Below is a list of supplements that are good for ADHD that we have used or use currently. This list is based on my reading, talking with other moms on the GFCF Kids Yahoo board, and from information from our holistic/DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctor. I've listed most of these in my post entitled, "All About Supplements." If I listed them there, I am just copying over what I wrote on there previously.
1. Cod Liver Oil
6. 5HTP/Serotonin Support
1. COD LIVER OIL (CLO)
Many articles list fish oil as a good supplement for ADHD but they don't specify what kind. Fish oils contain omega-3's. We take fish oil in the form of cod liver oil.
Cod liver oil is also great for the immune system, but it's also good for the brain and brain development. It often helps kids with ADHD symptoms. It's great to take while pregnant (take a clean supplement like Green Pasture to avoid mercury). It will help the baby's developing brain, and I've also read it can help prevent future allergies in the unborn child. Woo hoo! All for that.
Brands We Use: I usually order from http://www.greenpasture.org/, the Fermented Cod Liver Oil in gelcaps. It is free of soy. There is only one other company that I know of that makes CLO without soy and that is Kirkman's (order online). I've also used theirs but Green Pasture is a very high quality CLO. At local health food stores, you'll find liquid CLO. It has a strong taste (and soy), so we prefer the gelcaps. Also, you have to be careful with CLO because some brands will be tainted with mercury from the fish they use. Nordic Naturals also makes some fish oils that are pretty good and they make gelcaps which the kids tend to like. There are lemon and strawberry flavors. You can call Nordic Naturals and get free samples mailed to you. They do contain soy though.
How To Take: Take with food. If taken without food, sometimes you will belch and it will taste like fish oil. Yuck. I give it to my daughter before school to help her concentrate better but you can probably take it at any time and I don't know of any supplements that it should not be taken with.
Brand We Use: We are currently using WaterOz. I also have some Zinc 30 by Pure Encapsulation and Zinc Picolinate by Thorne Research.
Where to Order From: See notes under Calcium. I order from www.nutritiongeeks.com.
How To Take: I have read that the recommended dose of zinc is about 20 mg, but my DAN doctor had recommended 30 mg. Take with food, usually at night. If taken on a empty stomach, it can cause nausea. Zinc usually has a calming effect, which is why it is recommended to take at night. For some kids, zinc can cause hyperactivity (although I have read for other supplements like epsom salt baths, if your child is extremely deficient in something, when you first start taking it, it can cause hyperactivity while the body adjusts). For this reason, it is recommended to give it the first time in the morning to watch for this. If it doesn't cause a problem, give at night. Give at least 2 hours away from calcium and magnesium, as it can cause disruption is how the cal/mag are absorbed. This is the hardest part of giving zinc. I used to give it with dinner but on the low oxalate diet, you're supposed to give cal/mag with dinner. So, I would say give zinc with dinner, and cal/mag either 2 hours after dinner or right after school. If you can't do exactly 2 hours, that's OK. I've seen many supplements that group cal/mag/zinc all together in one pill. Based on my daughter's tests, she is taking 3 teaspoons of Zinc Water Oz twice a day.
Pros for Zinc: Zinc helps support the immune system and helps with detox support. It also has a calming effect so it's good for ADHD kids. I took my kids to a holistic doctor when they were little, and she looked at my kids' nailbeds and said they were deficient in zinc. Apparently, you are supposed to have that round white half moon shape at the bottom of your nails. If you don't, it means you are deficient in zinc. (I don't have any! :0) She put my kids on a zinc supplement, and they weren't sick for 6 months. It's a GREAT immune booster.
I've also read that if kids are chewing on shirt collars, clothes, licking things, etc., it can mean they are deficient in zinc (the other possibility is yeast overgrowth). Zinc has some kind of significant association with copper, but I haven't needed to look into that yet. I believe it is that if you have too much zinc in your system, it can deplete your copper levels. I've also read that if your kids cannot tolerate chocolate (my son gets very aggressive), it can mean they are deficient in zinc.
If you have an extremely picky eater - doesn't have much of an appetite, this is a sign of zinc deficiency. Zinc tends to cause an increase in appetite, especially for those with a zinc deficiency.
I've read that many men with prostate cancer have zinc deficiencies.
