Can Supplements Help With ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder usually diagnosed in childhood, but symptoms often continue into adulthood. People with ADHD typically have trouble paying attention, have issues with impulse control, and may be overly active. There is no cure for ADHD, but the condition can be managed with medication and therapy. Some people may benefit from adding supplements, but data on effectiveness is limited.

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Avoid vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin found in foods like fish, egg yolks, and fortified products like milk and cereal. The body can also create vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight. Many people, especially those who don’t spend much time outdoors, are deficient in this vitamin. Several studies have shown vitamin D supplements may improve ADHD symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and behavior. Research has also illustrated children with ADHD are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. More data is needed to determine if extra amounts of this vitamin are helpful, but everyone can benefit from avoiding deficiency.

Iron supports the brain

Iron is involved in brain development and human behavior. This vital mineral is a critical cofactor in making neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Studies have shown children with ADHD are more likely to have low iron levels and may benefit from supplementation with this mineral. When iron is given to deficient children with ADHD, significant improvements have been noted, and the treatment is generally well tolerated.

Fish oil for fewer symptoms

Fish oil can be found in fish and supplements and is made up of two different omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 fatty acids are known to support brain health. Although the benefits are small, research has shown people who take fish oil experience fewer ADHD symptoms than people who receive a placebo. A recent meta-analysis also found children with ADHD were more likely to be deficient in fish oil.

Check those levels

Although the research isn’t conclusive on the benefits of taking extra vitamins or supplements, deficiency has been established as a known concern for people with ADHD. A doctor can perform bloodwork to check for deficiencies, including iron, vitamin D, and fish oil. Getting back to a normal level is always advised, and supplementation may be beneficial for deficient patients.

Medication is still the preferred treatment

Prescription medication to treat ADHD remains the gold standard. Different options are available, and this medication can be safely used in children. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another helpful approach to improve symptoms. People who want to take extra supplements, or treat a deficiency, should always let a healthcare provider know so the treatment can be safely used in conjunction with medication and therapy.

The right combination

Supplements can often be touted as a cure-all, but understanding the available research is important. There is no sweeping recommendation for ADHD patients to take extra vitamin D, iron, or fish oil. However, this approach can be considered if a person finds certain supplements helpful in improving symptoms. With the right combination, symptoms can be well controlled, and people with ADHD can live a happy and productive life.


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