Micronutrients for ADHD Symptoms in Children

Julia Rucklidge, PhDBonnie Kaplan, PhD
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Our last blog reported on a study that found that a combination of micronutrients was effective in reducing aggression in children struggling with behavioural problems. Given that this finding replicated several previous studies over the last two decades, we wondered why the cumulative results weren’t impacting clinical practice.

Julia’s lab just published still another study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry confirming the importance of nutrients in reducing aggression, this time in children presenting with ADHD.

So what did this latest study find?

  • In this trial, 93 children identified with ADHD symptoms aged 7-12 were randomly assigned to take either micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) or placebo capsules for 10 weeks. None of the children were taking medications at the time of the study (such as stimulant medications). Neither clinicians nor families knew whether the child was taking micronutrients or placebo.
  • The children, their parents, teachers, and study clinicians all provided information about the children’s ADHD symptoms, mood, behaviour, aggression, ability to regulate emotions, and general day to day function.
  • Micronutrients were safe and well tolerated by the children. No serious side effects were reported, and there were no differences in side effects between those taking the micronutrients and those taking the placebo. Blood screening did not reveal any concerns about the safety of the nutrients.
  • Inattention and overall functioning, as rated by clinicians, improved more in children who took micronutrients than in those who took placebo capsules. There were no group differences in hyperactivity/impulsivity.
  • Across all raters (parents, teachers, and clinicians), there was greater improvement in ratings of emotion regulation and aggression for those children randomized to the active ingredients as compared with the children who were taking placebo capsules.
  • In summary, the children who took micronutrients in this study experienced symptom improvement across a range of areas (including mood, sleep, aggression, emotion regulation, attention, and anxiety) with few side effects, making this a good treatment option for some children.

It is important to know that a number of the findings (although not all) replicated a study Julia’s lab published in 2014 investigating the use of a very similar compound of micronutrients in adults with ADHD. In both the adult and the child study, about half of the participants taking the active ingredients were identified as much to very much improved by the clinicians. This means that the clinicians observed substantial and noticeable improvement across a range of symptoms with significant benefit on overall functioning. A further 30 per cent showed a milder improvement, whereas the remaining 20% showed no benefit. Both studies showed that inattention symptoms seemed to benefit from nutrient treatment more than symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity. Both studies showed a positive effect of micronutrients on mood. And both studies showed the remarkable consistency across raters on improved regulation of emotions.

The effect of the micronutrients on what are usually termed “core ADHD symptoms” (hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention) was less consistent. There was a bigger effect in the adult ADHD trial than the child one, perhaps because the main raters in the adult trial were the participants themselves whereas in the child trial, the main raters were the parents. We wonder whether the benefits experienced in regulation of emotions were influencing the adults to report greater improvements in their “core” ADHD symptoms. Having spoken to countless people over the years who have taken the micronutrients, we feel we can confidently conclude that the effect of the micronutrients is one of mood stabilization, which we believe then can lead to reduced aggression, feelings of inner calm, better sleep and over time, better cognitive functioning.

For parents wondering whether to choose micronutrients or medications to treat ADHD, consider the following:

  1. If you are looking for a treatment that has a quick impact (within a few hours), micronutrients will simply not work as quickly as stimulants. Stimulants show much larger and powerful changes in core ADHD symptoms in the short term. Stimulants can exert very strong effects on behaviour and very quickly, whereas the effects of micronutrients are more subtle, but grow over time with longer exposure to them.
  2. Fewer kids with ADHD benefited from the micronutrient treatment than what has been reported in the medication literature; however, for those children who did benefit, the effects were substantial and profound and observed broadly across all areas of functioning, effects usually not reported in the stimulant literature. This news story reports on the dramatic changes in one child’s behaviour with micronutrients.
  3. The side effect profile for micronutrients appears to be better, with no substantial effects reported on sleep or appetite, unless they are taken too close to bedtime as B vitamins tend to energize. We also observed a trend indicating more height growth in the children who were exposed to the nutrients as compared to the placebo.
  4. There are more pills to take if going down the micronutrient route. Some families found it difficult to ensure long-term compliance with taking the pills three times a day.
  5. We often hear anecdotally that children are healthier (skin conditions clear up, fewer colds, fewer infections, better sleep) when taking additional nutrients to their diet. We are not aware of any studies that report these health benefits for children on standard medications and have never heard any anecdotal reports of better health with stimulants.
  6. There is no rebound with micronutrients: irritability tends to get better, not worse with nutrients.
  7. In our research, teachers did not report any changes in core ADHD symptoms on nutrients whereas research has shown repeatedly strong effects based on teacher ratings when children receive stimulants. Teachers did identify improved regulation of behaviour and reduced aggression in those children randomized to the micronutrients. Research has suggested that children with poor emotion control have poorer long-term outcomes. If we can exert a positive effect on these symptoms, then we hope we can influence better long-term outcomes. Only further research will confirm these expectations.
  8. The cost of micronutrients is usually footed by the family, whereas the cost of medication is often covered by the public health care system or insurance plans. We see this discrepancy as an opportunity to lobby the governments to open up plans beyond medications. Is it time that the pharmaceutical companies lose their monopoly on tax payer funded treatments?
  9. Given the lower risks associated with micronutrients, perhaps a good route to consider would be to try micronutrients first, and if they don’t work, consider alternatives.

This research, alongside the many other studies documenting the substantial benefit of nutrients, put nutrition squarely and centrally on the map as one of the first things to consider when addressing mental health issues. Over and over again, we have shown that additional nutrients positively affect behaviour and mental states. Perhaps it is time to consider whether our diets or even our food supply is adequately meeting the metabolic needs of our very hungry brains?

For those readers who cringe and react to our work because we treat “mental disorders” that they consider don’t exist, please note that we are suggesting we give NUTRIENTS to children FIRST rather than what is currently the treatment of choice, stimulant medications. Over 4 million children are currently on stimulant medications in the US alone. That is the population of New Zealand! Hopefully, we can all agree that nutrients not only would likely be less harmful, but they may also assist with a healthier developmental outcome. Who doesn’t want better regulated emotions?

