Jackie Lowater

Perth Naturopath

Anxiety or depression: could you have pyrrole disorder?

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“What is pyrrole disorder?”

(also known as pyrroles, mauve factor, pyroluria, kryptopyrole). 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. It is thought that pyrrole disorder can also be due to leaky gut (where the intestine allows substances that it should contain to leak into the bloodstream). Pyrroles bind to zinc and vitamin B6, so people with too many pyrroles become deficient in these nutrients. Arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) also becomes deficient.

Stress, illness and in children, growth spurts can cause an increase in pyrroles. There is a strong genetic tendency to having pyrrole disorder, and seems more common in Celtic people.

Vitamin B6 and zinc deficiencies

B6 is necessary to make serotonin, dopamine and GABA (your happy hormones), so a B6 deficiency can play a key role in mood and behavioural disorders. Zinc is important for many health functions, including brain, digestive and immune health. Our body chemistry is all about balance, so if we are deficient in zinc, copper can become too high, further aggravating mood disorders.

Symptoms of pyrrole disorder can include (some people will have many symptoms, others only one or two):


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • inner tension
  • pessimism
  • poor stress control
  • fearfulness
  • episodic anger
  • poor short term memory


  • white spots on fingernails
  • acne
  • stretch marks
  • inability to tan
  • premature greying of hair
  • psoriasis
  • poor wound healing


  • frequent colds and infections
  • autoimmune diseases


  • tendency to stay up late
  • poor dream recall


  • morning nausea
  • skips breakfast or eats it late
  • likes spicy and salty food


  • delayed puberty
  • missing periods or irregular periods


  • for females: all siblings are sisters or have look alike sisters
  • for males: a mother with only sisters or having look alike sisters


  • abnormal fat distribution
  • sensitivity to light, sound, texture, odours
  • migraine or cluster headaches
  • joint pain


Pyrrole disorder is common in those with:

  • depression and anxiety
  • ADD and ADHD
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • Down’s syndrome
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • alcoholism and substance abuse
  • aggressive and/or violent behaviours

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


Treatment is not simply a case of supplementing with zinc and B6. Every person is different, with different nutritional imbalances and symptoms. The forms of nutrients given is important, and too much can be toxic. Treatment should be under the care of a qualified health professional, and specific to each individual. Treatment response time is usually quite rapid in those with mild pyrroluria, but may take months in those with more severe nutritional imbalances.

In conclusion

Pyrrole disorder is still not widely known about. Many doctors disregard it, and not all naturopaths are versed in treating it. I came across it while trying to find the missing piece of the puzzle in treating a lovely boy with ADHD. I am forever grateful as I am now better able to help so many people.

I see many clients who suffer depression, anxiety, panic attacks, stress or tension, and some children with ADD/ADHD. Some suffer mildly, while others may experience episodes which are debilitating, affecting relationships, work and self-esteem. Some are on medication, others not. Every person I have seen with these health challenges have tested positive for pyrroles, and tailor-made treatment helps significantly, often eliminating or reducing the need for medications. Consider too that many people with mood disorders are treated medically with anti-depressants, which may help with their mood (with or without side-effects), but will not help with some of the other symptoms pyrrole disorder may be creating. Many overall and long-term health benefits will be achieved by correcting nutritional imbalances.

If you know anyone who suffers from mental health conditions, or has a child with behavioural problems, or you yourself feel you may be struggling with some of these symptoms, contact a naturopath or integrative doctor who treats pyrrole disorder – it may well be the missing piece of the puzzle that makes all the difference to your health and that of your family.