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5 Nutrients That Can Help Kids Labeled With ADHD

It’s unbelievable how much power food has.

Food actually has the ability to cause diseases or prevent them.

If we aren’t getting the essential nutrients we need from healthy foods – our bodies will react negatively. But because everyone’s genetics and biochemical make-up is so unique, what’s considered healthy for you just might not be healthy for someone else.

For instance, nightshades and citrus fruits are usually considered healthy. They are whole foods from the Earth that are packed with nutrients, right?

But here’s the thing… if your child has a citrus food allergy or is sensitive to nightshade vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes or peppers – it’s definitely not a good idea to eat them. The inflammation that happens as a result will eventually lead to health issues – including typical ADHD-like behaviors.

Every day many of us, including our kids, just deal with those common ailments from food allergies.

We have things like dry skin, canker sores, nausea, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, eczema, ear infections, seasonal allergies and asthma, and we think it’s just a normal part of life. But, none of these issues are normal at all. In fact, they are simply our first clues that something’s not right on the inside.

Most often, if our issue isn’t caused by an inflammation imbalance from food allergies, it can be as a result of yeast overgrowth, an unhealthy gut flora, high toxicity levels, nutrient deficiencies or any combination of these.
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Most conventional doctors have been trained to label the symptoms and treat them with some sort of medication. But this does nothing for the root cause. And most often it doesn’t do a whole lot of good for the symptoms either. Plus – the side effects are just ridiculous.

These days our kids are prescribed drugs when specific nutrients are all they need! It just so happens, ADHD behaviors mimic the symptoms of some major vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and essential fatty acid deficiencies.

Could your child be suffering from something so simple?

Here are five major nutrient deficiencies commonly found in kids labeled with ADHD.

1. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiencyKid Cal Orange Dream, 100 Chewables, NOW Foods is one of the most common in people with ADHD.

The symptoms mimic the symptoms of ADHD. Things like excessive fidgeting, tantrums, social difficulties, restlessness, insomnia, irritability, aggressiveness, poor attention span, coordination problems and learning difficulties (in a person with a normal IQ).

One Polish study found that 95% of the children they were testing with ADHD were deficient in magnesium. Those with lower levels of the mineral, showed more severe symptoms of hyperactivity. After supplementing with 200mg of magnesium for six months, hyperactivity was reduced significantly. The behavior of those who didn’t receive magnesium worsened.

You may want to consider feeding your child more magnesium rich foods like pumpkin/sunflower seeds or cashews and almonds. You could also try giving him a children’s magnesium supplement. In many studies, vitamin B6 was needed along with magnesium to see improvement in ADHD symptoms.

2. B-Complex Vitamins

A kid’s mental and emotional state are critically dependent on vitamin B in the diet.

B vitamins, especially B6 and B12, are vital to the development of the nervous system and the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. They are also responsible for blood sugar regulation. And we all know the negatives effects sugar seems to have on our kiddos.

Symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency include forgetfulness, short attention span, irritability, confusion and rage. Again, all very similar to ADHD symptoms. All other B-Complex vitamins have important jobs to do too – including improving the absorption of other nutrients into the body. Eat things like fish, beans, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and bell peppers.  My boys love snacking on those sweet mini peppers.

Sometimes we’re so quick to offer a PB & J, chicken nuggets or a hot dog because they are socially accepted as “kid-friendly” foods, but we have to give our kids a chance! I promise you they will like things you never would have expected.

I was so surprised when I discovered my boys like hummus. A lot. They will eat a whole container of it if I let them! Thankfully hummus has three important B vitamins.

You could also consider adding a B-complex supplement to your kid’s diet.

3. Essential Fatty Acids

Total Omega 369 Swirl Orange Cream, 16 Oz, Barleans Organic OilsI explain in more depth about our typical essential fatty acid (EFA) imbalance in my article about Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency – Effects, Symptoms & Sources of Omega-3’s.

To sum it up, almost all of us are deficient in Omega-3’s and don’t have a proper Omega-3-6-9 ratio. This imbalance leads to all sorts health issues – ADHD included.

