What is Pyroluria and can it be cured?

Sometimes known as Malvaria, Pyroluria is a curious term that describes potentially harmful levels of something called kryptopyrroles in the body. While it’s not a recognised medical condition, several studies suggest that a high percentage of people with a history of mental illness test positive for Pyroluria. In a paper published in Nature, International Journal of Science the authors estimate that up to 60 per cent of psychosis patients have much higher levels of kryptoprroles than the general population.

This is noteworthy as abnormally high levels of kryptopyrroles in the body leads to rapid depletion of two very important elements, Vitamin B6 and zinc, and it’s known that low levels of these are associated with mental illness.

Vitamin B6 in particular is a vital component in the production of a chemical called serotonin – the brain’s ‘happy juice’ – responsible for regulating moods and warding off depression and anxiety. When the body has been depleted of B6 it’s no longer able to produce serotonin, leading to a range of mental and emotional disorders.

What are kryptopyrroles?

Kryptopyrroles are a natural by-product of the process that produces haemoglobin in the blood and in a healthy body they are excreted through the urine and are of no concern. Where they do become a concern is when they increase to dangerous levels.  No one’s really sure what triggers this to happen in the small number of people affected by Pyroluria however the results can be debilitating for the sufferer.

Kryptopyrroles attach to vitamin B6 and zinc and draw these elements out of the body when they’re excreted through the urine. So the more Kryptopyrroles produced by the body, the greater the loss of B6 and zinc. And as noted earlier this can then lead to a depletion of the vitally important serotonin.

What are the symptoms of Pyroluria?

The symptoms of Pyroluria are largely non-specific and as a result, sufferers are often diagnosed with a range of more common conditions before Pyroluria is considered. The symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • white flecks in the fingernails
  • depression
  • irritability and short temper
  • poor short-term memory
  • moodiness
  • inability to handle stress.

In more severe cases, symptoms may also include:

  • inability to tan
  • abnormal fat distribution
  • sensitivity to light
  • intolerance of loud noises.

Diagnosing Pyroluria

As you can see above, the symptoms of Pyroluria are vague and can be easily attributed to a range of other medical conditions. Fortunately accurate testing has been developed. A urine test performed by a doctor will be able to able to detect if there are high levels of kryptopyrroles in the body and a diagnosis can be promptly made.

Can Pyroluria be cured?

Currently there’s no scientifically documented cure for Pyroluria. This is because the cause of the condition – why the body produces too many kryptoprroles – is still a mystery. Poor diet, lack of exercise, metal toxicity, environmental factors and childhood trauma have all been implicated but with little scientific evidence to date.

So while we’re still only guessing at how to stop over-production of kryptoprroles, we do know how to improve, and successfully manage symptoms. Many integrative health care providers report very significant and lasting improvement in their patients after intensive vitamin therapy which naturally includes high supplementation of B6 and zinc. Restoring healthy levels of these two elements are vital before you can look at tackling anything else. Extra supplements of niacinamide, pantothenic acid, manganese, vitamins C and E, omega-6 fatty acids and cysteine are also often used in the treatment of Pyroluria.

Those treating Pyroluria with vitamin therapy report that improvement can usually be seen within a couple of weeks – good news – however more severe cases might take several months.

It’s important that supplements of Vitamin and B6 are taken under direction of a qualified doctor as it’s possible to overdose on both leading to toxicity and a range of potentially serious health consequences. We’re talking loss of feeling in the limbs, not just mild nausea, so make sure you get properly diagnosed and are advised on the correct supplement dosage for you.

To speak to an integrative doctor with experience treating Pyroluria visit our Integrative Doctor page on the website.