ADHD affects an estimated 5.8 million young school-age children ages 3-17, and an unknown number of adults according to research from 2015. The percentage of boys diagnosed is more than double that of girls. The newest research shows that 43% in the US are now diagnosed with ADHD as of 2015. When researchers looked specifically at teenagers, they found the diagnoses had risen 52 percent since 2003.

What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD is characterized by two distinct sets of symptoms: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Although these problems usually occur together, one may be present without the other to qualify for a diagnosis.

ADHDThe symptoms of hyperactivity may be seen in very young preschoolers and are nearly always present before the age of 7. They include excessive restlessness, squirming around when seated, and the frequent need to walk or run around. Hyperactive children have difficulty playing quietly, and they may talk excessively, often behaving inappropriately and impulsively, not waiting their turn, and interrupting.

Many of these symptoms may occur in normal children, however; in children with ADHD they occur very frequently and across several domains, at home and at school, or when playing, interfering with the child’s normal functioning. Their behavior can present significant challenges for parents.

The brain needs certain stimulation in order to mature properly—to make the correct connections. Failure to receive and properly process cognitive and emotional stimuli during critical periods when the brain is undergoing rapid growth and maturation may result in damage with lifelong consequences. Therefore, a child who has difficulty paying attention and learning is at risk of having his or her brain and development adversely affected. Many children with ADHD develop learning delays and academic struggles that can lead to early school drop out.

What are the Causes of ADD and ADHD?

Nutrient Deficiency: Low levels of copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids have been reported in children with ADHD. This has become highly prevalent due to the decrease in liver, oysters, red meat, fish and depleted soils and water.

Environment: Studies have shown a possible correlation between the use of cigarettes and alcohol during pregnancy and risk for ADHD. Another environmental agent that may be associated with a higher risk of ADHD is ingestion and exposure to pesticides and herbicides. High levels of lead in the bodies of young preschool children have also been associated with ADHD. Therefore, it is crucial to drink filtered water as tap water is often fluoridated and increases lead absorption. A hair analysis can detect heavy metal toxicity of lead and copper.

Brain Injury: It has been noted that some sort of damage to the nervous system at birth may have been a factor such as cord around the neck, prematurity, second of twins, collapsed lungs and not having enough norepinesprine in their limbic system (the part of the brain that is supposed to filter out unimportant stimuli).

Genetics:  Attention health-issues often run in families, so there are likely to be genetic influences. Studies indicate that 25 percent of the close relatives in the families of ADHD children also have ADHD.

Foods: Food allergies, a diet high in sugar and additives, nutritional deficiencies and poor digestion can affect those with ADHD. Food served at school often contains a long list of chemicals and synthetic substitutes, all of which can affect brain chemistry. An advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration recently acknowledged that synthetic food dyes can exacerbate the conditions associated with ADHD and other behavioral problems. While the consumption of synthetic food dyes has increased five-fold since 1955, the number of children diagnosed with ADHD increased from 150,000 in 1970, to 5.4 million by 2007.

A 2007 study in Lancet found such a strong correlation with synthetic food dyes and hyperactive behaviors in children, that they contacted the British government concluding that the harm done by artificial food dyes to children’s IQ was similar to the impact of lead on their developing brains, and that banning these additives would result in a 30 percent reduction in the prevalence of ADHD in children.

Yeast: A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can also lead to a yeast overgrowth, most notably Candida. When children are given many rounds of antibiotics, the beneficial bacteria get destroyed and allow the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Yeast then feeds on sugar, leading to a vicious cycle. A problem with concentration, irritability, focus and poor immunity are all signs of a yeast overgrowth.

Heavy Metals: Dr. Melvyn Werbach M.D. explored the role of heavy metal toxicity and ADD. His findings suggest that aluminum toxicity coming from aluminum cans, tap water, chemically grown food, aluminum based deodorants and pollution have contributed to learning disabilities along with the accumulation of arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead which has been proven to affect a child’s intelligence and brain growth.

Gluten: In gluten sensitive individuals, gluten can actually shut down blood flow in to the frontal and prefrontal cortex, the part responsible for focus, managing emotional states, planning, organizing, consequences of actions, and our short term memory. This process is called “hypoperfusion” and is strongly associated with ADHD, depression and anxiety. Gluten can be found in much more than whole grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley; it also can be found in many processed foods including soups, sauces, pizza, salad dressings and more.


Foods – Start each day with a good protein rich breakfast and high quality snacks between meals to keep blood sugar level.

