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The Most Helpful Vitamins For ADHD & Attention
Taking vitamin supplements can help reduce ADHD symptoms.
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a condition that affects an estimated 11 percent of the human population. This incredibly common condition is still misunderstood by many. Although ADHD is now known to be caused mainly by genetics, there are still many misconceptions about the condition.
ADHD is a behavioral disorder characterized by lack of attention, irritability, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is the most commonly diagnosed developmental disorder, affecting 8 - 12 percent of school-aged children.
Though there are several types of potent ADHD prescription medications available, many parents prefer using the natural treatment options which includes vitamins and minerals.
It has been shown that giving essential vitamins and minerals to ADHD inflicted children and adults considerably help in reducing ADHD symptoms.
Read on to learn more about the basics of ADHD and what vitamins have been shown to reduce some of the symptoms of the condition.
ADHD has three main symptoms: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Some individuals with ADHD show mainly one symptom, while others can have all three symptoms. There are many ways that the condition presents, but in general, distractibility, impulsive actions, hyperactivity, and trouble focusing are the hallmarks of ADHD.
Children and adults with ADHD may also have some or all of the following symptoms:
In general, there are three main treatment options for children with ADHD and adults with ADHD. Choices include medication, behavior therapy, or supplements and diet changes. Research has shown that all three methods have merit, although most healthcare professionals state that a combination of medication and behavior therapy is the most effective. The only problem is, most ADHD medications have side effects that can be quite serious. For this reason, many parents (and adults with ADHD) choose to use medication as a last resort. Before then, most ADHD patients try natural remedies, diet changes, or behavior therapy.
Most medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulant medications. These medications improve concentration and decrease impulsiveness. Some ADHD children are also prescribed antidepressants. All forms of ADHD medication have side effects, like headaches, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, irritability, depression, thoughts of suicide, and unexplained death.
Most families benefit both from therapy for the child or adult with ADHD and also other family members. Therapy helps both the person with ADHD and their family learn how to deal with the condition and maximize success.
Since most ADHD medication has serious side effects, it is no wonder why so many are hesitant to take the medication on a long-term basis. Even though focus with ADHD is a challenge, many individuals with ADHD feel that the side effects of ADHD itself are better than the side effects that occur with medication. Luckily, studies have found that certain foods and vitamins for ADHD can help ease some of the worst symptoms. Nothing will entirely cure the condition, but these supplements have been found to reduce some of the worst side effects of ADHD, like poor anger control. Even better, none of these vitamins for ADHD carry any dangerous side effects.
Nutritional deficiencies contribute strongly to the symptoms of ADHD. While the members of the Vitamin B complex are the most common vitamins prescribed for supplementation in people diagnosed with ADHD, other vitamins have secondary roles in the development and treatment of this hyperactivity disorder.
The B vitamins are important in ADHD therapy for two major reasons. First, some of them, especially Vitamin B6 and B12, are essential for the development of the nervous system and the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
Secondly, these B vitamins are needed for the regulation of carbohydrate metabolism. Such regulation is important to balance the glucose level in the blood.
Because sugary foods flood the body with glucose and cause hyperactivity in the process, these vitamins moderate the release of glucose and provide a more balanced energy supply.
Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine is important for the two reasons given above: it is essential for the regulation of carbohydrate (and even protein) metabolism; and it contributes to aspects of brain chemistry and central nervous system.
Vitamin B6 is also needed in the body for the production of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
Symptoms of Vitamin B6 deficiency include irritability, short attention spans and short term memory loss. Supplementation for children diagnosed with ADHD is advised. Daily doses of Vitamin B6 recommended for ADHD is 25-50 mg although high doses have been reported as effective.
Vitamin B6 is naturally found in brown rice, legumes, whole grains and meats.
Vitamin B12 or Cyanocobalamin is needed to support optimal neurological functions. Vitamin B12 deficiency produces some ADHD-like symptoms such as confusion and memory loss.
Supplementation with the vitamin helps improve focus and attention in children diagnosed with ADHD. Along with Vitamin B6 and B9, cyanocobalamin is needed in the body for synthesizing and regulating neurotransmitters.
Other B vitamins useful for treating ADHD include those needed for maintaining general health. These include Vitamin B1 which is useful in the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose. Vitamin B2 is also needed for this purpose.
Vitamin B3 or niacin is important for general metabolism and to improve the absorption of essential minerals and vitamins from the gastrointestinal tract.
Although Vitamin A and E are generally not recommended for any ability to improve brain function, they help people living with ADHD in other ways.
