Dietary Supplements Can Help ADHD and ADD Kids Headed Back to School

By Larry Newman
Vice President
Chief Operating Office
Kirkman Group, Inc.

As we approach “back to school time,” parents who have had an ADHD or ADD diagnosis of their child can get anxious about what the new school year will bring. New teachers, classmates, schedules and new surroundings are changing conditions that often alter or worsen behaviors of children with these diagnoses. ADHD is short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and ADD is the abbreviated description for attention deficit disorder. It is well known that children with either of these conditions are often at a disadvantage in school when it comes to attention spans and related learning capabilities.

ADHD has been defined as a persistent lack of attention to tasks and a lack of ability to control impulses with a noticed increase in physical activity. ADD is similar with a constant lack of attention, but without or with less of a hyperactivity factor. For the rest of our discussion, we will combine the two and just refer to ADHD, since the dietary supplement management and support is generally the same for both and most scientific discussions and statistics also combine the conditions.

The American Psychiatric Association conservatively estimates the incidence of ADHD to be three to six percent of children. International statics gathered from various resources also support that estimate. Certain geographical areas, however, exhibit rates as high as 15 percent. Boys usually outnumber girls by ratios of three-to-one.

Some children eventually outgrow ADHD but more than half of those diagnosed continue to have related symptoms as adults. In addition to the inability to maintain concentration, ADHD children may exhibit cognitive and language delays as a result of their lack of ability to process information. Fidgety behavior and lack of self control are other potential symptoms.

The specific causes of ADHD are really unknown, but the latest research indicates it is likely an interaction of genetic, nutritional and environmental factors. In the case of genetics, researchers believe that multiple genes are involved. Before ADHD was better understood, the traditional treatments in the medical profession were stimulant drugs such as Ritalin® and non-stimulant drugs such as Atomoxetine or Lithium. Unfortunately, drug therapy was not successful because of very negative side effects and often worsening symptoms such as mood swings.

Dietary Supplement Management and Support

Since treatment of ADHD has not been successful with drugs, dietary supplementation has become the preferred treatment by many clinicians. Supplements showing promise in supporting and managing ADHD are numerous. Since the newest research indicates that nutritional deficiencies are at least partially involved, children with an ADHD diagnosis should take a complete multivitamin and mineral supplement to shore up any deficiencies. Kirkman® has developed a multiple vitamin and mineral product that is specially formulated for ADHD called Spectrum Complete™. In addition to all the necessary vitamins and minerals, it also contains a number of specific additional nutritional factors that can help ADHD patients. Spectrum Complete™ comes in flavored or unflavored powders or in capsule form.

There is some evidence that high B-6 and magnesium supplements such as Kirkman’s Super Nu-Thera® can help alleviate some ADHD symptoms. These could be tried as an alternate to Spectrum Complete™ or if the Spectrum Complete™ does not give the desired results.

Once good nutrition is established with a multivitamin and mineral product, omega-3 fatty acids should be the next consideration for an ADHD child. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital report the Omega-3 fatty acids are highly effective in supporting ADHD, ADD and bipolar disorders in children. These studies were published in the journal, European Neuropsychopharmacology, in February of 2007. Kirkman® carries a complete line of Nordic Naturals® omega-3 products. Nordic Naturals® has also published some clinical information regarding their products positive support of ADHD. The products containing the higher levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are the ones utilized in the studies. (Visit for more information).

Other Nutritional Products Worth Consideration

The following are other nutritional supplements that may be helpful:

Zinc supplements have exhibited positive results in ADHD though its role is not thoroughly understood. Individuals should not exceed a 25 mg daily dose. Kirkman® has liquid and capsule versions of zinc supplements (Bilici 2004).
Acetyl-L carnitine is a dietary supplement that reduces impulsivity in individuals, while also transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria. For these reasons it may be helpful in ADHD. Kirkman® distributes the Good ‘n Natural brand of acetyl-l-carnitine (Adriani 2004).
Phosphatidyl serine has been found to improve memory and concentration in adults and in one published report, it significantly improved attention and learning in children with ADHD (Kidd 2000).
DMAE in doses of 500 mg daily or more has shown some improvement in the attention span of ADHD individuals by improving nerve impulse transmission in the brain. Kirkman® offers DMAE in 250 mg capsules.
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that improves circulation to the brain. It has been reported that ADHD symptoms were improved with a high percentage of patients using Ginkgo biloba twice daily on an empty stomach. Kirkman® carries Ginkgo biloba capsules (Lyon 2001).
L-theanine, the amino acid found in green tea, has been shown to be effective in promoting relaxation in several studies. It accomplishes this by increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body and by blocking glutamate receptors and may be helpful. Kirkman® offers L-theanine in 250 mg hypoallergenic capsules.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that filters out extraneous sensory input. When the GABA receptor is stimulated, it allows concentration without distraction. Kirkman® offers several GABA containing supplements that may be helpful.
Dimethylglycine (DMG) and trimethylglycine (TMG) improve the methylation pathway in the body. This pathway is often disrupted in children with ADHD, so these products are worth a try. Kirkman® offers several versions of each of these products.
The Role Diet Plays in ADHD

There is sufficient evidence that suggests nutritional interventions are most helpful when the individual limits the intake of sugars. Sugar consumption typically elevates ADHD symptoms making them harder to control. Some ADHD patients also exhibit sensitivities to common allergens such as dairy, gluten, egg, nuts, artificial colors and flavors and soy. In these instances, hypoallergenic products should be used. Kirkman® offers hypoallergenic versions of most of its products.

It is important for ADHD individuals that they avoid neuro-excitatory toxins such as MSG and Aspartame. Food dyes should also be avoided. These compounds promote hyperactivity.

The aforementioned products have exhibited positive results on some ADHD patients, but as with all developmental disorders, each patient is unique in symptoms and how they respond to dietary supplement support. Some trial and error will be necessary in determining which supplements improve the condition of your child. The following references can be extremely valuable in thoroughly understanding ADHD and ADD.


Cooper, Paul and Bilton, K, ADHD:Research, Practice and Opinion, Whurr Publishers Ltd. UK, 1999.

Gant, Charles , MD, PhD, ADD and ADHD Complimentary Medicine Solutions, Charles E. Gant Consulting Co. Jamesville N. Y., 2003.

Nathan PM, Lu K, Gray M, Oliver C. The neuropharmacology of L-theanine; a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent. J Herb Pharmacother. 2006:6.