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Pyroluria. Photo by Brian James from Pexels


Pyroluria, or Pyrrole Disorder, is a genetic condition characterized by the excess production of pyrroles. Specifically, this relates to a molecule called Hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one, also known as HPL, that can be detected using an HPL urine test.

For those with pyrrole disorder, elevated levels of pyrroles bind to the nutrients zinc and vitamin B6. This renders them inactive and these nutrients are then excreted in the urine, causing a deficiency of both nutrients.

Zinc is an essential mineral; we don’t produce it in our bodies and therefore must obtain it through our diet.  Zinc is involved in hundreds of biochemical pathways and plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, gene expression, growth and development, wound healing and mood, to name a few.

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble essential vitamin, meaning that we do not produce it and can only get it from our diet.  It has many functions, including the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, neurotransmitter synthesis, and red blood cell production.

Deficiencies of zinc and B6 can lead to mood changes, irritability, depression, poor wound healing and a decrease of immune function.

Pyrrole disorder can be associated with other mental health conditions such as the following.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • Autism spectrum
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


Pyroluria Symptoms

Common signs of pyrrole disorder include learning difficulties, psychological disturbances and behavioral problems. Symptoms include the following.

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Short temper
  • Low tolerance to stress
  • Oppositional / defiant disorder
  • Histrionic behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Poor memory
  • White spots on nails (zinc deficiency)


Pyroluria Test

The Pyroluria Test is an HPL urine test that measures the amount of pyrroles in the urine. The second void of the day is best for testing. A positive test will turn the testing paper mauve in colour; thus the test is referred to as mauve factor.

Most people have between 8-20 ug/dL of HPL in their urine. Levels below 10ug/dL are considered normal. Levels between 10 ug/dL and 20 ug/dL are considered borderline and levels above 20 ug/dL of HPL indicate pyrrole disorder.

Other tests may be helpful. For example, testing for your copper: zinc ratio can identify any imbalance between the two. It may also be wise to test whole blood histamine levels as these can be high in those with Pyroluria.


Pyroluria Diet

A Mediterranean diet is advisable as there are numerous papers detailing the benefits concerning mental health. A broad range of vegetables (particularly raw vegetables) would greatly benefit the intestinal microbiome and, therefore, neurotransmitters’ production.

Zinc-rich foods are a must. Remember, our bodies do not produce zinc; it comes from the food that we eat. Sources include the following.

  • Oysters, shellfish and mussels
  • Meat – beef, pork, lamb
  • Eggs
  • Legumes – chickpeas, lentils
  • Nuts – cashews, almonds, peanuts
  • Dairy – milk, cheese

Vitamin B6 foods are also important. Again, we do not produce B6; it must come from the foods that we eat. Foods rich in B6 include the following.

  • Fish – salmon, tuna, snapper
  • Meat – pork, beef, turkey, chicken
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Vegetables – potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, spinach
  • Legumes – chickpeas, green peas
  • Fruit – bananas, avocado
  • Tofu, tempeh

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