For example, these vitamins are needed for improving vision. Wandering focus and inattentiveness in ADHD children, especially in the classroom, are sometimes due to the fact that their eyesights are not good enough to engage reading materials or see chalkboards.
Vitamin A is the most important natural nutrient for healthy vision. It bounds to the rods and cones of the eyes where it is responsible for capturing light and triggering signals in the optic nerve.
Vitamin E is also important for eye health. Its deficiency can lead to retinopathy, an eye disease.
Both Vitamins A and E are also antioxidants. Therefore, they are essential for mopping up harmful free radicals in the body. In this way, they are also protective and can prevent structural damages in the neurons of the central nervous system.
Fish oil and cod liver oil, which are common supplements recommended for treating ADHD, contain these two vitamins.
Unlike the other vitamins treated in this article, the link between Vitamin D and ADHD is not well understood. However, the vitamin is important in certain key body processes which may contribute to the outcome of ADHD.
First, Vitamin D is known to improve the concentration of glutathione in the brain. Glutathione is an antioxidant useful for counteracting harmful free radicals in the central nervous system. Its protective action prevents damage to the neurons and helps in maintaining brain health.
Secondly, Vitamin D is needed for certain steps in the productions of brain chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine. The roles of these two neurotransmitters are already established in the development and treatment of ADHD.
In addition, Vitamin D enhances the activity of the enzyme, choline acetyltransferase. This is the enzyme responsible for the final step in the product of acetylcholine, the chief brain chemical of the cholinergic branch of the nervous system.
Acetylcholine is known to improve and increase attention span, and its concentration in the brain is directly correlated with the ability to focus for sustained periods of time.
Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for the body. Vitamin C is used to remove chemicals, metals, and other toxic materials from the body through the liver. An unhealthy liver is less able to use vitamin C effectively.
One of the consequences of a modern diet high in sugar is reduced absorption of vitamin C. Even if you eat vitamin C-rich foods and take a daily vitamin C supplement, you will have trouble absorbing the nutrient with a high sugar diet. Cut back on sugar and you will see results in just a few weeks.
In addition to removing toxic material from the body, vitamin C is used for muscle production, boosts the immune system, and helps fight brain damage and cancer. Vitamin C also improves the absorption of iron (many individuals with ADHD are low in iron) and prevents the oxidation of fatty acids. Vitamin C is also necessary for healthy brain function and is considered aneuroprotective agent.
Just how effective are vitamins at treating ADHD symptoms? Several studies have found that adding more of the above vitamins to the diet of a person with ADHD could reduce symptoms of ADHD and improve focus.
In one study, adult patients with ADHD were given general vitamin supplements for two months. After that time, they had modest improvements in hyperactivity, concentration, and other symptoms of ADHD.
Another study found that when men with ADHD took vitamin supplements, they were less likely to get into a road accident.
In these studies, patients were given a mix of vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate, magnesium, ferritin, iron, calcium, zinc and copper.
Adults with ADHD given supplements for eight weeks had a "modest" improvement in concentration span, hyperactivity, and other symptoms, a small-scale study found.
A wide range of nutrients, including vitamin D, iron and calcium, may improve brain functioning, said psychologists in New Zealand.
Another study found medication reduced road accidents in men with ADHD. The study authors had first noted that men with ADHD were more likely to get into road accidents, likely due to impulsive behavior (women with ADHD are not more likely to get into car accidents).
"Our study provides preliminary evidence of the effectiveness for micronutrients in the treatment of ADHD symptoms in adults," the study authors stated.
"This could open up treatment options for people with ADHD who may not tolerate medications, or do not respond to first-line treatments."
Although vitamins for ADHD are effective at reducing the symptoms of ADHD, other nutrients are equally important. The following nutrients have been found to be as beneficial in preventing symptoms as vitamins for ADHD.
As per a study published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, taking zinc supplements can alleviate the symptoms of ADHD or attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder in children.
Zinc is known to regulate the activity of brain chemicals, melatonin, and fatty acids, all of which are connected to behavior.
Higher doses of zinc can be unsafe, so talk to your healthcare practitioner before giving zinc supplements to a child or taking it yourself.
Children with ADHD usually have lower magnesium levels, hence it makes sense that taking magnesium supplements can help in alleviating the hyperactive behavior and improve focus and attention.
Magnesium calms the central nervous system, which is essential in children with hyperactivity symptoms. It is a key factor in the production of serotonin, which an important neurotransmitter that promotes the feeling of calm and well-being.
Fatty acids, primarily omega-3 fatty acids and evening primrose oil, are known as good fats. They play a key role in promoting normal brain function.