Plus, the conversion of essential fats into DHA, AA and EPA can be inhibited by certain foods like wheat and dairy. The conversion is also blocked by other vitamin and mineral deficiencies like B, C, Zinc and Magnesium.

Research from Purdue University discovered that kids with ADHD are not getting an adequate amount of nutrients required for essential fatty acid conversion and as a result have low levels of EPA, DHA and AA. Omega-3 and Omega-6 or GLA supplementation helped reduce ADHD symptoms. Other research studies have also confirmed this fact.

My boys love Barlean’s Orange Cream Omega Swirl – they take it straight from the spoon. It tastes like an orange dreamsicle! Total Omega combines a healthy ratio of all the essential fatty acids necessary for optimal health in just 2 teaspoons a day.

3. Zinc

Kids Chewable Vitamins and Minerals, 60 Tablets, Carlson LabsFunctional medicine practitioner, Dr. Mark Hyman tells us “Low zinc levels are associated with lowered immunity, poor heavy metal detoxification and ADHD.”

Maybe your child eats plenty of foods rich in zinc – like spinach, seafood, nuts and beans. But, sometimes nutrients get wiped out by other things. Especially processed foods, white breads refined sugar and even many medications – like antibiotics.

Dr. Neil Ward discovered an interesting fact about the disruptive effect of antibiotics on kids with ADHD.

Ward found that antibiotics not only wipe out beneficial bacteria in the gut, they also impair the absorption of nutrients. Most kids Dr. Ward studied who were labeled with ADHD, had several antibiotics in their early years. After much research, he proved that kids who had taken at least three doses of antibiotics before the age of three had much lower levels of zinc, calcium, chromium and selenium.

A zinc imbalance can interfere with proper neurotransmitter function in the brain. Especially the pathways in the brain that affect our behavior. Dr. Mercola says that “Adding zinc to the diets of teenagers has even been shown to cause improvements in memory and attention span.”

You can learn more about zinc deficiency in this Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency article and infographic.

Carlson’s Chewable Vitamins & Minerals is a tasty way to supplement 13 vitamins and 9 minerals into your child’s diet.

4. Amino Acids

NanoPro Vegan, 648 Grams, BiopharmaUnless you’re a chemistry buff and know everything about the central nervous system, this stuff can get a bit confusing.

But in general, neurotransmitters in the brain depend largely on amino acids from proteins. All 20 amino acids have an important job to do.

Amino acid deficiencies are common in kids with ADHD. Especially DMAE, 5-HTP, L-thianine, tyrosine, theanine, taurine, glycine, GABA, L-glutamine, serine, and tryptophan.

These amino acids have been specifically linked to our mood and behaviors. Without them, or without enough of them, we will experience irritability, depression, nervousness, anxiety, inability to focus, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, etc.

Yet again – these are all very similar to symptoms of kids labeled with ADHD.

It’s important to understand that every part of our body’s chemical composition works together as a team. For example, vitamin B6 converts tryptophan into serotonin. But what happens when you aren’t getting enough vitamin B6? You obviously won’t be able to convert tryptophan into serotonin. Look out, not enough serotonin could mean you’ll turn into Oscar the Grouch.

Each and every vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, amino acid and fatty acid from our food, needs and depends on one another to do a list of jobs to keep our bodies working well.

Homeopath, Beth Landau-Halpern, does a great job of highlighting some amino acids that have an effect on ADHD symptoms.

BioPharma’s Nanopro Vegan is a great way to get all amino acids and vitamin D3 into your diet. Children under 12 years only need a half serving.

5. Vitamin D

RainForest AnimalZ Vitamin D3 400IU, 90 Chewables, BluebonnetThe Vitamin D Council estimates 9 out of 10 people are deficient in vitamin D. It’s a very important nutrient that we rarely can get from food.

Just like plants, it’s the sunlight we need. And good luck if you live in the northern part of the US like all of us at Natural Healthy Concepts.

Vitamin D helps boost the antioxidants responsible for good brain health. It also produces dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which is what many ADHD meds aim to do.

Vitamin D helps produce enzymes in charge of making brain chemicals necessary for our ability to focus. Especially for long periods of time.

