ADHD Treatment Natural Remedies for ADHD By Jacqueline Sinfield Jacqueline Sinfield Facebook Twitter Jacqueline Sinfield is an ADHD coach, and the author of "Untapped Brilliance, How to Reach Your Full Potential As An Adult With ADHD." Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 15, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Camille Tokerud / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Vitamins and Supplements Nutrition Exercise Sleep Frequently Asked Questions Natural remedies for ADHD (and other conditions) are treatments that do not involve a prescription from a healthcare provider. People have been using natural remedies to address their health issues for millennia. They are now generally referred to as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and commonly involve nutritional strategies, supplements, and lifestyle changes. Medication may be necessary to treat ADHD, but complementary and alternative treatments may also be helpful for alleviating ADHD symptoms. A combination of remedies may be the most effective way to treat and manage symptoms. Natural ADHD remedies may be used either in place of or in combination with medicine prescribed by a doctor. But always consult with a healthcare provider before trying an alternative treatment. This article discusses some natural remedies for ADHD that may be helpful, including nutritional strategies, supplements, and lifestyle changes. Starting and Stopping ADHD Medications Vitamins and Supplements for ADHD Vitamins and minerals play an important role in natural remedies for ADHD. You can eat vitamin-rich foods and may also consider taking vitamin supplements. Always talk to a healthcare provider before you begin taking a supplement. Discuss any medication you are currently taking to help avoid potential interactions. Always purchase supplements from a trusted source and never take expired vitamins or supplements. Vitamin B6 and Magnesium The B vitamins are essential for a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B6 is especially important for ADHD, as it is involved in the production of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Vitamin B6 and magnesium metabolism are connected. If magnesium levels are low, this can cause problems similar to ADHD, such as reduced attention span and irritability. A deficiency in B6 might result in poor memory, trouble concentrating, and increased activity. Taking magnesium and B6 together may be helpful in managing ADHD symptoms. Vitamin D Studies have suggested that people who have ADHD often have low blood serum levels of vitamin D. Supplementing with vitamin D may be helpful for improving symptoms and well-being in children with ADHD. One review of studies concluded that vitamin D supplementation appeared to be useful as an adjunctive therapy. However, further research is needed to better understand both the efficacy and safety of supplementing vitamin D in both children and adults with ADHD. Zinc Zinc is a mineral that regulates dopamine. Low levels of zinc may contribute to attentional issues. Zinc deficiencies tend to be common, and may have an impact on functions such as memory, impulse control, attention, and mood. Some studies suggest that zinc may have a beneficial impact on ADHD symptoms, particularly that of inattention when used as a complementary therapy. However, further research is needed to understand its potential efficacy as well as what dosages and formulations might be most helpful. Iron Iron is needed to make dopamine. Low iron levels have been associated with ADHD symptoms. Some studies suggest that iron supplementation (along with zinc) was helpful for improving ADHD symptoms and treatment outcomes. Your doctor can check your iron levels and prescribe a supplement if you need one. It is not advisable to take an iron supplement without medical advice. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Research shows people with ADHD have lower levels of omega-3 compared to their peers who do not have ADHD. Taking an omega-3 supplement may include improving ADHD symptoms, resulting in, for example, increased attention, focus, and memory, and may help with your overall approach to treatment. While the effects appear to be small compared to the efficacy of traditional ADHD medications, omega-3 supplements have been shown to be helpful for improving ADHD symptoms. Press Play for Advice On Improving Focus Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring Amishi Jha, PhD, a psychology professor, shares how to improve your attention span amid daily distractions. Click below to listen now. Subscribe Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Can L-Theanine Be Used to Treat ADHD? Nutrition Diet may also have an effect on ADHD symptoms. Limiting processed foods, eating a healthy diet, and identifying food intolerances may be helpful. Aim to Keep Blood Sugar Levels Stable While the research is not entirely conclusive, some evidence suggests that dietary patterns such as consuming too much sugar can worsen some ADHD symptoms. Excessive sugar intake can lead to energy crashes and fluctuating blood glucose levels. This can magnify some symptoms of ADHD, including problems with activity levels, memory, and focus. Eating regularly (yet not constantly snacking) helps to control blood sugar. This helps to avoid the focus and attention issues, irritability, and low physical energy that come with unstable blood sugar levels. Instead of reaching for snacks with added sugar, look for those that are high in protein and fiber. Focusing on snacks that include protein and fiber can help you feel fuller longer and minimize swings in blood sugar levels. Avoid Certain Ingredients and Additives Some research suggests that particular ingredients or food additives might be linked to increased ADHD symptoms. For example, sodium benzoate is in many foods and drinks and has been associated with high scores on ADHD rating scales. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that is added to many foods, including salad dressing, bouillon cubes, and baby food. Some studies have found adverse cognitive reactions to MSG. Caffeine is a stimulant that can also exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Caffeine enhances dopamine and increases focus and alertness. It can result in side effects like anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. Caffeine can also interact negatively with stimulant medication. Some studies have found a connection between food coloring and additives and hyperactivity in children. Recap Avoiding certain ingredients and additives may be helpful. Some substances that have been linked to ADHD symptoms include sodium benzoate, monosodium glutamate, caffeine, and some food dyes. Consume Plenty of Protein Including protein with meals can help in managing ADHD symptoms. Not only does protein help to stabilize blood sugar levels, but protein also influences neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, are biochemical messengers that allow communication between brain cells. Neurotransmitters are important in treating ADHD. For example, stimulant ADHD medications work by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the synapses of the brain. Eating enough protein may help neurotransmitters function more efficiently and may help ensure that you are able to perform better throughout the day. An ADHD-friendly meal includes a balance of protein and fiber (such as from vegetables, unprocessed fruit, or oatmeal). Identify Food Intolerances Some research has suggested that people who have ADHD may be more likely to have food allergies and food intolerances. Symptoms might include itchiness or hives, or a more severe reaction, such as swelling of the tongue or problems breathing. Food allergies can be diagnosed with a skin test or blood test. Food intolerance or sensitivities are harder to detect than allergies. For example, they might not show up in blood results, and the effects of eating a certain food might not be as immediate. Yet they can still negatively affect quality of life. For example, your energy levels can be affected. Or, there might be changes in your behavior, like more impulsiveness and a decrease in brain clarity or ability to concentrate. Because blood tests are not a reliable way to test for intolerances, the best way to discover if you have any is with an elimination diet. There are two ways to do this. You could eliminate all the top allergens (soy, wheat, dairy, corn, yeast, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and chocolate) at the same time. Alternatively, eliminate one at a time and see if you notice a reduction in symptoms. Eliminating all the foods at the same time can result in a restrictive diet, which is hard to maintain. There is also the potential that you would not meet your nutritional requirements. Working with a registered dietitian is helpful if you decide on this option. For some people, eliminating one food at a time is the easiest way to confirm food intolerances. Feingold Diet The Feingold diet is an elimination diet designed for people with ADHD. It allows only a few food dyes or additives. It has been criticized for being very restrictive, and it should not be the only way you treat ADHD. However, it is a diet that might help to identify food sensitivities. Exercise Exercise improves ADHD symptoms, including executive functions. Many research studies have looked at different types of exercise and how they help ADHD. The verdict is that there is not one exercise type that is better than another. Instead, pick one that you enjoy and will feel motivated to do regularly. It could be running, spinning classes, yoga, or martial arts. If you have a tendency to get bored, rotate through a variety of your favorite exercise types. Some research also suggests that spending time outside may be helpful for improving ADHD symptoms. Look for opportunities to combine physical exercise with time outdoors, such as running, walking, hiking, or cycling. Energetic Play Exercise is excellent for children with ADHD. It helps all their ADHD symptoms, including hyperactivity and impulsivity. Children might enjoy an organized sport or martial arts class. They can also benefit from lots of opportunities to participate in energetic play throughout the day. This could be jumping on a trampoline, running in the yard or park with friends, or going for a bike ride. Sleep Getting enough sleep every night helps ADHD. However, ADHD symptoms can sabotage good sleep hygiene. For example, hyper-focus or procrastinating on projects until the last minute can mean you end up going to bed late. Having a busy mind can make falling asleep feel impossible. This, in turn, makes waking up in the morning hard because you are sleep-deprived. Getting less sleep than you need affects your ability to focus and concentrate. It also affects your mood and general health. Although making sleep a priority and changing habits around sleep might feel like a daunting task, it is a great natural way to help ADHD. The Relationship Between ADHD and Insomnia A Word From Verywell It is important to remember that everyone responds to ADHD treatments differently. While medication is often necessary to manage symptoms, natural remedies and lifestyle changes may also be helpful. These natural treatments may be particularly effective when used in conjunction with medication. Work with a healthcare provider to determine what works best. Are ADD and ADHD the Same Condition? Frequently Asked Questions How long does it take for supplements to work with ADHD? How quickly supplements begin working depends on the person and the supplement. For some supplements, you might start to notice some changes within a week or two. In other cases, it might take several weeks to start to notice any effects. You may want to wait at least a month or two before deciding if a supplement is helpful. Which vitamins and supplements improve ADHD symptoms? Some vitamins and supplements that may help improve ADHD symptoms include omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin D, iron, and magnesium. How do nutrition and supplements help ADHD? Certain vitamins and supplements may improve cognitive function, inattention, memory, and mood. This can be helpful for improving some of the symptoms associated with ADHD. When should I take ADHD supplements? When to take these supplements often depends on the type that you are taking. Some may affect energy levels and should only be taken in the morning. Others may cause stomach upset and should be taken with food. Talk to a healthcare provider before you begin taking any supplements. What are the best supplements for adult ADHD? Supplements with the most evidence supporting their use for ADHD include omega-3s, zinc, iron, and magnesium. However, it is important to note that studies suggest that the efficacy of these supplements tends to be smaller than that of traditional ADHD medication. They are often best used to complement other ADHD treatments. What supplements should I take if I am on ADHD medication? You should always talk to a healthcare provider before taking any supplements if you are on ADHD medication. Your doctor may recommend a daily multivitamin containing iron, magnesium, and zinc. They may also give you the go-ahead to take other supplements, but talking to your doctor first can prevent any potential drug interactions. 24 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Landaas ET, Aarsland TIM, Ulvik A, Halmøy A, Ueland PM, Haavik J. Vitamin levels in adults with ADHD. 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