Experts have recommended using omega-3 fatty acids as a herbal remedy for ADHD. However, you must consult your doctor to find out if it is suitable for you.
L-carnitine is produced from an amino acid and it helps body cells generate energy. A study involving a group of boys with ADHD found that 54% of them showed development in behavior when taking L-carnitine.
L-carnitine has not been studied for safety in children, so talk to your healthcare practitioner before giving L-carnitine to a child.
If you are looking for safe and alternative treatment for ADHD, then consider using Listol which contains these ingredients: Vitamin B6, Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc.
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that is often used to treat anxiety and mild depression. The herb has been shown to benefit cognitive reasoning, memory, focus, and many of the other common side effects of ADHD. It is possible that the anxiety-relieving effects of the herb eliminate some of the stress that individuals with ADHD feel, allowing them to relax and make better choices about behavior and focus on the problem at hand.
Studies have found that about 40 percent of individuals with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder, or suffer from generalized anxiety. Constant anxiety presents with many of the same concentration problems as anxiety.
Lemon balm is another supportive herb that soothes anxiety and depression. It also has positive effects on irritability and nervousness. Many individuals with ADHD suffer from these co-existing conditions, and supplementing with lemon balm can have a positive effect on these conditions.
Ginseng is included in many energy drinks for its purported boosting powers for memory and concentration. The herb is also known for soothing irritability and nervousness. In one study on children with ADHD who took ginseng supplements, the children taking the supplements had reduced hyperactivity and better behavior and performance at school and work.
Gotu kola is an herb that contains many vitamins and nutrients, including B vitamins and nerve-calming compounds. The herb is considered one of the most beneficial in traditional Indian medication. The herb is linked with soothing many common side effects of ADHD, including poor memory, anxiety, depression, and short attention spans.
Gotu Kola includes many of the nutrients the human body needs, including B vitamins.
Iron deficiencies are common in adults and children with ADHD. It is not clear if a lack of iron contributes to ADHD or if individuals with ADHD have a harder time absorbing iron, but individuals who are low in iron are more likely to show symptoms of irritability and cognitive impairment. Additionally, many individuals with low iron also show symptoms of learning disabilities.
Some research suggests that children and adults with ADHD have a high level of yeast and unhealthy bacteria in their guts. In one study, study authors found that a third of children with ADHD tested were found to have harmful bacteria in their intestines. This harmful bacteria can cause a wide range of symptoms in the brain. Scientists are not yet sure why intestinal bacteria plays such a crucial role in mental health, but some evidence and studies have found that when individuals with ADHD supplement with probiotics, their symptoms recede somewhat.
Protein is essential for healthy brain function. Without enough protein, the brain starves. A lack of protein also causes higher surges in blood sugar, which can cause hyperactivity. Children and adults with ADHD should add beef, pork, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, nuts, and dairy to the diet regularly for benefits on hyperactivity and concentration. Try to add a source of protein to every meal for the biggest benefits.
Pycnogenol is an extract made from pine bark. This extract was found to improve concentration, sharpen attention, lessen hyperactivity, and improve visual-motor coordination after supplementing with the extract for one month in a double blind study from 2006.
Rhodiola Rosea is a plant native to the Arctic. The herb was found in some studies to boost alertness, accuracy, and attention in children with ADHD. Some evidence suggests that this herb is too strong for young children and should not be used for children younger than 12. The best application for the herb is older children and adults who must concentrate for extended periods, such as for students who have to complete a term paper.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that can improve motivation and prevent distraction. Tyrosine
is necessary to synthesis neurotransmitters in the brain associated with mood and motivation. This amino acid is found naturally in foods like nuts, cheese, turkey, and fish, but it is most useful in larger concentrations found in supplement form.
If you have ADHD, there is an equal number of foods that have been linked with making ADHD symptoms worse. If you wish to go the natural route and avoid the need for medication, take a careful look at this list and try to avoid the foods on this list the majority of the time. Occasional splurges are fine, but if these foods are in the diet constantly, they will make ADHD symptoms worse and may negate some of the positive influences of the best vitamins for ADHD.
Sugar is not healthy for anyone. Some studies have suggested that it makes hyperactivity worse in children with ADHD (some have also shown the opposite). Regardless of whether sugar actually makes a person more likely to be hyperactive, it isn't healthy in large doses. Children who eat a lot of sugar usually do not get enough quality nutrients, and that can have effects on behavior.
