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3 Ways to Improve Teen ADHD

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If you know a teen with ADHD, you know how challenging life can be. Use these three simple methods to help reduce ADHD symptoms in teenagers.

If you think about someone with ADHD, you probably think of a young child, right? For many people, ADHD is a young child’s issue. In some cases, you would be right. According to Psych Central, about 60 percent of children with ADHD grow out of it before the teen years.

But what about the other 40 percent? The other 40 percent of children with ADHD grow up to have the same issues in teenhood and adulthood. Authority figures expect a certain level of concentration problems in children, but the older a person gets, the less tolerance others have for differences.

In some cases, ADHD only starts to be a problem in adolescence. For example, starting high school, or even college, could make the symptoms a challenge to life for the first time. Some children may not even notice they are different until they hit the teen years. The problem of ADHD in the teen years can make the struggle of changing into an adult and growing up even more challenging as more is expected from teens and young adults.

Difficulties of Teen and Adult ADHD

ADHD carries many side effects, ranging from concentration issues, to the inability to sit still, to forgetfulness. All of these traits can make life as a teen challenging. For example, a teen with ADHD may have greater difficulty in school, because he or she talks in class, walks around the room, or forgets to turn in homework assignments. A teen with ADHD may have failing grades, or do poorly on written tests.

Teens with ADHD often forget assignments, lose books, get bored in class, interrupt in class, or fidget. Other teens with ADHD may concentrate solely on one task, making it difficult for them to interact with classmates or do well in sports and other social situations. Things that were excused when they were younger because of age are now expected to change- but that may be nearly impossible for the teen with ADHD.

According to some studies cited by Web MD, teens with ADHD are more likely to drink, use drugs, and wind up as heavy drinkers later in life.

ADHD and Driving

Driving is particularly a risk for teens with ADHD. According to Web MD, teens with ADHD are up to four times likely to have a car accident. ADHD teens take unnecessary risks, have immature judgment, are impulsive, and thrill seeking. These same traits are present in most every other teen, but the teen with ADHD may not be able to distinguish the right action to take while driving to avoid unnecessary risks.

However, teens who take steps to manage ADHD symptoms are safer on the road. If your child is a teen with ADHD, addressing the issue through nutrition, supplements, and medication is a necessity to allow them to function normally throughout life.

Studies on Teen ADHD

The outlook for teens who have unaddressed ADHD is not good. One study conducted by the New York University School of Medicine over 20 years from 1975 to 1995 showed that teens with unaddressed ADHD had many problems later in life. The study examined over 500 teens with ADHD until they reached the age of 37. According to the study, these teens and young adults were twice as likely to have mental health issues, twice as likely to have physical health issues, five times as likely to have social disorders, three times as likely to have financial stress, and twice as likely to have trouble at work.

The researchers theorized that perhaps a difficulty bonding with parents at a young age was responsible for some of the difficulties that teens with ADHD face. Some teens with ADHD in the study had an attitude of “why bother” due to the lack of support from authority figures and their parents throughout the years. Researchers speculated that with proper support, teens may see better results despite a diagnosis of ADHD.

Solving Teen ADHD with Nutrition

In 2011, Dutch researchers found that with the right diet, including exclusions of certain foods and inclusion of others, can reduce ADHD symptoms. The study looked at 100 children with ADHD, and after sticking to the diet for five weeks, 64 percent of the children showed reduced symptoms of ADHD and OCD. The diet included a list of foods that seemed to help ADHD symptoms in a previous study from the Institute of Psychiatry in 2000. The diet is known as the restricted elimination diet (RED), featured foods that primarily consisted of hypo-allergenic fruits, vegetables, and protein.

  • Rice
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Berries
  • Citrus
  • Apples
  • Non-dairy rice milk with calcium

Participants in the study were only able to eat the foods suggested by the study. This strict elimination diet eliminated many of the suspect foods that contribute to ADHD symptoms, like food dyes, processed foods, and high amounts of gluten.

Helping Teen ADHD with Diet and Supplements

Several studies have indicated that changes in diet, along with supplementing a variety of nutrients, can help ADHD symptoms and improve concentration. Teens and adults with ADHD can greatly benefit by changing the diet and adding the following supplements to their diet:

Fish Oil

Many studies have shown the benefits of fish oil supplements for a variety of conditions. Most Americans today have an excessive amount of omega 6 fatty acids in the blood, which can lead to excessive inflammation. Studies on children with ADHD have shown the supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil or another source), can help improve concentration and reduce ADHD symptoms. One specific study published in Nutrition Journal in 2008 looked at the levels of omega-6 to omega-3 acids in teens with ADHD. Researchers found that teens with ADHD showed significantly higher levels of omega-6 in the blood, as well as other fatty acid imbalances that indicated that teens with ADHD may not metabolize fatty acids the same way as other children and adults. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids could restore the balance of oils in the body, leading to a reduction in ADHD symptoms.