Cons for Zinc: Zinc can cause naseau if not taken with food. Otherwise, it's a great supplement that almost everyone needs.
Brand We Use: We are currently using the brand my DAN doctor recommended, Water Oz. You can also get Pure Encapsulation brand Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Malate.
Where to Order From: See notes under Calcium. I ordered from http://www.nutritiongeeks.com/.
How To Take: Our DAN recommended taking once in the a.m. and once in the p.m., or at breakfast and dinner. With meals is best but a snack is OK too. Take with calcium and at least 2 hours away from zinc. The zinc will not allow the cal/mag to be absorbed as well if all 3 are taken at the same time. Based on my daughter's tests, she is taking 2 teaspoons of Magnesium Water Oz twice a day.
Compliments: Should be taken with Calcium to get maximum benefits. Calcium can cause constipation, and magnesium can cause diarrhea, so taken together, they balance themselves out and are better absorbed by the body if taken together. You can get magnesium from Epsom Salt baths as well. I give both oral magnesium supplements and Epsom Salt baths, as do many people without a problem. Magnesium allows B vitamins to be absorbed better, especially B-6. So, if you are taking B-6, take it at the same time as magnesium.
Pros for Magnesium: Magnesium is just as important as calcium but doesn't get as much press as calcium. My DAN doctor lists magnesium as helping to relax nerves, relieve tension, and also helps with constipation. Deficiencies in magnesium can cause problems like depression, headaches, stunted growth, and other things.
Cons of Magnesium: Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea.
I'm not sure if calcium is good specifically for ADHD symptoms or not, but I always give it with magnesium so I've listed it here.
Brand We Use: We are currently using the brand my DAN doctor recommended, Water Oz. We recently started the Low Oxalate Diet, and it is recommended to take calcium in the form of calcium citrate. It is better absorbed by the body and specific to the LOD diet in helping absorb oxalates. I prefer the WaterOz because it's easy to put it into my kids' juice or they just take it straight. Plus, it's one less pill they have to take. It tastes like water. Supposedly, if there is a strong taste to it, that means you are not deficient in it.
Where to Order From: I just ordered the Water Oz from http://www.nutritiongeeks.com/ for $44 for a gallon, $14 for 16 oz and $22 for 32 oz.
How To Take: Our DAN recommended taking once in the a.m. and once in the p.m., or at breakfast and dinner. With meals is best but a snack is OK too. On the Low Oxalate Diet, it's recommended to take at every meal as it binds to oxalates in foods. If taken away from food, it will be absorbed by the body more, but you don't need to take it away from food. Take with magnesium (usually a less amount of mag - like a 2:1 ratio), and at least 2 hours away from zinc. The zinc will not allow the cal/mag to be absorbed as well if all 3 are taken at the same time. Based on my daughter's tests, she is taking 3 teaspoons of Calcium Water Oz twice a day. If you order capsules, you want about 1,000 mg of calcium a day and 500 mg of magnesium.
Compliments: Should be taken with Magnesium to get maximum benefits. Calcium can cause constipation, and magnesium can cause diarrhea, so taken together, they balance themselves out and are better utilized by the body if taken together.
Pros for Calcium: If you've seen any milk commercials, you know the benefits of calcium. I've read that one of the biggest mistakes when someone starts the GFCF diet, is not supplementing with calcium and magnesium. Magnesium is just as important as calcium, but isn't marketed as much as calcium. Calcium is important for strong muscles and bones and helps prevent osteoperosis. You're most at risk for developing osteoperosis when you get older, based upon the amount or lack of calcium you get as a teenager or younger. I was surprised to read that. So for women especially it's an important supplement at any age. The receptionist at my DAN doctor's office said she feels 100% better after she takes her cal/mag supplement, in terms of energy especially. I've also read that a deficiency in calcium and magnesium can cause depression, and severe deficiency in calcium can cause kids to rub their eyes like they're in pain. Most kids are deficient in cal/mag, so it's a good one for everyone to supplement.
Cons of Calcium: Calcium can cause constipation, especially in high amounts, which is why it's recommened to take along with magnesium. If you notice this happening, you can add Vitamin C (about 500 mg) to help with constipation, increase magnesium, or push more fluids and vegetables. You can also give your child a bath with Epsom Salt. Epsom Salt has natural occuring magnesium in it. As your child soaks, they will absorb the magnesium.
