Hi, I’m Brittany.
I’m the founder of I’m Nutrients.
It all started in 2019 after I could never seem to find the perfect nutrient combinations for my children’s needs. I had a very good idea of what those perfect combo's were.
As a nutritionist + herbalist with 10+ years of experience and being mum of 2, I knew what products I wish I have. And I’m nutrient was born, a child focused nutrient company, after I struggling to find effective, clean and palatable supplements for my children.
Everything my children tried either contained too many additives like sugars, artificial flavours and sweeteners and excipients, didn’t contain effective dosages or optimal forms of nutrients, and were too tricky to take; either capsules or gross non-palatable powders.
The inspiration behind my first product, I’m Calm + Focused came from my son. He was diagnosed with mild ADHD, predominately inattentive type and was struggling to focus at school. Being a nutritionist, I knew that a combination of zinc, magnesium, and B-vitamins would be helpful and there was evidence to back that up. My herbal knowledge pointed me to research more about antioxidant rich herbs. Saffron, a common culinary, had gained a lot of attention in recent years because of a number of published clinical trials, specifically showing benefit for saffron and ADHD. It also was one of the more sustainable and environmentally options for herbal medicines.
Giving my son all these nutrients meant multiple tablets and capsules. For a number of months, I opened up capsules of zinc and B-vitamins and added them to homemade (healthy jelly). For magnesium I would bath him in magnesium chloride and apply magnesium creams. I also tried to use saffron in cooking as much as she could. We ate a lot of paella! After just 2 weeks of this protocol, my son was starting to sleep better, being calmer and the feedback from school was “what has changed? He is doing great”.
The results from my son were so overwhelming positive that I then looked into further research. She found that Saffron was also helpful for reducing irritability, stress, mild anxiety and to calm the mind. I was overwhelmed by the number of studies on nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and B-vitamins too. I was relieved to find out that Saffron can potentially offset some of the side effects of common stimulant medications and is safe to use concurrently, if this were to be on the cards for us later on.
I was confident that the therapeutic effects of saffron, with the addition of zinc, magnesium and active vitamins B6, follinic acid (B9) and B12 to support the underlying biochemical pathways to provide support for nervous system, was the ideal combination. I also saw the significant need, through her clinical practise, in the paediatric population for integrative support for mental health issues. It was also important that this combination of nutrients was in a form that was both easily to absorbed into a family’s daily routine, without adding further stress.
I’m Nutrients was born.
Do your kids hate green vegetables and only feed them organic bread? Chances are they might be folate deficient.
Folate (natural form of B9 found in foods) or folic acid (synthetic form of vitamins B9), is best known for being essential when planning for a baby and during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. The vitamin, in my opinion, does get enough credit beyond baby making.
Folate is essential for growth and in childhood. Folate helps to make DNA, form red blood cells and for the growth and repair of tissues. Folate deficiency in children can cause haemological changes such as megaloblastic anaemia and have consequences for their growth, as well as cognition (WHO). Some studies have reported lower scores in schoolchildren with low folate status.
Folate deficiency in the past was such a significant public health issue, that in Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) implemented mandatory folic acid fortification to floured use to make commercial breads, organic flour being exempt. Three slices of fortified bread contain approximately 120 micrograms of folic acid.
Clinically, I see many families who opt to eat organic produce and for good reason (read more about organic and ADHD here), and some family’s choosing to go gluten or grain free. All which can be justifiable decisions, based on your individual family’s needs and health concerns.
Often what isn’t thought of though is the folate requirements of the family, particularly women of childbearing age and young children. Aside from fortified grain products, beef liver, spinach, black-eyed peas, asparagus and brussels sprouts are among some of the richest naturally source of folate. What’s that? Slim chance your fussy child will eat any of those. I get it!
That’s why I added follinic acid, an activated form of folic acid into I’M CALM + FOCUSED. The recommend daily intake of folate in children is; 150 mcg for children aged 1-3 years, 200 mcg for 4-9-year old’s and 300 mcg for 9-13-year old’s. One delicious chewable of I’M CALM + FOCUSED contains 50 mcg of follinic acid. The suggested dose for 3-9-year old’s is 2 chewable’s daily and 9+, 3 daily. This can give you peace of mind that your child’s folate requirements are being met each day.