85 COMMENTS

  1. Who doesn’t want better regulated emotions? I don’t. You know what I would like to see? I would like to see children who are free to be children. I would like to see children who are not treated like medical experiments. Is it not yet absolutely clear that psychiatry is causing a great epidemic of suffering, particularly in children? These innocent children are being diagnosed with fictitious diseases (such as ADD or ADHD), and then they are oppressed by their parents, psychiatrists, and mental health workers. Once upon a time, an energetic child was free to run around outside, to play, to get dirty, to have fun with friends, and perhaps to make a mistake or two. Nowadays, parents no longer wish to parent. They give their kids a cell phone or some other screen to keep them quiet. Worse still, they drug them into a chemical stupor. While children languish in their sedated state, the parents enjoy their new found freedom. There was an excellent parody of this sad situation in the T.V. show “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” It is the episode on Dyziplen, Season 2, Episode 5. http://watch-series.is/series/unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt/season/2/episode/5

    Another thing to notice is how these studies are conducted. Everything is from the perspective of psychiatrists, doctors, and adults. If we truly cared about children we would stop labeling them with fictitious diseases. We would stop drugging them, or fake-drugging them with micronutrients. The problem with this whole micronutrient craze is that parents should already be nourishing their children with good food and good vitamins. The other problem with the micronutrient craze is that it is yet another clever cover for psychiatric abuse and oppression. Real harm is done to children who are labeled with these fictitious diseases (ADD, ADHD, etc.), and not just because they are so often drugged into oblivion. The harm is in the label itself, and throwing micronutrients at a child who has been labeled as mentally ill is only going to make the problem worse.

    Does this mean that we shouldn’t eat well, or practice proper nutrition for ourselves and for our children? Of course not. It simply means that the micronutrient craze is coercive psychiatry in just another form. Now there are companies popping up left and right that are touting the latest solutions for improvement in “mental health.” But it’s the same old schtick. Someone is raking in the cash while unsuspecting dupes ingest unseemly amounts of strange pills. Good heavens people. Just eat your fruits and vegetables. Take a multivitamin or some omega-3s if you like. Practice good nutrition. But for heaven’s sake, stop manipulating children as if they were just little automatons.

    Perhaps there is a good reason why so many children display symptoms that grown-ups find troubling. Perhaps the children are right. Children have to put up with a lot of nonsense from adults already. Dorothy Sayers wrote that “The simplest definition of evil begins with whatever makes a child suffer. The most terrible failure of adults has been their inability, or unwillingness, to shoulder responsibilities of adults and protect children… from… newer, non-martial forms of destruction.” She’s right.

    • 1) They do need the nutrients. The glyphosate sprayed on the food most people eat chelates nutrients so that we cannot absorb them. This does lead to problems. And there are also other issues which lead food to being much less nutritious than it once was.

      2) Yes, kids are being abused by being needlessly labeled and by not being allowed to live as they should and also by being stuck in the abusive crap hole we know as public school, which is really a form a child abuse and I am not being hyperbolic when I say that. The excessively restrictive environment leads to punishing kids for simply being kids.

      3) You don’t need to label them to give them nutrients. These are things we should all be taking. And this does give us a way to at least get away from the current dope centered paradigm which causes brain damage and stunts their development. If you can save people from the brain damage pharma drugs cause, and benefit their health at the same time by deflecting to this nutrient stuff, then we should definitely start pursuing this nutrient stuff. It actually improves health and it gets rid of brain damaging pharmacy. That is a pretty good trade off even if some still decide to label people.

  2. It takes my breath away to see someone rant about nutrition as being “coercive psychiatry in just another form.” And it also saddens me to read a comment from someone who obviously has never felt the pain of hearing a child say that they really, really *want* to be a happier child who does not flip out every day.
    I wish people would stop using our blogs as an excuse to bash psychiatry and diagnostic labels (which we, also, dislike). If you cannot see the value of PREVENTING CHILDREN FROM BEING MEDICATED by first helping them improve their nutrition, please do not comment further.

    • Bonnie (and Julia),

      I’m very glad to see another post from you. I was surprised to see you are allowing comments considering how you’ve been bashed so unfairly here before. I am very glad that parents have your studies to turn to when they are being pressured by school to intervene on an active child. Thank you for doing the work that you do. And thank you for not leaving MiA.

      • Thank you for your comment, LavenderSage. We continue to be amazed at some of the comments we receive, and sometimes it has caused us to put blogging on the back burner. There are always other things to do that don’t result in such inappropriate comments! So we really appreciate it when someone indicates that our blogs are worthwhile.

        • Whatever the case may be for the merits of nutrients (which I would whole heartedly support), it is absolutely necessary to bash truth-obfuscating and disempowering labels that have ruined so many lives.

          If you “also don’t like it”, then stop talking of “ADHD children”. Put something more truthful like “inattentive children” in the title.

          • Actually, simply mentioning “inattentiveness” would be bad for the image of psychiatry. It’s a lot more convincing to use quasi-medical “syndromal” labels to be more authoritative and convincing, even if it at the cost of obfuscating the truth.

    • After the history that psychiatry has earned, it would be hard not to bash it. It has a decades, perhaps centuries long history of degrading people, brain damaging people, and even torturing people. All the brain damaging drugs, brain damaging psycho-surgery, brain damaging electroshock… its use in harassing and controlling political dissidents, whistle blowers, and people who speak up against psychopaths and cheating spouses etc… I mean… Expecting people not to bash an institution with such a track record is asking for a bit too much.

    • Truth often takes the breath away. It’s not a rant, it’s simply an observation that coercive psychiatry will find any means possible to subject innocent children to its regime of oppression, whether it be through drugs or through micronutrients, even if that is not the intention of those who are involved.