So although Vitamin D deficiency may not be the one reason you child has ADHD symptoms, it may definitely be a factor, and is very common in children who have been labeled with this disorder. But usually when there’s one deficiency – there’s more.

Bluebonnet’s Animalz D3 supplement is made from whole food fruit and vegetables. They are mixed-berry flavored and offer 400IU of D3 in just one chewable.

Garbage In = Garbage Out!

Nutrients from food are way underrated. They should be the main reason we eat food.

But we eat food because we are hungry. Not because we want to prevent disease.

We have to start thinking of our food as a tool for our health and well-being, instead of the entertainment at the party. We need greens, fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, herbs, spices, healthy fats and a limited amount of organic grass fed meat and poultry. If everyone was loyal to a diet like this, we’d have far fewer cases of common health issues – ADHD included.

It’s cool to treat your taste buds once in a while. But most of the time, taste is just a bonus. Functional medicine is key. These doctors know the power lies in food and nutrition.

The best thing you can do today, is find a functional medicine practitioner, where you live, who can determine if your child has any nutritional imbalances or food allergies. A blood test will check 80+ different foods, or an elimination diet could also be done to determine sensitivities.

Doctors like Joel Fuhrman and Mark Flannery will help you prevent disease. They can even cure your child of many different health issues they’ve been labeled with.

Mark Hyman is a great example of a doctor who has cured many children of ADHD, and even autism, by focusing on a healthy anti-inflammatory diet and healthy gut flora, removing toxins, identifying food sensitivities and bringing their nutrient levels up to where they need to be.

Check out this clip of how Dr. Hyman cured one child of his ADHD symptoms.

Also check out these articles on ADHD.

  • Natural Ways to Treat ADD & ADHD
  • Natural Supplements That Can Help With ADHD
  • Over-Medicating Our Children-Abuse by the Pharmaceutical Company
  • 3 Facts About ADHD & Why It’s a Fictitious Disorder

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15 Responses to 5 Nutrients That Can Help Kids Labeled With ADHD

  1. Penny Williams May 28, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    I agree 100% that conventional medicine should also be looking at the cause of our ailments, not just treating the symptoms. I also agree that sometimes food allergies or vitamin/mineral deficiencies can mimic ADHD. But, these triggers don’t account for all ADHD diagnosis. ADHD is real, and true cases cannot just be treated with a handful of supplements.

    My son has been tested by an integrative meds doc for a host of food intolerances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, neurotransmitter precursors, and genetic abnormalities. He has many deficiencies and MTHFR and COM-T genetic abnormalities. We’ve found that the genetic polymorphisms make treating the vitamin/mineral deficiencies very challenging. For example, he can’t take regular B vitamins or folic acid without severe mood side effects — he requires methylated supplements, but still only in very small doses. As well, he has adverse reactions to Magnesium and Calcium, despite needing them.

    I think it’s important in articles like this to make it clear that not all ADHD can be “treated” by just taking supplements. Supplements or diet changes will appear to treat ADHD only when it was actually a food sensitivity or vitamin/mineral deficiency causing the symptoms in the first place. Supplements can be great to augment medicaiton, therapy, and other traditional ADHD treatments, but they don’t fully treat true ADHD.

    Penny Williams
    Author of “Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD”

    • Ashley Steinbrinck May 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi Penny, your son sounds like he has some definite health challenges. We know ADHD symptoms are very real. We aren’t denying that – it’s the label we take issue with. The majority of kids diagnosed or “labeled” with ADHD, could get some major relief of these symptoms by addressing inflammation imbalances from food allergies, yeast overgrowth, gut flora, toxicity levels, nutrient deficiencies or a combination of these. Also, I was not pushing supplements in my article. In fact, I was pushing going to see a functional medicine practitioner and suggesting foods that include these essential nutrients that are commonly found in kids with the ADHD label. Did you really read through the entire article or skim it?

      You might find my other recent article interesting on why ADHD is a “fictitious” disorder. I even talk about The “patient’s rights group” called CHADD, or Children and Adults with ADHD, which has had a very sweet and very private financial relationship with Ciba Geigy – the manufacturer of Ritalin – since 1987. CHADD, which is also funded by Shire Pharmaceuticals – the maker of Adderall and Vyvanse, is the same group that helped get schools set up with federal funding for each kid who is “diagnosed” with ADHD. And after looking into your website – it seems they’ve even endorsed you as well. Good to know. Here’s that article too in case you’re curious. http:// Keep your mind open.

