Ask HN: Supplements and vitamins that help with ADHD

33 points by aristofun 17 days ago

Dear fellow concentration skills challenged people.

I definitely have all the typical ADHD symptoms you can find in literature. They all look way less acute than many of stories you find on HN. Though I really struggle sometimes and they affect my life and work performance. For this and other more important reasons I prefer not to disclose, Im not able to get an official diagnosis and get prescription in near future.

Other tools aside (lifestyle, sleeping, eating, therapy etc) — what legal prescription free drugs, vitamins and supplements have had even slightest yet noticeable positive effect on your ADHD?

robmerki 17 days ago

I have tried every supplement/herb/nootropic you can think of + more. I've also asked this question to many of the folks I interviewed for my book about adult ADHD.

The only thing that was directly effective was prescription stimulant medication (in my case, a low dose of Vyvanse).

The biggest impact outside of that was lifestyle design, self forgiveness, and an array of the "healthy lifestyle" choices you've mentioned.

I truly empathize with your quest for a helpful supplement because I've had the same curiosity and have done the same search, but to no avail.

Even more frustrating is that you'll find some studies that vaguely point to some vitamin that "helps boost focus in those with ADHD!" But once you dig into the data, the "results" are some insignificant "boost" & are generally just a side effect of study participants getting better sleep/less anxiety/etc.

Feel free to email me if you want to discuss/rant/chat about this more: rob [at] adhdpro [dot] xyz

opportune 17 days ago

Prescriptions free drugs/“supplements” that are just drugs: phenylpiracetam and most other racetams. Huperzine A. Caffeine. Ephedrine.

Supplements: magnesium, B vitamins. Vitamin D (from sunlight)

The right dose of phenylpiracetam, caffeine, and Huperzine can be just as effective as low dose adderall in my experience. Although the side effect profile is completely different: less hyperfocus, little impact on appetite, much more irritability.

However I have to say that lifestyle is BY FAR the most effective treatment (even more than adderall, especially long term) and it always bothers me when people ask for advice for supplements and drugs only.

Sleep 8-10 hours per night, eat a good breakfast, don’t use nicotine, exercise every day or almost every day, get some sun. Not only do these help by themselves but they also make medication like phenylpiracetam and adderall (adderall in particular needs a lot of protein to work best) more effective as well.

Also I highly recommend taking a >1mo total break from cannabis if you are a frequent user. I find that as my usage gradually increases so do my ADHD symptoms, until I quit and suddenly have much more energy and motivation in the next few weeks as my body flushes it all out.

  • ravenspeed 16 days ago

    > Sleep 8-10 hours per night, eat a good breakfast, don’t use nicotine, exercise every day or almost every day, get some sun. Not only do these help by themselves but they also make medication like phenylpiracetam and adderall (adderall in particular needs a lot of protein to work best) more effective as well.

    That makes sense. Since such amphetamines increase the release of dopamine and noradrenaline. And for those two, you need l-dopa and for l-dopa you need tyrosine and for tyrosine, you need protein. So you need to increase your protein. But I don't know by how much, though ... I guess you need to find out by trial and error ...

    • opportune 16 days ago

      Tyrosine by itself doesn’t help me nearly as much as complete proteins. I don’t think it’s just neurotransmitters even - amphetamines are kind of hard on your body, and since they suppress your appetite you need to consciously try to get enough.

      Also phenylpiracetam is not an amphetamine. I think for any medication it’s just important to remember it’s not a silver bullet, it’s something you take on top of what you should be doing t already, not as a replacement for basic needs like sleep and food

    • PetitSasquatch 16 days ago

      As I understand it, the amphetamines increase, not the release but, the utilisation of dopa / nora / seratonin.

      One thing to watch out for with them is their effect on your anxiety levels, these are all related systems and things can get away on you fast.

      Again, these substances are aids not cures. If diagnosed, you need to get to work on your lifestyle and habits, these are what make the real difference; neglect this at your own peril.

      It's a tough trot, but better than the alternative.

  • porker 15 days ago

    > Sleep 8-10 hours per night

    How do you do this??

    Around 4am my brain switches on and I am awake. It is running thinking about problems I was working on the previous day, or just random stuff (that I forget by 6am). I try breathing exercises, meditation but nothing gets me back to sleep.

    I have pretty good sleep hygiene, do little after 7pm as I'm so tired and in bed before 10.30pm and fall asleep quickly. And then wake up early.

    I'm so tired and it's impacting my performance during the day.