This is the biggest one for my daughter, and the supplement that my holistic doctor emphasizes the most for concentration in school for her.
Brand we use: Methyl 12 Plus by Right 4 Your Type.
Contents: Contains 1,000 mcg B-12 and 400 mcg of folate (or folic acid). You want your B-12 in the form of methylcobalamin.
Where We Order From: I order directly from their web site, www.4yourtype.com. It's $15.95 for 60 caps. I paid $7.67 in shipping for 2 bottles.
How To Take: We started with one a day in the morning with breakfast (although B-12 doesn't need to be taken with food), then increased to 2 a day after a few months. B-12 is a very common supplement that many kids on the spectrum are on. Some kids take B-12 shots and have seen big improvements in speech and mood with it. The shots are better absorbed by the body than taking B-12 orally, but we'll never do shots. I'm afraid of needles! The capsules seem to work fine for many people. There is also a B-12 nasal spray offered as well. I've read that www.mercola.com sells one. B-12 should be taken with magnesium for maximum absorbption.
B-12 Compliments: B-12 works well in combination with DMG.
Pros for B-12: The most common thing I've read other moms say about B-12 is it's help with speech and mood/behavior. I've also read it is good to increase focus and concentration. B-12 helps regulate neurotransmitters (in the brain) and helps with methylation support. B-12 and B-6 are commonly helpful for ADHD kids.
Cons for B-12: All B vitamins tend to increase yeast (with the exception of Biotin which actually helps fight yeast), so you'll want to have some kind of "yeast protocol" in place (see below). You might wonder, why would I want to give a vitamin that increases yeast? Because many of the B vitamins are needed in order to address some of the other issues kids have, and many of our kids are deficient in B-12. Some people take a B-12 nasal spray or B-12 subcutaneous injections which will not increase yeast. These forms are supposed to be better absorbed by the body. The shots are supposed to be MUCH better than the oral form, but we haven't gone there yet. I'm afraid of needles! (even though they are really small ones).
6. 5HTP (Serotonin Support)
Brand We Use: Serotonin Support Powder or capsules by Quantum Elementals (the capsules are very big), or 5HTP capsules from Solaray.
Contents: 1,080 mg of L-Tyrosine and 108 mg of L-5-hydroxytrptophan (aka 5HTP). This is for 1/4 of a teaspoon. My DAN! doctor crushes up the 5HTP in higher doses so that we can put a tiny scoop (that they provide) into juice. The scoop is probably about 1/16 of a teaspoon. They end up getting about 25 mg of 5HTP per scoop.
Where To Order From: We order from our DAN! doctor's web site, www.elementalsliving.com. Click on the top right corner where it says "Elementals Health Food Store." They charge $59 for a bottle, plus shipping. It lasted us almost a year. I give my older son the capsules from Solaray, which you can get at your local health food store. They are in 50mg doses.
How To Take: With the Serotonin powder, my daughter started out with one scoop in the morning with breakfast and one in the afternoon with dinner. We recently increased it to 2 scoops in the morning and one scoop in the afternoon because she has still been having tantrums. The usual recommended dose is 50 mg per day. You can divide this up into two 25 mg doses a day. I believe you can go higher on this if needed, but check with your doctor.
Pros for 5HTP: I REALLY like this supplement. My daughter was tested (a blood test) for her serotonin levels before starting this. Her level was at 56, when it should be around 250. People with depression almost always have low levels of serotonin. My oldest son's was at 96. Low serotonin has also been linked to ADHD. Low levels of serotonin can be hereditary which is probably why depression tends to run in families.
Prior to taking 5HTP, my daughter would cry at EVERYTHING. We had to very careful about what we could allow her to watch on TV, because everything made her cry and sometimes it was hard for her to regain herself.
Once she started taking the 5HTP, her mood improved GREATLY. She still gets a little sad on some movies, but she is SO much better than before. She'll more whimper a little bit and hold back tears, instead of sobbing like she used to for up to 2 hours. After a year of being on the supplement, we tested her serotonin levels again, and they are now at 250. This supplement is also supposed to help with sleep if someone is having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. My daughter has never had any problems with that, so I don't know if that helped in that area or not. That is why it's good to take it also at dinner time. My DAN doctor has this supplement listed as helping support focus and concentration.