      As for an attempt to silence me, to impugn my motives, or to assume things which are simply untrue, I forgive you. I have felt the pain of those children in ways that you probably can’t even begin to imagine. I’m sure that your heart’s desire is to help suffering children, a commendable desire which we both share. Where we diverge is in our opinions about that which will truly benefit children who suffer in any way. As I understand your argument, Bonnie, you believe that giving micronutrients to children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, etc. will prevent them from being drugged. While I agree with you that nutrition plays a key role in overall health and wellness, I disagree with you that micronutrients offer a viable long term solution. Apparently we agree that ADHD, ADD, etc. are fictitious diseases and harmful labels, yet your article is filled with the psychiatric jargon that is harming children in the first place. In other words, as long as a child has been labeled with one of the fictitious diagnoses from the DSM-V, that child will suffer no matter how many vitamins you throw at him or her. This is not an excuse to bash psychiatry and diagnostic labels. It is an opportunity to expose the truth about psychiatry and its offshoots.

      “If you cannot see the value of PREVENTING CHILDREN FROM BEING MEDICATED by first helping them improve their nutrition, please do not comment further.”

      First of all, I don’t see the value in preventing children from being medicated, because that is not what is happening. Children are not being medicated, they are being drugged, and sometimes drugged to death. Furthermore, the best way to prevent children from being drugged is to stop labeling them with fictitious diseases. The assumption that children are only misbehaving because of improper nutrition is incomplete. While it is in some cases possible that the core issue for a child is malnutrition, that is not the case for every child who seems to misbehave. Sadly, an emphasis on nutrition may sometimes serve as an excuse to avoid addressing the real issues that children face, issues that we adults have introduced into the world. It is much easier to give children vitamins (or drugs) and to tell them to shut up, than it is to listen to them and to consider the home environment or the world environment in which they operate.

      To be clear, proper nutrition is necessary, but it is an insufficient indicator of a child’s behavior. That is why I brought up Dorothy Sayer’s definition of evil. We both oppose the evil of drugging innocent children. On this point we clearly agree. However, a child who is deceived into thinking that he or she has an incurable “mental illness” will behave differently even when he or she is fed micronutrients that he or she believes is “fixing” his or her “mental illness.”

      The whole paradigm of “mental health” and “mental illness” is one of the primary causes of the suffering in little children. The notion that “mental illness” is an illness like any other, with mysterious biological markers that have yet to be discovered is a notion that has driven psychiatry for many years, and until this falsehood is eradicated, children will continue to suffer as a result of the incompetence or willful blindness of adults.

      I close with a quote from C.S. Lewis that bears repeating: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    • Bonnie

      I applaud the fact that you have decided to reengage in the important dialogues in the comment sections in your blogs. I have especially found your dialogue with Steve McCrea helpful in clarifying your positions on very complex and controversial topics in the “mental health” arena.

      You said: “I wish people would stop using our blogs as an excuse to bash psychiatry and diagnostic labels(which we also dislike).”

      I think this is an unfair and one sided summation of what has taken place at MIA in response to your past blogs. I think you need to take some responsibility (in some instances) for a lack of clarity on certain issues and, at times, an OVEREMPHASIS in your writings on the role of nutrition in resolving the symptoms that get labeled as “mental illness.”

      Some people have raised some very important issues to be considered when viewing this research into the role of nutrition, especially as it relates to trauma and other stressors in children’s environmental experience. And there have been times when you have been overly defensive, and viewed any serious questions as simply “inappropriate” attacks.

      I believe that Dragon Slayer has raised some important issues here, but I do NOT accept his conclusion that the essence of your work is somehow “coercive psychiatry in another form.” It is too bad that we can’t sort out the “wheat from the chaff.”

      I support the value of your research and efforts in area of nutrition, but also believe it is vitally important that the certain conclusions drawn from this work get presented in a way that does not mislead people about the priorities of what needs to take place in the world to create a more safe and secure environment for children.

      In a past blog I attempted to raise some of these important issues of clarification AND emphasis, and may have been unfairly lumped in as a naysayer and “inappropriate” critic of your work. Here is my comment which was never responded to:

      “Hi Bonnie”

      “You said: “…our research has helped put on the map the idea that mental health problems CAN be addressed through nutrition, offering an alternative to our current approaches.”

      “What exactly is meant by this statement, especially your emphasis on the word “CAN”? I am a firm believer in science and the scientific method. I support your efforts at researching the value of nutrition as a valuable “aid” to recovery, but I believe it can be harmful and even dangerous to exaggerate its meaning if not backed up by proven science.”

      “In my comment above I stated the following:
      “And more importantly, RECOVERY from these negative and harmful experiences in life must ultimately be UNDERSTOOD AND ADDRESSED in each person”s own experience and timetable for recovery. This may, or may not, require therapy, but most certainly will require A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT to nurture one’s recovery.”

      “It is here where good nutrition and gut health may be an important ENHANCEMENT or ADDITIONAL SUPPORT for such recovery by aiding a more suitable INTERNAL BODY ENVIRONMENT for such recovery, but NOT the PRINCIPLE MEANS for such recovery to take place.”

      “A person in recovery will STILL have to address the original traumas that began their conflict with their environment AND the subsequent traumas that took place when they encountered AN OPPRESSIVE “MENTAL HEALTH” SYSTEM that added to, and reinforced, earlier traumas. There can be no SUBSTITUTE OR SHORTCUT for doing this work.”

      “Could you please respond to my point about what will most often be the “principle means” for recovery from “mental health” issues? And could you justify not using quotations when using the term “mental health?”

      “Respectfully, Richard”

      Bonnie, please keep writing and engaging in these discussions. This dialogue is vitally important, even when things get feisty and, at times, difficult to navigate. We cannot change such an unjust world without these forms of scientific and political struggle.

