written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 3/11/2011
Supplements to help ADHD impulsivity can reduce the instances and severity of this unwanted behavior that patients suffering from this disorder know all too well. Many of these supplements may be needed because ADHD sufferers are deficient in some vitamins, minerals and nutrients to begin with.
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Topping our list of supplements to help ADHD impulsivity is zinc which is believed to reduce this troublesome ADHD behavior rather significantly, especially when taken in conjunction with the psychostimulant drug Ritalin. At the time of writing (March 2011) nine separate studies - including one carried out and reported in the journal "Nutrition Reviews" by Natalie Sinn, a research fellow at the University of South Australia School of Health Sciences - concluded that children with an attention deficit disorder have lower levels of this essential mineral.
This is our first clue to discovering that using it as a supplement might reduce the negative consequences of exhibiting impulsivity when the body, and more importantly the brain, doesn't have enough of it. Deductive reasoning alone can lead researchers to the conclusion that since a psychiatrically normal brain without ADHD doesn’t have a deficiency of Zinc, lower levels in someone who does have ADHD might have something to do with the impulsivity.
But, of course, due to the complex nature and composition of the brain and the many chemicals, molecules, and minerals that play a role in ensuring it functions properly, scientists need more to go on to establish the link between Zinc and impulsivity. And they do.
Zinc is critical for the regulation of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, which plays a part in monitoring the process of evaluating risk and reward. According to an article in Scientific American, researchers believe that people who are more impulsive (especially those with ADHD) might have less active dopamine receptors in their midbrain region. This faulty dopamine circuit in the brain could explain rash behavior where people spend less time considering the consequences of their actions.
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Continuing on with the theme that a lack of essential minerals involved in important brain functions seems to be responsible for unwanted ADHD behaviors, we turn to the role of Iron. In the paper "Iron Deficiency in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder," the authors, Eric Konofal, M.D., et al., found in a comparative study that 84% of children with ADHD had an iron deficiency while only 18% of children without ADHD had lower levels of iron in their bodies. This finding mirrored the results of many similar studies.
Just like zinc, iron it plays an important role in producing the key mood regulating neurotransmitter dopamine. Iron supplements can help to normalise the way dopamine is regulated in the brain.
Iron also carries oxygen as well, and when you have sufficient levels, all of your organs, including the brain, are well oxygenated and able to work at peak performance. Zinc and iron are therefore considered by some to be the best supplements to help deal with ADHD impulsivity because of their relationship to dopamine.
GABA is the common name of the amino acid Gamma-amino butyric that is regularly prescribed by doctors to help deal with impulsivity in children with ADHD. Essentially, it stabilizes the brain by helping it relax and it also reduces other symptoms of ADHD such as hyperactivity. It's available in chewable form and can also be administered by injection. GABA isn't available as an over the counter supplement.
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Researchers also believe that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce impulsivity and aggressiveness. One study in Norway even demonstrated that prison inmates were significantly less prone to violence when it was administered to a control group on a regular basis. And violence is certainly one of the worst forms of impulsive behavior. But for our purposes here, it's best to cite a 2005 study conducted by the University of Oxford's Department of Physiology, Human Anatomy and Genetics which found that ADHD children given this supplement were less impulsive than the children in the study who were not given it. Omega-3s are also listed in a more general list of vitamins and supplements to help ADHD children reduce their symptoms. Fish oil corrects a fatty acid imbalance in the brain which is thought to be partly responsible for these unwanted behaviors.
So be sure and discuss the viability of implementing supplements to help ADHD impulsivity; they might greatly improve your quality of life and help you to better cope with this disorder.
"Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine." Iron Deficiency in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; Eric Konofal, MD, PhD; Michel Lecendreux, MD; Isabelle Arnulf, MD, PhD; Marie-Christine Mouren, MD: December 2004.