Cons of 5 HTP: I believe I have read that very occassionally this supplement can cause hyperactivity but most moms have reported that there are no negative side effects.
Brand we use: We use B-6 Complex, Pure Encapsulation brand.
Contents: This one contains a variety of other vitamins in it to help with absorption and assimilation. B-6 itself on its own may cause some issues for some kids, which is why my holistic doctor recommends this one.
Where We Order From: I order from www.elementalsliving.com.
How To Take: Take with magnesium for better absorption, and with meals. Before school is best to help with concentration and ADHD symptoms.
B-6 Compliments: Take with magnesium for better absorption.
Pros for B-6: B-6 has been studied to show improvements in kids with ADHD. Many kids with ADHD have also been shown to be deficient in B-6.
Cons for B-6: Some kids don’t tolerate B-6 very well. Occasionally it can cause hyperactivity, or I’ve heard it said, “My kid went crazy with B-6.” But, I believe sometimes that’s just a sign that the body needs it. If you continue with it, and the hyperactivity goes away, then you know they just really needed it. Sometimes you just have to get past that initial stage as their body adjusts. All B vitamins tend to increase yeast (with the exception of Biotin which actually helps fight yeast), so you'll want to have some kind of "yeast protocol" in place (see below). Start out slowly and increase the amount over a couple weeks. B-6 capsules are bright yellow so don’t be alarmed if it changes the color of their urine to a bright yellow. This is normal. B-6 is water soluble. This is not one that you can easily dump into their juice. They will probably notice the taste unless you only use a little bit. Definitely don’t give it to your kids in their juice in a see through cup. I make sure the cup I give them is colored and with a cap on so they can’t see the color of the liquid inside. J I got away with this when they were younger. I put it in their lemonade. They notice it now unless I only use a small amount and then I put it in a couple times a day instead.
Brand we use: We use B-Complex Plus, Pure Encapsulation brand.
Contents: This contains a variety of B vitamins including B-6 and B-12. I mention and recommend this one because it contains several B vitamins and you might be able to cut down the number of supplements you are giving by using this one instead. I give this instead of B-6 sometimes, but I always give the B-12 as well. Sometimes I will rotate giving this one and the B-6 every other day or something.
Where We Order From: I order from www.elementalsliving.com.
How To Take: Take with magnesium for better absorption, and with meals. Before school is best to help with concentration and ADHD symptoms.
B-Complex Compliments: As with all B vitamins, take with magnesium for better absorption.
Pros for B-Complex: B vitamins have been studied to show improvements in kids with ADHD, especially B-6 and B-12. My midwife told me that Trader Joe’s sells a B-6 and B-12 combination pill that just dissolves. She recommends it to pregnant women who have morning sickness as these two vitamins help with that as well. We cannot use it though because it contains a small amount of dairy (lactose).
Brands We Use: Currently, we are using Klaire's Detox Support, which is a 50 billion (very high dose). You can only order it by calling their 800 #. Tell them you heard of them through Dr. McCandless's book and you will receive a 20% discount every time you order. You don't want to start with this though. I also have Floragen 3 which I got from our local health food store in the refrigerated section. This one is a 15 billion. I take this one and my 3 year old takes half of one capsule. We also use Pearls brand sometimes. They come in different amounts. You want one with at least 3 different strains and at least 1 to 3 billion. These are tiny and easy to swallow. They look like little pearls. These can also be taken with or without food and at any time of day because they don't open up till after they pass the stomach apparently. We also use Klaire's Infant Probiotics. This is a powder that I add to my daughter's drink or I used to add it to her baby food. Obviously, with babies, you're not going to be able to give it to them on an empty stomach. That's OK.
When you start with probiotics, start slow and work up - like around 2-3 billion or so and increase every few days till you get to one capsule a day. You don't want to experience yeast die off effects (like headache, upset stomach, etc.) by going too fast. I don't recommend ThreeLac as Jenny McCarthy does in her books. It contains a strep strain which can cause some kids to get strep throat. My son did. The body mistakes it for the real strep virus and it will develop strep antibodies to try to fight it off, and they will get strep throat. This doesn't happen with all kids, but it does happen to some. The same is true of some yogurts like So Delicious Coconut yogurts.
