ADHD In Teens & Adults: Supplements That Make A Real Difference

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Nutrition has the power to support neurotransmitter production and even help heal the brain. In the search for solutions to managing ADHD, nutritional supplements are recognized as a supportive tool alongside traditional treatments. This article shows how certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, and magnesium, can play a role in managing ADHD symptoms. In this article, we’ll explore the emerging research behind these supplements.

What Is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that mainly affects children but can continue into adulthood. But, with all the fancy testing, we could just as easily call ADHD by the name, “brain not working syndrome”. The diagnosis of ADHD says absolutely nothing about why the brain does not focus attention and remember instructions. What we do know is that ADHD has to do with how well a person’s brain cells work and how they are connected.

The brain is the most energy-hungry organ. It’s estimated that the adult brain is about 2% of total body weight and requires about 20-25% of total energy intake. So it shouldn’t be surprising that any nutritional inadequacy that affects cellular energy production will cause an energy brown-out that will lead to “brain fog” which will make any underlying ADHD worse.

And the brain can heal itself to a certain extent over the course of time by building new connections. The brain continues to develop rapidly into a person’s mid-20s. And the brain continues to evolve throughout life. But these new connections require optimal nutrition that doesn’t leave out any of the nutrients needed to build those new connections. Neuroplasticity continues lifelong, so it’s never too late to nourish your brain.

What’s Important For Managing Adult ADHD?

When it comes to managing Adult ADHD, specific focus on nutrient intake, exercise, and sleep play major roles. Understanding how each of these elements interacts with the gives a more comprehensive approach to managing ADHD symptoms, whether you are taking ADHD medications or not.

Nutrient Needs

For people with ADHD, certain nutrients are particularly important due to their role in brain function and neurotransmitter synthesis. Key among these is the role of specific nutrients in the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter often at suboptimal levels in ADHD. Nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, are known to support brain health and may assist in dopamine regulation. Similarly, B vitamins, especially B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are crucial for the synthesis of neurotransmitters including dopamine. A diet rich in these vitamins, which can be found in leafy greens, lean meats, and whole grains, might contribute to improved attention and impulse control in adults with ADHD.

Magnesium and zinc are other important nutrients for those with ADHD. Magnesium is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body and is important for brain function. Zinc influences neurotransmitter production and brain function. Including nuts, seeds, and legumes in the diet can help ensure adequate intake of these minerals.

Exercise Benefits

Regular exercise is not only beneficial for overall physical health but also plays a crucial role in brain health. Exercise stimulates the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. This is particularly important in ADHD management as it can help improve cognitive functions like memory, attention, and executive function. Activities such as aerobic exercise, strength training, and yoga can all be beneficial in stimulating BDNF production.

Sleep and Nutrition

Quality sleep is essential for cognitive function and overall health. Nutrition plays a key role in sleep quality. Certain nutrients, such as magnesium and calcium, are known to support sleep. Magnesium, found in nuts, seeds, and whole grains, helps to maintain healthy GABA levels, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture melatonin, a hormone that aids in the sleep cycle.

The right nutrition supports the energy demands of the brain. The brain is an energy-intensive organ, consuming about 20% of the body’s total energy. Nutrients that support mitochondrial function, the powerhouses of cells, are crucial. These include B vitamins, CoQ10, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Ensuring adequate intake of these nutrients can help support overall brain function and energy levels, which is particularly important for individuals with ADHD.

So, focusing on specific nutritional needs, the benefits of exercise for brain health, and the role of nutrition in sleep can provide a well-rounded approach to managing ADHD. Each of these aspects plays a key role in supporting brain health and function, reducing some of the challenges faced by people with ADHD.


Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.


