Alcoholism and Pyrrole Disorder: The Missing Link

By Samantha Gilbert, FNC, CHNP, CNC     Last updated on February 12th, 2023

Alcoholism and Pyrrole Disorder: The Missing Link

According to the Mayo Clinic, alcoholism or alcohol dependency is a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and a preoccupation with alcohol. Alcoholism is the inability to control drinking due to both a physical and emotional dependence on it.

Sadly, chemical dependency related deaths are rising, especially among white middle-aged Americans, and the problem is contributing to the alarming trend of Americans dying younger than they used to. The rise was driven by drug overdoses and suicides, but also by alcohol poisoning, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis.

Alcoholism Facts

According to Wiki, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared that alcoholism was an illness in 1956. In 1991, the AMA further endorsed the dual classification of alcoholism by the International Classification of Diseases under both psychiatric and medical sections. “The risk of developing alcoholism depends on many factors, such as environment. Those with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop it themselves (Enoch & Goldman, 2001); however, many individuals have developed alcoholism without a family history of the disease… Current evidence indicates that in both men and women, alcoholism is 50–60% genetically determined, leaving 40-50% for environmental influences.” Though the genetic link has been established, the AMA has yet to recognize the disorder associated with chronic alcoholism, a disorder known as Pyrrole disorder.

What is Pyrrole Disorder?

Pyrrole disorder, also known as Pyroluria, Kryptopyrroles, and Mauve factor, is a biochemical abnormality that occurs when the body creates and excretes too many pyrrole molecules. Pyrrole molecules are constantly excreted in urine and for the typical person, this is not a big deal. However, for someone with Pyrrole disorder, nutrient deficiencies occur because these molecules have an affinity for zinc and vitamin B6 and latch onto and excrete them in urine before the body is able to absorb them.

Zinc and B6 are crucial for mental well-being and healing from alcoholism

Many people misunderstand the role zinc and vitamin B6 play in mental well-being. Both are needed to make neurotransmitters. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that aids in cell development and gene expression. It is responsible for several different functions in the human body and helps stimulate the activity of over 300 different enzymes.

Neurotransmitter imbalances can cause a wide variety of symptoms, especially anger, rage, anxiety, and depression. Triggered by nutrient deficiencies, especially zinc and vitamin B6, the term “mean drunk” and an inability to stay away from alcohol stem from these imbalances. Every individual needs to have the proper balance of serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, and dopamine.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and libido. Norepinephrine is a stress hormone. It is released from the sympathetic nervous system in response to stress. GABA, also called Gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that inhibits or reduces the activities of neurons or nerve cells. Low levels of GABA are linked to anxiety. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects emotions, movements, and sensations of pleasure and pain.

A mood and stress disorder with a strong heritable component, Pyroluria can be seen in anyone of any age, and I always see it in families with a history of alcoholism. The genetic form of Pyroluria is seen in northern Europeans, specifically the Scandinavian, Irish, Welsh, and Engish that have fair coloring and sun sensitivity. In fact, what often makes redheads so fiery and blonde, blue-eyed toddlers prone to explosive outbursts is actually Pyrrole disorder. This explains why alcoholism is so common among these people groups, and why alcohol-related deaths have risen among white Americans. The acquired form of Pyrrole disorder can occur in any people group with a high-stress lifestyle.

In my young patients, they often exhibit criminal behavior, learning challenges, high anxiety, and depression.

Common mood instability symptoms of Pyrrole Disorder and Alcoholism

  • High irritability and temper
  • Poor stress control
  • Severe mood swings
  • Tendency to withdraw socially
  • Pessimism
  • Explosive anger and rage
  • Anxiety and depression

Physical symptoms of Pyrrole disorder

  • White spots on fingernails
  • Sweet or “fruity” breath
  • Poor wound healing and frequent infections
  • Poor short ­term memory
  • Sensitivity to light, smell, sound, and textures
  • Lack of dream recall
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lack of hair on head, eyebrows, and eyelashes
  • Blood sugar dysregulation
  • Lack of regular menstrual cycles and delayed puberty
  • Abnormal body fat distribution
  • Acne
  • Loss of appetite (especially in the morning)
  • Night owl
  • Low libido
  • Insomnia
  • Morning nausea
  • Pale, thin skin and poor tanning ability
  • More energy in the evening (after the sun goes down)
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Spleen pain (side stitches when running)
  • Migraines
  • Upper jaw overcrowding
  • Criminal behavior

Disorders associated with Pyrrole disorder

  • Bipolar disorder (especially rapid cycling)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention Deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD)
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Asperger syndrome
  • Alcoholism
  • Epilepsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Porphyria

How to test for Pyrrole disorder

Sadly, the medical community does not recognize this disorder, so your doctor probably doesn’t even know what it is or how to test for it. Testing is simple using a kryptopyrrole test designed to find elevated kryptopyrroles in urine that carefully determines the level of pyrroles the body excretes. The kryptopyrrole test and pyroluria have also been historically referred to as KPU, Kryptopyroluria, KP, HPL, Mauve factor, and Hydroxyhemopyrrolin­-2-­one (HPL) in medical literature.

