Low levels of the mineral zinc and vitamin B6 are frequently associated with a type of anxiety characterized by social anxiety, avoidance of crowds, a feeling of inner tension, and bouts of depression. People with this problem experience varying degrees of anxiety or fear, often starting in childhood, but they usually manage to cover it up and push through. They tend to build their life around one person, become more of a loner over time, have difficulty handling stress or change, and have heightened anxiety symptoms when under more stress.
This constellation of symptoms is often the result of a genetic condition called pyroluria, also known as high mauve, pyrrole disorder, pyrroluria, pyrolleuria, malvaria, and elevated kryptopyrroles.
In Nutrition and Mental Illness, wonderful book written by Carl Pfeiffer in 1987, pyroluria is described as faulty synthesis of heme (a component of hemoglobin, in the blood), resulting in elevated levels of kryptopyrroles (KP) or by-products of hemoglobin synthesis that have no known role in the body. To get quite technical, it turns out that what’s elevated is actually levels of another molecule: hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL). This molecule attaches to zinc and vitamin B6 in the body, which are then excreted in greater amounts than normal in the urine, resulting in deficiencies. Since the body makes 2 million red blood cells per second, you can see how deficiencies can rapidly develop.
Supplementing with zinc and vitamin B6 (and a few other key nutrients) improves the many signs and symptoms of pyroluria. HPL also inhibits synthesis of heme explaining why people with pyroluria often also have low levels of iron or ferritin (the body’s storage form of iron and the first indicator of decreased iron levels) and need to supplement with iron as well.
I cover this in great detail in my book The Antianxiety Food Solution. I devote a whole chapter to it and for simplicity I use the term “pyroluria” in the book, in my blog posts, articles and presentations.
I first learned of pyroluria when I worked with Julia Ross and discovered that I have it. Joan Mathews-Larson covers it in detail in her great book Depression-Free Naturally and I consider her to be a true expert on pyroluria.
It’s not well-recognized in the mental health and medical community. This is the most recent published information on the topic: Discerning the Mauve Factor, Part 1 and Discerning the Mauve Factor, Part 2.
If this sounds like you, here is a link to the Pyroluria Questionnaire from my book. I created this using the work of Carl Pfeiffer and Joan Mathews-Larson, modifying it based on feedback I received from my clients.
Many people are surprised to discover that they now have an answer to something that has plagued them their whole lives. This was certainly the case with me. Here are Madonna’s results, posted on the pyroluria blog post for the Anxiety Summit season 2: How zinc and vitamin B6 prevent pyroluria and social anxiety
I am 55 and have suffered with panic disorder since age 14. My anxiety has gotten so bad I can hardly leave the house at times. I am a woman of faith but had to even give up church, as I could not handle the people. It has been a rough road. I had already given up gluten and sugar. Somehow I stumbled on the word pyroluria. I did start zinc and b6. Also started primrose oil today. I can tell a difference in my mood and anxiety. I am ready to start living again.
I’d love to see your comments/questions if you can relate to any of this. Also, please do share in the comments if you know you have pyroluria and find the nutrients have eliminated your social anxiety and inner tension symptoms.