What Supplements Are Good for ADHD and Focus? A Nutritional Psychiatry Deep Dive
Updated: Jun 21
Supplements can be helpful in the management of ADHD.
In my opinion, ADHD treatment should always be holistic and may include medication, but certainly includes therapy, nutritional and exercise counseling.
Supplements like omega-3s, zinc, and magnesium are promising supplements, but should be considered medication and taken as directed.
I recommend working with an integrative provider who can safely monitor any supplements for medication interactions and other health concerns.
There are a bunch of supplements that can be used to help improve symptoms of ADHD and focus in general. As an integrative psychiatric nurse practitioner in the Washington, DC area, I have worked with many patients struggling with ADHD symptoms and focus issues. I've found supplements can be especially helpful for those with ADHD. In fact, I take certain supplements specifically for my ADHD.
While medication can be helpful for some patients, many people prefer to explore natural options to improve their symptoms. One area that has gained attention in recent years is the use of supplements for ADHD and focus.
In this article, I will discuss some supplements that may be helpful for individuals with ADHD or focus issues. There no one-size-fits-all solution here. It is really important to understand that everyone is different and everyone's body has different needs. This post is generalized, and not to be used to diagnose or treat anything - including ADHD.
Please make time to chat with your provider before starting any supplements!
Before We Add Medications of Supplements for ADHD...
Before we dig into supplements, the rest of the house needs to be in order. No holistic plan, for ADHD or otherwise, is complete without discussing exercise, nutrition, sleep, and other lifestyle factors. So while supplements can be a helpful part of holistic ADHD treatment, if we haven’t addressed the modifiable environmental factors we are jumping ahead of ourselves - that is we should make sure what we are eating is optimized first! We should also be assessing our lab work to determine if there is a need in the first place. There's no sense in treating something that isn't broken.
So What are Supplements?
Supplements are dietary products that are intended to supplement or enhance the intake of nutrients that may be lacking in a person's diet. They are available in many forms, including pills, powders, liquids, and gummies, and contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances that are believed to be beneficial to health.
Supplements can be used to fill in nutritional gaps in a person's diet or to provide specific nutrients that are difficult to obtain through food alone. For example, some people may take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals their body needs. Others may take supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, or probiotics to address specific health concerns, such as inflammation, anxiety, or digestive issues.
It's important to note that supplements are not intended to replace a healthy diet, but rather to supplement it.
Let me repeat: supplements should not be used to replace healthy, high quality nutritional intake or a healthy lifestyle. Supplements are used to fill in gaps and to optimize imbalances, not as a way to avoid a well-rounded diet.
Also, before starting any supplements I recommend talking to your primary care or psychiatric provider, just to make sure there aren’t medication interactions or other concerns.
The Role of Supplements in Improving Focus and ADHD
Supplements are often used to support the body's natural processes and can be helpful for individuals who struggle with focus and ADHD. Supplements should be thought of as medication, so supplements should always be taken as directed. Supplements can be used in conjunction with other treatments to improve symptoms. Additionally, supplements may have fewer side effects than traditional medication for ADHD, making them an attractive option for some individuals.
Now, it’s always a good idea to check labs before starting any supplement routine to see if it even makes sense to take certain supplements – like zinc and iron. I typically run labs on every new patient to establish a baseline and to uncover any potential root-causes that have gone unnoticed.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of supplements. Other supplements like vitamin D are often a part of my integrative treatment plans. The supplements below are more specific to ADHD, though.
Supplements That May Help Improve Focus and ADHD:
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil and other supplements, have been shown to have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms. These fatty acids are important for brain function and can help improve focus and attention. One ADHD study found that children with ADHD who took omega-3 supplements experienced a significant improvement in symptoms. Quality matters here. So run of the mill fish oil supplements won’t cut it. We’re talking about a minimum of 1g of EPA and 1g of DHA per day. So at least 2g of fish oil per day.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is important for brain function. Some research has suggested that individuals with ADHD may have lower levels of zinc in their bodies. Zinc supplements may be helpful in improving focus and attention, although more research is needed to fully understand its effects.
Iron is another essential mineral that plays a role in brain function. Studies have found that children with ADHD may have lower levels of iron in their bodies. Supplementing with iron may be helpful in improving symptoms.
Magnesium is an important mineral that plays a role in over 300 bodily processes, including brain function. Some research has suggested that magnesium supplements may be helpful in improving ADHD symptoms. Magnesium can help with sleep, too and we know sleep and symptoms of ADHD are closely related.
5. Vitamin B6:
Vitamin B6 is important for brain function and may be helpful in improving focus and attention. One study found that children with ADHD who took vitamin B6 supplements experienced a significant improvement in symptoms.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for the digestive system. Recent research has suggested that probiotics may be helpful in improving ADHD symptoms. While more research is needed, some healthcare providers recommend probiotics for their patients with ADHD. This is likely due to the fact that gut health and mental health are closely related. Prebiotics, like psyllium husk fiber, help create a thriving environment for the bacteria. So prebiotics are also important components of mental health.
Recommended Daily Dosage
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
1g of EPA + 1g of DHA
Improves focus, attention, and overall brain function
Higher doses may lead to bruising
May improve attention and impulsivity, and may also help with immune function and wound healing
Zinc levels should be tested before supplementation
Helps with cognitive function, may improve attention and focus, and may help with fatigue
Iron can upset the stomach, so taking buffered iron may be best for some
May improve attention, hyperactivity, and impulse control, and help with relaxation
Certain compounds like L-theonate added to magnesium help with absorption
May improve cognitive function, attention, and behavior
B vitamins should always be taken as a complex to prevent relative deficiencies
May help with gastrointestinal issues, inflammation, and immune function
Anything to foster a healthy gut microbiome can be helpful
Conclusion: What Supplements Are Good for ADHD and Focus?
While supplements can be helpful in improving focus and ADHD symptoms, it's important to remember that they are not a substitute for healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle.
Individuals should always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, as some supplements may interact with medication or have side effects. Additionally, supplements work best when they are used in conjunction with other treatments, such as therapy and medication. With the right treatment plan, individuals with ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms! If you're looking for ADHD treatment in the Washington, DC area, I'd love to work with you. Book a free 15-minute intro today!
If you have any additional questions about ADHD or integrative psychiatry in general, shoot me an email or reach out through my website. If you're looking for a provider and you're in the Washington, DC area, I'd love to help you on your treatment journey!