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Vitamins and Supplements for ADHD

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Ever wondered if alternative treatments like vitamins and supplements can help with ADHD symptoms?

There are things you should know before you try any so-called remedy.

Some alternative treatments are safe, inexpensive, and easy to get -- but there might not be proof that they work. And none of these options are meant to replace proven ADHD treatments.

Some “natural” or alternative treatments might be unsafe, too. Certain ones can mix dangerously with prescription medicines. And don’t assume that vitamins or supplements are safe just because they’re billed as being “natural.” Most don’t have to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Talk to your doctor about any alternative treatment before taking it. Here’s what we know about certain supplements. 

Zinc for ADHD Symptoms

Some studies suggest that children with ADHD may have lower levels of zinc in their body. And some scientists say kids with the disorder who took zinc supplements along with traditional ADHD treatment had an improvement in their symptoms.

Several studies have shown a drop in hyperactivity and impulsivity with zinc supplements. The same research, though, reports no change in inattentiveness, which is another key symptom of ADHD. A 2005 study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, though, did show a link between zinc levels and teacher- and parent-rated inattention in children.

Foods high in zinc include oysters and other seafood, red meat, poultry, dairy products, beans, nuts, whole grains, and fortified cereals.

There is some evidence that fish oil can help improve ADHD symptoms. It contains omega-3 fatty acids. Some findings suggest that fish oil supplements may improve the mental skills of children with the disorder who are 8 to 12 years old. For instance, it may help improve a child's ability to organize activities.

The FDA has approved a prescription-strength omega-3 compound for ADHD. This compound is not technically a medication. It’s considered a “medical food.”

A specific supplement of fish oil and evening primrose oil was used in one study. The results showed improvements with hyperactivity, inattentiveness, ability to think clearly, and overall behavior in children with ADHD who were 7 to 12 years old.

Fish high in omega-3s include salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, trout, and sardines.

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