The two main medications used to manage ADHD in children and adults are stimulant and antidepressant medications. However, for many parents, the thought of putting a young child on long-term medication, no matter how effective it may, is not a decision that sits easily. While there are undoubtedly benefits to ADHD medications and many children do well on them, there are also a large proportion (an estimated 30%) of children who can't tolerate the side effects or report the medication has no beneficial effect on their behaviour.
Given this, many parents choose to look for alternative means of supporting their children. While there is currently no known cure for ADHD, positive parenting strategies, school support, dietary interventions, exercise and counselling have been shown significantly help many children with their symptoms, with and without the use of prescribed medications. It is now well accepted that supporting a child with ADHD requires a holistic approach - utilising several different modalities to bring out the best a child.
Despite there being no conclusive evidence that supports the theory of nutritional deficiencies causing ADHD, there is a large body of evidence that shows people with ADHD commonly have deficiencies of certain nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. Zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 are all required to help synthesize and regulate the neurotransmitters that are affected in ADHD. Targeted nutritional supplementation has therefore been shown as a potential treatment or complementary intervention for children with ADHD.
It’s important to understand that a supplement is still a supplement, and diet should always be addressed as well. If you are interested in finding out how you can support your child’s ADHD through diet, read this blog post.
But for the times when you may need some extra support, here are four nutrients that have been most well researched with ADHD.
- Zinc deficiency is one of the most-recognised micronutrient deficiencies linked to ADHD symptoms as blood analysis of children with ADHD has demonstrated reduced zinc levels in children with ADHD compared to healthy children.
- Numerous human and animal studies have suggested that zinc deficiency may be associated with hyperactivity and may also be involved in the pathophysiology of ADHD.
- Zinc is an essential cofactor that is required for the production of dopamine and norepinephrine. Suboptimal levels of zinc disrupt the production and regulation of dopamine and norepinephrine, which is understood to be an essential part of the cause of ADHD.
- Zinc is really important for regulating copper balance within the body. While trace amounts of copper are needed by the body, elevated levels can lead to over-excitation of the neurotransmitters and contribute to hyperactive ADHD symptoms.
- A 2004 study showed improvements in hyperactivity, impulsivity, and social engagement in children with ADHD following zinc supplementation.
- A 2016 study found zinc supplementation increased the effectiveness of an ADHD stimulant medication, lowering the dose and thus side effects in the children.
- Magnesium is arguably one of the most important nutrients for optimal brain performance as it is involved in virtually every single enzyme reaction, nerve signal conduction and supports the function of serotonin and dopamine receptors.
- Magnesium is important for modulating the excitation of nerves and promoting GABA production. GABA is a neurotransmitter that is the basis of the inhibitory (calming) system in the body and also controls the action of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine which are affected in ADHD.
- Magnesium deficiency has been identified in almost all cases of ADHD.
- Magnesium has been shown to work best when taken with Vitamin B6 as B6 increases the absorption potential of magnesium.
- Similar to zinc, studies have found that magnesium appears to be a beneficial supplementary therapy alongside conventional ADHD drugs. One study found that magnesium supplementation taken in combination with conventional ADHD drugs reduced ADHD more than the drugs alone.
- Vitamin B6 plays important roles in energy production and neurotransmitter synthesis and is also important for a healthy immune and nervous system, both of which may be impaired in children with ADHD.
- Vitamin B6 works synergistically with zinc to produce serotonin which is a neurotransmitter involved in modulating cognition, reward, learning and memory.
- Children with ADHD have been found to have a reduced ability to convert the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin, which results in greater impulsive and hyperactive behaviours. As Vitamin B6 acts as a cofactor for this pathway, reduced levels of Vitamin B6 can make this conversation even harder.
- Studies have found that sub-optimal levels of B6 are common in adults with ADHD and low levels of B6 are more likely to be seen in those with greater severity of symptoms.
- Deficiency of Vitamin B6 is associated with symptoms of irritability and difficulty concentrating, which are key symptoms of ADHD
- Research has shown that Vitamin B6 supplementation is most beneficial for those with ADHD when also taken alongside magnesium and zinc.
