Socially anxious? Overly sensitive?

Half a face of a women

You may need Zinc and B6

Pyrroluria, a genetic condition is also referred to as kryptopyrroles, pyroluria, pyrroluria, urinary pyrroles or mauve factor. I’ve always hated the use of blanket labels to describe people, feelings, emotional or mental health and our associated behaviours.  In reference to the subject matter of this article, the labels or behaviours may be “social anxiety”, “always feeling stressed”, “perfectionistic” or as someone described it to me long ago, like you’re walking around daily without a protective layer of skin on.   In my opinion we learn to do these adaptive behaviours as a coping mechanism to sooth and comfort us. But what do we need comfort and coping mechanisms from?  There is much research being generated in the last 10 years or so in the field of holistic psychiatry.  Gluten as a neuro-toxin affecting depression and anxiety, gluten and psychosis, the bacteria who live in our gut and it’s link to mental health (including anxiety and depression) and many more than this article permits me to name here. As a Psychotherapist (with special interest in neuroscience & mindfulness practices) and as a Naturopath, my interest when looking at any behaviour that is causing a person distress, or making their life unmanageable – is to look at both the biochemical causes AND their behaviour habits.  Biochemical contributions such as nutritional deficiencies or excesses; environmental toxicity; genetic predisposition; excess inflammation; hormonal, blood sugar imbalances etc.  And I believe it is important to be curious about our adaptive behavioural habits that we learn as individuals from our early years.  And be willing to explore alternatives. Sometimes this behaviour is an interruption to our daily lives and gets in the way of us thriving and relating to others, and sometimes not so much. Most importantly I aim to look at the person as an individual to their unique environment (both their internal environment and external environment).


One factor I like to investigate in a person with hypersensitivity or anxiety is Pyrroluria. It is a genetic condition that can show up (or express itself) during a time of excess stress or higher nutritional demand. It may kick in at the time of puberty (when nutritional needs are at an all time high), or during a time of stress such as your parents divorce. It can also manifest in later life, for example after the birth of your first child or from the excess environmental burdens such as heavy metals or moulds. This may happen when you move into a new residence or work place. The first signs can be put down to so called “normal” developmental difficulties in our younger years – or just stress. For me the first obvious sign was the severe acne in my late teens & early 20’s plus a feeling that I now recognise as “walking around without my skin on”, I felt so sensitive. Perhaps for you it was the anxiety, learning difficulties or agonising shyness which seemed to begin after a stressful time when you were growing up. As we mature, we learn to adapt psychologically to these inner feelings, but if you have Pyrroluria, the adapting can be made a whole lot easier with a little knowledge and guidance.

Pyrroluria runs in families

Pyrroluria is a condition which often shows up in families with a history of mental illness or addiction.  Unfortunately it is often diagnosed in mainstream psychiatry as pure anxiety, depression or opposition defiance disorder (Dr William Walsh). Often the actual nutrient deficiency is not addressed. Substance addiction (alcohol, drugs, food, sugar) is often a creative way that we self medicate, to help tame extreme inner tension, sooth anxiety, shyness and as a social lubricant. This genetic condition causes excessive excretion of Zinc and Vitamin B6 through the urine. Both of these nutrients are vital for our mental health and anxiety regulation. Pyrroluria also results in an altered metabolism of fatty acids. This means that specific oils are needed to improve symptoms, and oils such as omega 3 fish oils (that we are all told to have more of), can actually aggravate symptoms of anxiety, poor stress tolerance, irritability, impulsiveness, aggression and depression. Pyrroluria can also result in dangerously high copper levels (as well as too high estrogen levels) levels and low Ferritin levels, both important nutrient considerations in mood disorders.

Pyrroluria symptoms – physical & emotional

  • Late onset of puberty
  • Poor growth
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Morning nausea or no appetite (tendency to want to skip breakfast)
  • Not always able to remember dreams
  • High sensitivity generally (emotionally and physically)
  • Highly sensitive to bright lights (especially sunlight) and noise
  • Poor short term memory
  • Poor stress control
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Anger, aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression like symptoms
  • Reading disorders when younger
  • Pale complexion (may sunburn easily)
  • Severe internal tension (physical and mental/emotional)
  • Frequent infections (and slow to recover)
  • Desire for spicy or salty foods

What’s going on in the body to cause this?

Carl Pfeiffer, Orthomolecular Nutritionist and researcher into the nutritional causes of mental illness, described Pyrroluria as a faulty synthesis of heme (a component of haemoglobin in the blood). This condition results in elevated levels of kryptopyrroles (KP) (the by-products of haemoglobin syntheses), and elevated levels of another molecule called hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL) (McGinnis et al. 2008s, 2008b). Trudy Scott author of the Anxiety Food Solution states that the HPL molecule then attaches to Zinc and vitamin B6 causing them to be excessively excreted through the urine, leading to these deficiencies. The raised HPL molecule may also lead to low Iron or ferritin levels.

How to find out if you have this?

A specific urine analysis ordered through Consciously Well or your Functional Medicine doctor will test for this genetic condition. Treatment is usually very successful with the appropriate doses of activated B6 (P5P), Zinc, omega 6 fatty acids (such as evening primrose oil), vitamin C and E. Iron may also be needed plus other nutrients specific to the individual presentation.  If you do have this condition, you will need to stay on these nutrients ongoing.  Higher doses most likely will be required at times of greater life stressors. References:

  • Nutrient Power – Heal your Biochemistry and heal your Brain (Willian J Walsh, PhD)
  • The Mood Cure (Julia Ross)
  • The Anxiety Food Solution (Trudy Scott)
  • Clinical Naturopathic Medicine (Leah Hechtman)

Join our monthly newsletter and we will email you our top 10 health tips


One of the simplest and most effective changes you can make for better health is through the food that you eat.


Naturopathy is method of healing that uses your body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine uses concentrated medicinal plant extracts to treat a broad range of health conditions.


Building a complete picture of your health.