sydney naturopath pyroluria

Naturopathic & functional medicine approaches to mental health & wellbeing is a passion of mine

After being left empty-handed and with no answers from the conventional medical profession about my own experiences with anxiety, addiction, extreme inner tension and a host of other issues, I was lucky enough to stumble upon areas of complementary and integrative medicine that were life-changing

One of these fascinating discoveries is the condition Pyroluria, also known as ‘Pyrroles Disorder,’ ‘Kryptopyrroluria,’ & ‘Mauve Factor’

Although the idea of Pyroluria being a ‘condition’ is controversial, the discovery of this abnormality in metabolism has proved extremely valuable to the millions of people who have suffered from life-long anxiety, depression, mood-swings, insomnia, behavioural disorders, addictions,  gut issues & people who are generally hyper-sensitive individuals (including children)

Majority of the clients who start treatment for Pyroluria experience an almost immediate and significant reduction in symptoms that have crippled them for many years. They report being able to finally sleep well, have more energy, have stable moods, are less anxious and feel like they can face the world with a bit more confidence. It is a truly remarkable thing to witness

What is Pyroluria?

The term Pyroluria refers to having excess levels of ‘pyrroles’ in urine, of which the chemical name is hydroxyhaemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL)

Pyrroles are a naturally occurring byproduct of haemoglobin synthesis (Hb). While it is normal for humans to have low levels of pyrroles in their urine, as much as up to 10% of individuals have an abnormality in their ability to metabolise and synthesise haemoglobin, resulting in elevated pyrroles in their urine.

The significance of having elevated pyrroles is that this byproduct binds with the mineral Zinc and Vitamin B6, which are involved in hundreds of important biochemical reactions that influence neurotransmitter production, hormone production, digestive enzyme and hydrochloric acid production, antioxidant production and many more – they are incredibly important nutrients!

Pyroluria is therefore defined as a metabolic disorder that causes excess levels of pyrroles which cause nutrient deficiencies in the body and can lead to a variety of symptoms including (but not limited to):

  • Anxiety, Inner Tension

  • Mood Swings

  • Depression

  • Poor morning appetite, nausea

  • Histrionic (dramatic)

  • Poor stress tolerance

  • Digestive issues

  • Sensitivity To noise and lights

  • Poor Dream Recall (but tends to recall only nightmares)

  • Poor short term memory

  • Chronic dry skin

  • Poor sleep & insomnia

  • Increased tendency towards infection & illness

How Was Pyroluria Discovered?

Pyroluria was identified in the 1950s by Dr Abram Hoffer, who detected “Mauve Factor” (HPL) in the urine of schizophrenic patients and successfully treated them with large doses of Vitamin B3. Dr. Humphrey Osmond & Dr. Carl Pfieffer similarly reported high Mauve factor in patients experiencing psychosis, alcoholism and behavioural-disorders in children. Upon giving their patients doses of Zinc and Vitamin B6, they noted incredible improvements in thousands of patients that they treated

Conditions that are associated with elevated pyrroles include:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Autism

  • ADHD

  • Schizophrenia

  • Bipolar Disorder

  • Alcoholism

  • Learning disabilities

  • Epilepsy

  • Alcoholism & Substamce Abuse

  • Criminal Behaviour

Genetics Or Environment?

Pyroluria is described in the literature as a genetic condition, although no specific gene is yet to be identified. Practitioners certainly do see pyroluria being passed down from one generation to the next, particularly in families with a strong history of mental illness, trauma, childhood abuse and substance abuse

Since we don’t know its exact genetic origin,  it is a bit of a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation for most people, due to fact that many clients present with pyroluria upon the onset of a highly stressful and traumatic incident, e.g. substance abuse, emotional trauma, post-viral infection, being in an accident, or any extremely high-stress event that has taken its toll on the body. This would suggest that pyroluria is epigenetic in nature, in that you may have a genetic predisposition to producing excess pyrroles, which manifested due to the onset of a stressful event.

It can also be triggered by other things in our environment – vitamin and mineral deficiencies, heavy metal toxicities, copper toxicity, poor digestion and intestinal hyper-permeability

Testing For Pyroluria: A Step-By-Step Guide

  1. Book an appointment with a naturopath who is experienced and knowledgeable about pyroluria and related issues, such as heavy metal toxicity. It’s important for treatment to be tailored to the individual, as there are many related factors that can be causing high levels of pyrroles. Once you have booked in and are working with a practitioner, it’s time to start ordering the appropriate and foundational testing to be able to treat wholistically and effectively:
  2. Urinary Kryptopyrrole Testing – I only use testing by Applied Analytical Laboratories, as they are the only lab who have had accreditation of their analytical technique and independent evaluation of their reference range
  3. Plasma Zinc, Serum Copper, Caeruloplasmin – These 3 blood tests are essential for evaluating your zinc:copper ratio, and how much of your copper is ‘bound’ vs ‘unbound’ – unbound copper is toxic and is what drives alot of symptoms in those with pyroluria. Plasma zinc and serum copper levels on their own can not guide treatment – you must have Caeruloplasmin levels tested to properly evaluate and monitor your treatment program
  4. Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) – for assessment of heavy metal toxicity (mercury, aluminium, lead, cadmium etc.) and mineral ratios. It is absolutely essential to investigate and address any relevant heavy metal toxicities as they are neurotoxins and drive many psychiatric symptoms.Pyrrole supplements may help initially, but if you don’t address heavy metals, they will become a band-aid. Some people with heavy metal toxicity actually feel worse on pyrrole supplements and need to get these metals down carefully
  5. Standard Pathology – Iron studies, Vitamin D, Hormonal Profile, Full Blood Count, CRP, ESR, Fasting Insulin, Liver Function Tests, Thyroid Panel, Homocysteine

This is a foundational starting point for being assessed wholistically and accurately, so that your treatment and supplementation can be individualised

Depending on your presentation and symptoms, further functional testing may be suggested, for example many clients I see also have significant digestive symptoms and benefit from microbiome testing (Ubiome, GI-Map, PCR Stool Complex)

Why A Wholistic Approach Is Important

I have met too many clients who have been diagnosed with pyroluria, and are put onto high-dose supplements with no consideration of other aspects of their health. People may initially feel much better on supplements, but then eventually crash. Many others actually feel immediately worse on supplementation due to copper dumping and mobilisation of heavy metals. This typically happens when dosing is too high, and their body is not ready to handle supplements

It’s important to understand and think about having pyroluria almost like a symptom

It is a symptom of underlying oxidative stress in the body

When there is an imbalance of oxidative stress in the body, ‘free radicals’ destroy cellular processes and biochemical reactions, resulting in severe symptoms

This doesn’t just happen on its own purely due to genetics – we have to take a step back and ask why there is oxidative stress & therefore elevated pyrroles in the body. Oxidative stress driving pyroluria could be due to a variety of factors:

This is the beauty of functional naturopathic medicine – we look at the whole person in the context of their entire lives, address all body symptoms, evaluate your entire health and medical history, use functional & standard testing, and treat accordingly.

If you or a loved one can relate to experiencing ongoing chronic anxiety, depression, inner tension, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, insomnia, mood disorders and gut issues – put off waiting and get the appropriate testing done. It could completely transform your health!

Healthy and balanced biochemistry = a healthy and balanced brain & nervous system

Steven Judge
Sydney Naturopath

Wholistic Medical Centre (Surry Hills)
(02) 92113811
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