels (magnesium) and stimulating the release of neurotransmitters (calcium).  A deficiency in both nutrients may explain why children with ADHD are chronically hyperactive, inattentive, and experience other health problems.  Not surprisingly, some studies have shown that children who were given supplements of calcium and magnesium experienced improved concentration, less irritability, and improved overall behavior.

Vitamin B6 

Vitamin B6 is another important vitamin needed for brain development and synthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  Besides these functions, vitamin B6 also helps magnesium get absorbed into the bloodstream. Using Vitamin B6 supplements together with magnesium supplements is one of the most important things you can do for your ADHD child. 

Although all these food supplements seem beneficial to children with ADHD, remember that they are not a magic bullet to the disorder.  Like any treatment for ADHD, not all supplements will work for all children.  Speak to your nutritionist before giving any food supplements to your child and ask about the appropriate dosages. You can also invest in the Unritalin Solution, where we give more precise recommendations.