If you’ve ever been around someone affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you know how challenging it can be. Children or adults suffering from the disorder often can’t sit still long enough to complete tasks, and staying focused can be impossible. Sometimes more dramatic events occur, which is what happened with my grandson, Casey.
More and more people struggle with ADHD today; a full 10% of children between the ages of five and seventeen were diagnosed in 2015.
Boys are more likely to develop this neural disorder than girls, and nobody was surprised when a pediatrician diagnosed my 7-year-old grandson with ADHD. Besides being short-tempered and hard to get along with at home, Casey always got low marks in classroom conduct and seldom finished his work.
Near the beginning of the school year, he had burst about half the balloons another child brought for a birthday celebration before anything could be done to stop him; children were crying, the teacher was upset, and Casey appeared to be puzzled by the quick turn of events, like he wasn’t sure what happened.
My son and his wife had deep reservations about starting Casey on prescription medication, which the pediatrician said might help reduce symptoms. They hoped that by adding the right supplements to his diet, Casey could learn to behave more appropriately and concentrate on his schoolwork better.
Inappropriate behavior is common for people with ADHD; lower levels of noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain could be the root cause for this.
The result for kids like Casey can be aggression (hopefully only with balloons), and adults may have trouble with job performance, or find themselves incapable of participating in fulfilling relationships.
The Nutritional Connection
Nutrient deficiencies can have significant effects on behavior, and children suffering from ADHD often have eating habits that don’t support good health.
Casey was a “picky” eater, but instead of this just being a phase or a stage, he refused to eat foods with essential nutrients month after month, shunning most vegetables and nearly every protein-rich food he was offered during his fifth and sixth years.
Mom and Dad were torn between waiting it out until he got hungry enough to eat healthy foods, and giving in to his demands because they worried that he needed to eat something, anything! It was not a good position for either Casey or his parents.
When it comes to ADHD supplements, here are three approaches we found that have been helpful, either for Casey or for others:
1. Amino Acids
Every cell in the body requires amino acids to carry out various functions; neurotransmitters firing off signals in our brains depend on these to communicate. Dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine are three names of neurotransmitters. They must have three particular amino acids – tyrosine, phenylalanine and tryptophan – in order to do their jobs.
These three vital amino acids are often found to be low in urine and blood tests of ADHD patients; of those who participated in trials supplementing these particular amino acids, some experienced improvements, while others did not.
Using these types of ADHD supplements didn’t help Casey feel or act calmer. We assumed this meant he didn’t have a shortage of amino acids, but someone else could have an entirely different experience, and these supplements are reasonably priced and easy to find.
2. Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Zinc and iron deficiencies can severely impact a child’s cognitive development, regardless of whether ADHD is part of the picture, and low levels of iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus have been found particularly in children diagnosed with ADHD.
When children affected by ADHD have deficiencies, the most dramatic improvements in behavior seem to come from iron and zinc supplementation.
In one 2008 study, 40 children diagnosed with ADHD were given a supplement containing magnesium and vitamin B6, and their symptoms improved over an 8-week period; when the supplement was stopped, symptoms worsened again.
A similar approach using multivitamins with added minerals helped adults dealing with ADHD to make positive behavioral changes during a two-month trial. B-complex vitamins have also been recommended as an effective supplement, and finding the right combination could be well worth a bit of experimentation.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Children who don’t have ADHD usually have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their systems. When children who do have ADHD are deficient in these vital nutrients, learning disabilities and behavioral problems become more of an issue.
But when omega-3 supplements are added to their diets, many children suffering from ADHD act less impulsive; they don’t feel as restless, and it’s easier for them to curb aggressive behavior.
After Casey had been taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement for three weeks, the difference was clear: he was much calmer in school, and weeks went by with no word from his teacher. He didn’t get frustrated as easily, and the daily fights he used to pick at home with his siblings decreased to occasional squabbles.
Research May Broaden Understanding and Reveal New Solutions
The number of children and adults affected by ADHD continues to grow, and in some cases, simply adding amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, or missing minerals and vitamins can make a positive difference.
Looking into dietary therapies can also be an important step, and many people have had excellent results through eliminating certain foods from the diet, such as sugar and wheat, as well as avoiding food additives and colorings.
Diet and nutrition can both have significant effects on ADHD symptoms, so if you’re looking for a natural approach, these are great places to start.