Supplements and ADHD: Guidelines

by | Mar 14, 2024 | ADHD Medication | 1 comment

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways to manage your ADHD.

High protein, wide array of colorful fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats = good for you. (Sugar, white flour, trans-fatty acid, alcohol and caffeine = bad for you.)

You may strive to maintain this ADHD-friendly diet, but some days, it’s hard. Our morning routines are chaotic so breakfast consists of a bar we grab as we run out the door (or nothing). We forget to pack lunch so cookies in the vending machine are a quick solution on work days. And dinner? Something frozen or something fast. 

The main goal and recommendation is to eat a balanced diet, but supplements can be the backup you may need to help treat your Adult ADHD; especially iron, Omega-3s, Vitamin D, B-Complex or Magnesium.

DISCLAIMER – Consult your doctor about what supplements are good for you. Get a blood test to test your levels, ask about dosage, and if any supplements would conflict with current medication. I am not a doctor and the following recommendations are based on my experience and research. They are not a prescription. 

Five Guidelines for Taking ADHD Supplements

  1. Before you add anything into your diet that comes from a bottle, consult with your doctor. I know I already said this, but it bears repeating. 
  2. Pay attention to YOUR body and what it’s telling you. I’ve noticed that when I’m low in Magnesium, my nose will bleed. When I followed the recommendation of Dr. Ned Hallowell, my favorite ADHD guru, I took 2000mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids a day. Except at that dose, I noticed I had pain in my legs. When I cut back, the aches went away. (I eat an Omega-3 rich diet, so I suspect I can take less Omega-3 supplements.) This winter, my assistant Meg the Marvelous was exhausted all the time, foggy, and getting cold after cold – she has a history of low iron. Adding in spinach and iron supplements, she was quickly on the mend! 
  3. Take vitamins and supplements consistently. A couple of years ago, my doctor recommended I take a vitamin vacation on weekends. Gradually I noticed how my thinking was foggier and I was more sluggish on Mondays. With my doctor’s agreement, I started taking my ADHD supplements on weekends again. Mondays aren’t hard for me anymore.
  4. Be patient. Vitamins and supplements aren’t magic pills. You may not notice the full effect of adding a new supplement for a couple of months. This is the hardest idea for my ADHD coaching clients to grasp. ADHD adults aren’t patient people. We want immediate results. Give those fish oil pills at least two months before you ditch them and move on to something else.
  5. Think full stomach and plenty of fluids. Unless otherwise directed*, take your supplements at mealtime. If you don’t have consistent meal times, many adults with ADHD don’t, do you eat at least one meal regularly? 

*Now for some specific supplement recommendations/cautions:

  • Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, the most common ADHD supplement, can usually be taken any time of day. If you take more than 1000 mg of Omega-3s per day it makes sense to divide the dose. 
  • If you add iron to your diet, take it with Vitamin C to aid in absorption. But not with Calcium or caffeine which can interfere. Iron is one that you want to definitely talk to your doctor about because high doses can be toxic.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K, are much better absorbed when taken with fat in the food. These are also stored in your body and can be toxic in high doses.
  • It usually doesn’t matter what time of day you take multivitamins, BUT Vitamin C can interfere with the absorption of ADHD medication so timing is important. And many people take Magnesium at bedtime for the calming effect it can have for sleep.

Next week, we will talk about ways to remember to take your supplements. 

Until then, allow me to say one more time… Be sure to keep your physician up-to-date on what supplements you take to treat your ADHD.

NOTE: A number of people have written asking what multivitamin and Omega-3 supplements I recommend. Here’s what the Rayburn family takes: NOW Foods Special Two multivitamin and NOW Foods Omega-3. The price is reasonable and our trustworthy, healthfood co-op recommends the NOW brand. I like how easy it is to buy them from Saves a trip to the store so we never run out and can follow these important guidelines for taking ADHD supplements.

Keep reading…

1 Comment

  1. Siva

    This insightful post emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced diet for managing ADHD, with helpful tips on incorporating supplements. Consulting with a doctor and listening to your body are key for optimal results. Great advice!


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