ADHD Supplements

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 than 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 as well.

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 families 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.

I found this supplement on Amazon, which has a pretty variety of herbal supplements and vitamins proven to help with ADHD symptoms, and the review from people who’ve tried it seems promising…

Common ADHD Medications

Meth vs Adderall lab

As a board-certified specialist in pediatric nutrition, I see children with ADHD frequently, mostly for just 2 reasons why these patients are referred to me. These children are either failure to thrive due to the anorexic side effects of ADHD medications OR newly diagnosed ADHD and parents wants to try the “natural way” or “diet” first.

Based on these, we know the side effects of ADHD medications are real and parents are aware. Besides, people also know that ADHD can be treated with changing diets.

It is true that ADHD medications can help reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity in children and adults with ADHD. However, these medications come with side effects and risks—very bad side effects and very risky outcomes.

Remember, ADHD medications don’t cure ADHD. They are only for symptoms relief to make life easier for the adults (namely the parents and teachers). Don’t forget there are many other alternative options for ADHD treatment. ADHD medications are just “boo-boo bandaid” for the problem without treating the underlying causes.

Needless to say, ADHD medications do work well for some. And in some cases, it is necessary.

I once have this family who is adamant about not starting ADHD medication on their young. Like I said, in some cases, medication is probably a good idea, at least for the short-term while trying to fix the body.

This child is WILD…one parent had to literally hold her down with both arms to keep her to stay in the exam room. And when not paying attention, this child would just dash out of the door and down the hall. The parents had to literally chase her down to bring her back.
This is the situation where the child needs medication.

ADHD medications do not work for everyone. And not to mention the many unpleasant side effects, it’s important to know the facts about ADHD medications so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your child and family.

And administration of ADHD medications should always be personalized and closely monitored by a trained psychiatrist (not psychologist or your pediatrician).

How Do ADHD Medications Work?

There are two classification of ADHD medications: stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants are the most common type of medication prescribed for ADHD. They have the longest track record for treating ADHD and the most research to back up their effectiveness.

Stimulant ADHD medications include:
• Amphetamine (Adzenys XR ODT, Evekeo)
• Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine (Adderall and Adderall XR)
• Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, ProCentra, Zenzedi)
• Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin and Focalin XR)
• Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
• Methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate CD and Metadate ER, Methylin and Methylin ER, Ritalin, Ritalin SR, Ritalin LA, Quillivant XR)

For many people with ADHD, stimulant medications boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Stimulants are believed to work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain by inhibiting its re-uptake mechanism. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. There is concern that the re-uptake inhibition may deplete neurotransmitters throughout the body and potential neurotoxicity of amphetamine.

Non-stimulant medications

In addition to the traditional stimulant drugs, there are several other non-stimulant medications used to treat ADHD. In cases where stimulants don’t work or cause unpleasant side effects, non-stimulants might be used. These include certain antidepressants and blood pressure medications, and are shown to improve concentration and impulse control.

Non-stimulant ADHD medications include:
• Amitriptyline (Elavil), desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor), or other tricyclic antidepressants
• Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
• Escitalopram (Lexapro) and sertraline (Zoloft)
• Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Atomoxetine (Strattera) was the first and only non-stimulant ADHD medications approved by the FDA. Unlike stimulants, which affect dopamine, Strattera boosts the levels of norepinephrine, a different brain chemical.

Warning, Strattera may cause an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions in some children and teenagers, especially if your child has bipolar disorder or depression in addition to ADHD.

This is a tough choice. Do I want a hyper child? Or do I want a suicidal child? Hmmm…

Guanfacine (Intuniv) is also approved for children and teens between ages 6 and 17.

Certain blood pressure medications, such as clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine (Tenex), has also been approved for treating ADHD. While these medications can be effective for hyperactivity, impulsivity, and aggression, they are not as effective when it comes to attention problems. These medications can also cause daytime drowsiness. If this happens, reducing the dose or spacing it out over the course of the day may solve the problem. If not, ask your doctor about trying another non-stimulant medication.

For people suffering from both ADHD and depression, certain antidepressants, which target multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, may be prescribed. Wellbutrin, also known by the generic name bupropion, is most widely used. Wellbutrin targets both norepinephrine and dopamine.

Another option is the use of tricyclic antidepressants, such as Imipramine (Tofranil), desipramine (Norpramine), and nortriptyline (Pamelor). Unlike the stimulant medications, tricyclic medications must be tapered off slowly. Stopping abruptly can cause aches and other flu-like symptoms.

In some children, tricyclics can affect brain wave activity. If your child has a seizure disorder, a tricyclic might exacerbate the problem. Discuss this matter with your doctor before starting your child on a tricyclic.

Tricyclics have also been known to affect the electrical conduction pattern within the heart, triggering a rapid pulse. This is a rare side effect, and it generally stops once the medication is stopped.

We have not even dive into all the side effects of ADHD medications, and so far, there are some very scary ones. Knowing what you are dealing with helps to make better decisions for your child and family.

Don’t rush into making a decision. ADHD symptoms can also be the results of other medical conditions or even malnutrition or nutrient deficiencies.

Related article: ADHD Symptoms or Something Else

Take your time to rule out other possibilities, weigh your options and get your child’s input in the decision-making process.

A friend of mine recently was faced with the decision to start ADHD medication for her daughter. The psychiatrist explained to her daughter why she needs medication, and her daughter flat out told both my friend and the psychiatrist “no, i don’t need medication! I can focus on my own”. For sure, after that doctor’s visit, my friend’s daughter changed her behaviors and start showing more focus and completing tasks as expected.

Trust your instincts and do what feels right to you. Don’t let anyone—be it your physician or the principal at your child’s school—pressure your child into medication if you’re not comfortable with it. Remember: medication isn’t the only treatment option, and it’s not even a good option to start with.

ADHD medications should be the absolute last resort if nothing else works.