Attention deficit disorder (ADD), also referred to as attention deficit hyperactity disorder (ADHD), typically manifests in childhood but can last into the adult years. Hyperactivity, short attention span, impulsivity and trouble concentrating characterize this condition. The exact causes remain unknown, but possible triggers include the environment, genetics, altered brain function and exposure to toxins, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Treatment typically includes a combination of medication and therapy as well as lifestyle modification to manage the child's behavior. Some vitamins and other natural supplements might benefit this condition, but discuss supplementation with your doctor first.
The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that supplementing with vitamin B6 might improve symptoms of ADHD. This vitamin plays an important role in creating the brain chemicals that do not follow the normal course of production in children with ADHD. UMMC notes that one study found this supplement worked slightly better than Ritalin, while others found it did not provide any benefit. Do not supplement with B6 without a doctor's supervision, as excess amounts can cause nerve damage.
If you do not have sufficient amounts of magnesium in your body, you can experience many symptoms characteristic of ADHD, such as confusion and short attention span. A magnesium deficiency might play a role in ADHD. The UMMC notes that a small study of ADHD children deficient in magnesium showed improvement after supplementing with this mineral, compared to children who did not take it.
Zinc plays many important roles in the body, including regulating melatonin, fatty acids and brain chemicals--all of which play a role in influencing behaviors such as concentration, attention span and sleeping patterns. According to UMMC, several studies have demonstrated that ADHD children who supplemented with zinc showed an improvement in behavior, although it was only slight.
The role of beneficial fatty acids is well-established in terms of general brain function. Noted author, physician and alternative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil notes a study done in Australia, which found that a combination of fish oil, or omega-3, and evening primrose oil, or omega-6, improved behavior in ADHD children by 50 percent over a period of 30 weeks. Children with ADHD often have low blood levels of these beneficial fats. When compared to studies on the effectiveness of the most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD---Ritalin and Concerta---the regimen with fatty acids proved more effective.
The amino acid L-carnitine helps the body produce energy. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes a study in which over half the participants, who were boys with ADHD, showed improvement in behavior while supplementing with this amino acid.