      Respectfully, Richard

  3. I believe that our society has been fooled into believing that children come genetically pre-programmed to mature spontaneously, and that if this doesn’t happen, then something was wrong with them. But since what “maturity” means varies from culture to culture, and within cultures over time, this belief cannot be true. Kids must instead be born completely helpless and unskilled, and dependent upon proper upbringings by parents/schools in order to learn how to behave according to their particular culture’s complex mores and values. Why else would we have such huge brains? Even much simpler animals such as mollusks are capable of complex learning. So instead of medicalizing (or biologicalizing) normal childhood immaturity, we here at MIA need to correct this myth and re-educate parents about raising kids being an exhausting, time-consuming, often frustrating but ultimately rewarding 24 hour-a-day responsibility, for which there are no quick-fix substitutions. Offering such quick-fix solutions will only encourage parents to continue the neglectful attitude toward child-rearing that has become so prevalent in the U.S., and which is clearly having disastrous consequences.

  4. It is beyond disturbing that vitamin deficiencies continue to be labeled as if they were “mental illness’s”.
    I can’t imagine anything more unethical than this.
    I follow Dr. Mercola and a few other natural based doctors, who are starting to speak the truth and call a vital nutrient deficiency what it is; a nutritional deficiency instead of what it isn’t ; a “mental illness’.
    Half a truth is still a lie.

  5. Great article and good response to the first comment. I don’t really see why folks who identify with having been harmed by psychiatry are so ready to shoot down the concept of nutrition having a major impact, at times, on ones mental and emotional state, our moods, etc. There are chemicals in food we eat everyday. Environmental toxins play a role too. For XMAS I got an air filter and when I used it, for the first time in months, I had a blessed reprieve from a hacking cough that plagued my sleep for months. Could the air filter have been a placebo? Yes. But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe my cough was a inflammatory response to small particles in the air including airborne dust and woodsmoke. Any new option or alternative we receive with a smaller side effect is a boon. I can’t envision a system in which people are coerced to stop eating junk food and eat leafy greens or take micronutrients, a system in which soda pop is prohibited. Nor would I promote such a system. Empowerment is at the root of all healthy living. People need to learn to make choices that are good for them but having data is huge. Yes, there will be quacks when we move to a system that honors people’s right to choice. We will have to be on guard for all kinds of scams. All the more reason to have research that helps us eliminate fraud and quackery.

    My experience with the air filter (placebo or not?) made me realize that in the process of debunking the myths of psychiatry and attacking its corrupt junk science we run the risk of failing to identify even small, environmental triggers and nutritional deficits in ourselves and our loved ones, which if resolved, could make our lives a whole lot better!! Who cares if something is a placebo or not? If it works, it works! I dream of a system where the mental health system is like a buffet. If I arrive at the buffet straight from the desert, starving and thirsty, I may gorge at first but little by little, as my body adjusts to the offerings, I will slow down and become discerning and start partaking of every healthy offering before me!

    • I find it interesting that the extreme debunkers of psychiatry have the same attitude toward nutrient therapy as do medication-happy psychiatry extremists. I’m not surprised that neither groups have any personal experience either using nutrients, themselves, nor treating others and aren’t interested in finding out how such things work. Otherwise, they couldn’t be so sure of themselves.

  6. I am very pleased to see this kind of research getting published. However, I do believe you would do better to challenge the ADHD label, for very practical reasons.

    You note correctly that not all kids respond to nutrient interventions, but those who do often respond strongly. This is most likely because only SOME of those labeled as “ADHD” have nutrient deficiencies. Grouping all “ADHD” kids together therefore dilutes your results and makes it appear that what could be large effect sizes in the right target population are much smaller.

    It would seem to me the best way to challenge this arbitrary grouping is to start with a group of “ADHD” labeled kids and to do nutritional testing or dietary analysis on the group. Once it’s established which kids may likely have deficiencies, split THAT group into nutrient vs. placebo. I would bet your effect sizes would be quite substantial.

    The DSM labels are not just arbitrary – they were actually created to remove any analysis of causality and to make groups that can be spun as responding to drug “treatments.” Unless we break these labels down and look at subgroups who actually have something in common with each other, drugs will almost always get the “best results” because they are targeted to decrease the “symptoms” that are used to identify the “disorders.” If 20% of “ADHD” sufferers improve substantially from taking B-complex vitamins, that’s a FANTASTIC outcome – 20% of kids are now FINE just from a nutritional intervention! But if you compare all “ADHD” kids on this measure, you’ll get only 20% effectiveness, and the drug companies can claim 70%. See what I mean?

    I believe it is of the utmost importance to your research being taken as seriously as it should be that you identify subgroups of those diagnosed as “ADHD” and instead of saying you’re treating “ADHD,” say that you’re treating NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES that are identifiable within the group, and that those so identified DO NOT HAVE “ADHD” OR ANY OTHER DISORDER, as proven by their dramatic improvement with nutritional interventions alone.

    Hope that makes sense. Thanks for your great work!

    — Steve

    • Steve- remember some of these “ADHD” kids have gotten that way by exposure to heavy metals. Although non-drug detoxifying measures exist, they tend not to work as fast as drugs such as D-pen, but they’re a lot safer (and you have to add mineral nutrients, anyway, when doing D-pen therapy, in order to prevent deficiencies in the trace minerals already present in your kids’ bodies).

    • While you are right in a sense, there are 2 ways to address this question. One is looking to make utopia on earth; the other is dealing with the reality we are in.
      I’m making a pretty safe guess that you don’t have school-age children. Homeschooling is beyond most people’s means and ability. It’s so easy to bash people who propose a less-than-perfect “solution” to a real problem, especially when it’s not something that you are personally dealing with.
      By the way, what are you doing, in practical terms, in order to enable the myriad parents out there who would love to provide their children with an optimal education yet are unable to do so? Talk is oh-so cheap. Surely a partial solution is better than a lot of idealistic hot air.

      • There are certainly more than two ways to address this question, and the question itself is probably different from the question that some people are asking. I’m not bashing people. I’m exposing the false notion that micronutrients are a “solution” to mythical “mental illness.” It’s funny the assumptions that people make when I expose the truth about psychiatry. Since people don’t have an intelligent response to arguments, they would rather make assumptions and impugn motives. C.S. Lewis’s point about the omnipotent moral busybodies applies here as well. As for what I’m doing in practical terms in order to enable the myriad parents out there who would love to provide their children with an optimal education, one of those practical things is to debunk the false notions that are spread through MIA articles such as this one. The fake partial “solutions” of psychiatry are harmful, although less harmful than the “solutions” that psychiatry presents in the form of drugs, and the idealistic hot air and utopian thinking is that which psychiatry perpetuates in order to promote it’s own agenda. Drugging children, or micromanaging them through micronutrients are both utopian in their scope, and the rhetoric that is used to defend such practices is the idealistic hot air. Those who are familiar with the history of psychiatry can see this very clearly, so I don’t blame those who are unfamiliar with this history.