  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are crucial for brain health and cognitive functioning. EPA and DHA are found in high concentrations in fish oil. These essential fats play a vital role in the structure and function of neuronal membranes. They are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and their ability to help in the development and functioning of the brain. This is thought to be due to omega-3s’ role in improving neurotransmitter efficiency, especially in the pathways involving dopamine and serotonin, which are critical for focus, mood regulation, and impulse control. [PMC9641984]
  • Multivitamin: A comprehensive multivitamin supplement can be a key component in managing ADHD, particularly for people whose diets may lack essential nutrients. [PMC5153567] [PMID: 24482441]
    • Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays an important role in brain development and function. Research has shown a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and increased severity of ADHD symptoms. It contributes to the maintenance of nerve cells and the formation of neurotrophic factors, which are important for brain health. [PMC6333940]
    • Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that plays an integral role in neurotransmission and brain function, making it important for people with ADHD. It is involved in the synthesis and modulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which is essential for cognitive processes such as attention and memory. [PMC8285486]
    • Antioxidants (Vitamins C and E, Selenium): Antioxidants like Vitamins C and E, and Selenium, are considered for their role in reducing oxidative stress, which some studies suggest may be elevated in individuals with ADHD. These antioxidants can help protect brain cells from damage and support overall neurological health. Supplementing with antioxidants could potentially aid in improving focus, reducing hyperactivity, and enhancing cognitive function, though specific research on their impact in ADHD is still developing. [PMC5946190]
    • Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is essential for brain health, particularly in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play a critical role in regulating mood, attention, and energy levels. [PMC5153567] High-dose vitamin B6 is found to boost the activity of a brain chemical called GABA. GABA helps to calm and regulate the brain. [PMC9787829] In children, multi-year supplementation with B6 normalized ADHD behavior. [PMID: 24321736]
  • Magnesium: Magnesium plays a crucial role in neurological health. [PMC7352515] This mineral has a calming effect on the nervous system and is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, many of which contribute to brain function. Magnesium can help regulate neurotransmitter systems, which is important for mood, attention, and sleep regulation. Supplementing magnesium is suggested given that inadequate intake is extremely common in the population.
  • Probiotics: The gut-brain axis is a growing area of research of ADHD, with emerging evidence showing a link between gut health and brain function. Probiotics, which support a healthy balance of gut flora, may play a role in managing ADHD by improving gut health. A healthy gut microbiome can influence neurotransmitter production, reduce inflammation, and impact mood and cognitive function. Since probiotics help improve cognition children with ADHD and even in those with Alzheimer’s, they would be expected to benefit adults with ADHD. [PMID: 36529793]
  • Rhodiola Rosea: An adaptogen that may help with stress management, a common challenge for individuals with ADHD. It’s believed to enhance mental stamina and resilience. [PMID: 32592534]
  • Citicoline: Citicoline may also have a role in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some studies have shown that it may improve symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. [PMID: 26179181] [PMC4517431][PMC7878037]
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Known for cognitive-enhancing properties, it’s thought to improve attention and memory, though its effectiveness specifically for ADHD is still being evaluated. There is evidence for it’s use in adolescents with ADHD as well as other cognitive issues. [PMID: 19815048]
  • Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): Bacopa monnieri is an Ayurvedic herb that shows promise in improving cognitive functions and reducing stress and anxiety, which are often co-occurring issues in ADHD. [PMC3537209]
  • Phosphatidylserine: This phospholipid is important for brain cell membrane function and may aid in improving mental focus, memory, and cognitive abilities. [PMC9382310]
  • L-Theanine: L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, is known for its calming effects on the brain. L-Theanine is believed to influence brain chemicals such as GABA, dopamine, and serotonin, which are involved in mood, sleep, emotion, and stress regulation. By modulating these neurotransmitters, L-Theanine can help reduce anxiety and hyperactivity while improving focus and attention. [PMC8794723]
  • Pycnogenol (Pine Bark Extract): Known for its antioxidant properties, it’s suggested to help with managing symptoms of ADHD, though more research is needed. [PMC5946190]
  • Melatonin: People with ADHD often struggle with sleep disturbances, which can worsen their brain function and ADHD symptoms. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a key role in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin supplementation can be particularly useful for establishing a more consistent sleep schedule, aiding in falling asleep and enhancing sleep quality. [PMID: 33121289]
  • Iron: Iron is essential for oxygen transport to support normal brain function, as well as it’s requirement for the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Low iron levels have been associated with more severe symptoms of ADHD. Iron deficiency can lead to decreased dopamine receptor function and altered neurotransmission, which are likely to make ADHD symptoms worse. However, iron supplementation is only appropriate for people with low iron, as excessive iron can be harmful.