Some individuals with ADHD are also sensitive to gluten or have a gluten allergy. Some parents have found that eliminating gluten from their child's diet improved behavior. If you notice worse ADHD symptoms when gluten is consumed, try eliminating it for a few months and see if symptoms of ADHD improve.
Not all dairy is bad, but cow's milk may be a trigger for some children and adults with ADHD. Cow's milk contains A1 casein protein, which may cause a reaction and increased hyperactivity. Try eliminating dairy from the diet for a few weeks and see if symptoms improve.
Some individuals with ADHD are more sensitive to food additives. Studies have found that about 10-30 percent of children with ADHD are sensitive to food additives. These additives can trigger hyperactivity and behavior problems. If you notice that symptoms of ADHD increase after food dyes are consumed, try eliminating them from the diet for a few weeks. Look carefully for added dyes in processed foods, snacks, and toothpastes.
MSG and HVP are another two food additives commonly associated with worsening ADHD symptoms. These additives are suggested as decreasing dopamine levels and leading to low mood, irritability, and depression.
Nitrates are linked to a wide variety of health problems, including cancer, IBS, and difficulty breathing. Restlessness, another common side effect, is attributed as a side effect of nitrates and can make ADHD worse.
Artificial sweeteners are not good for you, but in addition to simply being unhealthy, they may also make ADHD symptoms worse. The sweeteners can cause biochemical changes in the body, which can upset emotional balance and hurt cognitive function.
Soy is a known hormone disruptor. Soy is linked with causing too-high estrogen production in boys and can also upset the hormonal balance of girls and women. Soy can also disrupt hormones that make ADHD symptoms worse.
It is possible to be allergic to a food and not know it. Common allergens include shellfish, nuts, peanuts, eggs, dairy, wheat, gluten, corn, and soy. Some fruit and vegetables can also cause an allergic reaction in some people (such as pineapple and strawberries). If you are allergic to a food without knowing it, it may be causing ADHD symptoms without you knowing it. The best way to test for hidden allergies is to get an official allergy test.
In addition to vitamins for ADHD and other helpful supplements, some lifestyle changes could be effective at reducing the symptoms of ADHD. Try implementing these lifestyle changes for ADHD in addition to adding vitamins for ADHD to your diet and watch your symptoms lessen.
A balanced diet can help prevent some of the symptoms of ADHD that occur due to imbalances in hormones or blood sugar spikes. Try filling half the plate with fruit and vegetables, a quarter with protein, and the last quarter with whole-grain, complex carbs like whole grain bread or whole wheat pasta. Filling your plate in this way will ensure you receive the right balance of nutrients for a healthy diet and that will ensure you are getting enough vitamins for ADHD.
Some studies have found that essential oils applied topically or diffused into the air can have big benefits on concentration and focus. A study published in the American Medical Association Journal found that cedarwood and vetiver oil were the most effective at calming and focusing children with ADHD. Peppermint oil is linked with improving concentration, memory, and alertness. Ylang ylang and lavender provide a calming agent and frankincense improves cognitive function and clarity, according to the study authors.
It can be hard for a parent of a child with ADHD to not respond negatively to poor behavior. However, it is important to focus on what the child is doing right. Instead of looking for ways to punish bad behavior, look for ways to praise and reward the good behavior you see. Try to give your child tasks that you know they will succeed in.
One of the biggest side effects of ADHD is disorganization. It is difficult for a person with ADHD to stay organized, but there are solutions. For a child, try having a specific place for homework, shoes, clothes, etc. so they are harder to lose. Adults can use phone reminders or written to-do lists to keep track of important events and deadlines.
Exercise is good for the body on multiple levels. It can help relieve stress, reduce anxiety, focus the mind, and balances hormones. A person with ADHD should try to exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes per session.
Children and adults with ADHD may need more sleep than their counterparts because it can often take a while to fall asleep at night. A rested mind is easier to focus and it is much easier for a person with ADHD to avoid impulsive and irritable responses if they are well-rested. Aim for between 8 and 10 hours a night. Some children may benefit from nearly 12 hours a sleep a night, depending on their age. Diffusing a relaxing, anti-anxiety oil, like lavender, in the room can help calm a person with ADHD and promote restful sleep.
If you or a person you love has ADHD, you don't have to take medication. While thousands of people find that medication is helpful and the right treatment option, others do not want the side effects of medication and prefer natural treatments. Luckily, vitamins for ADHD do work as well as the other herbal supplements and lifestyle changes outlined in this article. If you don't want to medicate ADHD, you don't have to suffer with the full effect of the condition. Herbal remedies and vitamins for ADHD can make a positive difference.
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