        • Well, I’m not familiar with the history. I don’t think the majority of parents with “ADHD” kids are either. For the record, I also don’t believe there is a disease called ADHD. BUT THE MISERY OF KIDS WHO DON’T SUCCEED IN SCHOOL IS REAL. For the most part, they WANT to be able to learn like their peers. Telling them, “You’re not sick, just different,” or however else you want to put it, just isn’t going to help much if at all. They want solutions, not ideologies. Guess which option a kid is going to choose if you tell him either, “You have a problem and can take a vitamin cocktail to deal with it – it will help,” or “You don’t have a problem, so just chill – who cares if you can’t read?”

          Maybe in years past kids didn’t have to sit through boring classes and they did just fine in life. So what? Today’s reality is different. My kids would have a miserable life if they couldn’t read fluently, and I would be an abusive mother if I didn’t get them the help they need to acquire the necessary skills in life.

          Once people get used to the idea that some “ADHD” is treatable by nutrients, the next – easy – step is to say, “By the way, it isn’t ADHD if a B-vitamin supplement cures it. What do you say?” And the final step, “By the way, ADHD is just a description of a variety of symptoms, as you can see from your own kid’s experience,” will follow on naturally – and so much more easily than by following your method of proofs and rebuttals and whatever else.

          This is why I call your method utopian. It sounds great, makes some sort of sense, but in the real world, there are much better ways of doing things in order to reach the goals both of us are aiming for.

  7. Steve, and Julia — these are interesting comments. I’d like to tell you both about something that I now do in almost all of my lectures on Nutrition and Mental Health. I end with a section on societal issues, one of which is the “stigma of mental illness.” And I tell the story (published) of a boy we call Andrew (not his real name), who was severely psychotic at the age of 9 — delusions, visual hallucinations, auditory hallucinations, etc. And over several months all of those symptoms were resolved with broad-spectrum micronutrients. We have followed this boy now for 8 years, and he is still well….as long as he takes his nutrients. But one summer when he was a teenager he rebelled and refused to take them. So his hallucinations began to return, scaring the pants off of everyone in his family. So….what do you think: does Andrew have a mental disorder? Or….did he inherit the need for an unusually large amount of nutrients for optimal brain function? And if the answer is the latter (and I think it is), why would we ever attach a ‘disorder label’ to him? And finally: if we could offer every child FIRST the opportunity of taking additional nutrients, how many developing brains would we protect from the onslaught of psych meds, and also how many people would we save from ever having a ‘disorder label’ applied?
    One final comment tonight: Steve, the fact that Julia and others employ DSM category labels does not mean that we like them. But we feel so strongly that we need to be able to publish our data on nutritional treatments…….and most journals will not accept even a high-level study such as Julia’s recent ADHD clinical trial if it does not follow certain conventions…..like DSM criteria for disorders. But as she always points out, when people benefit from micronutrients, they tend to improve across the board. We are showing the importance of building healthier brains.

    • This is a good cartoon to consider regarding the deceptive notion of mental health stigmas: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/568438784195379371/

      The stigma is inherent in the false notion of “mental health” and “mental illness,” and anti-stigma campaigns, as illustrated in the cartoon, just keep the cycle turning. And what on earth is “optimal brain function”? There are many adults whose “optimal brain function” is surely suspect, and yet we don’t try to micronutrient them. What can it possibly mean to build healthier brains? This is the idea that requires greater scrutiny, since brain health seems to be the goal, let’s talk about what that means.

  8. It is both a simple blood test and mandatory part of the process to rule out nutritional deficencies when providing a differential diagnosis which includes testing for thyroid and other real medical conditions.
    I find most of what is being suggested here to be based on personal interest and without interest in letting these kids or anyone else off the “mental illness” hook.
    Beyond disturbing.

  9. “broad-based micronutrient formula consisting mainly of vitamins and minerals, without omega fatty acids, in the treatment of ADHD in adults.”

    May I ask, what were the vitamins and minerals and why did you leave out omega fatty acids, in view of the fact that docosahexaenoic acid is a primary structural component of the human brain ?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24482441

    For me, it could be that part of this ‘problem’ is here:

    “GAD67 is transcribed during early development, while GAD65 is not transcribed until later in life.[3] This developmental difference in GAD67 and GAD65 reflects the functional properties of each isoform; GAD67 is needed throughout development for normal cellular functioning, while GAD65 is not needed until slightly later in development when synaptic inhibition is more prevalent.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamate_decarboxylase

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9777629

    Another part of the ‘problem’ could be with low magnesium being as it regulates the function of the N-Mythyl D-Aspartate receptor (NMDAR) – by blocking or gating the channel in a voltage dependent way – which controls the transmission of glutamate, glycine and calcium. Glutamate being the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the CNS. The best way to get magnesium into the brain is in powdered form dissolved on the tongue or dissolved in carbonated water.

    And maybe here as well, although I think they have identified another strain specific to humans, at the moment I can not find it:

    “Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21876150

    And the harmful diathetic marketing acronym ADHD,

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLarWMcMY8M

    If a person is found to be low on magnesium or certain strains of gut bugs, can we just say so please. However, blood test for low Mg is not really any good.

