February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Health Blog


Maureen* was 48 yo and happily married with 3 teenage children. She worked full-time as a lawyer and had worked her way up to a top position that earned her respect and a high wage. Maureen had always enjoyed good physical health however, she had battled with depression for many years and she felt it was getting worse. Maureen found herself drinking alcohol more regularly and more excessively and this concerned her. She realised she was trying to self-medicate her depression with alcohol and knew this was making things worse.

Maureen had consulted her GP many times about her mental health and he prescribed her antidepressants and referred her to a psychologist. While the counselling helped somewhat, Maureen didn’t like being on antidepressants as they made her feel numb and spaced-out (which reduced her ability to function properly at work) and she believed the medication was causing her to put on weight and reduce her sex drive.

Maureen consulted me in 2012 to find out if there was an underlying cause to her problems and if not, whether there were any natural medicines that could improve her moods without the side effects that she had experienced with the pharmaceutical antidepressants. I said that there are a number of metabolic and biochemical conditions that can cause mental health imbalances and most can be easily tested and treated. I explained that almost all health problems – physical or mental – have an underlying cause and it is important to try to identify the cause so the condition can be treated properly. Furthermore, research has found that untreated depression can lead to cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes and other serious illnesses, not to mention a poor quality life due to the low moods – so it is important that the cause is found and resolved.

I told Maureen that while the cause was being identified, natural antidepressants could be taken to improve her moods as there are a number of herbal medicines that have proven effectiveness in the treatment of depression and some of these have been found to be just as effective as the pharmaceutical antidepressants in controlled studies.

I prescribed Maureen a high-dose herbal antidepressant complex along with some supportive nutrients and I referred her for a number of tests to identify the cause of her depression. The tests were designed to assess for any neurotransmitter imbalances; thyroid dysfunction; hormonal imbalances; as well as analyse her histamine and pyrrole levels and a number of other biochemical and metabolic markers that can lead to depression.

I saw Maureen 4 weeks later to discuss all of her results. The tests showed that Maureen had severe Pyrroluria along with several nutrient deficiencies (caused by the Pyrroluria). All of her other results were within the normal range. I prescribed treatment to correct her Pyrroluria and while it cannot be cured, it can be easily managed so that Maureen shouldn’t suffer from depression or any of the other symptoms that untreated Pyrroluria can cause.

Pyroluria is a genetic abnormality in hemoglobin synthesis resulting in a deficiency of zinc, vitamin B6 (as patients with this condition cannot synthesize most forms of vitamin B6), arachidonic acid and other essential nutrients. Hemoglobin is the protein that holds iron in the red blood cells and people with pyroluria produce excess amounts of a byproduct from hemoglobin synthesis, which is referred to as “Kryptopyrrole (KP), “Hemepyrrole” or “Mauve Factor”. This by-product has no known function in the body so it is excreted in the urine – therefore people with this disorder have an excess amount of pyrroles which can be found in their urine when tested.

Pyrroles are neurotoxic substances that affect the nervous system and brain. When levels become elevated the toxicity can cause depression, bipolar, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, mood swings, sleeping problems, explosive anger, memory problems, irritability, low stress tolerance and other mental health problems. Sufferers are also more likely to have an addictive personality; have learning problems such as dyslexia and may be more vulnerable to alcoholism or other addictions. Treating the condition appropriately reduces the toxic pyrrole levels and allows the body to create serotonin which it is unable to do without optimum B6 levels and the other required nutrients. Proper treatment can result in complete symptom resolution.

However, correct supplementation needs to be directed by a Naturopathic Physician or Doctor as too much zinc, B6 or other nutrients can be toxic; use of the wrong forms will be ineffective; other nutrients are also required to treat this condition successfully and avoiding competing minerals and certain foods may also be necessary. Close monitoring of the condition via regular urine tests is also required to ensure low pyrrole levels are maintained.

I saw Maureen six months later and she looked like a different person. She said everyone else said that too and she agreed that she felt totally different and much happier and far more relaxed. Her moods were much better and her feelings of hopelessness and sadness have been replaced with a sense of contentment and positive feelings about the future. She also said her moods were much more balanced and she no longer ‘flies off the handle” and she is far more tolerable of other people – at work and at home and is much better able to focus on her work whereas prior to treatment she had scattered thought processes.

If you suffer from anxiety, depression or some other mental health problem, consult your Naturopathic Physician or Doctor about the right tests for you, so you can begin your journey to better mental health and enjoy life every day. If you reside in Australia, contact our clinic to organize an online or phone consultation and a referral for Pyroluria testing can be arranged for you. If the results show that you have Pyrroluria, the correct treatment can be prescribed for you via a personal online or phone consultation. in-person consultations are also available for those that live near our clinic in Strathalbyn, SA.

* Name has been changed to protect patient confidentiality.

Yours in Great Health,

Sar Rooney BHSc., ND., DC., DASc., GDSc. (Hons), MATMS, MNHAA, MHATO

Naturopathic Medicine practitioner, Lecturer, Researcher

Science-Based Naturopathic Medicine To Help You Achieve Optimal Wellness

Specializing in Anxiety & Depression | Women’s Health | Chronic Fatigue | Natural Hormone Therapy | Thyroid Disorders | Digestive Health | Autoimmune Disease | Genetic Polymorphisms & Nutrigenomics | Nutritional Medicine | Counselling | Optimal Wellness & Disease Prevention with a Clinical Focus on Identifying & Resolving the Underlying Causes of Symptoms and Disease. 

Earth Medicine TM
Email: [email protected]


Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. Please note: I am not a medical practitioner.



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