According to a 2004 study published in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, children with ADHD showed reduced levels of zinc in the body. A zinc deficiency can lead to jitters, attention problems, delayed brain development, and other side effects similar to ADHD symptoms. Zinc is a necessary nutrient for regulating brain chemicals, certain hormones, and fatty acids. Without enough zinc in the body, it is unable to regulate these functions of the body, leading to ADHD symptoms. In the study of over 600 children, 400 were given zinc supplements of 150 mg per day for up to 12 weeks. By the end of the study, the researchers found that supplementing with zinc significantly reduced symptoms of hyperactivity, socialization, and impulsivity. However, results were most significant in children with low zinc levels. Excessive supplementing with zinc can lead to unwanted side effects, like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Consult with a health professional on the appropriate dosage for your teen before adding zinc to your supplement list.

Vitamin B6 and Magnesium

Vitamin B6 (also called pyridoxine) is a metabolism regulator. It also benefits the central nervous system and healthy brain functioning. Vitamin B6 is essential for producting serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. In one 2006 study from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Carémeau in France, 40 children with ADHD were given supplements of a combo of magnesium and vitamin B6. After two months taking 6 mg of magnesium and .6 mg of vitamin B6, children showed a significant reduction in hyperactivity, aggression, and showed improved attention in school. The supplements were stopped for a few weeks in the second phase of the study, and the symptoms of ADHD returned in full force. This indicates that magnesium and vitamin B6 are an essential regulator for ADHD symptoms.

Huperzine A Extract

Huperzine A is an alkaloid extracted from type of Chinese moss. This alkaloid is surprisingly effective at improving brain functioning. A 2002 study from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences indicated that when patients with Alzheimer’s disease supplemented with 400 micro g/day for 12 weeks, they showed an improvement of cognitive function of 4.6 points on the ADAS-Cog scale. In addition to the improvement of cognitive function, participants also saw an improvement in mood and behavior. This study, although not done on teens with ADHD, should benefit ADHD patients by helping regulate the brain and improve behavior, making it easier to function in normal society.

The Elimination Diet

Certain foods and triggers may make ADHD symptoms worse. Sugar, food dyes, and certain other foods could potentially make ADHD symptoms worse. As a parent, you can take steps to find foods that trigger ADHD symptoms and make them worse. Keeping a food diary along with any side effects that certain foods produce in your teen can help you identify foods that make your teen’s ADHD symptoms worse. Working with your teen to eliminate these bad trigger foods can help go a long way in making life easier for your teen. However, if your teen is not willing to give up certain foods, other treatment options may be necessary. Controlling the diet of a teen is a challenge without the consent of the teen. If your teen is willing to try an elimination diet, it can be a highly effective tool at helping control symptoms of ADHD.

Common ADHD Triggers


Supporting Teens With ADHD

Teens with ADHD face hardships that other teens do not. It is harder for a teen with ADHD to function normally in school and society. When a teen’s brain works differently than the rest of his or her peers, it can be a challenge to fit in and do well. In addition to providing the right diet and supplements, parents can also take emotional steps to support a teen with ADHD. Celebrate the victories of an ADHD teen and provide positive emotional support through the teen years.

According to the Psychology Today study, parents who can provide emotional support help teens with ADHD function more easily in everyday life. Supported teens are teens who grow up into healthy, happy, emotionally-stable adults.

Ways to Support an ADHD Teen
  • Celebrate accomplishments 
  • Stay positive 
  • Provide emotional support 
  • Always stay on their side 
  • Avoid excessive criticism 
  • Offer love 
  • Provide the right brain foods

Helping Teens Cope with ADHD

A teen facing the problem of ADHD has a long struggle ahead of him or her. Although scientists are not quite sure of all of the reasons, a teen with ADHD has a brain that works differently from someone who does not have ADHD. It can be a challenge to have an invisible disability, because society expects a teen with ADHD to function like other teens, even though it can be extremely difficult for a teen with ADHD. Studies have indicated that nutritional and supplemental differences are one key issue that can make ADHD symptoms worse.

One of the best ways to support a teen with ADHD is to provide the missing minerals and nutrients through diet and supplements. It may not make the issue go away completely, but anything that lessens ADHD symptoms will help a teen have a normal life. In addition to nutrition, support, love, and a reign on criticism are the best tools that a parent or caretaker can use to support a teen with ADHD. Implementing these steps will make the process a lot easier for you and your teen with ADHD.





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