  10. Why does “healthy diet” always need to include suppliments like micronutrients, according to these experts? I just don’t get it. Wouldn’t the results have been the same if the “ADHD children” had eaten more fruit and veggies and other healthy foods, which already contain all necessary nutrients? Promoting a healthy diet or promoting supplements is NOT the same. There is no need for supplements if your diet is healthy.
    Also, the behavior that is now labelled as ADHD is much too complex and can have many different causes, hence the treatment is also complex and different for every case. By simply reducing it to a vitamin deficiency or whatever you call it, you are doing exactly the same as what psychiatry has always done by reducing all mental problems (or even normal behavior and normal emotions) to a simple chemical imbalance. I see no difference. And I don’t believe that supplements have no side-effects either.

    • Thank you for raising this point, Elsie, as it had not yet come up in this discussion but it is an important one. There are now 2 excellent clinical trials out of Australia that show (in adults with depression) that perhaps as much as 50% of the symptoms can be alleviated by getting people to eat healthier diets. That is a very, very big effect, and so we always say that the first thing people should do is to eat healthier diets (and exercise etc). But we also have some pretty well-studied cases of people who were already eating healthy, whole foods diets whose mental health improved by taking nutrient supplements. So I think our goal, in terms of mental health, needs to be FIRST encourage better eating (as I often say, we can’t put the whole world on pills), but SECOND try nutrient supplements whose benefits have been proven by independent scientists.
      ANOTHER important aspect of this is….why isn’t a good diet enough for some people? And there are 2 aspects to consider: 1. There is good reason to believe that some people have inherited a need for more nutrients for optimal brain metabolism than other people need — individual differences! and 2. There is very good evidence that our fruits and veggies do not have as many nutrients as they did 50 years ago, and the likely reason is that our soil has been depleted of minerals……a topic we will be blogging on in the future.

  11. As a frontline clinician I have come to the view that most problems presented by children, be it mood, anxiety, behaviour or the fictitious ADHD, are rooted in the problems of their care-givers. ‘ADHD’ symptoms frequently arise when the key care-giver, usually Mum, has a trauma based mental health problem which impacts on her capacity to express love and warmth, and/or makes it difficult for her to put behavioural boundaries in place. (Trauma based mental health problems are a lot more common than we imagine.) Often “ADHD” symptoms are an expression of psychological trauma in the child, and reflect a determination to avoid thoughts and memories of emotionally painful events through pressured activity.

    • Michael,

      You make some good points but your explanations wouldn’t cover kids who are misdiagnosed with ADHD due to other conditions like sleep apnea which leads back to this blog.

      When Julia and Bonnie have done their studies, have participants been screened for medical conditions that could look like “ADHD” but aren’t? Sorry if this information was included and I missed it.

      • That’s the point I’m making above: “ADHD” is a hodgepodge collection of behaviors that can have a mass of possible causes, from sleep apnea to iron deficiency to poor discipline to poor classroom management to childhood traumatization. To imagine that any one “treatment” could be effective against all of these myriad causes is foolish, unless your goal is to sell more stimulants.

  12. what a good blog….very good comments by everyone…wow…what problems we have…the drugging of kids..and how we might help kids in other ways…we have a lot of SICKNESS and we are popping pills for everything…WE ARE NOT EATING HEALTHY…WE ARE NOT EXERCISING HEALTHY..we are not choosing wisely.

  13. Thank you for a great article.
    When I was a teenager, I was “anorexic” (which I put in “” in order to avoid the censure of all those who hate labels of any kind). I was, obviously, starving, and nutrient-deprived. Resuming a healthy, sufficient diet enabled me to address the emotional issues that brought on the “anorexia.” I was unable to do so in a starved state.
    My husband’s “psychosis” and “schizophrenia” is kept at bay by many things, definitely including large doses of B vitamins and other pills. When he is stable, he can deal with issues. When he is not, he can’t.
    Unfortunately, there are those on this site who think that the only problem that needs dealing with is that people think there is such a thing as mental illness. Call it what you like, but people go through stuff, and it affects them. The mind and body are intimately connected and who cares what comes first, the nutritional imbalance or the emotional instability? If the vitamins help, go for it.

  14. Some people have a huge need to have children and then find in them Original Sin. Driving them to doctors is one of the ways they do this. Some doctors need to be fooled.

    But then there are other doctors who do not need to be fooled. Their business is the finding of deficiencies in children on behalf of their parents.

    Mandatory Reporting should have put an end to this, but it hasn’t yet.

  15. Hi to everyone again……I want to thank all of you for the mostly-respectful tone of the discussion we are all having. I want to end my own input with one particular point (below), and then spend my time writing our next blog!
    Here is the point — and I know you all know this already, but this is a reminder. MIA blogs address a zillion important topics (labeling, diagnoses, meds, social issues, etc). BUT UNTIL WE BEGAN THIS BLOG, NO ONE was talking about nutrition. And nutrition’s role in mental health happens to be our area of expertise, so we thought we would fill that void.
    But please accept that this is the only topic we are addressing. It does NOT mean that we think all these other issues are trivial — that is not the case. But our discussions together would be far more productive (I think) and constructive if people commented only on our topic when responding to our blogs. I hope that sounds reasonable!
    Now…Happy New Year to all, and I have about 5 more blogs to work on 🙂 so I probably won’t add anything further here.
    Best wishes, Bonnie

    • Fortunately no one on MIA was talking about nutrition until now. Nevertheless, perhaps it is useful to address the topic here in order to refute it as soon as possible before it spreads even further by means of the ever extending tentacles of psychiatry. Some psychiatric survivors may have encountered the problem of mental health mongering in the guise of nutrition products by the name of Truehope or EMpower plus. The story behind this company is stranger than fiction. https://www.truehope.com/effectiveness/ingredients Those who read this story will better understand the problem of nutrition in the so-called “treatment” of so-called “mental illness.” https://www.amazon.com/Promise-Hope-Autumn-Stringam/dp/0062026666

      Others may have heard of QSciences, or Q96, which is some sort of an outgrowth from the EMPower Plus. Again, take the time to read about the background for this product in order to understand the problem with the nutrition “solution” for so-called “mental illness.” https://qsciences.com/

      Others still may have heard of Dr. Charles Popper, a psychiatrist who claims to change the way that psychiatry is practiced by offering Hardy Nutritionals to patients diagnosed with “mental disorders.” https://www.hardynutritionals.com/blog/2014/09/harvard-doctor-praises-use-daily-essential-nutrients-mood-disorders/

      A more recent development, and perhaps only one among many similar companies that are springing up, is Amare Global. This organization dubs itself the “mental wellness company.” The idea that is becoming more and more popular is that dietary health, particularly the health of the gut, is the key to “mental health.” https://amare.com/

      On the surface, these companies and products seem to present a wonderful solution to the problem of “mental illness.” Certainly nutritional health and stomach health are key to overall health and well being. The problem, of course, is that each of these companies claims to offer a solution to a problem that too few have sufficiently examined, namely, the mysterious problem of “mental illness.”

