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Zinc, Copper, and ADHD: How Do They Interact?

ADHD significantly impacts people’s lives and their ability to focus. While the causes of ADHD aren’t fully understood, research shows that the relationship between zinc and copper levels in your body may play a substantial factor in the disorder.

If you’re not getting enough zinc in your diet, you could be robbing your brain of a mineral essential for synthesizing your central nervous system and neurotransmitters. Meanwhile, if you’re getting too much copper in your diet and environment, you could be hurting your brain.

In this post, we will discuss zinc and copper’s roles in your brain and their relationship to ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. In other words, it impacts the way your brain grows and develops. Children are often diagnosed with it, and its effects can carry on into adulthood.

According to the American Psychological Association, ADHD is one of the five most common psychiatric disorders, and 5.4% of males and 3.2% of females experience ADHD. Among ADHD symptoms include having difficulty paying attention, forgetting or losing things frequently, and being overly active. While there’s no cure for ADHD, maintaining a certain balance of minerals in your body can help alleviate the symptoms.

Here’s why:

Minerals and Your Health

Minerals are inorganic compounds needed for various bodily functions, like growth, development, cell metabolism, and brain chemical synthesis. Your body can’t produce minerals, so you have to get them through food and supplements. While you need high quantities of some minerals (ex., magnesium), other minerals should only be consumed in lower doses (ex., zinc and copper).

However, even small quantities of certain minerals can make a substantial impact. If you’re consuming too much or not getting enough of them, your body may get thrown off balance. This is especially true if you have a psychiatric disorder.

Zinc’s Role in Brain Health

Zinc plays a vital role in making proteins and enzymes, which help build cellular structure and promotes functionality. It also assists your body in neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that send messages between nerve cells.

In other words, zinc helps build cells, makes them work, and allows them to communicate.

Studies show that zinc levels tend to be lower in children with ADHD. These studies also point to a correlation between zinc deficiency and the symptom severity of children experiencing ADHD.

In another study of 118 children experiencing ADHD, many of the parents of children with the lowest zinc levels had the most severe hyperactivity, anxiety, and conduct issues. These symptoms make sense if your body doesn’t have enough of a mineral that helps you function properly.

Copper’s Role in Brain Health

Copper is an essential mineral for your body, but you must have the right amount of it.

One of copper’s essential functions is to make dopamine, one of your “happy hormones.” Dopamine helps you stay motivated and alert, but having too much of it can lead to an excess of another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. High quantities of both dopamine and norepinephrine can cause symptoms related to ADHD, including hyperactivity, aggressiveness, and impulsivity, to name a few.

If you’re consuming too much copper, most ADHD medications are ineffective. Typically, these medications increase your levels of dopamine. Still, if you already have an excess of dopamine, you may become anxious and agitated and experience changes in your appetite and sleep patterns.

While your dopamine levels are going through the roof, excess copper also halts serotonin production. Serotonin is another one of your “happy hormones” and is responsible for mood regulation. In other words, not only do high levels of copper cause you to experience increased anxiety, hyperactivity, and everything else we listed… it’s also putting you in a bad mood while you’re experiencing these symptoms, which can trigger several psychiatric disorders, including ADHD.

Balancing Your Zinc and Copper Levels

Zinc supplements can help improve your ADHD symptoms and help stimulant medications be more effective. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 400 children with ADHD ages 6 to 14 were given 150mg of zinc sulfate or a placebo daily. At the end of 12 weeks, the children taking zinc experienced substantially reduced symptoms of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and impaired socialization.

Please note that it can take at least 12 weeks for your zinc and copper levels to balance out.

How to Identify Your Zinc and Copper Levels

Getting a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) is a safe, non-invasive way to check how much zinc and copper is in your system. According to Reméde Wellness Medicine, HTMA is a pathology test that “measures the levels and comparative ratios of nutrient and toxic minerals found in hair.”

If the test finds that you have too much copper or too little zinc in your system, supplementation can correct it.

Zinc supplements are very affordable and available in most of your grocery stores. However, you should consult with your physician before taking them. They can help you identify if you need them, what types to get, and at what dosage.

Boston Direct Health: Medical Care for an Optimized Life

At Boston Direct Health, we embolden every patient to feel their very best. If you or a loved one has ADHD and medications aren’t working, it could be because your zinc-copper ratio is off balance. By identifying if this is a problem and course-correcting it with the right supplements, your current medication may improve your symptoms. In some cases, you may find that you don’t even need it—just make sure you consult with your primary care physician before making that decision.

Are you ready to live a healthy, happier life? Schedule a consultation today!


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