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  • Elenor MacGregor

Vitamins for ADHD: Magnesium and Kids

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People often ask me whether or not magnesium is good for kids, and the answer is sometimes. While most of the time magnesium is safe to give to kids, it’s important to know why you are giving it, what the correct dose is and also make sure there are no interactions with medical conditions, medications or other supplements that your child is taking. 

So why give magnesium supplements? One reason is if your child is deficient in magnesium. Another reason is if they are having trouble sleeping or pooping. Magnesium can also be great in kiddos that have ADHD or mood dysregulation. That’s because magnesium plays a role in more than three hundred enzyme systems (enzymes are spark plugs for cell function). In fact research shows a link between low magnesium levels and children with: 

  1. Poor Concentration

  2. Irritability

  3. Anxiety

  4. Depression

  5. Apathy

  6. Fatigue

  7. Sleeping problems

  8. Insomnia

Magnesium and ADHD 

You can see from the above symptoms that having low levels of magnesium is not good for ADHD also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  If you suspect your child might be low in magnesium, I recommend that you get scheduled with your functional medicine pediatrician for testing. More on the right type of test, later.

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Ever wonder why a child’s magnesium levels could be low? Surprisingly, it could be from either nutritional reasons OR if a child is taking a stimulant medication that could be causing the deficiency. Believe it or not, stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, leach magnesium from the body.

Sometimes this can lead to drug side effects like: 

  1. Irritability

  2. Agitation

  3. Anxiety

  4. Insomnia

  5. Facial Tics

  6. Nail biting

If your child is on a stimulant medication and has these side effects, talk to your doctor about adding magnesium. The side effects may disappear. That's because adding magnesium to their diet can offset the magnesium being taken away from their bodies from the stimulant medicines. 

Some people ask about magnesium rich foods. These foods are great, but if you or your child is deficient you will most likely need a supplement to replace the deficiency. However, eating magnesium rich foods can help. A lot of these foods are magnesium rich foods for vegans too!

Two chia puddings in mason jars topped with coconut cream, granola and blueberries

Some examples of magnesium rich foods are: 

  1. Seeds: Pumpkin and chia seeds 

  2. Nuts: Almonds and cashews

  3. Greens: Spinach 

  4. Beans: Black beans 

  5. Soy products: Soy milk  and edamame 

  6. Protein: Peanut butter, smooth 

  7. Grains: Brown rice 

  8. Seafood: Salmon 

Magnesium for Kid’s Sleep

Questions about magnesium for kids' sleep are common too! Magnesium can absolutely help with sleep! The reason is that magnesium likely helps with regulating GABA. GABA is a brain hormone (aka neurotransmitter) that helps calm the body and act as a sedative. Also, GABA helps promote muscle relaxation through blocking a brain hormone receptor called N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. 

Young child sleeping, with mom giving a goodnight kiss

Best Magnesium for ADHD: Magnesium vs Magnesium oxide etc..

There are a lot of different forms of magnesium and it’s good to get the right one for the right condition you are trying to treat. Examples are magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate. 

Be aware magnesium oxide is not absorbed well so it really doesn’t work. I would avoid that one for ADHD. In addition, Magnesium citrate will tend to make you poop so unless your child is constipated, steer clear of that. 

Most of the time, I recommend magnesium glycinate as it is cheaper than magnesium L-threonate and in my experience they work about the same. Some people are saying L-threonate works better for the brain based on lab animal studies but that remains to be seen. I recommend trying the cheaper one first unless you have some very specific reason for doing the L-threonate variety. There are lots of good brands out there, but if you want something that has been tested, verified and is very free of unnecessary chemicals I like ones from Pure Encapsulations. Check with your doctor before starting. 

Does Magnesium help you poop? 

Person holding out a cookie that has a design of a "poop" emoji on it

Yes, as an added benefit if you or your child suffer from ahem, “slow transit times" then magnesium can help. It’s important to get the right type of magnesium. Magnesium citrate is best for this purpose. 

How does magnesium help you poop? Well, it pulls water into the intestines. That causes the poop to soften up and help you “poop it out.”  Also, the magnesium relaxes the intestinal muscles which helps too. 

Magnesium and B6

For ADHD, magnesium and B6 given together makes the magnesium more effective. French scientists conducted one study in Magnesium Research of 40 children with ADHD. They supplemented magnesium and B6 to their regular diet. Over two months these kids slept better and were less hyperactive, aggressive, and irritable. When the kids stopped the supplements, their symptoms returned. 

Another study in Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology doctors supplemented the diets of ADHD kids with magnesium and B6.  

Benefits of Magnesium Cream

Some professionals recommend topical magnesium such as creams, sprays or oils as helpful. Personally, in my clinical practice, I have found that magnesium baths and oral magnesium work best for anxiety, and the other topical types of magnesium work well for muscle and joint pain. Some people topical magnesium for migraine but personally I think oral magnesium works better for migraine and ADHD. 

Ashwagandha and Magnesium

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb. This means it helps to balance the body's emotions, helping with a stable mood. It does this in a really gentle way. People do benefit from taking it over time. 

Does it help to take ashwagandha with magnesium? Absolutely! Just make sure that you know what dose is right for you or your child. It’s important to check in with your doctor to make sure you or your child aren’t taking any medications and that there are no medical conditions that could adversely interact with either Ashwagandha or magnesium. 

I hope this was helpful and enjoyable.

What is the best test Magnesium

Going to your regular doctor and asking for a magnesium test is not likely going to get you very far. Even if your doctor agrees to test for magnesium they are likely going to order a serum or blood test for magnesium. Blood tests are not the best test for magnesium. Often these come back normal when in fact your child is deficient. That's why I recommend a hair test to check for magnesium levels. A functional pediatrician like myself who specializes in ADHD, anxiety, depression and brain fog can help you get the right testing done.

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Dr. Ellie

When you're ready here's how Dr. Ellie can help:

When your child, teen or young adult child is grappling with focus issues, hyperactivity, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, or perfectionism you know they are suffering.  Tummy and headaches, getting sick a lot, trouble in school, and feeling run down take a toll on your child and on you. 

You want to help the ones you love ease their suffering and alleviate their symptoms by 

addressing their underlying medical conditions without going straight to adding pharmaceutical medications that can come with their own set of adverse side effects and complications.

As a holistic pediatrician, I uncover and treat the underlying root causes of symptoms while working to reduce the need for medications so they can get back to being a kid and reclaim their childhood joy. 

With advanced diagnostic testing and a personalized treatment program I take a thoughtful,  thorough, and caring medical approach to address your child’s health.  We will address genetic factors, diet, gut health, lifestyle as I walk hand in hand with you and your child toward sustainable well being, resilience, and joy.

For more information on brain health check out my other posts:

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Dr. Ellie MacGregor is a holistic integrative and functional medicine pediatrician who specializes in the treatment of ADHD, ADD, anxiety and depression without medication.  She is the owner of Middle Path Integrative Pediatrics with over 14 years of experience.  Dr. Ellie MacGregor helps readers separate fact from spin to make informed decisions about their health and the health of their children.

Get Dr. Ellie’s Guide to Brain Health via the gut for more information or view her website to get in touch. 


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