Do ADHD vitamin supplements work? Are they safe? These are two questions many parents have as they seek a solution that doesn’t involve drugs or medication to improve the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in their child.
With all of the negative perceptions and misinformation about drugs and medications, as well as concerns about dosage and dangerous side effects, it is only natural for parents to be hesitant about putting their child on medications for ADHD. In some cases, medications do not even work successfully in reducing symptoms and treating the disorder, which can leave parents and caregivers even more desperate to find an alternative treatment that may help their child.
It’s important for parents to remember that all drugs pose risks – even over the counter medications such as Tylenol that are generally considered safe in very young children can have the potential for side effects or complications. Most pediatricians do not even recommend giving children over the counter cold or cough medications because the likelihood for overdose is higher than it actually being effective in treating the symptoms of a cold.
When you are thinking about medications not being safe, you also need to realize that ADHD vitamin supplements may or may not be safe as well. Unfortunately there are many people who prey on those who are seeking a solution to their problems, and they will try to sell you just about anything to make a buck or two – irregardless of whether it is safe or effective. Vitamins, herbs, and natural supplements in general are not regulated or tested by the FDA. Some products may not have quality components, others may be nothing more than an expensive placebo. Some things, such as iron for example, can be toxic and cause a fatal overdose.
Another important consideration is that there is little evidence that supports that different herbal or vitamin supplements prove to be effective in treating and curing symptoms. In order for taking a vitamin to be justified, there should be a reason for its use, primarily a deficiency in the child’s nutrition. If we eat a well balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein, and grains and you get the recommended servings per day, it’s very likely that no vitamin deficiency exists.
Unfortunately, very rarely will parents take the time to speak to a nutritionist to determine if their child in fact does or does not need vitamins or a dietary supplement in addition to the foods they already eat. Taking too much of a vitamin or eating certain foods can also have potential consequences – for example too much protein or calcium could put you at risk for kidney stones.
While we don’t recommend any specific product that claims to help with treating ADHD since there is no evidence to support any of them actually work, we do think it’s important for parents to know the facts about different supplements available before potentially putting their child’s health and safety at risk. For that reason, below we’ve compiled a list of the most common dietary supplements below that are believed to help in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Essential Fatty Acids, sometimes called EFA’s, are another big contender that is believed to help improve focus and concentration. Unfortunately, EFA’s are difficult to keep intact in pill or even liquid format, so buying them as a supplement may be nothing more than a waste of effort and money. You also run the risk of contamination or other problems, especially if taking fish oil which could potentially contain mercury. Instead, it would be much better to include foods that contain these acids naturally into your child’s diet. Salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts are the top three contenders for being high in essential fatty acids and can easily and safely be incorporated into a balanced meal plan as long as your have no allergy concerns.
Zinc: It is believed that a zinc deficiency may be linked to hyperactivity, though it seems to have no effect on inattentiveness. It’s also important to realize however that zinc in too large of doses can also potentially be toxic. In general, foods that are high in protein such as beef, poultry, seafood, beans, and others contain enough zinc that if your child is eating a regular balanced diet it is likely he or she would not have a deficiency.
Vitamin C: Taking excessive amounts of vitamin C will likely do little good, since it is not a mineral that is absorbed in our body. Again, rather than taking a supplement it would be better to simply make sure your diet includes foods that contain vitamin c, such as fortified cereals or orange juice.
Iron: Too much iron can be toxic and deadly. If you have concerns about an iron deficiency ALWAYS speak to your doctor who can do a simple blood test to confirm if your child needs more iron in his or her diet.
There are many other herbal remedies that people will suggest, but in general are not believed to be safe or effective in children, such as ginseng or St. John’s Wort. If you believe that your child’s nutrition may be playing a role in his or her behavior, the best thing you can do is speak with a qualified child nutritionist to create a balanced meal plan that will give them all of the vitamins and minerals they need in the most beneficial format – naturally. It may not help with the symptoms of ADHD, but at least you know your child will be eating a healthy diet.
Have any thoughts on ADHD supplements? Share them in the comments below.