Children and adults who live with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) typically have excessive amounts of energy and experience difficulty with concentration and impulsiveness. The root causes of this neurological and behaviour-related condition appear to be genetics along with environmental factors, including dietary choices. In this latter category, some experts say that the widespread use of chemical food additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and refined sugar, as well as nutritional deficiencies and food allergies, all contribute to the causes of ADHD. Along those lines, it’s been shown that some natural supplements can help with ADHD symptoms.
Treating ADHD with conventional options
The go-to conventional treatments for ADHD are usually the amphetamine (and highly addictive) Adderall, and the central nervous system stimulant Ritalin. The side effects of these drugs are daunting: agitation, anxiety, nervousness, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, and nervousness for Ritalin; hallucinations, high blood pressure, irregular or fast heartbeats, mood swings, and muscle twitches for Adderall.
Treating ADHD with natural supplements
Several natural supplements have demonstrated an ability to relieve symptoms of ADHD while also avoiding the side effects of medication. Before starting any supplement program, you should discuss your ideas and dosing with your healthcare provider.
B-complex vitamins. The B vitamins are known for their role in the development and smooth functioning of the nervous system and the production of serotonin, a calming hormone. Children with ADHD may benefit from taking 50 mg daily of a B-complex supplement.
Fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are prevalent in fish oil, are essential for normal brain development and function. Some research indicates that children with ADHD have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids and higher omega-6 levels when compared with kids without this disorder. These imbalances also correlate significantly with symptoms, which suggests a healthier balance of these fatty acids may be beneficial. Supplementation with omega-3s has been shown to help with emotional stability and behaviour in kids with ADHD. A suggested dose is 1,000 mg daily.
GABA. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that blocks nerve impulses, thus not allowing them to fire too often. GABA is often seen as a natural calming chemical that also plays a role in muscle tone. A comparison of the levels of GABA in children with and without ADHD has shown that kids with the neurological condition have a deficit of this important neurotransmitter, which has demonstrated its role in impulsivity and motor control in healthy adults.
It is unclear whether taking GABA supplements can be beneficial for kids with ADHD, as there is scarce research on the topic. However, there are many positive anecdotal reports, so use of this supplement may be a winner for your child, but be sure to talk to your doctor first to discuss dosing.
Ginseng. Phytochemicals in ginseng called ginsenosides possess antioxidant and neuroprotective features, which can be beneficial for managing ADHD symptoms. Some research has involved giving Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) to children with ADHD, and the result has been an improvement in attention and cognitive function. One suggested dosage is 1,000 mg twice daily.
Multi-mineral supplement. Deficiencies of certain minerals (e.g., calcium, magnesium, and zinc) have been shown to be associated with worse ADHD symptoms. Therefore, use of a multi-mineral supplement, which provides a balance of minerals, is recommended and may help calm the nervous system. Suggested doses of these three minerals are 500 mg calcium, 250 mg magnesium, and 5 mg zinc twice a day.
Probiotics. Daily dosing with beneficial bacteria, aka probiotics, is suggested because of the connection between intestinal (gut) and digestive health and brain function. A suggested probiotic supplement should contain at least several different species and strains of bacteria, and dosing should reach at least 25 to 50 billion colony forming units (CFUs) daily.
Pycnogenol. A standardized extract obtained from the bark of the French maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) is an excellent source of various phytochemicals, some of which have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms. For example, in a placebo-controlled, double- blind trial involving 61 children, use of Pycnogenol for one month resulted in symptom improvement, especially attentiveness, hyperactivity, and visual-motor coordination.
Written by Deborah Mitchell. Deborah Mitchell is passionate about personal health and the well-being of animals and the planet. She has authored, coauthored, and ghostwritten more than 40 books, contributes regularly to several websites, and shares information on physical, emotional, and spiritual health on her blog, deborahmitchellbooks.com.
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