Pyroluria: Everything You Need to Know



Is anxiety taking over your life? Are you having all sorts of unexplained symptoms, like mood swings, poor appetite, or nausea? Perhaps you find it difficult to cope with stress? These issues could be a sign of pyrrole disorder, or pyroluria.

In 2016 I was diagnosed with pyroluria and it was another piece of the jigsaw why I had emotional and mental health issues and was absolutely exhausted. Pyroluria can go undiagnosed for a really long time as many doctors don’t believe that it exists let alone know how to treat it yet this could be the undiagnosed condition that is taking a toll on your life.

Pyroluria is a genetic condition characterized by abnormally high levels of pyrroles, a byproduct of haemoglobin synthesis. Simply put, it’s a chemical imbalance. Its exact cause is unknown.

Researchers believe that pyroluria may be caused by a deficiency of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Therefore, its symptoms mimic those associated with these nutrient deficiencies.




Magnesium, for example, regulates over 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body. It plays a vital role in glycemic control, DNA and protein synthesis, nerve function, and more. Even the slightest deficiency can disrupt these processes and take a toll on your health.

Interested to learn more? Here is what you should know about pyroluria so you can take the steps needed to restore your health.


What Is Pyrrole Disorder?

Malvaria, or pyroluria, has its roots in orthomolecular psychiatry, a science that studies the root cause of disease and seeks to improve mental health through nutrition and natural practices.

Carl Pfeiffer, one of the pioneers of orthomolecular psychiatry, classified this condition as a form of schizophrenic porphyria. He believed that excessive levels of porphyrins and pyrroles in the body cause nutrient deficiencies, leading to poor mental health.

These compounds, which are eliminated in the urine, don’t play a specific role in human health. They do, however, bind to zinc and other micronutrients.

Elevated levels of pyrroles in the urine may indicate deficiencies in zinc, vitamin B6, or vitamin C. In other words, excessive pyrroles can deplete your body of essential nutrients and cause a host of health issues, from anxiety and depression to neurosis, ADHD, autism, and bipolar disorder. Overproduction of these chemical compounds may contribute to affective, cognitive, and neurobehavioral problems.

Individuals with mental disorders often have higher urinary pyrrole concentrations. For example, a 2008 review in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine suggests that elevated HPL (hydroxyl haemopyrrolin-2-one) in the urine may lead to emotional stress, which in turn can increase oxidative stress. Furthermore, this marker was linked to zinc and vitamin B6 deficiencies.


What Causes Pyroluria?

As mentioned earlier, the exact cause of pyroluria is unknown. Some experts point out at leaky gut syndrome, emotional stress, injury or copper overload. Others “blame” certain environmental factors or genetics.

Research conducted at the Pennsylvania State University states that cancer rates are higher among the parents and relatives of pyroluric patients. Scientists attribute these findings to a lifelong borderline deficiency in vitamin B6 and zinc. Therefore, pyrrole disorder may indeed have genetic causes.

A 2013 review published in The Neuropsychiatrist points out that pyroluria is often misdiagnosed and that its frequency in the general population has been grossly underestimated. As the researchers note, this condition tends to run in families.

Prolonged or chronic stress may play a role too, suggests the Mindd Foundation. Both emotional and physical stress increases the excretion of HPL, reducing heme iron production. As a result, you may feel tired and fatigued.

Low iron levels may result in oxidative damage, a major contributing factor to chronic disorders and leaky gut syndrome. The latter further affects nutrient absorption, worsening your symptoms.


Tired man


Pyroluria Symptoms and Complications

Pyrrole disorder symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe and depend largely on the nutrients you’re deficient in.

You may  experience the following symptoms:

  • Joint pain
  • Cold extremities
  • Pale skin
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Recurring infections
  • Increased sensitivity to light, odour, sound and texture (LOST)
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Overcrowded teeth
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • The tendency to store fat in the abdominal area
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • White spots on fingernails
  • Poor stress control
  • Poor short term memory
  • Premature greying
  • Morning nausea
  • Little or no dream recall
  • Unable to focus
  • Pot belly

This list can go on and go with dozens of other symptoms. Most of them are non-specific and can mimic those associated with other conditions, making diagnosis difficult.

Generally, the best way to determine whether you have pyroluria or a different condition is to test your HPL levels via a urine test.

HPL concentrations between 10 and 20 micrograms per deciliter are considered borderline, meaning that you’re at risk for developing this disorder. Anything above 20 micrograms per deciliter is considered pyroluria.

Elevated HPL may also affect your liver and damage the nerve cells. Over time, it can reduce haemoglobin levels due to deficiencies in zinc and B vitamins, which are required for the formation of red blood cells.

If left unaddressed, pyroluria can lead to severe complications and lifelong disorders. Depression, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, diabetes, psychosis, and Alzheimer’s disease are just a few to mention. What’s more, individuals with pyroluria often reach for alcohol or drugs in an attempt to manage their symptoms, which only makes things worse.

Generally, pyrrole disorder requires dietary changes. If your test results are positive, consider reaching out to a practitioner who can support you. They can develop a diet plan that meets your nutritional needs. They may also recommend individualized, therapeutic dosages of zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and other micronutrients you’re deficient in.


Lastly, I’ve been there. Exhaustion, anxiety, depression, nutritional deficiencies and so much more-and was so grateful to the doctor that suggested a test for pyrolles. Don’t give up. You’ve got this. If you want support, I offer wellbeing packages and with my knowledge and experience I will be there with you every step of the way. Please reach out to chat.


2 thoughts on “Pyroluria: Everything You Need to Know”

    1. Hi Kath.
      It is a simple urine test-you just need to find a GP that would be willing to do this. Also important that you find a lab that understands this test as the urine pot must be kept from light immediately after (wrapped in foil etc.)

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