Dietary or nutritional supplements are gaining popularity as alternative ADHD treatment, especially nowadays when parents are more aware of the unpleasant side effects of ADHD medications. Furthermore dietary supplements are a lot more natural and cause minimal side effects. Many ADHD supplements are substances that our body already produces and/or obtain from food in the general food supply.
“Supplements”, as the word implies,”supplement” what is inadequate.
Children with ADHD tend to have many nutrient deficiencies, or higher nutrient needs that children without ADHD. Thus, the goal of using ADHD supplements is to support your child’s body with nutrients that are inadequate.
There are many reasons why a child needs dietary supplementation. Your child may not be consuming adequate amount of nutrients from their diet, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Your child may have difficulty digesting and absorbing nutrients. Your child’s body can have a higher demand for the nutrients, such as sulfate for detoxification. Or there may be sluggish metabolic pathways in the body that needs an extra boost of certain nutrients to get these pathways up to speed.
Probiotics and fish oil are the most frequently used alternative ADHD treatments. Many children with ADHD have intestinal issues, such frequent abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and even food allergies. These symptoms are the result of yeast or candida overgrowth due to antibiotic treatment, formula feeding as infant, etc. Probiotics help to repopulate the intestines with beneficial bacteria, improving gut integrity and nutrient absorption.
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are essential structural components of the developing brain. It is found that children with ADHD have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, likely due to poor dietary choices.
L-carnitine not to be confused with CARNOSINE is another substance that tends to run low in children with ADHD. It helps with transporting long-chain fatty acids into mitochondrial for energy production, and may play a role in the production of acetylcholine and possibly dopamine. Both are important brain chemicals.
Then we also have other ADHD supplements that are detoxification superstars, such as alpha lipoic acid, carnosine, glutathione, N-acetylcysteine, selenium, trimethylglycine (TMG) and vitamin C.
Alpha lipoic acid helps with chelation of toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, etc. Carnosine is also a chelating agent for toxic heavy metals, and it also prevents overstimulation of the NMDA-receptor by aspartate (in artificial sweeteners) and glutamate (in MSG). Carnosine, as a strong antioxidant, also helps with reducing the oxidative stress frequently seen in children with ADHD or autism. Glutathione is another detox superstar for detoxifying many environmental toxins and heavy metals. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is another heavy metal chelating agent. Its function is similar to glutathione as NAC is eventually converted to glutathione in the body.
Children with ADHD are found to have mineral deficiencies. This is another area where ADHD supplements may be helpful. Common mineral deficiencies noted in children with ADHD are calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium.
If your child’s diet consists of mostly processed foods, such as chicken nugget, pizza, hot dogs, chances are your child has a few nutrient deficiencies. Many nutrients, such as precious minerals and vitamins are stripped off from the food during processing. As if the processing is not enough to kill the food, food manufacturers add preservatives, artificial flavorings, food colorings. All of these additives to make the food more appealing, but more nutritious. Not to mention that these additives also add to the already hectic workload of the body’s detoxification system.
Vitamins and minerals that are needed in almost all biochemical reactions in the body for generating energy and building materials. Unfortunately, our body has to rely on outside sources for these nutrients. The word “vitamin” means “for life”. Our body cannot make many of these vitamins. And minerals are hard to come by. Minerals are found everywhere on earth, especially in dirt where plants grow. Thus, the best food sources of minerals are fruits and vegetables, except for iron. The heme form of iron is animal products is the easier to absorb, and thus the best source. In order for our mind and body to function well, we need all body systems to be performing their jobs.
For the most part, we know how most of these supplements work and which pathways and chemical reactions they are involved in. However, individual reactions vary widely. This is why it is important to consult a registered dietitian who is experienced and knowledgeable in ADHD supplements.
Just a reminder. Even though many of the supplements discussed here are substances made naturally in our body and/or plants, it is still wise to seek medical advice before embarking on some of these supplements for your child. When using these supplements to treat a condition, the doses used are generally a lot higher than what is usually consumed through food alone. At very high doses, supplements condone therapeutic properties just like medication, and should be regard with same caution as any medication, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
Dietary and nutritional supplements are always a taboo in the medical field because there were hardly any supportive researches and studies. Of course, there are none because pharmaceutical companies do not make money promoting something they cannot patent.
However, more and more patients are looking for alternative treatments that are safer and carry a lot less devastating side effects. You may be lucky to find a healthcare provider who is interested in alternative treatment to accompany you to embark on the exciting journey to improve your child’s behaviors.