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How chemicals and nutrient deficiencies can impact ADHD
May 15th, 2023 + The Naturopathic Co.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition affecting 12% of school-aged children as well as a growing number of adults, and it’s on the rise.

Symptoms include fidgeting/ being unable to sit still, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, excessive physical movement, excessive talking, acting without thinking, and more.


Medications are often used to activate dopamine and noradrenergic neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, and although this may lead to improved attention, it may also come with side effects such as constipation, weight loss, sleep impairment, headaches, abdominal pain, increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Chemical Exposure

The number of reported cases of ADHD increased by 43 percent between 2003 and 2011. Research suggests that exposure to toxic chemicals — everyday toxins found in foods, carpeting and flooring, cleaning and lawn products, and personal-care products, like toothpastes — may contribute substantially to disorders such as ADHD.

During foetal development, exposure to even minuscule amounts of toxins at critical junctures can have a lifelong impact on the child’s brain and physical health. Toxins have been found in the placenta and umbilical cord.

The most critical part of development takes place in the first trimester of pregnancy — when the cell architecture and connections between neurons are established.

There can be all kinds of chemical exposure, just as part of normal life:

  • Triclosan is an antibacterial agent found in soaps, toothpastes, and many other personal-care products. It is also used as a pesticide.
  • Perfluorinated compounds prevent things from sticking to carpets, drapes, and cooking pans. Teflon is an example.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are fire retardants, and found on furniture, rugs, bedding, and clothing.
  • Bisphenol A is used to line food cans containers.
  • Phthalates make soft and pliable materials. They are found in plastics, air fresheners, and some personal care products.

Negative changes in brain development have been linked to BPA and BPS exposure.

Nutrient considerations


A zinc deficiency impacts neurological functions such as poor memory, inattentiveness, and impulsiveness. It can also lead to a finicky appetite or being a picky eater, mood changes such as irritability. Many children are deficient in zinc due to poor dietary intake. Research shows that zinc deficiency can aggravate susceptibility and progression of ADHD.
Iron deficiency in children is common, and it has been linked to a 30% increase in inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive behaviours.

Some research suggests that higher levels of hepcidin in ADHD patients contributes to lower stores of iron. Hepcidin is a hormone that influences red blood cell production and acts as a regulator in iron metabolism and storage.

Ferritin levels below 30ng/mL tend to exacerbate to many ADHD symptoms such as sleep impairment, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, and restless leg syndrome.

Zinc and iron from food

High zinc foods: meat, shellfish (oysters, crabs, prawns), legumes (lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas), seeds (hemp, pumpkin, sesame seeds), nuts (pine nuts, cashews, and almonds), dairy, eggs, wholegrains (quinoa, rice, and oats), dark chocolate.

High iron foods: shellfish, spinach, meats, legumes (cannellini beans and kidney beans), pumpkin seeds, quinoa, broccoli, tofu, dark chocolate, dried figs and apricots, edamame, spirulina.

Going low tox

Choose Natural Items made from wood, glass, and metal for your home.

Try chemical free cleaning products, or make your own.

Cook with non-toxic and chemical-free cookware and utensils.

Eat organic whole foods.

Try body brushing, commit to a regular detox

According to Alexx Stuart at Low Tox Life, the following should be considered when going low tox:

  • Stop using Teflon/Non Stick. She says that “at over 300 degrees Celsius (pans on high preheating after just 5 mins) Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. If that’s not enough, birds die when exposed to the vapours almost instantly with something actually labelled by vets as Teflon Toxicosis”.
  • Tim Ferriss, famed author of 4 hour Body, writes of his sperm count trials before and after periods of time with his mobile in his front pocket, and the results are scary!  Over years and years of exposure, it could be really causing some damage.
  • Aluminium free deodorants should be considered, due to disease links through exposure.




Yvette – Naturopath & Holistic Nutritionist with The Naturopathic Co.

Yvette is a qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia.

Yvette specialises in the treatment of gut health and digestive complaints, skin issues, mood disorders, hormonal concerns, fatigue, and more.

Yvette sees patients Australia-wide.



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