      • Penny May 28, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

        No, I’ve never received any endorsement money from a pharmaceutical company. I only write some about medication because it’s been a crucial component of treatment for my son. In fact, I don’t even have ads on my website.

    • JASMINE MIDKIFF May 3, 2016 at 10:05 am #

      Hey Penny –

      I am a mother of a 10 year old boy with combined type ADHD. I appreciated your comment as I find it frustrating to look over articles that want to tell you how to treat ADHD but are truly dismissive of the disorder when you get right down to it.

      Going to check your book out now, because as you know, after all the quality supplements and nutrition we still need all the help we can get! LOL

    • Keeli Judge August 14, 2018 at 10:35 am #

      Penny it sounds like your sons body is in need of some serious healing. May I suggest that you look into the GAPS diet by Dr Natasha Campbell-Mcbride.

  2. Jamie September 30, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    My daughter was diagnosed with adhd about 2 years ago, she in now 11 years old. When she started her meds everything changed for the good, even with giving her a low dose then what they recommended. I only gave her meds while in school and not on the weekends or in the summer. Recently I have noticed that she hasn’t been responding the same as she was 2 years ago.

    I am looking into finding out if she is vitamin/mineral/enzyme deficient, or food intolerant and if she is, trying to find out what supplements would work for her.

    What is the first step on doing this? Do I contact her primary doctor and ask for a blood test and if so what do I ask for them to test?

    Please help!

  3. Troy February 24, 2016 at 6:01 am #

    In regards to your assumption that ADHD is fictitious, I feel that you’re withdrawing conclusions and being dismissive without complete certainty. There maybe people with ADHD who do have the various points youve listed with digestive and allergy issues youve listed however there are also people who experience Trush, gut problem and allergy issues without having the level of cognitive impairment as someone with ADHD. And I also believe there are people with ADHD who dont experience any of the issues youve listed. I feel that for you to have made such a conclusive remark you need to have proved your generalization with actual statistics.

    There is no doubt that the natural supplements you’ve listed may benefit patients with ADHD however some of the ones on your list were already recognized and advised as beneficial to assisting with dopamine production and stabilising brain chemistry in ADHD patients according to research supporting ADHD.

    Reading through your articles and the responses, I feel that you have been dismissive in addressing those many ADHD patients that reflect my own experience with being diagnosed at a much later age. Many people have reported back stating that they do not fit the mould you’ve outlined.

    As a person who keeps an open mind and tries to tackle any given challange from as many different angles as possible, I have tried all the options you’ve mentioned plus more but without any noticible improvement in my ADHD.

    I’m currently 38 and throughout my life I went through many of these trial phases where I experimented on myself with vitamins, nutrients, amino acids, etc. I used to blend a mixture of vegetables and fruits everyday, I grew my own wheatgrass and put that through the juicer. The only change I noticed was increased energy levels. I then moved onto supplements, during that phase I had an array of vitamins, omega fatty acids and with the assistance of my naturapath friend I tried different combinations known to work in synergy. But again there was no obvious change to my ADHD symptoms. I went through a phase where I focused entirely on my digestion in order to improve good bacteria with probiotics, yogurt and tried to assist with nutrient absorbtion with digestive enzymes but again no difference. Had your claims been applicable to everyone known to have ADHD, a lot more of those patients would have reported a notible difference during treatment which targeted your listed problem areas. Or even medications that resolved or improved certain allergies, Candida or Trush would have also resulted in reducing ADHD symptoms. And on the flip side, if ADHD patients developed a significant onset of oral or intestinal Trush following the use of antibiotic therapy, they would have reported a worsening of their ADHD symptoms, which has never been the case for me. As I mentioned I tend to have the type of mindset that tries to tackle things from all angles in order reach an understanding. And the ADHD medication was in fact the very last thing on the list of options that I tried and yet it was the most effective and life changing..

