My Experience Treating Social Anxiety Symptoms: Copper Toxicity Or Pyroluria?

Anxious & Depressed?

After much research and experimentation, I do not think my body has pyroluria.

However, understanding the science behind treating pyroluria has been helpful in alleviating mild anxiety naturally, without the complications and side-effects typical of pharmaceutical drugs.

Below is my take on pyroluria, copper toxicity, zinc deficiency, diagnosing pyroluria, and my anxiety theory. I share how I supplement in the next post.

Pyroluria, Copper Toxicity, Or Zinc Deficiency?

“Low levels of the mineral zinc and vitamin B6 are frequently associated with a type of anxiety characterized by social anxiety… and bouts of depression.” – Trudy Scott

Briefly, pyroluria is a genetic chemical imbalance that results in faulty red blood cell synthesis and metabolism. In those individuals with pyroluria, the excessive amounts of the faulty bi-products (pyrroles) created when red blood cells are made circulate in the blood in the body and bind to or inhibit zinc, pyroxidine (vitamin B6), and other important compounds. The depletion of zinc and B-6 impacts the nervous system and brain which can then lead to anxiety. (See bonus info below for the long science version of what happens in the body).

So with pyroluria, too much zinc is depleted which can lead to copper toxicity. That is because copper and zinc have a relationship where the increase of one causes the other to decrease: when there is too much zinc in the body, there can be a copper deficiency. Inversely, when there is too much copper in the body, this can lead to zinc deficiency.

Copper is an essential trace mineral. This means copper is essential for our bodies to function. Copper aids in the formation of red blood cells, bone, and hemoglobin, and is essential to nerve health, elastin, healing, melanin. Copper toxicity can result in a number of problems including: estrogen dominance, PMS, candida yeast infections, depression, anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue, migraines, liver toxicity, thyroid conditions, and much more, including pyrrole disorder. (Vicious cycle!)

Zinc, also an essential trace mineral, helps cells in the body communicate with each other, and activates hundreds of enzymatic reactions fundamental to life, including brain and nervous system functions, as well as hormone regulation. All of these areas are effected when there is a zinc deficiency.

Well guess what micronutrients are used to treat pyroluria? Zinc, gamma-linolenic acid, (e.g. primrose oil which helps with the absorption of the zinc), and vitamin B6.

Diagnosing Pyroluria

To rule out if my body had pyroluria, I looked into testing via urine lab tests. However, many practitioners I listened to online said they often found false negative results from those tests because what is tested is fragile / unstable.

I listened to The Anxiety Summit hosted by Trudy Scott and read her book. In lieu of pyrole testing, she recommends 1. taking her revised questionnaire from Carl Pfeiffer to help diagnose pyroluria and 2. taking a zinc challenge test.

I took the questionnaire and scored relatively high. But in hindsight, I believe that the questionnaire is more helpful at identifying anxiety, introversion tendencies, and a need to further test. e.g. copper toxicity / zinc deficiency, heavy metals burdens, EMF radiation, and mold exposure.

Pyroluria Questionnaire Example Indicators:

  • For women, belonging to an all-girl family or having look-alike sisters.
  • Poor dream recall, stressful or bizarre dreams, or nightmares (low B6).
  • Joints popping,cracking,or aching; pain or discomfort between the shoulder blades; or cartilage problems (low zinc).

My small wellness support group happens to be all women from all-girl families. I asked Trudy why all-girl families are an indicator of pyroluria and she said that one of the early researchers, Carl Pfeiffer, made the observation: “We now know that in pyroluric families boys are often miscarried.” I don’t think my mother ever miscarried so maybe there is more to it?

UPDATE: This year, Dr. William J. Walsh, PhD, FACN, author of Nutrient Power was interviewed on The Anxiety Summit. I found his information to be very helpful and wish I had learned more from him before prior to using any Pyroluria protocol.

My Anxiety Theory

At the height of chronic mercury poisoning, I experienced some mild depression. I felt sad, cold, and lonely — and yet I did not want to socialize. In fact, it was difficult to leave my house on my own some days. This is sometimes referred to as “sickness syndrome”. Like when an injured animal finds a safe cave to hide away in while it heals.

My working theory now is that electromagnetic radiationheavy metal poisoning, and mold exposure from food were the root cause of my mild depression and anxiety symptoms and not pyroluria:

