I have ADD (attention deficit disorder) and I’m not saying it in one of those casual “I just have too much to do” sort-of ways. Focusing actually feels like hard labor, thanks to a genetic predisposition and some other health-related factors. I am also aware that the medication I take, Adderall, is a notoriously abused one people use to lose weight and, as the kids say, “get lit,” among other things. With that being said, let’s remember that I’m talking in the context of responsible use; specifically, all of the supplements I take along with Adderall to keep my insides as healthy as possible.
Remembering to take medication everyday has never been my strong suit and reading in silence is my idea of a good time, so Adderall isn’t naturally appealing to me. (I’m also terrified of addiction, period.) Long story short: once I gave in, it actually ended up being a godsend, albeit the handful of vitamins I chose to take along with it. So much for my lowkey morning routine.
Generally speaking, all of us should be taking vitamins because we eat like crap (or something close to it) and deprive our bodies of the nutrients they need to flourish. For those with ADD, this is especially important since according to Karen Cooney, Nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe, we are deficient in key nutrients or on medication that creates deficiencies. Supplementation only helps improve our attention and focus, while also replenishing parts of our bodies that aren’t directly tied to those functions.
Tip 1: Know Your Labels
With that being said, walking into a store like The Vitamin Shoppe can be extremely overwhelming. In a place where everything is healthy, choosing between 50 different versions of the same vitamin can ironically trigger the worst side effects of ADD. Start by looking for certain things on a product label. “While dietary supplement companies are legally required to comply with GMPs (good manufacturing practice), it’s hard to tell by looking at the label whether they’ve done so,” says Cooney. She recommends sticking with products that have one of the following third-party certification logos, as they “can help retailers and consumers know that the products met or exceeded certain quality requirements.”
NSF: “NSF International’s GMP Registration Program enables manufacturers to become independently registered by NSF to meet GMP requirements. The program is open not just to manufacturers of dietary supplements but also to manufacturers of ingredients and raw materials, as well as distribution, warehousing and packaging companies.”
USP: “U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention (USP) offers verification services for dietary supplements that covers finished products and ingredients. Verification requirements include GMP audits, product and ingredient testing and manufacturing documentation review.”
NPA: “The Natural Products Association was among the first organizations to offer a third-party GMP certification program for the manufacturing of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients. To maintain NPA GMP certification status, companies must be re-audited every two years.”
Tip 2: Find Your Multivitamin Match
I know I’m not the only one who grew up taking Flintstone vitamins before school. The multivitamin is routinely recommended for general health and those taking Adderall are no exception. Over the years, its reputation and benefits have been challenged, thanks to ‘lax regulation and the avalanche of sketchy brands that sell ineffective tablets loaded with filler ingredients. For this reason, Cooney recommends asking yourself four questions when shopping for a daily multivitamin:
Is This Multivitamin Formulated for My Gender? “It may sound obvious, but it’s important to consider a multi made for your biological gender. Men and women vary greatly in their vitamin needs.”
Does This Multivitamin Have a Quality Seal? “Quality vitamin and supplement brands put their products through rigorous testing—and their packaging has a third-party-testing or quality seal to prove it.”
Are There Nutrients I Should Limit in My Multivitamin? “You may want to avoid certain nutrients in your multi as you age. Based on recent diet and lifestyle guidelines to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, you might want to avoid multivitamins that contain iron or copper, especially as you approach and pass middle age.”
If Purchasing a Whole-Food Multivitamin—Is It Non-GMO? “Choosing a whole-food multivitamin really comes down to personal preference. If you do opt for a whole-food multi, though, consider where it contains GMOs. If you avoid GMOs in foods, you’ll want to avoid them in whole-food vitamins and supplements you take, too.”
Tip 3: Try These Adderall-Specific Supplements
Finally, if you take Adderall, Cooney’s recommendations (below) quickly eliminated the symptoms I experienced when getting acclimated to my meds (muscle fatigue and lack of appetite being the most severe) and generally boosted my overall health.
In addition to the products I’m currently using, Cooney notes that low levels of zinc are common in people with ADD, which only leads to more attentional issues. A supplement “will help increase dopamine levels and in turn increase the ability to concentrate,” she says. Several studies have also shown that a lack of polyunsaturated fatty acids may contribute to attention deficit, making omega 3 fish oil helpful too.
“Deficiencies in B vitamins can cause agitation and fatigue, poor memory and lack of concentration. Taking a B complex has been shown to alleviate these symptoms, increase alertness and decrease anxiety. B6 is especially important as it is involved in the production of neurotransmitters—serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.”
“Essential for brain function, neural development and cognitive function.”
“Magnesium is used to make neurotransmitters involved in attention and has a calming effect on the brain. If deficient, it can lead to reduced attention span and irritability.”
“Although it is common for ADD sufferers to have low levels of ferritin and serum iron, it is important to get your levels checked and seek medical advice before supplementing it. It is needed to make dopamine and neuron development and will increase attention and relieve fatigue.”
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