      To be clear, no one is arguing that people shouldn’t practice proper nutrition or that they shouldn’t supplement their nutrient deficient diets with vitamins. The underlying problem that needs to be addressed is that all of these companies sell their products to unsuspecting customers based on the gullibility of the general populace with regard to mythical “mental illness.” In other words, it is apparent to most people that some sort of an epidemic has arisen in America, and all over the world, an epidemic of “mental illness.” It is assumed that growing numbers of people, particularly children, suffer from any variety of “diagnosable mental disorders,” and that something must be done to help them. Many fall prey to psychiatric labeling and drugging. Others, desperate for solutions, turn to what they perceive to be alternatives, namely natural products, vitamins, supplements, and so forth. But as Robert Whitaker has so clearly articulated in his excellent books, particularly “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” the root cause of this epidemic is psychiatry itself. Thus a psychiatrist who shovels out vitamin pills instead of poison pills is only doing a favor to a “patient” insofar as that person may not have to suffer from the effects of psychotropic drugging. More often than not, “patients” have already consumed a vast amount of psychotropic poison, and the vitamins or supplements are supposed to be helpful for a person who is trying to withdraw from the toxic substances.

      Is the conundrum yet clear? Psychiatry causes an epidemic which it then sustains either through continuous drugging, labeling, and incarceration, or else by way of micronutrients or other purported remedies. Of course micronutrients, as far as we know, are less harmful than psychotropic drugs, but the problem of psychiatry remains. All of it is presented as just another advancement, another step in the glorious progress of psychiatry.

      The problem of course is not that nutrition shouldn’t be studied or practiced. The problem is that nutrition cannot play a role in “mental health” if there is really no such thing as “mental health” or “mental illness.” As long as the myth persists, a variety of miracle products and purported solutions will continue to present themselves. Truthfully, no one can really have an expertise in nutrition’s role in mental health. That is tantamount to the claim that someone is an expert in the dietary habits of the Easter Bunny, the rate of sugar consumption for the elves in Santa’s shop, or the metabolic patterns of the Tooth Fairy.

      Psychiatry’s nearly endless array of harmful and failed fake “remedies” will always find another void to fill. Once the nutrition scam is exposed, what else will take it’s place? Perhaps there will be a return to hypnotism, or someone will propose that “mental illness” is caused by extra-terrestrials, and therefore psychiatry will develop a new anti-u.f.o program. In all seriousness, we are already watching the horrible lie of “early prevention” and brain scan technology as it unfolds. Invasive psychiatric technology, is that the new frontier? O Brave New World!

      • Kelly Brogan is an author here at MIA, who uses nutrition with great success to cure problems misdiagnosed as “mental health” issues.
        Nutrition is an actual science, whereas psychiatry is a total pseudo-science and fraud.
        Food is LIFE GIVING, and vitamins are called “essential nutrients” because people get sick and die without them, which includes the symptoms of so called “mental illness’ that disease mongering shrinks are trying to claim as “novel” territory. It is by no means novel; they are simply looking for ways to expand the market share AND keep the myths of “mental illness” alive.
        Just because something is not widely discussed on MIA does not mean it is not being discussed elsewhere, it is.
        Like everything else psychiatry puts its dirty hands on, nutrition is being co-opted by the disease mongers who continue to insist that people are ‘mentally ill” even though nutrition is the most basic key to good health there is; something Allopathic “medicine”, knows nothing about.
        This conversation is beyond disturbing.
        Dr. Brogan where are you?

  16. hey wait a minute here…so I no longer have a mental illness…then what do I have wrong with me…what hit me and disabled me…where do I turn for help…well one place might be about nutrition..it might be supplementation to help me…what are some of you telling me…where is the real help…what is the real truth here…drugs are not going to do it…I am screwed up…what should we call that…the screwed up syndrome??? I find a lot of arrogance here…

    • Happy New Year, “little turtle”! (I always put the name people use online here in quote marks just to distinguish it.) You are asking some real serious questions here. I think you deserve some real serious answers. A lot of what you read here, especially in the comments, comes from years of reading, study, and work at a college or University level. Much of it comes from painful experiences. Yes, there is a lot of arrogance here. But behind a lot of that “arrogance” is also a lot of pain and suffering. So I suggest trying to not get hung up on any “arrogance” you run into here. “Take what you need, and leave the rest”, is a good way to describe it. In the end, only YOU can really know what’s best for “littleturtle”. And I’m guessing you’ve had a lot of other people try to tell you what’s best for you. That makes it harder to trust your own wisdom and knowing. I’m glad you’re still posting here. That means you’re still looking for answers, still looking for healing. Whatever it was that “happened” to you, wasn’t just one thing that happened in one moment. It was a lot of things, that took place over a long period of time. So your “healing”, – whatever form that takes, – won’t happen all at once, either. It’s a PROCESS, not an “event”. The key is “positive forward progress”. How that works is really very simple. You decide you want to be healthier. You decide that you are ready, willing, and able to begin to make one step at a time towards being the healthiest, happiest “little turtle” that you can be. When you do this, it can seem scary. And that “fear” can be seen as “F.E.A.R.” That means “False Evidence Appearing Real”. Or, it can mean, “Face Everything And Recover”. What I’ve learned, – what I believe, – is that we ALL have a WHOLE, HEALTHY, HAPPY person living inside us. Even **YOU**, “little turtle”! That’s what I believe, anyway! In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether or not so-called “mental illnesses” are “real” or not. And it really doesn’t matter whether or not you do, or don’t, have one. You still have to do certain things to be that whole, healthy, happy person you were meant to be. I think you can do it. Your questions are a good sign. (This might not be the best site to get the answers, though! *grin*….) If you haven’t been to Monica Cassinis’ website, >beyondmeds.com<, then I suggest you do. She has a LOT of good information there. And yes, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts and whole grains, is always a good idea. You're not a junk person, so why should you eat junk food? Thanks for your questions, and thanks for reading my few words here. I do hope they help!
      ~B./

    • You have nothing wrong with you littleturtle, its just that you have lived in a screwy world where people are constantly at risk of attack, and two of the most common sources are the middle-class family and the mental health system, and also religion.

