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How Omega 3 Levels Affect ADHD

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With rising ADHD rates among today's kids (even among girls), researchers and parents are questioning the cause. Is ADHD genetic and we are just better at identifying it, or is there something else going on like vitamin deficiencies? New research suggests that although it may not provide a permanent cure, supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce ADHD symptoms in children and adults. Read more about this research below.

Omega 3 fats are an essential fatty acid required by the body to function. However, most Americans are far too low in omega 3s, which causes problems like heart disease, inflammation, joint pain, acne, and even worsened ADHD symptoms.

If you do not want to medicate ADHD, adding omega 3 supplements to your other vitamin and mineral supplement routine may be an effective treatment for ADHD symptoms. Read on to see what research supports the use of omega 3 fats for ADHD.

What are Omega 3s?

Omega 3 fatty acids are a polyunsaturated acid that have surprisingly large health benefits. Omega 3 fats are able to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve the immune system, reduce blood clotting, and even improve arthritis symptoms.

Research also suggests that these necessary fats are also beneficial in reducing symptoms of ADHD. Broken down, omega 3 fats have three types: ALA, DHA, and EPA. The body cannot make these fats on its own, but uses them for many of the body's processes, which is why they are so essential.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommend that adults and children consume about one or two grams of omega 3 fats per day. One serving of fish only has 0.2 grams, which means you'll need a lot of fish every day to get to optimal levels. Most Americans find it much easier to supplement with fish oil capsules to ensure they receive enough omega 3 fats daily.

The Study Findings

In The Netherlands study from 2015, researchers examined the effects of omega 3 supplementation on boys with and without ADHD. Most of the boys with ADHD were also taking stimulant medication. For 16 weeks, all children took omega 3 supplements. The children took an attention test before and after the trial period. Both groups of boys had improved attention scores after supplementing with omega 3s.

However, the boys with ADHD improved the most with their scores increasing by nearly two points. Boys without ADHD only improved by 0.1 point. How can Omega 3s Benefit ADHD? Studies show that omega 3 fats can have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms.

According to a child and adolescent psychiatrist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Anthony Rostain, the findings in recent studies "helps to confirm what we already know." Research has indicated for quite a while that omega 3 can influence ADHD symptoms.

Researchers are not sure how omega 3s benefit ADHD symptoms, except that they promote brain health and functioning. ADHD is a neurological disorder in the brain that is usually treated with stimulant medication that helps the brain function properly. If omega 3 fats have a similar effect on boosting brain power, it makes sense that they could reduce ADHD symptoms.

Previous research has also found that children with ADHD tend to be lower in omega 3 regardless of how much they consume. This also suggests that children with ADHD have trouble processing nutrients of any kind. However, omega 3 supplements only usually show moderate improvement in ADHD symptoms rather than a dramatic improvement.

Symptoms are controlled best when a multi-faceted approach is implemented, which can include other supplements, diet changes, and behavior therapy.

How to Add Omega 3 to Your Diet

There are two ways to add omega 3 to your diet: food or supplements.

Food Sources of Omega 3 
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Seafood
  • Shellfish
  • Oysters
  • Fish
  • Walnuts

Supplements come in a variety of forms, but most researchers suggest looking for supplements that are high in DHA and EPA rather than ALA, which must be converted to the other two forms of omega 3 before it can be used. Children can start taking one capsule per day and gradually increasing to an adult dose twice a day, watching for any signs of reactions. For best results, combine omega 3 supplements with other natural treatments for ADHD.

Other Steps to Cure ADHD Naturally

Omega 3 fats are not the only way to cure ADHD naturally. You may find that some of these other steps help a lot, too! Vitamins and Supplements Numerous studies indicate that children with ADHD are often low in the same vitamins and minerals. Children with ADHD are often low in B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, iron, and vitamin D. These results are consistent across countries, suggesting that children with ADHD may need higher levels of these vitamins than the average person and require supplementation to reach optimal levels.

Although there is no proven connection, some researchers hypothesize that children and adults with ADHD may have trouble absorbing certain nutrients. Adding these extra vitamins and supplements into a person with ADHD's diet can help reduce symptoms of ADHD significantly.

Diet

Diet may play a role in ADHD as well. Certain preservatives and food dyes may worsen symptoms of ADHD. The easiest way to determine if there is a link between foods and ADHD symptoms is to try an elimination diet. Cut out all artificial dyes and preservatives for a month, then add them back in one at a time. If ADHD symptoms worsen after adding a food additive back into the diet, then the child is sensitive to that ingredient. Of course, food dyes and chemical additives are never healthy, so leaving them out of the diet will always have positive benefit even if ADHD symptoms are not directly affected.

Exercise

Exercise is beneficial for everyone, but it may be particularly effective for individuals with ADHD. Children and adults with ADHD must fidget and move about constantly, and regular exercise allows the opportunity to burn off that built-up restless energy. Children with ADHD benefit from hourly "exercise breaks" where they are allowed to wiggle around, run around outside, or otherwise shift and move. This will help them concentrate better when its time to return to focused tasks.

Omega 3 Can Help ADHD

Numerous studies indicate that omega 3 supplementation can be highly effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Parents who are not ready to turn to medication for their children, or who want to avoid it altogether, can use omega 3 supplements combined with other vitamin and mineral supplements to regulate ADHD naturally and prevent attention problems and emotional outbursts. In many cases, it may not be necessary to turn to addictive ADHD medication at all.

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