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In clinic I see quite a number of children with mood and behavioural problems reported by their parents (and sometimes by their teachers/carers). There are multiple reasons and causes for mood and behavioural conditions in children. One that is not commonly heard of is a condition called pyrrole disorder. In fact, 10% of the population have it and it is not often flagged to parents when they seek support for their child’s mood and behaviour. Read on to find out more.

What is pyrrole disorder?

Pyrrole disorder is a genetic blood condition that affects the synthesis of haemoglobin. This is the iron-containing and oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. In those affected, there is an overproduction of a substance called HPL (also referred to as ‘Mauve Factor’) which is excreted through the urine. Along with it goes the important nutrients zinc and B6. As a result, there is an ongoing deficiency in zinc and B6 for those affected by the condition. Furthermore, essential fatty acids, magnesium, other B vitamins and iron also in the mix of nutrients that may be poorly absorbed in the body.

What happens when there is a chronic zinc and B6 deficiency?

Well, multiple body systems are affected, including the nervous, digestive and immune systems and hormone production to name just a few. The lists below highlights some of the main signs and symptoms of pyrrole disorder, due to the nutrient deficiencies AND because excess copper in the body is also a problem.


Zinc and copper are antagonists to each other; they work in a see-saw like relationship. When one is low, the other is high. Copper is a necessary nutrient in the body in small amounts. However, in high amounts it is toxic. It can cause mood disturbances like irritability, depression, mood swings, difficulty focusing and feeling out of control. Furthermore, in those with pyrrole disorder, their zinc levels are chronically low so often their copper levels will be too high.

Common symptoms in children with pyrrole disorder:

  • Anxiety

  • Mood swings

  • Hyperactivity

  • Quick to anger/short fuse

  • Frequent tantrums

  • Inability to focus

  • Poor motivation

  • Disruptive in the classroom

  • Sensitive to light, noise and easily overwhelmed in crowds or busy places

  • Poor immunity

  • Frequent or recurrent infections

  • Motion sickness

  • Fussy eating

  • Low appetite

  • Poor sleep

  • Sore joints (especially knees)

Physical signs to look for in a child with pyrrole disorder:

  • White spots on nails

  • Overcrowding teeth/narrow palette

  • Pale skin

  • Easy bruising

  • Cold hands/feet

Note: A child may not have all the above signs and symptoms. The severity can differ with each individual, so it’s important to consider testing and doing so through an experienced health practitioner. Additionally, family history of the disorder or if other immediate family members have some of the above signs or symptoms, can also be indicative of a child with pyrrole disorder. The condition is genetic and commonly affects more than one person in the family.

Gut Health

As is always the case with our health, the role of the gut is important when it comes to pyrrole disorder. Often there is a component of ‘leaky gut’ or impaired intestinal permeability in those affected with the condition, which needs to be addressed during treatment. Zinc is particularly crucial for the integrity of the gut lining. Nevertheless, with an ongoing deficiency of this nutrient the gut wall often needs some extra TLC. Diet and nutrition is also really important here. There is a focus on anti-inflammatory foods and a diet rich in zinc, iron, essential fatty acids and magnesium to support nutritional therapy.

Testing for pyrroles

Testing for pyrrole disorder in children is relatively easy and non-invasive. The ‘Kryptopyrrole test’ (sometimes called a ‘Mauve Factor’ test) involves obtaining a urine sample from the child to test for excessive pyrroles in their urine. Another way of detecting pyrrole disorder is a blood test that looks at the ratio of zinc to copper, and the level of the copper-transporter called ceruloplasmin – the body uses this protein to carry copper out of the body so that there isn’t a build-up. Signs and symptoms are important too, so please get in touch if you are suspicious of pyrrole disorder in your child so we can get started on investigating through a consultation process.

Treatment of pyrrole disorder

The great news is that the right nutritional and diet treatment for children with pyrrole disorder makes a HUGE difference to their health, mood and wellbeing! And this of course makes for a much happier, calmer household. Treating children with the correct doses of zinc and B6 is part of the plan. It’s also important to address their gut health, diet and other nutrients that are impacted with pyrrole disorder. These include nutrients such as iron and essential fatty acids. Doses (and using the right form) of these nutrients should be done under professional supervision. They are specific to each individual child. Please reach out if you would like support and never self-prescribe. The use of these nutrients is often needed long term. They may need to be increased during growth spurts and the teenage years as the body requires more nutrients at these times for normal growth and development.

Claire Luckman is our resident Kid’s Health Naturopath. She is experienced in treating a variety of health conditions in children, including mood and behavioural disorders. Claire offers 30-minute Kid’s Health Consults currently via phone or Skype. Please email or phone us to find out more and to book your appointment: or call us on: 02 95558805

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