ADHD and Micronutrients: A Medication Alternative?

Updated: Nov 17

Organization: Erin Falco RDN, Inc.

Author: Erin Falco, RDN

Publish Date: 11/1/22



How are Micronutrients related to ADHD?


Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are required for all cells to function optimally. They are needed for energy metabolism, cell promotion of ALL tissues (muscles, brain, gut, heart, etc.), our immune system, decreasing inflammation, maintaining hormone balance (neurotransmitters, thyroid, sex hormones) growth and well-being. Nutrients are being carried to the brain through blood all day. If we aren’t able to get the micronutrients from our diet then we compromise the ability to make neurotransmitters to help focus, regulate, relax, etc. Medications for ADHD can be a therapeutic approach for some, but have side effects that affect appetite and sleep, to name a few. Micronutrient supplementation AND diet together have been studied to be an effective treatment approach alone with no or minimal side effects. Micronutrients AND Medications can also be a therapeutic option. Every individual has different needs that require tailored approaches to their care.


Micronutrients availability:


There are several factors that contribute to difficulty obtaining these essential nutrients and here are some examples:


  1. Consuming the standard American Diet-Relying on quick, processed foods- We miss out on micronutrients from our whole foods- our fruits, veggies, whole grains, proteins, nuts, seeds- all in which provide us with micronutrients to help our brains function at its best

  2. Our soil lacks micronutrients

  3. The ability to USE the food we eat for fuel (Our brain needs micronutrients to assist in helping our neurons function and to make/assist our neurotransmitters- Dopamine, serotonin, fight/flight response hormones). Genetics, hormones, gut health status (digestion/absorption, gut dysbiosis, bacteria, food allergies/sensitivities blocking absorption of nutrients, can all impact the ability to use our micronutrients for our brain)

  4. Increase in the need for micronutrients due to chronic infections, viruses, sicknesses- This impacts the mitochondria (energy of the cells) which then in turn increases need for more nutrients to help with the normal processes of the body.

  5. Sensory/feeding difficulties impacting the amount of food/ variety.

  6. Inadequate intake of food- eating disorders, growth and development requirements or athletes having a hard time meeting energy needs for the amount of movement performed.

  7. Lack of appetite from medications, depression and other mental health status.


So, how do we increase micronutrient status?


1. Increase variety in our diet

We usually have deficiencies in more than one nutrient. Nutrients work synergistically. Rotating foods and eating different colors of the rainbow can ensure to help increase micronutrients. Ex: Consume a different fruit/veggie with meals/snacks daily. TIP: allow your kiddos to pick fruits/veggies at the farmers market/ store. Discuss eating the rainbow and trying new foods. “We need to see it to eat it” Having fruits/veggies available and seen increases likelihood of trying/acceptance of foods.

  • Allow your kids to pick a new food

  • Try to get them involved in the prep- washing, cutting, flavoring or cooking the food

  • Modeling trying new foods with them- discuss taste, texture, mouthfeel to understand what they like vs don’t like about the food- Using descriptive words instead of “yuck” or “gross” can help us determine the why behind liking/ disliking a food.

  • Educate on what the food is good for “carrots help strengthen our eyes”

  • TRY, TRY, TRY again- it takes time to add a new food in- the more often we expose our kids to the food, the more likely they will be to add it in.

  • Rotate: offer a different fruit/veggie with meals daily. Ex: With breakfast- Monday: blueberries, Tuesday: orange, Wed- apple (mixing all the colors together is great too!)



2. Add nutritional density to every meal/snack

Every time we eat- let’s think about adding as much nutritional value to every bite as possible. Here are some examples:

  • Scrambled eggs with toast- Add in veggies and herbs to the egg scramble, top toast with a nut or seed butter or avocado, add flax and fruit!

  • Pancakes or waffles- Add flax, superfood powders, collagen peptides to the mix! Top with sunflower or pumpkin seeds and cinnamon!

  • Blend sardines, veggies into tomato sauce

  • Add chicken liver into meatballs or chili

  • Sauté or steam veggies with bone broth and top with olive oil after

  • Add flax and cinnamon to nut/seed butter sandwiches

  • Try whole fruit in place of jam in a sandwich (berries, apple or banana)

  • Add avocado, greens to tacos

  • Add Eat pluck seasoning to savory foods. It’s an organ based seasoning that provides iron!

  • Add lettuce and veggies to sandwiches and on the side

  • Try a bento box for lunch! Pack a variety of foods- veggies, fruits, hummus, chickpeas, organic pepperoni/deli meat, whole grain crackers, nuts/seeds, olives, dark chocolate

  • Add omega 3 fatty acids everywhere we can possible! They are important for cognition, mood and inflammation: Our highest dietary omega sources: Mackerel, salmon, Sardines, Herring, Cod liver oil, Flax meal, Chia seeds, Walnuts. The problem with too much fish is the mercury. Which is why we need to use supplementation to obtain the least amount possible.


3. Add in micronutrients via supplementation

Supplementation is necessary to meet the micronutrient needs of most individuals- ESPECIALLY those with ADHD. Spectrum Needs is one of my favorite supplements because it is a mitochondrial cocktail (vitamins and minerals to help with energy metabolism). AKA: helping us use the food we eat for energy! When micronutrient status is improving- taste receptors, mood, focus, digestion and absorption all improve! Which in turn- can help increase appetite and increase acceptance of new foods. Spectrum Needs comes in a powder form which is easily added into water. It tastes good too! They also have an Omega Needs supplement that provides high quality fish oil! Omegas are hard to obtain from the diet alone. It tastes good too! Use code FALCO from now until 12/31/22 for 10% off of these supplements.


Some of my favorite ways to add supplements into our kiddos:


If a capsule:

  • Open up the capsules and mix in a tiny bit of water and add to a syringe

  • Mix with a small amount of coconut water or juice if needed. Make sure if adding juice to a supplement in the am- that your child’s breakfast has protein- to stabilize energy levels for school- We don’t want our kiddos blood sugar to drop. Energy levels and attention will drop too! It’s impossible to think when “hangry”.

  • If you have an afternoon dosage- make an ice pop! Blend the supplement with a fruit, water or coconut milk, add plain, lemon or chocolate flavored collagen peptides


If a powder:

  • Mix with water and add to a syringe or drink orally

  • Mix into a smoothie in the am- add protein powder, flax, favorite fruit


If a gel cap (Omega fish oils):

  • Cut open the oil pill and mix with nut or seed butter OR add to a smoothie OR add to a homemade ice pop


4. DIG DEEPER!

If not responding to nutrition, supplementation or medications, make sure to look for root contributing factors to what else might be happening. Testing can take the guesswork out and help your child faster. Organic acid testing, genetics, hormones, food allergy/sensitivity testing, blood work for infections/viruses, are all great options to help you get to the root of your child’s ADHD. Click HERE for testing:

 

If you'd like to learn more about ADHD, visit us at www.erinfalcordn.com for more posts and webinars. If you would like you or your child to become a patient: Apply here.