Omega 3 and ADHD
Parents with children with ADHD don't always want to go the pharmaceutical route, which I don't blame them as it can often change the chemical make up in the brain. So what are some ways to go about it naturally? You may have already heard that Omega 3's help but maybe that is all you have heard or you want to know more. Well let's get down to it!
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health, but the body can't make them. You have to get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafoods including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. They have also become popular because they may reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week.
Let's talk more about how it is crucial to brain function and how that relates to kids with ADHD. A study was recently published with more findings of how Omega 3s help treat ADHD. The meta-analysis examined data from 10 clinical trials that looked at omega-3’s effects on children and teens. Seven of the studies were randomized controlled trials encompassing about 500 young people that looked at whether omega-3 supplements improved ADHD symptoms. Researchers also assessed three case-control studies that measured the levels of two types of omega-3 fatty acids.
What they found was pretty impressive and affects the type of natural remedies for ADHD one would elect. In each of the first seven studies, children and teens who were given omega-3 supplements saw their symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention decrease, when compared to those children who were given a placebo. Additionally, those kids taking omega-3 supplements such as fish oil also saw improved cognitive function.
The final three studies the meta-analysis looked at found that children and adolescents with ADHD have lower levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Figures vary, but the latest ones report that 11 percent of children 4 to 17 years old, or 6.4 million, have been diagnosed with ADHD, and that number seems to keep rising. One of the things that’s also changed drastically in the last few decades is our diet, and it’s likely that the two are related.
Omega-3 Supplements: How to Get More of These Key Fatty Acids
Now the study didn't say how getting more Omega 3 affects ADHD but what is did do was clearly show that it makes a difference in these children. Omega-3s are renowned for their ability to lower inflammation. But they’re also amazing at ensuring optimal neurological function, keeping our minds sharp, boosting concentration helping to ease mental disorders like depression and keeping our brains developing healthily — all things you want to address if you’re suffering from ADHD.
As I mentioned earlier, we cannot produce Omega 3s in our bodies, so we must get it through our diets and with the typical western diet, most of us a severely deficient in this all important essential fatty acid. Of course it is an easy fix, we can consume foods that are rich in Omega 3s. Now we want naturally sourced foods not processed foods that are fortified in Omega 3. So foods like margarine, throw that crap right out of your house and never look back at that one! Breads, eggs, protein powders....that is filled with chemicals and additives which will do nothing but compound the problem and add others.
Instead, you want whole foods that are naturally rich in omega-3s. Some of my favorite omega-3 foods include wild-caught fish like salmon, grass-fed beef, anchovies, tuna, white fish and mackerel.
You might have noticed something fishy about foods with the highest levels of omega-3s. Yes, many of them are oily fish; I recommend eating wild fish about twice a week.
But there are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids as well. Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3s. Seeds, like chia, flax and hemp, are also great sources of fish-free omega-3 fatty acids. Local, free-range eggs are a good choice, too. And vegetables, particularly leafy green ones, contain a decent amount of omega-3s, though not EPA and DHA, the best kinds. But still, you want these in your diet, since they have so many other good-for-you benefits.
In addition to (not in place of!) foods with omega-3s, you should definitely add an omega-3 supplement in the form of fish oil to your child’s diet. I recommend choosing a high-quality omega-3 fish oil of about 1,000 milligrams a day. A good oil has the same ingredients found in cold-water, fatty fish, which are full of DHA and EPA. The best kinds are those containing astaxanthin, which is a powerful antioxidant, so opt for ones made from wild-caught pacific salmon.
Adding more omega-3s to your child’s diet might not be a cure to their ADHD and, at least initially, it shouldn’t supplant any treatment they’re already on. But it’s highly likely that omega-3 supplements will make symptoms more manageable; you might even find you can reduce medication after some time. But, at the very least, consuming more omega-3 foods will give your child another natural tool in their arsenal to tackle ADHD.
With that looking at their overall diet can be a huge step in managaing ADHD, there are many triggers out there, might not be for all kids but there is likely one or two food triggers that when removed can make a huge difference. I can work with you and your child to find that right fit that can aid them in managing these symptoms further.
Whether you are on a treatment now or contemplating one, I highly recommend looking at Omega 3 and the diet, it is something that is easy and has no side affects but better food choices and a healthier lifestyle.