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.


Are ADHD Supplements Safe?

When considering the use of supplements the supplements listed above, it’s reassuring to know that these are generally regarded as safe when used appropriately. Most of these supplements are naturally occurring substances in the body or derived from herbs and foods we consume, making them well-tolerated by most individuals. For instance, Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats beneficial for brain health, and minerals like zinc, iron, and magnesium play crucial roles in numerous bodily functions. Herbal supplements such as Ginkgo Biloba and Brahmi have a long history of safe use. Similarly, substances like melatonin and L-Theanine are widely recognized for their safety and effectiveness in improving sleep and reducing anxiety. Probiotics, which support gut health, and a balanced multivitamin, which ensures an adequate intake of essential nutrients, can also be safe components of an ADHD management plan.

Medication Interactions with ADHD Supplements

  • Blood Thinners Interaction: Supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids, Ginkgo Biloba, and Ginseng can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood thinners such as Warfarin and Aspirin. Ginseng, in particular, may also affect blood clotting.
  • Antidepressant Interaction: Rhodiola Rosea may interact with antidepressants by affecting serotonin levels. Ginseng might interfere with the effectiveness of certain antidepressants.
  • Antidiabetic Medications Interaction: For those on antidiabetic medications, Omega-3 fatty acids may require adjustments in medication as they can affect blood sugar levels. Similarly, Ginseng can lower blood sugar levels and interact with diabetes medications.
  • Antihypertensive Medications Interaction: Omega-3 fatty acids and high doses of Magnesium may lower blood pressure, potentially enhancing the effects of antihypertensive drugs.
  • Immunosuppressants Interaction: Ginseng might stimulate the immune system and could interfere with the action of immunosuppressants.
  • Sedatives Interaction: Sedatives and CNS depressants’ effects may be enhanced by supplements like Melatonin, Valerian Root, and L-Theanine.
  • Antibiotics Interaction: Iron and Zinc supplements can reduce the absorption and effectiveness of certain antibiotics.
  • Bisphosphonates Interaction: Calcium, common in multivitamins, can interfere with the absorption of bisphosphonates used for osteoporosis and may also affect the absorption of thyroid medications, similar to Iron.
  • Diuretics Interaction: Magnesium excretion can be increased by certain diuretics, possibly leading to deficiency.
  • Hormonal Contraceptives Interaction: St. John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives.
  • Thyroid Medication Interaction: Iron can reduce the absorption and efficacy of thyroid medications. Calcium, common in multivitamins, can interfere with thyroid medication absorption.
  • Cytochrome P450 Enzymes Interaction: Ginkgo Biloba and Valerian Root may interact with drugs metabolized by liver enzymes.

