Doctor Jeff's 6 Favorite Supplements for ADHD

Though the standard treatment for ADD or ADHD remains a stimulant medication like Ritalin or Adderal, some people would prefer to try natural alternatives. They’ve either heard negative stories about these treatments from the news or a friend, or they just prefer something natural for whatever may ail them.

Here are my six favorite options:

#1. Homeopathics

I particularly like Synaptol for ADD or ADHD symptoms. There’s no risk of negative side effects, and I have seen people get good results with it.

Dosage Recommendation:

  • 50lbs or less – ½ ml, twice daily
  • 50lbs or more – 1 ml, twice daily
  • May increase dosage to 3 times per day.

Drug Interactions? Adverse Effects?

No significant drug interactions or adverse effects have been reported.

#2. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

The key word here is “essential” because essential fatty acids must be obtained from food or supplement sources; the body cannot produce them. Though the cause is unknown, people with ADD or ADHD seem to have lower serum levels of the essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) than people without the condition. Because of this, there is reasonable speculation that supplementing them may help.

Dosage Recommendation:

1g, daily

Drug Interactions? Adverse Effects?

  • May strengthen the effects of blood thinning medications including aspirin.
  • May increase fasting blood sugar levels so take with caution if you are on blood sugar lowering medication like insulin.
  • Essential fatty acids may increase the risk of excessive bleed in people with bleeding disorders. 
  • Excessive amounts may cause digestive upset, elevations in LDL-C and, if from fish sources, exposure to environmental contaminants, but this should not occur if you stick to the recommended dosage.

#3. Fish Oil

Preliminary clinical research shows that taking fish oils improves cognitive function and behavior in children aged 8-12 years with ADHD. Fish oil supplements may be helpful addition for some with ADD or ADHD.

Dosage Recommendation:

400 mg Fish Oil with 100 mg Evening Primrose, daily

Drug Interactions? Adverse Effects?

  • May strengthen the effects of blood thinning medications including aspirin.
  • May increase fasting blood sugar levels so take with caution if you are on blood sugar lowering medication like insulin. 
  • May not be safe for those with liver disease, fish or seafood allergy, bipolar disorder, depression, diabetes, low blood pressure or an implanted defibrillator.
  • Fish oil can reduce vitamin E levels.
  • Fish oil may decrease the effectiveness of estrogen containing medicines like birth control and hormone replacement pills.
  • Fish oil may increase the risk of excessive bleed in people with bleeding disorders.
  • Excessive amounts may cause digestive upset, elevations in LDL-C and exposure to environmental contaminants, but this should not occur if you stick to the recommended dosage.

#4. Flaxseed and Vitamin C

Preliminary evidence suggests that taking a combination of flaxseed oil (providing 200 mg of alpha-linolenic acid) plus 25 mg of vitamin C twice daily might improve some measures of attention, impulsivity, restlessness, and self-control in some children with ADHD. This may be because flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.

Dosage Recommendation:

  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons or 7 g Capsules of Flaxseed Oil, twice daily
  • 25mg Vitamin C, twice daily

Drug Interactions? Adverse Effects?

Flaxseed Oil:

  • May strengthen the effects of blood-thinning medications including aspirin.
  • May increase fasting blood sugar levels so take with caution if you are on blood sugar lowering medication like insulin. 
  • Flaxseed oil may increase the risk of excessive bleed in people with bleeding disorders.
  • Flaxseed oil may reduce the effectiveness of acetaminophen, antibiotics, and estrogen containing drugs like birth control and hormone replacement.
  • Excessive amounts may cause digestive issues or diarrhea, but this shouldn'tt occur if you stick to the recommended dosage.

Vitamin C:

  • May increase blood levels of acetaminophen (Tylenol) if taken together.
  • May increase side-effects of aluminum containing antacids.
  • May decrease the effectiveness of barbiturate medication, nitrate medications for heart disease and blood thinning medications.
  • Vitamin C may cause headaches or digestive issues.

#5. Vitamin B6

B vitamins are known to support brain health and mental functioning, and older research suggests that pyridoxine (vitamin B6) might improve behavior in children with ADHD.