    The very first time I took my dose it was like a veil being lifted off from my mind. The shift in my cognition was so significant that I felt rather distraught by the fact that I had discovered it so late and missed out on the most important years of my life which were crucial to my social development, self esteem, making friends and academic achievement leading into a sucessful career. Not having discovered ADHD medications sooner makes me feel resentful and robbed of my life. Many of us who have decided to use these medications are well aware of the side effects and risks and yet when we weigh up any possible negative effects with the benefits, its not even in the same ball park. I am more than wiling to face whatever terrible risk you have listed if it means I can live some of my life to a more fulfilling level.

    I would also be interested in finding out your personal sucess rate in regards to the amount of people you were able to resolve their ADHD through the treatment of their others ailments such as allergies digestion etc. And even if you reported %100 sucess rate by fixing everyone who came to you with ADHD, I would wonder what percentage of those people have sought alternative health therapy a result of having multiple symptoms other than ADHD. Because clearly those of us who experience improvement from medication are quite content and unlikely to seek further avenues unless we experienced further problems with our health much like the people who visit you. So if you were able to broaden your study to include participation from random ADHD patients obtained from various mental health services, your argument would be a lot more convincing.

    Looking at the evidence youve presented such as the Polish study that found a correlation between magnesium deficiency and “hyperactivity” in children with ADHD, it just doesn’t convince me because hyperactivity is not the case for everyone with ADHD. So it makes me wonder how they could make such a generalized statement excluding the different types of ADHD such as the inattentive type Ive been diagnosed with.

  4. Shea June 15, 2017 at 7:05 am #

    Troy, I feel you man. I feel the same. I tried all sorts of things, but the medication works! I felt like someone finally gave me co trol of my brain. Its impossible to describe to people who dont have ADHD. You sure wont see articles like this is you are, say Bi-polar, for example. Everyone accepts that as a mental health disorder, but ADHD is almost always reduced to food allergies and/or bad parenting. I am not specifically targeting this article, just an observation about many of the articles I have noticed. Also… be careful if you choose a magnesium suppliment. Its a diaretic, and in a lot of people it can cause pretty annoying stomach issues. You may ne much better off trying to add Magnesium rich foods to your diet first if you are deficient.

  5. Jessica July 11, 2017 at 7:05 am #

    Hi! I enjoyed your article and thank you for taking your time to pass the word to us other moms! One question, is their a vitamin or just a few that could help with most of these deficiencies? As a single mom sometimes it’s just not in the cards to buy ALOT of vitamins and produce or nuts. I try my best to offer plenty of healthy choices but they can be really expensive. Any ideas on keeping it cheap but giving them all that is needed

  6. Suzanne February 21, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

    This is a very interesting read! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Vanessa February 21, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

    Great information! What are some foods that have high levels of amino acids and vitamin D?

    • Leslie Benson February 27, 2018 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Vanessa,
      Thanks! Great questions.

      In addition to sunlight exposure, you can obtain vitamin D in limited amounts from your diet, though only a few foods naturally contain it. The main, quality, food sources include:

      Cow’s Milk
      Shiitake Mushrooms

      Source: The George Mateljan Foundation,

      Dietary supplements also help with vitamin D deficiency.

      As for amino acids, you can eat proteins such as meat, peanut butter, yogurt, cheese, and nuts.
      Source: CDC

      Good luck with your health journey!

  8. Keeli Judge August 14, 2018 at 10:32 am #

    In France they hardly ever medicate children for ADD OR ADHD. They treat with nutrition and lifestyle as well as behavioural therapy and parental training. I’m not saying that a child should never be put on drugs but I should be a last resort. The problem is most people (myself included) don’t want the work it takes to get these children well. Have you ever looked at the GAPS diet by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride? That has had phenomenal success for some of the most hopeless cases because it goes for the root cause. Because even nutrient deficiencies are a symptom not the cause.

  9. endsickness September 9, 2018 at 1:20 am #

    Comprehensive article on ADHD. Lots of respect for ACTUALLY pointing out some of the real issues that cause this condition. Nutritional deficiencies and bifidobacterium imbalances are calling cards of ADHD kids. I am developing a website now to get further into it… Thanks again for the educational post.

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