Nearly 100% of all autistic and ADHD kids have yeast overgrowth, so probiotics are the base supplement that they are going to need every day. But, it's necessary for everyone. Autistic kids just need a higher amount to help fight off the massive yeast overgrowth they have.
If you are pregnant, probiotics are also a must, especially nearing birth. The baby picks up your bacteria in the birth canal to start off their own in their own bodies. If you have a lot of yeast, they are going to take this with them. You want to make sure they are getting some good bacteria too. Many women also suffer from yeast infections while pregnant. Probiotics will help with this, but it isn't a quick fix. It will take about 10 days or so to help, but there are many other things you can do to help with that. I have lots of experience with that. E-mail me if you want details of fighting a yeast infection naturally. Also, if you do get yeast infections while pregnant, that means you have a lot of yeast overgrowth, and you don't want to pass that on to your baby, so get it under control now. I believe that is one of the contributing factors to autism as well - babies born to mothers who had yeast overgrowth and passed it on.
How to Take: Taking at night before bed is best. You want to take it about 2 hours away from food and supplements, on an empty stomach. If taken with a snack, that's OK. You can take it with food, but then it will go to work helping to digest the food instead of working on yeast. Some people take with food for that reason, but if you are taking it to help fight yeast and repopulate the gut with the good bacteria, try to take on an empty stomach as much as possible. You can also take in the morning before breakfast (at least a half an hour before). If you are on antibiotics, double the amount of your probiotics while you are taking the antibiotics. We take one in the morning, and one at night. The antibiotics are going to kill off all bacteria, including the good ones, so you want to repopluate them. This is why so many people develop a yeast overgrowth in the first place is because all the good bacteria have been irradicated, and now the yeast and bad bacteria thrive having no good bacteria to fight them off.
This one is just my personal opinion. Many of our kids that have issues have a lot of vitamin deficiencies and I've read a few articles on this as well. I had my kids tested by our holistic doctor to see exactly where they were at and what they were deficient in. When we added those, I saw improvement. I think adding a multi-vitamin is a good insurance policy. Just in case they are deficient in something I don't know about, I've covered all the bases.
Brand we use: Pure Encapsulation PediaNutrients capsules or Thorne Reseach's Children's Basic Nutrients. These are the two brands my holistic doctor recommends. Both are good but the recommended dose for the Pure Encapsulation is 4 capsules and for Thorne it's 6, so I prefer the PediaNutrients. The capsules are small which is nice and you can open up the capsules and dump these into juice and they dissolve well. I also have some Solaray Children's Chewables for my almost 2 year old. These are berry flavored so I can't give these to my other kids. So far, I haven't seen any issues with salycilates (fruits, etc.) with her so I let her have these. I am not a fan of the gummy vitamins. If you read the labels, they aren't providing very much of the vitamins, they contain a lot of sugar, and they're expensive and go fast. The only gummies I will get are the orange vitamin C gummies from Trader Joe's because they contain 250 mg of vitamin C in 2 gummies. I only give these when they are sick or something's going around. Otherwise, we have a lot of other vitamins we use to combat illnesses. My holistic doctor also sells their own brand of multi in a chewable tablet. It's orange flavored though. We tried it and my kids didn't like the taste.
How To Take: Take with meals. Ideally, you want to take some in the morning and some at dinner time. It's best to divide it up because their body can only absorb so much at a time. How many my kids take just depends on what other supp's I am giving them at the time. I try to get in as many as I can up to the recommended dose. So, I might give one at each meal. I know it's not the recommended dose, but I do what I can. Smoothies are good for hiding supplements.
Where We Order From: I order from www.elementalsliving.com or else you can google and see where else these are sold online.
Pros: I like multi-vitamins because I feel like it's covering all the bases. They're not getting high doses of any one vitamin so I feel they're safe to take with other supplements and my holistic doctor has said that too.
Cons: You have to take 4-6 capsules a day. I wish it was just 1 or 2, but these particular vitamins have a lot packed into them.