Supplement Interactions

The following supplement interactions are included for general information. These are unlikely to present any issues in the context of the recommended supplements.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Can interact with other fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D, possibly improving their absorption.
  • Zinc: High doses of zinc can interfere with the absorption and metabolism of other minerals, especially copper and iron.
  • Iron: Excessive iron supplementation can reduce the absorption of zinc and potentially interact with calcium absorption.
  • Magnesium: High levels of magnesium can interfere with the absorption of other minerals like calcium and can affect the balance of other electrolytes.
  • Vitamin B6: Over-supplementation of Vitamin B6 can lead to imbalances in other B vitamins, such as B12 and folate.
  • Melatonin: Melatonin can interact with other supplements that affect sleep and relaxation, like L-Theanine and Valerian Root.
  • L-Theanine: May interact with other supplements that have a calming or sedative effect, such as Valerian Root or melatonin.
  • Vitamin D: High doses can affect the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, and can interact with other fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A and Vitamin K.
  • Probiotics: Can interact with high doses of minerals like iron and magnesium, as these minerals might affect the gut environment and the efficacy of probiotics.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Can affect the metabolism of other herbal supplements due to its influence on blood circulation and metabolism.
  • Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): Its effects on cognition and stress can be influenced by other supplements that affect the brain and nervous system.
  • Rhodiola Rosea: When taken with other adaptogens or stimulants, it can affect overall efficacy and balance.
  • Phosphatidylserine: The effectiveness of phosphatidylserine can be influenced by other fatty acids and fat-soluble nutrients.
  • Pycnogenol (Pine Bark Extract): Its antioxidant properties can be influenced by other antioxidants in the diet or supplement regimen.
  • Multivitamin: The balance of nutrients in a multivitamin can be influenced by individual nutrient supplements taken alongside it, especially if they are in high doses.

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Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

What Lab Tests Might Be Helpful In Managing ADHD?

The problem with being diagnosed with ADHD is that it is based purely on symptoms with very little attention given to potential causes. The problem is that ADHD symptoms can be almost exactly the same as symptoms of other health problems.

  • Sleep Disorders: Poor sleep can impair anyone’s brain function. Although sleep disorders can be a problem at any age, adults should seek to rule out sleep apnea where a person stops breathing frequently during sleep.
  • Adults with ADHD might also consider the following tests:
    • Diabetes: Urinalysis and Blood Chemistry Panel are used to screen for diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can affect energy, mood, and concentration, hence the importance of ruling out such metabolic issues in the assessment of ADHD.
    • Thyroid Disorders: In adults, thyroid function tests, including TSH, T3, and T4 tests, are crucial for detecting thyroid dysfunctions like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. These conditions can affect energy levels, concentration, and mood, thereby potentially mimicking or worsening ADHD symptoms.
    • Liver Function: Liver Function Tests help assess the health of the liver by measuring levels of liver enzymes, bilirubin, and proteins in the blood. Since liver diseases can affect overall health, cognition, and behavior, it’s important to ensure liver health in the ADHD diagnostic process.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency: Vitamin D Levels are tested through a blood test, as a deficiency in Vitamin D is linked to various neurological and cognitive issues. Adequate Vitamin D is important for brain development and function, and its deficiency could be related to ADHD symptoms.
  • Iron Deficiency: The Complete Blood Count (CBC) is a fundamental test that provides a detailed count of different blood cells, helping to diagnose conditions like anemia which can manifest in symptoms similar to ADHD, such as fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Additionally, checking Iron and Ferritin Levels is critical because iron deficiency anemia can impact cognitive function and behavior, potentially exacerbating or mimicking ADHD symptoms.
  • Omega-3 Deficiency: Additionally, a Fatty Acid Profile can be informative, as it assesses the levels of essential fatty acids, including Omega-3, which are vital for brain health and cognitive function. However, a person is highly likely to be deficient if they eat fatty fish less that twice per week or don’t take a supplement containing 1000 mg EPA/DHA each day. Adequate levels of DHA are needed to generate new neuronal connections.

To Sum It Up

Even though nutrition is not a part of the typical medical approach to ADHD, studies cited in this article show that nutrients in the form of food and supplements have the power to get at the root causes of brain dysfunction in ADHD. Studies have increasingly supported the role of specific nutrients in managing ADHD symptoms. For instance, Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, and magnesium have all been the subject of research studies that show their potential in improving focus for those with ADHD.

This research shows that the use of these supplements in addition to good food choices should be a part of every ADHD management plan. Think about consulting a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for personalized advice.


This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.



This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.


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