      As far as turning for help, I don’t think that is safe. Most such help is always going to be 100% malicious.

      Instead, we need to find comrades. These are people that are fighting back, and they will have a track record of scoring victories.

      So it should be lawsuits, street protests, campaigns to put therapists and psychiatrists out of business, and more.

      And of course there need to be political goals too. Everyone wants to do well. But our society makes the poor into scapegoats. We need to reverse this with a complete cradle to grave welfare state. If someone is without, then we need to care for them without any stigma. Some have called for Universal Basic Income. Help is okay, so long as it is not pity based or causing stigma. But today that is extremely rare. If someone is offering help, but they do not carry the scars of fighting for change, then such help is always going to be toxic, because they are just using it to diminish you, showing you pity, to make themselves feel good, and interpreting that you are the culpable party in your own distress. Must always be extremely careful in such situations.

  17. I still have a mental illness….and I am going to pay a lot of attention to NUTRITION and my mental health…and Julia and bonnie are doing great research here to help us with mental illness…I am not interested in taking psychiatry down….I want critical psychiatry…I want to look at what helps not start a war with the drug companies and psychiatrists…I just want to find things that work without any harm…thank you from the littleturtle…

    • Little turtle: Another nutrient you might want to consider supplementing with is Vitamin D. Almost everyone in North America seems to be deficient. My anxiety and depression has greatly improved since I started taking 8000 IU per day. I am also grateful to Julia, Bonnie and Kelly Brogan for all the great info about nutrition I have found on this site.

    • LittleTurtle, the issue is your social and civil standing. If you have been marginalized into the mental health system, then your social and civil standing have been seriously harmed.

      No one ever restores their social and civil standing unless they demonstrate that they are willing to strike out and hold others accountable. Until we each do that, we are still living by begging for pity, living as Uncle Tom’s.

      Trying to live without taking offensive actions is to live in the very small social space which the abusers have boxed you into.

      Live and Let Live is a denial system. Even Gandhi always worked to produce intense social conflict, conflict of a sort which forces the other side into violence. Gandhi was absolutely never a pacifist.

      MLK was not able to understand Gandhi, except maybe by the last year of his life. That was the only time when he was worth listening to.

      As Cornell West never tires of explaining, for Gandhi non-violence was a tactic not a strategy. He spoke the way he did with an eye to the broader situation and the kind of independence he wanted to bring about. He called for non-violence, always knowing that he was escalating the tensions in a potentially very violent situation. He knew, that given the word, the Sikhs in the North could have sent the last of the dismembered remains of the British floating down the rivers within 48 hours.

      The Mental Health system is a resurgence of Social Darwinism and Eugenics. Though these are bogus sciences, if you follow MindFreedom and make an unlimited pledge of non-violence and stupidity, then you are making it look as though these bogus doctrines are legitimate.

      There is no issue of mental health or of innate moral defect. Rather the issue is honor and social civil standing. And this is what the mental health system and the middle-class family destroy.

  18. It is SO troubling that people writing for Mad In America would use totally unscientific and VERY harmful terms of psychiatric diagnoses and using those categories as the core of research! Even one of the greatest purveyors of the term “ADHD” has publicly, repeatedly acknowledged (in his rare moments of candor) the harm that the epidemic of use of that diagnosis has caused. I hope that people will stop doing this sort of thing, especially in Mad In America but also elsewhere. You yourselves cause terrible harm by reifying these diagnostic labels, which have been proven time and again to cause terrible harm. https://www.amazon.com/They-Say-Youre-Crazy-Psychiatrists/dp/0201488329/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515602267&sr=8-1&keywords=They+Say+you%27re+crazy
    and
    https://www.amazon.com/Bias-Psychiatric-Diagnosis-Paula-Caplan/dp/0765700018/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515602285&sr=1-1&keywords=bias+in+psychiatric+diagnosis
    and see my chapter in https://www.amazon.com/Power-Psychiatric-Apparatus-Repression-Transformation/dp/1472417313/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515602341&sr=1-1&keywords=power+and+the+psychiatric+apparatus (available much more cheaply on Kindle)

      • ^^^^^^ Agreed!

        And something I just sent to a friend in email which may be of interest:

        I have no objection to disability money being paid out. I think such payouts should be expanded in scope and quantity. We are in the latest stage of industrialization. But our politics is completely driven by scapgoating the poor, plus minorities and immigrants. We are dividing into a two tier society. Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and the Recovery Movement are simply resurgences of the bogus sciences of Social Darwinism and Eugenics. If we expect our democracy to continue, then we absolutely have to move to Social Democracy.

        But I am very critical of disability identities. And generally I feel that access to disability payments is being used to coerce people who are already marginalized into accepting a disability identity. No one should be subjected to such coercion. And in my observation the disability identities are usually flimsy and more the product of abuse, injustice, and social marginalization. Accepting such an identity merely exonerates perpetrators.

        It will never change so long as people ask for pity. Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, The Recovery Movement, and Born Again Christianity are all based on pity seeking. Things will only change when people organize and start fighting back.

        There is one thing and one thing only which ended slavery in this country, the fact that 180,000 black men refused to be Uncle Tom’s, and instead trained with rifles and bayonets and served in federal uniform. If this had not been so, we would still be practicing slavery today.