Nutrients for ADHD

The brain needs many different nutrients at just the right levels and combinations to function optimally. And when these levels are sub-par the child’s brain may suffer. For instance, take Micah’s story from Finally Focused by Dr. James Greenblatt.


Micah was 9 years old. He was diagnosed with ADHD at 6 and went on medication but suffered with side effects. At 9, his family couldn’t go out to a restaurant because Micah’s behavior was so inappropriate. This devastated his father, who had fond memories of going out to eat as a child and wanted to re-create them with his own family. Micah had no friends or play dates, he angered quickly and he often told his parents he hated them or threatened to hurt them. His father loved being at work because at home he felt like he was walking on eggshells.

Micah was tested for various nutrients and it turned out he was deficient in magnesium and had a severe excess of copper with low zinc. Micah was put on a magnesium supplement and a zinc supplement which is a nutrient that balances with copper and so would also correct the copper excess. After 2 months of taking these supplements Micah’s parents and teachers reported dramatic changes. In school he was now participating in class, completing assignments, and interacting successfully with his peers. His father said “It’s a miracle. We can even go out to eat!”

In this example the child and the family’s life were completely changed through one simple intervention: supplementing the child with key nutrients.

The reason that correcting the nutrients made such a difference for Micah is that his brain was having trouble functioning without them. When Magnesium is deficient the brain is compromised because magnesium plays a key role in the formation of the neurotransmitters — which are chemicals that help your brain cells talk to each other. So magnesium is helping the body make the neurotransmitter dopamine (which regulates attention) and the neurotransmitter serotonin (which regulates mood). So without sufficient magnesium Micah was having trouble regulating both his attention and his mood, but once his magnesium level was up he no longer had these problems.

Zinc, another nutrient that Micah was deficient in, is also essential for brain health. It is essential for the creation of every cell in the body, helps create neurotransmitters, the production of melatonin — the hormone that gets you to sleep — depends on it, and it nourishes the entire brain. Without zinc it’s very hard to think! So by raising his zinc levels, Micah’s brain now had the support it needed to function better. And, as I said before, higher zinc levels, will balance out copper which in excess can contribute to agitation, anxiety, poor sleep, and loss of appetite. So this too contributed to Micah’s improved mood because his zinc and copper levels were now optimal.

Magnesium, Zinc, and Copper are just a few of the nutiens that affect the brain. But there are others. For example, lithum. For ADHD kids who are irritable, angry, aggressive, and impulsive lithium can be very effective. Yes, this is the mineral that in high doses can be used to treat Bipolar Disorder, but for ADHD lithium in low doses — sometimes called nutritional lithium — can, in Greenblatt’s words, “dramatically soothe the troubled, turbulent emotions that agitate and upset some ADHD children, leading them to helplessly lash out at others.”

I know it may seem strange but Greenblatt explains that when a child comes to his office with this irritable, aggressive ADHD he does a Hair Tissues Minerals Analysis test and very often finds extremely low — undetectably low — levels of lithium. When he puts the child on low dose lithium the aggression, irritability, an ADHD go away.

Lithium works by balancing neurotransmitters, protecting brain cells, decreasing neuro-inflammation in the brain, and moving Vit B12 and folate into the nerve cells - a must for a healthy brain and nervous system.

Another nutrient that is essential for brain health and therefore essential for kids with ADHD is omega 3. You’ve probably heard of this fatty acid — it’s what makes cold water fatty fish so healthy — their large doses of omega 3s. In the brain omega 3 is needed for just about every aspect of moving information between brain cells which means every thought, emotion, and action needs omega 3. It also decreases low-grade inflammation which protects the brain cells from dying.

The key with omega 3 is getting enough omega 3 in relation to omega 6. Our hunter gatherer ancestors likely had a ratio of 2 omega 6s to 1 omega 3 whilst the Standard American Diet has a ratio of 15 omega 6s to 1 omega 3. This is largely due to the consumption of vegetable and seed oils, transfats, and feeding grain to cattle instead of grass and eating the meat. Eliminating those oilds, fats, and switching to grass-fed beef can make a big difference to omega 6 to omega 3 ratios. And studies have shown that supplementing with omega 3 in the form of fish oil can affect a wide range of ADHD symptoms from hyperactivity, to attention, to disobedience, to hostility, to better memory & learning, to better reading ability and sleep!

Sometimes it’s nutrient deficiencies and imbalances, that are causing your child’s ADHD symptoms and by correcting these nutrient problems the ADHD symptoms will go away.