While these nutrients are readily available to the general public and hold great potential for those managing ADHD, it’s important to remember that managing supplements and other integrative treatments requires expertise and should never be done without the care and approval of your health care practitioner.
Arnold, L. E., Disilvestro, R. A., Bozzolo, D., Bozzolo, H., Crowl, L., Fernandez, S., … Joseph, E. (2011). Zinc for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: placebo-controlled double-blind pilot trial alone and combined with amphetamine. Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology, 21(1), 1–19. doi:10.1089/cap.2010.0073
El Baza et al. (2016). Magnesium supplementation in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, 17(1), 63-70.
Esparham, A., Evans, R. G., Wagner, L. E., & Drisko, J. A. (2014). Pediatric Integrative Medicine Approaches to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children (Basel, Switzerland), 1(2), 186–207. doi:10.3390/children1020186
Greenblatt, J. (2017). Finally Focused: Mineral Imbalances & ADHD (Part 1: Zinc Deficiency and Copper Excess. Retrieved from http://blog.zrtlab.com/mineral-imbalance-adhd-zinc-copper
Greenblatt, J. (2017). Finally Focused: Mineral Imbalances & ADHD (Part 2: Magnesium Deficiency. Retrieved from http://blog.zrtlab.com/mineral-imbalance-adhd-magnesium
Ho, C., Quay, T., Devlin, A., & Lamers, Y. (2016). Prevalence and Predictors of Low Vitamin B6 Status in Healthy Young Adult Women in Metro Vancouver. Nutrients, 8(9), 538. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu8090538
International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine (IOSM). (n.d.). Micronutrient Deficiencies in ADHD: A Global Research Consensus. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://isom.ca/article/micronutrient-deficiencies-adhd-global-research-consensus/
Landaas, E. T., Aarsland, T. I. M., Ulvik, A., Halmoy, A., Ueland, P. M., & Haavik, J. (2016). Vitamin levels in adults with ADHD. BJPsych Open, 2(6), 377–384. http://doi.org/10.1192/bjpo.bp.116.003491
Moshfegh, A., Goldman, J., Ahuja, J., Rhodes, D., & LaComb, R. (2009). What we eat in America, NHANES 2005–2006: usual nutrient intakes from food and water compared to 1997 dietary reference intakes for vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Mousain-Bosc, M., Roche, M., Polge, A., Pradal-Prat, D., Rapin, J., Bali, J. P. (2006). Improvement of neurobehavioral disorders in children supplement with magnesium vitamin B6. Magnesium Research, 19(1), 53–62.
Rucklidge, J. J., Frampton, C. M., Gorman, B., & Boggis, A. (2017). Vitamin-mineral treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 204(4), 306–315. http://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.113.132126
Rucklidge, J., Taylor, M., & Whitehead, K. (2011). Effect of micronutrients on behavior and mood in adults With ADHD: evidence from an 8-week open label trial with natural extension. Journal of Attention Disorders, 15(1), 79–91. http://doi.org/10.1177/1087054709356173
Starobrat-Hermelin, B., & Kozielec, T. (1997). The effects of magnesium supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Positive response to magnesium oral loading test. Magnesium Research, 10(2), 149–156.
Viktorinova, A., Ursinyova, M., Trebaticka, J., Uhnakova, I., Durackova, Z., & Masanova, V. (2016). Changed Plasma Levels of Zinc and Copper to Zinc Ratio and Their Possible Associations with Parent- and Teacher-Rated Symptoms in Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Biological Trace Element Research, 169(1), 1–7. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-015-0395-3
Yorbik, O., Ozdag, M. F., Olgun, A., Senol, M. G., Bek, S., & Akman, S. (2008). Potential effects of zinc on information processing in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32(3), 662–667. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2007.11.009
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder that causes hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour, and attention problems. ADHD interferes with a person’s ability to exercise age-appropriate control of their behaviour and/or their cognition.
It's estimated one in 20 children in Australia have ADHD and it is 10 times more common in boys than girls. Three types of ADHD are now recognised: predominantly inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type and combined type.
