The Role of Probiotics in People With ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affected nearly 5.4 million children in the United States as of 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1. People who are diagnosed with ADHD have experienced periods of inattention since before the age of seven. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV also indicates that people with ADHD must have experienced the symptoms for at least six months before a diagnosis can be made. The research investigating the links between probiotics and ADHD is preliminary.

ADHD and Allergies

Some researchers and naturopaths have suggested that ADHD is a symptom of a food allergy or a hypersensitivity to allergens in the environment. A 2011 Dutch study conducted by Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre found that placing children with ADHD on a restricted diet reduced hyperactivity symptoms in 64 percent of the participants. Other studies published have had mixed results with restrictive diets and ADHD. Research on a food-ADHD connection is relatively limited and many physicians do not recommend eliminating foods to treat ADHD.


Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, is found in certain foods or supplements. Yogurt is a common food containing probiotics, but certain milks and juices also have probiotics. Probiotics aid in digestion and protect your stomach against harmful bacteria. Some research suggests that probiotics can help specific symptoms and conditions, such as treating diarrhea, treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome, preventing colds and flu and preventing and treating vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Some people believe that probiotics can also help treat food allergies.


Most people with ADHD have little good bacteria and high amounts of harmful bacteria in their stomach, according to Dr. Michael Lyon in the book “Is Your Child’s Brain Starving?” Dr. Lyon conducted research on 75 patients with ADHD and discovered that a third of the children in his study had pathogenic yeast, or harmful bacteria 4. Dr. Lyon believes that by adding probiotics to the diets of individuals with ADHD, the potentially harmful bacteria will decrease and the symptoms of ADHD will also be reduced.


Other than Dr. Lyon’s study, relatively few controlled research studies exist that look at the connection of probiotics with ADHD. A study published in 2003 in the “Alternative Medicine Review” journal compared the effects of Ritalin to natural supplements, including probiotics. Researchers treated 10 children with ADHD with a standard dose of Ritalin 3. The other 10 children were treated with probiotics, vitamins and minerals. The study found that the natural supplements were as effective in treating the symptoms for ADHD as Ritalin. Although the study did not look just at the effects of probiotics, the research suggests that probiotics may be effective in treating ADHD and that more research on just probiotics is needed.