Good food choices:

  • Organic beef, liver, lamb, turkey and chicken (Get enough iron from red meat!)
  • Salmon, wild trout, sardines, herring, halibut
  • Gluten free bread, Paleo Coconut Wraps, Flax Wraps,  brown rice, millet
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, ground flax seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Green leafy vegetables, apples, berries, watermelon, cantaloupe, broccoli, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes

Good protein is important for increasing the “alertness” neurotransmitters while also having a calming effect

Poor food choices:

  • Artificial colors or sweeteners such as Splenda and NutraSweet
  • Preservatives (often found in processed foods)
  • Sugar products – candy, sodas, cookies, cakes, store-bought fruit juices
  • Too many refined flour products – many types of bread that are not soaked or sourdough and use sweeteners, muffins, cookies

(Watch for common allergens such as wheat, diary, corn, chocolate, peanuts, soy and citrus in your diet…these can have an effect on overall health and behavior)

Snack Ideas (for school lunches and at home)

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables with dips (salsa, black bean, nut butters or yogurt dips)
  • Plain yogurt with fresh fruit (especially blueberries) and sprouted pumpkin seeds (zinc)
  • Sliced apples with almond butter
  • Trail Mix (Raw nuts, seeds & dried fruit)
  • Ants on a log (fill celery with nut butter, arrange raisins on top)
  • Cottage cheese with berries and sprouted pumpkin seeds (zinc)
  • Carrots and celery with hummus for dipping
  • Smoked salmon, goat cheese and gluten free crackers

Why are Ritalin and Adderall Used?

Ritalin is methylphenidate hydrochloride, a central nervous system stimulant that blocks dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake, increasing their levels in the brain and body. It carries the same side effects as Adderall, which I am going to go more in depth on.

Adderall is similar to methamphetamine (meth), missing a methyl group and being less potent. Amphetamines are listed as Schedule II Drugs under the Controlled Substance Act23, and because Adderall contains amphetamines, Adderall is considered to be a Schedule II Drug and deemed highly likely to be abused.

Stimulants such as dextroamphetamine (which is one of the active ingredients in Adderall and Adderall XR) are thought to block the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine into the presynaptic neuron and increase the release of these monoamines into the extraneuronal space. In other words, it keeps norepinephrine and dopamine levels high. These stimulants also increases blood pressure, and heart rate, constricts blood vessels, increases blood sugar levels, and opens up the pathways of the respiratory system. Cocaine and methamphetamine also target these neurotransmitters.

“Study drugs” are one of the most abused drugs in high school and college whether or not ADHD is diagnosed, and approved for children over the age of 3. It was orginally introduced as a weight reduction drug for adults called Obetrol. Obetrol was taken off the market, but later became reborn as Adderall. In 2005, Canada banned Adderall based on the Shire Report that revealed 20 deaths from Adderall, all of whom did not overdose, misuse or abuse. Fourteen of those deaths were children.

Unique Genetics and Biochemistry Could Determine Bad Reactions to Amphetamines

According to the FDA, “although the enzymes involved in amphetamine metabolism have not been clearly defined, CYP2D6 is known to be involved with formation of 4-hydroxy-amphetamine. Since CYP2D6 is genetically polymorphic, population variations in amphetamine metabolism are a possibility. Amphetamine is known to inhibit monoamine oxidase, whereas the ability of amphetamine and its metabolites to inhibit various P450 isozymes and other enzymes has not been adequately elucidated.”

What this means is that – depending your genetic testing report – certain variants of CYP2D6, MAO-A and COMT could determine if you could have a very bad reaction to this class of drugs. Of course rarely are people tested first. The side effects of Adderall are respiratory problems, heart arrhythmia, psychotic episodes, toxic shock, increased aggression, and even death.

The FDA claims that Adderall should not be used during or within 14 days following the administration of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (hypertensive crises may result). A homozygous MAO-A enzyme found in a genetic report  is working at a dramatically reduced rate, emulating an MAO-A inhibitor. The FDA states that “a variety of neurological toxic effects and malignant hyperpyrexia can occur, sometimes with fatal results” from MAO-A inhibitors. COMT breaks down dopamine, and a homozygous or heterozygous COMT could therefore be problematic like MAO-A. Genetic testing would be prudent before prescribing these drugs because many as 30% of individuals with ADHD are estimated to either have secondary side-effects or are not responsive to stimulant medication.

