ADHD: Could low vitamin D be causing your symptoms?

IMG_1586Vitamin D and ADHD

Could low vitamin D be causing ADD/ADHD symptoms in your child?


Why is it that some children seem to do better in the summer months? Is it because they now have the freedom outside of the classroom and time to play outside in the sunshine and burn off some energy? Or is it because they are actually getting sunshine, hence their daily dose of vitamin D? 

More and more children are spending more time indoors or lathered with sunscreen and are not exposed to natural vitamin D. Where you live also plays a factor.  Here in Colorado many think they get their daily dose because we are at higher altitude.  But this is not what has an impact but rather how close you are to the equator.  Colorado is at a disadvantage in that regards.  You also need your skin exposed to the sun so the only areas that will soak it up are the areas that are not covered up.  The more skin exposed, the greater the benefits you will receive. 

ADD/ADHD is much less common in sunny parts of the world with about a 40% variance. It could be other variables related to sunshine however.  A study of 74 children-half with ADD and half without the disorder found that the children with ADD had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than the children who did not have the disorder. 

In the UK, their health department advises that children under 5 take a daily vitamin D supplement. But they recommend such a small dose (280 IU from 6mo. to five years) and one third of their health practitioners were not even aware of this recommendation thus the information is not getting to the parents.  But this dosage is still too low to have an impact as you see below under the healthy vitamin D levels heading.

It is something to think about. And if you read my past blog on cholesterol you now know that low cholesterol can contribute to low vitamin D. So it ends up being this vicious spiral downwards because you need healthy cholesterol levels in order to make vitamin D from the sun.  In addition to that, if you slather on sun screen on your child before she heads out the door, it not only prevents her from getting burned but prevents vitamin D absorption from the sun.

Not only does it have an impact on ADD symptoms but vitamin D is also needed for proper immune function. So if you child comes down with every cold going around or the flu yearly, you may want to get her D levels checked. 

What is a healthy vitamin D level on a blood test?

Blood work lab ranges state that results should be over 30 ng/ml. However this is still considered too low from a holistic perspective.  Children and adults want their vitamin D levels between 50-70 ng/ml and 80-100 ng/ml if you have a major health issue such as cancer.  But for the children with ADD/ADHD our goal is to get it in the 50-80 ng/ml range.  I have seen lab results work with very low D levels such as below 30 and the doctor still did not comment to the parent on this lab result. 

The national Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 70% of the children between the ages of 6 and 12 are deficient in Vitamin D. What is interesting is that if you have results below 30 ng/ml your doctor may only focus on getting the number up to 30 or around that number.  But if your child is having ADD symptoms, low immune function, asthma issues and more, I say get the number between 50-70 ng/ml. 

What is the best dose to give my child?

If you read many of the medical websites the amount that is recommend is based on blood levels of 30 ng/ml, which is still too low for someone with ADD/ADHD. website has a handy little chart to show you (once you know your current D levels) how much you need to raise it to optimal levels with the recommendation of testing again in 3 to 6 months. If you want to retest on your own you can do so through many lab sites for the general public and the grassroots health website also offers testing. This chart however is for those over 18 years of age but still a very good guide to use.

Dr. John Cannell, MD, recommends 50 IU of a D supplement per pound for children. For example, if your child weighs 50 pounds, you can dose 2,500 IU’s daily to get levels back to a health range.

Besides the sun what are the best vitamin D sources?

The beauty of having low vitamin D is that it is really quite simple to fix. You can add in supplementation along with food sources.    Again, get levels above 50 ng/ml but not so high as to reach and exceed 100 ng/ml for general health.

While it may be an easy fix- taking a vitamin D supplement but all nutrients work together not in isolation. This is why food is always the best first choice over supplements since all the nutrients in food work together synergistically.  When taking vitamin D you also want to include in the diet vitamin K2, magnesium, and calcium.  Mega dosing without adding in quality whole foods that contain these other nutrients is not the answer either. 


Food sources include

Vitamin D: oily fish, egg yolks, grass fed butter, best vitamin D sources are: clover sprouts, sesame seaweed, blue-green algae, sprouted pinto beans, olives

K2: egg yolks, cheese, butter, organ meats,

Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, black beans, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews, flax seeds, quinoa, avocado

Calcium: sardines, yogurt, tofu, grass fed-cow’s milk, spinach, almonds, figs


What type of D3 should I purchase?

Always purchase it as D3 which is the natural form. D2 is synthetic and not as easily absorbed. Vitamin D3 is an affordable supplement.  Take it with a meal that contains fat.  Since it is fat soluble it can be taken even once per week.  For kids you can buy it in liquid form and usually only need a drop or two on their tongue depending on their size. 

 What I find interesting is that doctors will actually write prescriptions for vitamin D supplementation (usually in the form of D2).  While I think that it is good that they realize the deficiency, as said, D2 is not as easily absorbed. In addition to this, many people do not follow up to see where there levels are now at after they finished the bottle the doctor prescribed.  So what happens?  They don’t know their current D levels, they stopped taking D supplementation and in addition to that they may never have taken the right kind in the first place.  Doctors know medicine and I think they should stick to that and not prescribe supplements but rather refer someone to a nutrition professional.  After all, like said above, D3 is good, but you all need cofactors and diet is essential as well as sunshine. 

Like this information? Knowledge is power-use it, pass it on!

Karen Brennan, MSW, NC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services is a nutrition consultant and as such does not treat, cure or diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only. If you would like the services of Tru foods or want more information on health issues from a holistic perspective, then visit her website at



Cannell, J. (2016) Is vitamin D deficiency associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

   Retrieved from

Clement, B. (2010) Supplements Exposed. The truth they don’t want you to know about

   vitamins, minerals and their effects on your health.  NJ: New Page Books

Mercola, J. ( 11/10/14) Number of Children with vitamin D deficiency soars.  retrieved from

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