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Do you feel anxious or depressed? Maybe you have a short fuse or get angry quickly? Do you or your children have a behavioural disorder such as ADD or ADHD, or are on the spectrum? Do you have low tolerance to many things in life? It could be that you have pyrrole disorder. While symptoms are vague and can vary from person to person, it could be the missing piece of your mental heath puzzle. Read on if this resonates with you or someone you know.

Treatment of Pyroluria can result in immediate and significant reduction in symptoms. Clients have reported that they are better able to sleep, have better and more stable moods, feel less anxious and have more energy.

What is Pyroluria ?

(also known as pyrroles, mauve factor, pyroluria, kryptopyrrole)

Pyroluria Disorder (PD) was identified in the 1950s by Dr Abram Hoffer, who detected “Mauve Factor” (HPL) in the urine of patients.

When our body makes haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying part of your blood), one of the by-products is something called pyrroles. We all produce pyrroles, but some people produce too many. To get rid of pyrroles, our body binds them to zinc and vitamin B6, and excretes them in our urine. So if you have excess pyrrole, you become deficient in these nutrients.

Zinc and B6 are nutrients critical for the functioning of important biochemical reactions that influence our emotions and cognitive function, digestive enzyme and hydrochloric acid production, hormone production, immune and 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 wide and varied number of symptoms including (but not limited to):


  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inner tension
  • Poor Stress Control
  • Poor short-term memory

Immune System

  • Food Intolerances especially gluten/dairy
  • Allergies
  • Frequent ear/nose/throat infections


  • Poor dream recall
  • Tend to stay up late at night


  • Delayed puberty
  • Missing periods or Irregular periods


  • White spots on fingernails
  • Acne
  • Premature greying of hair
  • Psoriasis


  • Sensitivity to light, sound, texture, odours
  • Migraine or cluster headaches
  • Joint pain


Children and Pyroluria

We often see many children with pyrroles. Parents often say their children are often aggressive, have tantrums, an inability to focus, they may have ADD/ADHD, poor social skills, fussy eating, have frequent colds/flu symptoms, have had a history of antibiotics/medication and the list goes on.

Pyrrole Disorder is common in those with:

  • Aggressive and/or violent behaviours
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • ADD and ADHD
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder

Over 40% of patients diagnosed with arthritis, chronic fatigue, heart disease, hypertension, irritable bowel and migraines have elevated pyrroles.


Genetics or Environment?

There is some controversy over whether pyrroles is a disorder you are born with or something that is caused by other factors in the environment. From our clinical experience there is a genetic predisposition to having pyrrole disorder, much like a person having a predisposition to eczema, allergies or IBS. There is also a familial tendency, and often where one family member tests positive, others will too, often if there is a family history of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and childhood trauma. One factor that can exacerbate pyrrole disorder is leaky gut (where the gut lining allows undigested food into the bloodstream). Stress, puberty and growth spurts cause an increase in pyrroles.

What happens if I have a Pyrrole Disorder?

You become deficient in zinc and vitamin B6 which in turn causes other nutritional imbalances. Often those with pyrrole will also be deficient in magnesium and Omega-6 fatty acid.

Why is Vitamin B6 important?

B6 is necessary to make serotonin, dopamine, and GABA(your feel good hormones), so a B6 deficiency can play a key role in mood and behavioural disorders.

Why is Zinc important?

Zinc is important for many health functions including brain, digestive and immune health. Our biochemistry needs to be balanced. We often see on the HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) there is an imbalance of copper to zinc ratio. If copper is too high, it can aggravate behavioural issues.

A little bit more about Copper (think hyperactivity, anger, anxiety, depression, hormones)

Zinc and copper need to be in balance in the body. If you are deficient in zinc, copper becomes too high. We need a certain amount of copper, however when it is too high, it becomes toxic.

When copper is high, in children this can manifest as hyperactivity or attention deficit. Messages in your brain/body are going too fast, making it difficult to focus on one task. In adults it tends to manifest as anxiety or depression and their can be underlying anger issues.

Excess copper also results in excess oestrogen and hormone imbalances. This can lead to PMS, problems in pregnancy, missing periods etc. The pill further increases copper levels and depletes zinc.

Excess copper can lead to heavy menstrual flow, thyroid issues and gall stones.

How to get tested for pyrroles?

Testing for Pyrroles requires a urine test (as excess pyrroles are excreted in the urine). This testing needs to be conducted in a lab with special lighting as pyrroles are heat and light sensitive. The sample is wrapped in foil and frozen and sent to another lab for testing.

The urine test is not covered by Medicare and the current cost of testing is approximately $80.

Previously results <15 were considered elevated pyrolles. Most recent research confirming <40 is a positive result for Pyroluria. In clinic we use Applied Analytical Laboratories. You will also need to stop taking supplements containing zinc and B6 for 5-7 days before testing.

We also conduct additional tests that include blood plasma zinc and serum copper, ceruloplasmin.

A lot of clients are also advised to also do a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) as this provides a full picture of a person’s health. Information about adrenal health, storage zinc and copper, heavy metals and thyroid can all be part of the bigger puzzle.


Treatment is not simply a case of supplementing with zinc and B6. Every person is different, with different nutritional imbalances and symptoms. Detoxification pathways and antioxidant defences can also be impaired, and part of the treatment involves supporting these pathways. Improvement can be seen within a few days to a few weeks of starting treatment.  Treatment is highly individualised and based on current health symptoms, current mineral status, presence of heavy metals and other toxicity factors as well as immune system and digestive/gut health.

Treatment should be under the care of a qualified health professional, and specific to each individual. Treatment response time can be quite rapid in those with uncomplicated pyrroluria but may take months in those with more severe nutritional imbalances and methylation issues.

Further Reading

We recommend two articles co-authored by William J. Walsh, an internationally recognised expert on biochemical imbalances and founder of Walsh Research Institute, a non-profit organisation to unravelling the biochemistry of mental disorders.

Discerning the Mauve Factor, Part 1 and Part 2.

Heart2Heart Nutrition

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