Honorable mention: Iron
A couple of articles stated iron as one supplement that can help ADHD. I suppose if they were deficient in it, it would help. This is not one I have ever heard mom’s talk about on the GFCF board, and we talk about a LOT of supplements. I’ve never given my kids iron, but it is included in the multivitamin. You have to be careful with giving iron to kids because too much can be toxic. My midwife thought I was anemic because I passed out after giving birth so she had me taking iron for a few months. One sign of iron deficiency is feeling tired. Many ADHD kids are hyper. I know they test for iron at physicals sometimes with the finger prick so you would know if they were deficient.
Brand we use: Floradix’s Floravital Iron + Herb liquid supplement. Look for the gluten free one. I took this one for a while. It’s made out of vegetables and herbs so it is easily digested. Lots of iron supplements will cause constipation. You take a little shot of this every day. It tastes a little gross but I got used to it and just plugged my nose. They make a tablet/capsule form of this, but it contains some dairy (lactose) so I couldn’t take it. They have this at the health food store. It’s very expensive and only lasts for 4 weeks after you open it. I found it online a little cheaper.
How To Take: Take at the beginning of a meal. You can take it with vitamin C or vitamin C rich foods to boost absorption. Don’t drink any tea close to when you take your iron because it will inhibit absorption.
Pros: If you are deficient in iron, taking iron will boost your energy levels. When I didn’t take my iron for a couple days, I’d start to feel weak and felt like I was going to pass out. I didn’t need to take it indefinitely. I took it for about 6 months, then continued on with my prenatal vitamins which contain iron. If you are pregnant, sometimes your doctor will prescribe iron.
Cons: Can cause constipation (but not this particular brand). If you do have problems with constipation , you can take magnesium and vitamin C to combat that.
Side Note: Some people talk about supplements called Calm Child and Attentive Child. We tried these years ago before starting the Feingold Diet for ADHD and I didn’t notice any big difference in my 4 year old. I hear of a few people every now and then who use these and like them, but it’s not one of those big ones that are a miracle or that I hear a whole lot about. But, every child is different so if you want to try them, go ahead. It’s probably worth a try.I remember buying some spray called Calm Child when my son was little. I think it had a lot of chamomile and lavender in it and it was supposed to calm him down. I remember thinking, “Can I dump the whole bottle on him?” It didn’t really work but he thought it was fun to be sprayed with it.
So there you have it. These are just ones that I have heard about the most in treating ADHD. Obviously, I believe diet plays a huge role in treating ADHD, which is why we do the Feingold Diet. But, I think supplements are very important as well. It’s best to get all our vitamins from our food, but in reality, that’s hard to do.
I’m not a doctor. I’m just sharing what we do and what I have learned about these supplements in working with our own holistic/DAN doctor and in talking to other moms on the GFCF Kids yahoo group. When starting any supplements, you should consult with your doctor and start one at a time. They say to do one every four days to watch for any reactions, positive or negative. It’s nice to be able to link which supplements are helping your child the most.
If you want to have testing done (and you have the money), my holistic doctor works via Skype so it doesn’t matter where you live. My insurance covered him as an out of network doctor and paid for 50%. His name is Dr. John Hicks out of Delavan, WI (and IL). His web site is www.elementalsliving.com.
Do supplements cost a lot? Yes.
I can get reimbursed through my company’s FSA plan. I do have to have my holistic doctor write up a letter each year saying which supplements my daughter needs, because of new government guidelines. I spend a lot on supplements. This is one reason why when someone asks me if the Feingold Diet is worth the $83, I say yes. $83 is nothing compared to what I pay in supplements for our whole family each year. But, I totally understand if a family can’t afford it. My goal is to one day have my kids eating so healthy that they don’t need any more supplements because they are getting them all from their food. But, that day isn’t here yet. Fermented foods is one way to get a whole lot of vitamins and probiotics. Coconut water kefir is one food source for probiotics. Dr. Hicks is big on this. He has info on his web site about it.
Hope this helps and isn’t too overwhelming! Just take baby steps to a healthier life. You don’t need to do everything all at once. You’ll get there! :) Keep reading and educating yourself. www.mercola.com is one of my favorite web sites and he tweets a lot of great stuff too.
All About Supplements
Supplements for Kids Who Can't Swallow Pills
All About Supplements
Supplements for Kids Who Can't Swallow Pills
"All Natural Mom's Guide to the Feingold Diet" e-book coming
August 1st, 2014 on Amazon Kindle!
August 1st, 2014 on Amazon Kindle!