    • opportune 14 days ago

      What helps me is no caffeine after 12 (noon) and being ok with only starting work at 10, or working from home on random days where I had trouble falling asleep the night before. Of course not everybody has that luxury.

      I have always been a night owl and don’t wake up early usually. Like many other people with ADHD once I’m asleep I am very hard to wake. So my problem has always been falling asleep, not staying asleep.

      It sounds like your natural sleep habits are a bit different so I’m not sure what to suggest. Maybe try taking naps? I also wonder if maybe the rest of the world waking up (like the garbage truck coming, street cleaners, etc.) are waking you up at that specific time.

fdgsdfogijq 17 days ago

I know you counted this out, but diet has been by far the biggest factor for me. I started rigorously eating a keto diet, with almost all grass fed organic meat/eggs and organic veggies. Very expensive if done properly, but I feel like a different person. The change is astounding, to the level that I am more articulate and am better at holding a conversation. It takes a few days of proper eating for the effect to take. I would give the keto diet a shot before anything else. I have found zero supplements and vitamins that have any long lasting effect.

0xk4s7 17 days ago

In terms of vitamins: zinc, magnesium, vitamin D and B6 - this are the ones that help me the most in terms of feeling well. Will this help with focus? Maybe, when you are feeling better you might have a better disposition to work/focus.

Coffee, nicotine and CBD also help, but pls dont smoke.

But my advice for you is prioritizing and managing time. Before the day ends, make a list of what you have to do the next day and the first thing you do IS something from the list.

I feel that fighting the first base-case of inertia early, when you start working, is the key.

Dont be afraid of failing.

water554 17 days ago

None. I’ve tried quite a bit. Amphetamines/Methamphetamine is the only thing that works well for me. And daily exercise + lots of sleep.

ravenspeed 16 days ago

Consider fact checking, I might be wrong, but here are some correlations:


- Dopamine (movement, working memory) ~ Tyrosine ~ Protein

- Noradrenaline (alertness) ~ Tyrosine ~ Protein ~ Cold Showers

- Serotonin (mood stabilization) ~ Tryptophan ~ Protein

- Acetylcholine (memory and learning) ~ Choline

- Glutamate (neuronal "on switch") ~ Protein

- GABA (a neuronal "off switch") ~ Dopamine/Noradrenaline Downregulation ~ Lithium Orotate ~ Anxiety

Inside your cells

- Adenosine ~ GABA Release ~ Caffeine (blocks it)

- Adenosine-Di/Tri-Phosphate ~ ADP + phosphate <-> ATP + Energy ~ Creatine (brain cells are cells too)

- DHA/EPA ~ "machine oil for your brain" ~

So with these, you can look up how medications like LDX (dopamine, noradrenaline) and MPH (dopamine) work and start your research from there with these simplistic pointers/correlations in mind.

The human body has way too many variables f(x1, ..., xn) --> ? ? ? yi ? ? ?

You can only see some output (i.e., yi), but you likely cannot see all outputs (i.e., all y's).

Keep in mind: those correlations stem from a layman's simplistic point of view.

Experts (i.e., medical doctors, biologists) can interpret the correlations better (and also might see more outputs/y's).

I therefore, suggest: Gabor Mate (ADHD ~ trauma ~ modern society), Robert Sapolsky (noradrenaline ~ anxiety ~ amygdala).

kowalej 17 days ago

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) has been studied in relation to a myriad of psychiatric disorders with a lot of positive results. It works as an antioxidant and neuro-regulator. For some reason it was recently pulled from supplement classification in the US, but it's available just about anywhere in Canada. Not sure about other countries.

  • evanlivingston 17 days ago

    Er, when I went looking into the research I only found inconclusive results for it's benefits. I took it for a long time to help with nicotine cravings and ADHD and never noticed a semblance of a beneficial effect.

    There's also an increasing concern that it's actually a carcinogen.

PetitSasquatch 17 days ago

Nothing that I know of has the same effect as medically prescribed stimulants.

However, I've found consistently that high quality saffron (Affron TM) extract has a mild SSRI quality, which when used during the seratonergic phase of your day (i.e. after lunch) can be noticeably effective in normalizing mood, limiting depression and generally getting into "the zone" or flow with certain types of work, like writing etc..

There are some papers on this, mostly from Iran I think.

As for non-medicinal, as cold shower or bath before starting work can really help breaking through the wall.

Danywebb 16 days ago

This thread is so helpful!

Mariadam 16 days ago

Taking notes of these