Pyrrole Disorder: Why You Need To Know About It

Countless underlying issues can contribute to chronic illness. A little known but common issue is called pyrrole disorder. First discovered in the 1950s, it’s believed to affect as much as 9% of the population, possibly affecting as many as 2 million Australians.


I first heard about pyrrole disorder around five years ago, and starting testing for this disorder shortly afterwards. The urine for the test has to be wrapped in aluminium foil and protected from light and sent to a special laboratory which specialises in this testing. I was extremely surprised to find how many of my chronically ill patients tested positive for the disorder; most of whom improved greatly on being treated for it.


Pyrrole disorder (also known as kryptopyrroluria (KPU) or more correctly as haemopyrrololactamuria (HPL)) is a common chemical imbalance in which a specific chemical pathway related to haemoglobin synthesis is disordered, resulting in build up of chemicals called pyrroles or haemopyrrolactams. This has various negative affects on the person, most strikingly pyrroles bind to and reduce levels of aldehydes such as zinc and B6, causing deficiency of these two critical nutrients. People with pyrrole disorder have a lifelong tendency to deficiency of zinc and B6 which is not easily corrected by diet alone. Also importantly it is the activated form of vitamin B6 which is often needed, as conversion of B6 (pyridoxine) to pyridoxine-5-phosphate (P5P) also tends to be severely impaired.


These imbalances have further downstream effects on various aspects of our chemistry, including our neurotransmitters. For this reason pyrrole-affected persons have a high predisposition for emotional symptoms and are frequently diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This is often due to low levels of serotonin and GABA, for which, zinc and B6 are essential cofactors in production of.  Anecdotally, it has been hypothesised that the influence of pyrrole disorder can also exacerbate and complicate a range of other medical conditions, including chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, MS and others. This may be due to the fact that zinc, B6 and taurine (which is an amino acid dependent on zinc and B6 for the production of) are very vital in production of glutathione, a key antioxidant and cellular defence protein in the body.


Classic Pyrrole Disorder Symptoms:

  • Absence of dream recall
  • White spots on finger nails
  • Morning nausea, poor morning appetite or tendency to delay or skip breakfast
  • Reading difficulties (e.g. dyslexia)
  • Affinity for spicy and salty foods
  • Pale skin, inability to tan or sunburn easily
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Sensitive to loud noises
  • Fearfulness (e.g. airplane travel, terrorist attacks)
  • Histrionic (dramatic) behavior
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Severe mood swings
  • Frequent anger and rages
  • Tendency to stay up very late
  • Poor short term memory
  • High anxiety
  • Great inner tension


Incidence of pyrrole disorder in clinical populations (as reported by Walsh Research Institute):

  • ADHD 18%
  • Behavior disorder 28%
  • Autism 35%
  • Depression 24%
  • Bipolar disorder 35%
  • Schizophrenia 30%


A simple urine test done via specialty labs can determine the levels of pyrroles. Levels above a certain threshold indicate the presence of pyrrole disorder. Treatment involves supplementation of above normal doses of zinc, B6 and other related nutrients, including biotin, vitamins C and E, manganese, molybdenum and taurine. Cofactors for glutathione production (such as green tea extracts, curcumin and N-acetyl cysteine) can also be added to such as a formula.


Although this disorder is underrepresented in the peer-reviewed literature, I believe that further research in this area may yield striking results, and new directions in mental health research. Pyrrole disorders are also associated with methylation imbalances which can exacerbate and further complicate the biochemical imbalances caused by the pyrroles. You can read more about methylation imbalances here.


Do you need a test for pyrrole disorder?



  1. Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain. William J. Walsh, 2013.
  2. Nutrition and Mental Illness: An Orthomolecular Approach to Balancing Body Chemistry. Carl C. Pfeiffer, 1988

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