Wouldn’t it be easier if instead of following a healthy diet, we could just take some pills that contain all the nutrients that we need? Perhaps, but that is unlikely to happen. Food supplements such as multivitamins cannot replace a healthy diet. They can however be used as an addition to your diet, to make sure that you take all the micronutrients in that your body needs.
Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are needed by the body in small amounts. They are very important for healthy brain function. If you eat a healthy diet, your intake of micronutrients should be adequate. However, micronutrient intake and requirements can vary, and this can depend on many factors (e.g., genes, gut health, agricultural practices and others). Although we do not yet adequately understand the mechanisms behind it, many scientists believe that some people (for example, with certain mental health issues) have increased micronutrient needs and may benefit from taking supplemental micronutrient supplements.
However, it seems that taking single micronutrients is not very helpful, whereas a combination of a broader range of vitamins and minerals might be. Thus, in the last two decades, several studies have investigated broad-spectrum micronutrients as a possible (additional) treatment for example for ADHD. Some results support the hypothesis that taking such micronutrient supplements may reduce ADHD symptoms and emotion regulation problems in both children and adults. You can read more about this research on our blog.
While there may not yet be enough studies to make clear recommendations here, that may change in the future. Researchers are working to study this field in more detail. The most robust studies (i.e. those that have used blinded evaluations and a placebo as the control) have been done on a supplement called Daily Essential Nutrients. However, there is no magic in the formula, it simply provides the breadth of nutrients at doses higher than a typical multivitamin formula purchased in the supermarket. Over time, other formulas will be studied and provide greater choice for the consumer.
Probiotics are living microorganisms, such as bacteria, that have a beneficial effect on our health. Many fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi are probiotics. Apart from food, probiotics can also be obtained as supplements that are commercially available. Probiotic supplements can contain one strain of microbe or a combination of microbes.
The reason why probiotics are healthy, is that these microorganisms improve our gut health. If you eat yoghurt, you don’t just get the nutrients in the yoghurt (proteins, carbohydrates, fats), but also the bacteria in the yoghurt. These bacteria, called Lactobacili, are needed to convert milk into yoghurt. These bacteria are not only good for making yoghurt, but they are also very useful in our own intestines. Here they help to digest the food we eat, and they fight off “bad” bacteria that can harm us.
Research has shown that, on average, individuals with ADHD have a different gut microbiome compared to individuals without ADHD. We therefore think that improving the gut health of individuals with ADHD, may help to reduce symptoms. Eating healthy, and especially eating a lot of fibers via whole grains and legumes, is good for your gut bacteria. Perhaps we can give some additional ‘boost’ with probiotic supplements? This is what we are currently investigating.