  • Cell tower RF radiation can cause mercury (and copper) to leak out of dental fillings in teeth and into the body and brain at least twice as fast.
  • Excess copper from amalgams also galvanize mercury in “silver” fillings and thus flood both metals into the body and brain faster. (As a result, my shiny black hair started turning a copper brown color. I learned that this is a signal that my body was having a problem with excess copper and insufficient zinc.)
  • High levels of mercury in the body causes copper retention. As mentioned above, excess copper can lead to a zinc deficiency.
  • Heavy metal exposure (along with stress, poor digestive health, alcohol, smoking, drugs) can increase blood pyrrole levels. One reason is red blood cells become defective because mercury sits on the same receptor sites as oxygen. This prevents red blood cells from working at full capacity. The body has to degrade those red blood cells AND create more which in turn produces extra pyrrole by-product.
  • Mercury also damages cells, and chews through vitamins, minerals, and co-factors in order to detox it from the body, and creates a problem called deranged mineral transport (mercury sits on receptor cells preventing minerals from working in the body). This hampered my body’s immune system and caused leaky gut cells & a leaky blood brain barrier — allowing things like mold and parasites to go where they should not go. Parasite herbal cleansing helped.
  • Both zinc and vitamin B6 are important cofactors in the methylation cycle. Deficiencies reduce levels of glutathione which is important for the detoxification of heavy metals. So when zinc and B6 are depleted, the detoxification pathways can be overwhelmed and ineffective.
  • Supposedly, pyroluria requires supplementing zinc, GLA, and B6 for life. However, I quickly ended up with B6 toxicity and my zinc RBC and ceruloplasmin have tested in range without continued supplementation. And copper tested very low for several years on my hair tests after all the zinc supplementation and that I believe caused other problems:

Symptoms of Cu deficiency include: elevated cholesterol, increased inflammatory responses, anemia, bone and collagen disorders, reproductive failure, and impaired immunity. Possible reasons for a Cu deficiency include: intestinal malabsorption, insufficient dietary intake,molybdenum excess,zinc excess, and chelation therapy. Cu status is adversely affected by excess of antagonistic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and manganese. (From Doctor’s Data Heavy Metal Hair Test)

Who knew avoiding EMF would help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms!@#$ And as much as I love technology, I learned that there are much safer and healthier ways to use tech in the home.

Final Thoughts

While I always wanted blonde or brown colored hair growing up, I am happy to report that my hair is growing in shiny black again. In hindsight, I believe my body did not have a pyrole disorder.

I actually have some regret about trying the pyroluria supplementation protocol without taking the pyrole urine test first. Recently I learned that Dr. Walsh recommends testing with three other labs in a specific way. (Dr. Klinghardt also recommend pyrole urine testing in a very specific way to address the fragility via Vitamin Diagnostics ~$55). Testing and monitoring RBC zinc and RBC copper, vitamin B6, and essential fatty acids is also a must!

This journey, even as natural as I have tried to take it, seems like taking one step forward, two steps back. Even after several years of not supplementing with the pyroluria protocol, I have to avoid taking B6 to avoid nerve toxicity. That means I have to make my own B-complex with all of the other B vitamins except B6 because all multi-vitamins or B complex vitamins I have looked at have quite a lot. I write more about it in part 2: Supplementation For Social Anxiety + My Lessons Learned.


The Science of Pyroluria

1. For perspective, two million red blood cells are made by our bodies per second. Hemoglobin is synthesized in a complex series of steps (1):

a. Heme, synthesized in the spleen, is a component of hemoglobin.
b. A heme group consists of an iron ion bound in the center of a porphyrin ring, which consists of four pyrrole molecules.
c. These pyrroles, involved in this formation of heme, are metabolite by-products, also known as hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL).
• HPL is problematic because it may decrease heme levels. Low levels of heme result in an excess production of nitric oxide — a toxic free radical. Free radicals can damage and destroy your cells — a.k.a. oxidative stress.
• HPL can also damage the brain, nerves, cells, and tissue.
d. Those with healthy genes have few pyrroles in their system at any given time.

2. In people with a faulty inherited condition, too many pyrroles are produced during hemoglobin synthesis.

a. When pyrroles are elevated, the excessive amounts circulate in the blood in the body and bind to or inhibit zinc, pyroxidine (vitamin B6), and biotin (vitamin B7), manganese, archidonic acid, and other important compounds.
b. Pyrroles, zinc, and B6 are excreted in large amounts in the urine, depleting the vital nutrients.
• A depletion of zinc and B-6 has direct implications on the function of the nervous system and brain. (2)
• Zinc, B6, and biotin, are all required for heme production, as well, causing a circular problem.

3. Heme degradation: When red cells reach the end of their life due to aging or defects, they are broken down in the spleen. The hemoglobin molecule is broken up, and the iron gets recycled. When the porphyrin ring is broken up, the fragments are normally secreted as a yellow pigment called bilirubin [~and pyrroles?], which is secreted into the intestines as bile. (1)

Outstanding Questions

If you can answer questions or add to the conversation, please leave feedback below:

1. Are pyrroles elevated in the synthesis of red blood cells only in people with pyroluria genes but not in people without? Or do the toxins like heavy metals turn on the faulty genes?

2. Do the extra pyrroles floating around cause anxiety if there is not enough zinc or vitamin B6 to bind to them in the body or the lack of the micronutrients used up from binding that cause the anxiety?

3. What happens biologically with pyroluria during the menstrual cycle when the body has to make more blood? On a similar note…

4. Should those with pyroluria limit blood draws? Does the body create extra pyrrole by-product when the body has to replace the blood that was taken out? I had a lot of blood draws the month before my hair starting turning copper brown so this could also have been a contributor. However, I did not have any blood drawn for almost a year and also stopped supplementing zinc and my hair started changing colors again.

Healing = Nutrients In + Toxins Out

1. Nutrients In

2. Toxins Out


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