Pyroluria is a genetic condition that causes depression, anxiety and social withdrawal, usually starting in the teenage years and continuing throughout the patient's life.

Pyroluria Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

  • Depression, which can be mild or severe
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Poor dream recall
  • Pale skin and hair
  • Stretch marks
  • Poor immune system
  • Tendency to low protein or vegetarian diets (protein is digested poorly with low zinc and B6)
  • Poor appetite in the morning, morning nausea
  • Poor sense of taste and smell
  • Thin, fragile fingernails, white marks on nails
  • Coldness
  • Anemia

Take the pyroluria test to find out if you could have pryoluria. Or, take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have one of 13 common causes of depression.

Pyroluria causes an excess of a substance called pyrroles in the bloodstream. The pyrroles bind to B6 and zinc, which are then excreted in the urine, causing severe deficiencies of B6 and zinc. B6 is involved in over 50 different chemical reactions in the brain and zinc is used by the brain in at least 60 different enzymes, and the combined deficiency of these two nutrients has a profound effect on mood and mental health.

Stress causes an increase in the level of pyrroles in the bloodstream and pyrrolurics react badly to severe or prolonged stress.

Pyroluria Diagnosis

A doctor or health care provider can order a urine test to check the level of pyrroles in your urine. However many doctors are unfamiliar with the condition. See Finding a doctor who knows about pyroluria. It's important to stop taking vitamin or mineral supplements several days before the test as these can affect the results.

Pyroluria Treatment

Treatment involves high dosages of zinc and B6 to replace the zinc and B6 that are constantly being lost from the bloodstream. Typical doses are around 75mg - 100 mg of zinc picolinate (the form of zinc that is most easily absorbed) and around 400 - 500 mg of B6 plus 100 mg of pyridoxal-5-phosphate (the metabolically active form of B6), sometimes more. Blood tests are used to monitor zinc levels and adjust the dosage as needed, and B6 is increased until dream recall is achieved. However it is important not to take more than 2000 mg of B6 per day, with 100 mg of pryidoxal-5-phospate being equivalent to 500 mg of B6 (for example, 1000 mg of B6 plus 100 mg of pyridoxal-5-phosphate would be equivalent to 1500 mg of B6).

Small dosages of manganese, typically around 20 mg per day, are used as taking high dosages of zinc long term will deplete manganese levels. 1000 mg of evening primrose oil is also used to increase levels of GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid that tends to be deficient in pyrolurics.

Pyrolurics are usually low in stomach acid as zinc is required for the production of hydrochloric acid. Betaine HCL (hydrochloric acid) supplements are often needed for a short period of time. To find out if you need hydrochloric acid, take one capsule of Betaine HCL at your next large meal. If this gives you a feeling of warmth in the stomach, it means you don't need hydrochloric acid. If it doesn't, take 2 capsules with the next large meal, and keep increasing the dose at each meal until you feel a sensation of warmth (or until you reach 7 capsules). At this point, reduce the dosage by 1 capsule and continue at that dosage. Take less at smaller meals. As your zinc levels build up you should regain your ability to produce hydrochloric acid. Reduce your dosage whenever you start to feel a warm sensation in the stomach.

Pyroluria often leads to adrenal fatigue and you may need treatment to strengthen your adrenals.

Some supplements should be avoided as they can make pyroluria worse - these include copper and histidine. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, compete with GLA for absorption and should be taken with care. It is generally recommended to take GLA for several months without taking omega-3 supplements, then to add moderate doses of omega-3 if needed.

Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger from Your Life  has a full treatment protocol including dosages.

Many people will see a significant improvement within a few days, though it may take 3-6 months for symptoms to stabilize completely and treatment must be continued for life. When stress levels are high, pyrrole levels increase and increased amounts of B6 and zinc may be needed.

Other Causes of Depression

Take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have any of the other common causes of depression.

Where to Find More Information

Depression Free NaturallyDepression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger from Your Life This is one of our top 3 books on depression. It covers a wide range of conditions, including a detailed section on pyroluria. The author has run a highly successful clinic dealing with pyroluria and other biochemical causes of depression for over 30 years. 

The Mood CureThe Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today also covers pyroluria but in less detail.