Common signs and symptoms of ADHD include:
Inattention – difficulty concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completion
Impulsivity – talking over the top of others, losing control of emotions easily, being accident-prone, acting without thinking
Overactivity – constant fidgeting and restlessness
While many children will face some of the difficulties that fall within under symptoms of ADHD, there is a marked difference between a young child misbehaving and a young child with ADHD. Children with ADHD will experience these difficulties in two or more settings (for example at home and school), will have presented with the symptoms before 7 years of age and their symptoms result in significant impairment in everyday functioning.
As symptoms of ADHD can overlap with numerous other behaviour and medical conditions, diagnosing ADHD isn’t straight forward. There is no specific test for ADHD so the assessment of a child is made using a wide range of information provided by both the family, a child’s school and clinical observations by doctors, paediatricians and child psychologists.
While there is no cure, positive parenting strategies, school support, dietary interventions, counselling can significantly help many children with ADHD. Some children may also be prescribed stimulant medications or in some cases anti-depressants for additional support. However, about 30% of patients do not respond to stimulant medications or cannot tolerate their side effects. Therefore in addition to pharmaceutical interventions, more research is now being done on nutritional therapeutics and their potential to address some of the key pathophysiological aspects of ADHD, without producing unmanageable side effects. One particular therapeutic that has recently been researched is Saffron.
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice and was traditionally used in ancient medicine for its antispasmodic, antiseptic, antidepressant, anticancer, and anticonvulsant effects. Saffron is the reddish-orange dried stigmas of the purple crocus flower. Each flower only has three stigmas (threads) and they must be harvested by hand before being set our to dry under the sun. It takes thousands of stigmas to make a small amount of saffron, which is why saffron is such a prized spice.
Saffron has been extensively studied and research has found saffron to have several beneficial health effects. The therapeutic potential of saffron is based on its potent antioxidant capacity, ability to regulate neurotransmitters function, improve synapse transmission and support cognitive ability.
Researchers have started to investigate saffron as evidence has shown that saffron counteracts many of the same biochemical and molecular abnormalities that are associated with ADHD, such as oxidative stress and dysregulated neurotransmitter systems, particularly the dopamine and norepinephrine pathways.
As antidepressants are used and have been reported to be effective in improving ADHD symptoms for some patients, it was hypothesised that saffron may also be beneficial in ADHD as saffron has been shown to exert potential antidepressant activities by influencing neurotransmitter pathways in several clinical trials and experimental models. Also, evidence has shown saffron can be beneficial in disorders involving memory and learning disorders, such as Alzheimer's, which further supports the potential benefits of use in ADHD.
Saffron Treatment in ADHD
The study covered in this research brief was a randomised, double-blind study that compared the safety and efficacy of saffron versus the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical for ADHD, methylphenidate (also known as Ritalin) in improving symptoms of children with ADHD.
The trial observed 50 people over 6 weeks, checking in at 3 and 6 weeks for symptom assessment using the Teacher and Parent Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Rating Scale-IV. The participants were split into two groups of 25, with one group receiving 20-30mg of saffron per day and the other receiving 20-30mg of methylphenidate. Each participant's exact dose was determined by their weight.
The study found both interventions resulted in improvements in the Teacher and Parent rating score, with saffron shown to be just as effective as methylphenidate. Additionally, the adverse effects noticed in the trial were slightly lower in the saffron group than in the methylphenidate group.
Adverse Reactions and Safety
In terms of safety, no serious adverse event was observed in any of the patients and all noticed adverse effects were mild to moderate and tolerable. The side effects that were reported were headaches, a dry mouth, nausea, insomnia, decreased appetite, sweating and vomiting.
For the side effects there were experienced, there was not a significant difference and they were low in both groups. The saffron group reported less of these side effects, with only 2 patients in the group experiencing each of the side effects, in comparison to 2-5 people in the methylphenidate group.
This study found that the short-term therapy of saffron had the same efficacy compared with methylphenidate in children with ADHD. The clinical relevance of these findings was emphasized by improvements seen in both Parent and Teacher Rating Scale scores. Additionally, the study also found saffron to be a safe treatment option for ADHD, with equal or lesser adverse effects than methylphenidate.