Highest Daily Dosage Recommendation:

  • 1 to 3 years – 30 mg, daily
  • 4 to 8 years - 40mg, daily
  • 9 to 13 years - 60 mg, daily
  • 14 to 18 years - 80 mg, daily
  • 19 and older – 100 mg, daily

Drug Interactions? Adverse Effects?

  • Large doses (above 200 mg/day) may decrease the concentration of epileptic medications including phenytoin and phenolbarbital.
  • May increase side effects when combined with levodopa if levodopa is taken without carbidopa.
  • Doses of about 100 mg daily may increase skin sensitivity or cause allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Extremely high doses - 10g or more - can cause permanent nerve damage.
  • Long-term high-dosage use may cause brain and nerve problems. 

#6. Zinc

For some unknown reason, people with ADD or ADHD seem to have lower serum zinc levels than those without ADHD. Clinical research suggests that taking zinc in combination with conventional treatments might modestly improve symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and impaired socialization in some children with ADHD. Preliminary clinical research also suggests that zinc deficiency might result in a poor response to stimulant therapy.

Studies using zinc for ADHD have taken place in the Middle East where zinc deficiency is relatively common compared to Western countries. It's not known if zinc would have the same potential benefits when used for ADHD in patient populations from Western countries. Zinc supplements probably aren't appropriate for most people with ADHD, but it might be worth a try if a deficiency is suspected.

Highest Dosage Recommended:

  • 0 to 6 months - 4 mg, daily
  • 7 to 12 months - 5 mg, daily
  • 1 to 3 years - 7 mg, daily
  • 4 to 8 years-  12 mg , daily
  • 9 to 13 years - 23 mg, daily
  • 14 to 18 years-  34 mg, daily
  • 19 and older – 40 mg, daily

Drug Interactions? Adverse Effects?

  • Zinc may inhibit antibiotics so take zinc at least 2 hours before or wait at least 4 hours after to take your zinc supplement if you are on them. 
  • Zinc may reduce the effectiveness of penicillamine, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • High zinc dosage can inhibit the absorption of copper and chromium. 
  • Zinc may cause digestive upset and metallic taste though the most common side effect of zinc supplements is stomach pain.
  • To avoid this, be sure to take it with a full 8oz glass of water and consider making just before bed your time to take it. 
  • Regular zinc supplementation may damage to the kidneys and stomach, so taking it without doctor supervision is not recommended.

Please Consider:

Though I do standby the efficiency and safety of conventional ADHD treatment (when used as prescribed), I also understand patient concerns. I'm happiest when the best treatment available is also a safe and natural one, but I feel like there is some definite confusion surrounding the term “natural”.

Natural DOESN’T Necessarily Mean Safe

Case in point, I had one patient come to me with a pain problem and tell me he would prefer to use something natural. “Love to hear that! That’s great!” I said, and I went ahead and recommended weight loss to alleviate added strain on his joints and yoga to limber up.

He looked disappointed, and quickly stated, “No, no, I mean something natural, like a pill. I just want something safe.” he corrected me.

I couldn’t help but smile. “There’s nothing more natural than exercise!” I told him. “And as for safety – natural substances can be just as harmful as synthetics! Arsenic is natural, but I wouldn’t advise taking that!

You Can’t Trust Everything You Read

Another important point about selecting natural treatments – you shouldn’t believe just anything you hear about them. While friends, family, websites, or even books may be well-intentioned in their advice, it doesn’t mean they are working from the most current or complete understanding of the substance or the condition it is being suggested for. Before starting a supplement or natural medicine, do your homework. Look for good and credible sources – the best of which being your doctor. Your doctor should know whether the substance is: 1) safe for you and any other medication you might be taking and 2:) worth the time and money.

Sources:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0701/p133.html, http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/flaxseed-oil-000304.htm, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/993.html

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/flaxseed-oil-000304.htm

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/flaxseed-oil-000304.htm

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/vitamin-c-000994.htm, http://www.drugs.com/sfx/vitamin-c-side-effects.html, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/991.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR601177

http://www.drugs.com/sfx/pyridoxine-side-effects.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/934.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/982.html

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/

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