ADHD affects an estimated 5.8 million young school-age children ages 3-17, and an unknown number of adults according to research from 2015. The percentage of boys diagnosed is more than double that of girls. The newest research shows that 43% in the US are now diagnosed with ADHD as of 2015. When researchers looked specifically at teenagers, they found the diagnoses had risen 52 percent since 2003.

The Alternative to Ritalin and Adderall: The ADD and ADHD Supplement Program 

In order for the neurotransmitters to function well, DHA, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin C must all be present in sufficient amounts. Low levels of copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids have been reported in children with ADHD.

This is a major finding and understanding of the potential etiology of ADD and ADHD. If children, teenagers or adults are deficient in these, then dopamine would not be produced at adequate levels for focus and concentration (especially if genetics dictate higher needs). The foods highest in these nutrients include liver, fish, fish eggs, red meat and freshly picked fruits and vegetables picked in magnesium rich soil.

Consumption of fish and liver in particular have dropped dramatically in the last two generations, and are major sources of DHA, zinc, copper and iron. Freshly picked plants which are high in vitamin C, but vanishes quickly post-harvest. Magnesium has been reduced in soil and drinking water.

1. Virgin Cod Liver Oil or Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil

Vitamin A helps mobilize iron from its storage sites, so a deficiency of vitamin A limits the body’s ability to use stored iron. This results in an “apparent” iron deficiency because hemoglobin levels are low even though the body can maintain normal amounts of stored iron.

Vitamin A has been indicated in memory and learning, and researchers at Berkeley discovered that when memory cells are treated with vitamin A as retinoic acid (a metabolite of retinol, the form in cod liver oil, not multivitamins), vitamin A “turns on” specialized receptors on neurons, causing them to explode with new dendrites—spiny branches that receive information from other nerve cells.

Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil contains 3,000-5,000 IU of vitamin A, 400-500 IU vitamin D, 510mg EPA and 700mg of DHA. It is the most superior form of all of these, being the only company to use this ancient process to keep it in the raw and absorbable form.

2. Vitamin C with Flavonoids

One study showed that following a long period of vitamin C deficiency, depressed levels of both dopamine and norepinephrine were reported. Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs is associated with significant increases (∼25%) in dopamine levels and similar relative decreases in norepinephrine, presumably because normal amounts of dopamine could not be metabolized into norepinephrine.

In the animals with the most severe vitamin C deficiency, neurotransmitter levels never normalized. However, with only slightly higher brain vitamin C levels, dopamine and norepinephrine contents slowly returned to control levels.

What this means is that bringing vitamin C levels to normal could perform an action similar to Adderall by producing and maintaining proper dopamine and norepinephrine levels. Instead of spiking the neurotransmitters by blocking a natural process, you are producing and maintaining it as the body was designed to do.

3. Magnesium Citramate

Magnesium deficiency is typified by a number of reductions in cognitive ability and processes, and in particular a reduced attention span along with increased instances of aggression, fatigue and lack of concentration. Other common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include becoming easily irritated, nervousness, fatigue and mood swings. Magnesium deficiency has been found in 72% of children with ADHD, and 95% in an other study. Magnesium deficiency may be more common in males than females and plays a very important role in testosterone and estrogen metabolism, relaxation and stamina.

4. Zinc Picolinate  (18 and up) and Zinc Liquid  (Can be dosed for children)

A 2010 study found that serum zinc levels have been found to be significantly lower in ADHD children compared to controls in several controlled studies around the world, including Poland, Turkey, Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom, despite the fact that the diet of these countries are very different. Approximately 66% of those with ADHD were found to be deficient in zinc and 23% in copper.

Robust correlation has also been found between serum zinc and attention ratings, but not hyperactivity. Another study found that zinc supplementation improved specific cognitive abilities, thereby positively influencing the academic performance of schoolchildren, even those without marginal zinc deficiency.

There is now evidence to suggest that ADHD may be associated with low  zinc and iron. Several authors have also found an association between low serum ferritin and ADHD. It is also of interest that vitamin C is needed for iron retention. This finding is of considerable interest given the fact that iron and zinc, as well as copper, are essential cofactors in the production of dopamine and norepinephrine.



2. Hersey, Jane. Food Additives, Attention and Behavior. Well Being Journal, Sept/Oct 2011.

3. McCann D, Barret A, Cooper A, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behavior in a 3-year-old and 8/9 year old children in the community; a randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled trial.  Lancet. Nov 2007; 370 (9598): 1560-7.


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