The apparent improvements in patients symptoms and level of safety strongly suggest that further investigation of saffron in ADHD is both valuable and promising, especially given the already known cognitive and antidepressant benefits. To continue exploring the potential benefits, future larger placebo-controlled studies with longer treatment periods would be beneficial in helping to gain a deeper understanding of saffron as a treatment option for ADHD.
It is important to remember that although saffron is a naturally occurring compound in food that is easily accessible, the supplementation or use of it as a therapeutic intervention still needs to be discussed and approved by your child’s physician or health care practitioner.
Albrecht, B., Uebel-von Sandersleben, H., Gevensleben, H., & Rothenberger, A. (2015). Pathophysiology of ADHD and associated problems-starting points for NF interventions?. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 9, 359. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00359
Baziar, S., Aqamolaei, A., Khadem, E., Mortazavi, S. H., Naderi, S., Sahebolzamani, E., … Akhondzadeh, S. (2019). Crocus sativus L. Versus Methylphenidate in Treatment of Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind Pilot Study. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 29(3), 205-212. doi:10.1089/cap.2018.0146
Dunn, G., Nigg, J., & Sullivan, E. (2019). Neuroinflammation as a risk factor for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Pharmacology Biochemistry And Behavior, 182, 22-34. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2019.05.005
It is safe to say that poor nutrition negatively impacts everyone's health. However, the specific relationship between nutrition and ADHD is still unclear in terms of the scientific literature. While each child with ADHD is unique in their health and symptoms, what can’t be argued with though is the benefits that a nutritious, healthy diet what have on your child’s life. It is important to understand that ADHD requires a multi-modality approach and nutrition alone won't be the only factor that you need to consider to support your child, but it is a very big part of the picture and a great place to start. Here’s what you need to know about supporting your child’s ADHD through dietary interventions.
Foods to Avoid
The research has demonstrated that nutrition and eating habits alone do not cause ADHD. However, that being said, there is evidence to show that children with ADHD may benefit from more targeted dietary approaches that exclude certain foods. The items most commonly discussed in regards to worsened ADHD behaviours are sugar, additives, preservatives, food colourings and flavour enhancer, which are all prominent factors in the typical western diet. These items have all been highlighted due to their excitatory effects in the brain, which may contribute to heightened ADHD behaviours in children such as overactivity and restlessness.
Additives and Preservatives
…. Basically, if it comes in a packet and contains a long list of ingredients, an ingredient you find difficult to pronounce, a number or added sugar it is probably best you avoid it.
Allergies and Intolerances
Despite anecdotal reports of an increased prevalence of food allergies among ADHD patients systematic reviews examining the association between ADHD have been inconclusive. However, many children with ADHD may be at risk of potential allergies and intolerances being overlooked due to the cross over between some of the symptoms of intolerances and ADHD behaviour. Unmanaged allergies and intolerances may not only affect a child’s ADHD but may also impact their long term health. For this reason, it is advised that parents closely monitor their children for the intake of certain foods that correlate with worsened behaviour.
Allergies and intolerances that have been detected in children with ADHD include gluten, wheat, dairy and salicylates. It is important to note that allergies, intolerances and elimination diets should always be discussed and investigated under the supervision of a health care practitioner.
Foods to Include
When you remove added sugars, preservatives and additives what are you left with? Whole foods. And that is exactly want you want your child to be eating, especially if they have ADHD. You should be focusing on making sure your child diet is made up of the following foods.
The great thing about transitioning to a healthier way of eating is that when you start focusing on filling the diet with nutritious, delicious food, there is less room for other things to sneak in that may aggravate their symptoms. This is important as children on heavily processed and refined diets are missing out on essential nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. Additionally, research suggests that children with ADHD may be more likely to have certain nutritional deficiencies and may require greater amounts of certain nutrients such as zinc, iron, B6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
In conclusion, a diet full of too much sugar, too many refined foods, artificial foods and food substances, too few fruits and vegetables and a lack of omega-3 fatty acids, have all been suggested as potential factors that can aggravate ADHD. While it won't be possible to ensure your child eats perfectly all the time, the basis of their diet should always be whole-food-based, and specific attention may need to be paid to certain nutrients and food groups in some cases of ADHD.