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ADHD Natural Remedies: B Vitamins

Despite the fact that developed countries have the best food supply in the world, a majority of children and adults do not obtain sufficient amounts of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients from the food they eat. In fact, some epidemiological studies have shown that more than 90% of the population is deficient in at least one nutrient. As I have explained in other articles in this series, nutrient deficiencies play an important role in triggering ADHD, and this is one of the reasons why this disorder is so prevalent in these countries.

The reason for using natural ADHD remedies is to correct the nutrient imbalances found in the person who suffers from the disorder. Among the many remedies, B vitamins play a crucial role in the case of ADHD. In general, B vitamins have two essential functions. First, they help synthesize carbohydrates into glucose or simple sugars, the fuel needed by the brain to function optimally.  Although sugary junk food and snacks do contain sugars, these sugars are often short-lived and easily consumed, producing a “crash” that makes achild irritable and unfocused.  With the help of B vitamins, the body can produce a steady supply of glucose that lasts longer than processed sugar.

The second role of B vitamins is related to brain function and directly addresses the biological cause of ADHD.  B vitamins, particularly Vitamin B6, help ensure proper functioning of the nervous system by promoting the development of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  These neurotransmitters control impulses, distractibility, and excitable behavior. 

A clinical trial lead by Dr. Arnold Brenner MD confirmed the benefits of using B vitamin supplements on children with ADHD, as well as its limitations. Over the course of three days, he gave 100 children with ADHD large doses of Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and a placebo. Nine children showed remarkable improvements in behavior after receiving 300 mg of Vitamin B1 daily; four children needed more amounts of Vitamin B6 before showing any improvements. Although half of the children responded well to Vitamin B6, it seemed that their symptoms worsened when they received Vitamin B1. Like any treatment for ADHD, be they vitamin supplements or prescription drugs, B vitamins will not work for all children. 

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 or thiamin is the B vitamin responsible for converting carbohydrates into glucose.  Thiamin can be found in whole-grain bread, red meat, green leafy vegetables, sweet corn, brown rice, and legumes. Daily dose should be 25-50 mg.

Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, breaks down carbohydrates and helps maintain good skin. Milk, whole-grain products, and peas are rich sources of riboflavin. Daily dose should be 25-50 mg.

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is essential for the metabolism of food and the maintenance of a healthy gastrointestinal tract.  Niacin can be found in protein-rich foods like meats, potatoes, legumes, and peanuts. Daily dose should be 50-100 mg

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is used to synthesize carbohydrates and proteins.  It plays a crucial role in the formation of several brain neurotransmitters. Like most B vitamins, it can be found in meats, whole-grain foods, brown rice, and legumes. Daily dose should be 25-50 mg, although some research suggests higher doses for some children with ADHD or autism.

Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, or folic acid, synthesizes DNA together with Vitamin B12.  Vitamin B9 is also used to break down proteins and to form hemoglobin.  Vitamin B9 is produced by the bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, but it can also be found in green vegetables and whole-grain foods. Daily dose should be around 800 mcg

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps synthesize DNA. It plays, with vitamins B6 and B9, a crucial role in a process called methylation (see below). Daily dose should be 500 -1000 mcg, ideally in the form of methylcobalamin.

Vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are particularly important for children and adults with ADHD because they are essential for a process called methylation. Methylation is involved in the function of neurotransmitters, in controlling inflammation, in detoxifying the body, and in the antioxidant system. Some studies have shown that methylation is affected in children with ADHD and autism.