Other Factors

Most individuals that suffer from alcoholism (and any of the other disorders listed) also exhibit more than just one biochemical imbalance. In other words, I almost always see additional epigenetic disorders such as copper toxicity and methylation abnormalities accompany Pyrrole disorder. Treatment for Pyrrole disorder requires therapeutic dosages of key nutrients that also take into account other biochemical imbalances, as well as the uniqueness of the individual including factors such as age and weight. Please do not assume you have Pyrrole disorder based on symptoms alone, you could do a lot of damage trying to figure this out on your own. Proper testing and evaluation is essential.

If you know of someone who struggles with alcohol, please share this post. If you struggle with alcohol, please share your experience in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.



Mensah, Albert The Biochemistry of Stress Disorders: Understanding Pyroluria. Webinar Presentation.
Walsh, William J. Discerning the Mauve Factor Part I. Alternative Therapies, Mar/Apr 2008, Vol. 14, No. 2.
Walsh, William J. Discerning the Mauve Factor Part II. Alternative Therapies, May/Jun 2008, Vol. 14, No. 3.
Pfeiffer, Carl C. (1975). Mental And Elemental Nutrients. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing.
Pfeiffer Carl C., Iliev V. Pyroluria, Urinary Mauve Factor, Cases Double deficiency of B6 and zinc in schizophrenics. Fed Am Soc Exp Biol. 1973, 32:276.
Pfeiffer Carl C., Sholer A, Jenny EH, et al. Treatment of Pyroluric Schizophrenia (Malvaria) With Large Doses of Pyridoxine and a Dietary Supplement of Zinc. J Appl Nut. 1974, 26:21-28.


15 thoughts on “Alcoholism and Pyrrole Disorder: The Missing Link”

  1. I have been recently diagnosed with pyrrole disorder (my level was 30 when I was tested). I am also an over-methalator and I tested positive for the MTHFR mutation. Years ago I tried several SSRI’s and each made me have panic attack’s. I have struggled with chronic anxiety and panic attacks since 2015 (I am 44 now). I started p5p and zinc this past Monday and it has made a difference. I do struggle with alchohol and I have definitely removed myself socially. If anyone can relate, I feel for you. This is some seriously scary stuff.

  2. Cheryl Myers-Bussert

    I was wondering for the Pyrrole disorder can it be a genetic condition handed down from one generation to next. I am positive I have it but will get tested soon. My children fall under “Disorders with Pyrrole disorder” I found interesting. I am researching a lot on functional medicine to try and find how to get my family well. I have four children and all four have disorders linked here. I do have alcoholism with myself and one two of the four children a lso. All doing better with not drinking but one does still a bit. The Other disorders goes as this, myself, ADHD, Bipolar, dystonia, arthritis, MTHFR mutation C667t heter..(can’t spell). oldest daughter, alcoholism, ADHD, bipolar, depression. 2nd daughter (both in 30’s) mildly mentally retarded diagnosed at 5. My son at 25 has two auto immune diseases, PSA & AS both arthritic, and All the symptoms on the pyrrole list except maybe two. He also an alcoholic, recently started drinking again. My youngest son at 16 has Tourette’s/ADHD/OCD . Interesting all my family conditions and disorders are listed in this article. I have been on cheap ( I am poor) multivitamins, B-complex, Calcuim/magnesuim/zinc supplement at night. I have improved a lot with my issue’s and know finding and getting the right balance on vitamin’s, supplements, nutrition I can really have a good life. My kids are following my footsteps, boys aren’t as on top of it as my daughter’s and i are. they show improvement to. I need to get my 25 year old son’s gut health under control first so he can absorb the vitamins and minerals. I am pretty sure all my children have my MTHFR gene mutation. We don’t have money to get the lab test done yet. I am having all the children do the MTHFR and the pyrrole testing first for sure. I am glad I found your site. Helps tremendously on my research to heal my family. thank you

  3. Im not an alcoholic nor do I even hardly drink but quite a few family members on my mom’s side and my one brother drink.quite a bit. I have one sister who use to drink a lot and also do a lot of drugs.
    Out of me and my one brother and three sisters we all have anxiety and panic attacks except for one sister but come to think of it she has been drinking quite a bit lately. I believe my mom also had anxiety and I remember her never feeling good and never wanting to eat when I was younger or when she was older and became very sick with raynolds disease and scleroderma which are auto immune diseases. Unfortunately she lost her battle in 2011.

    But I my self have a lot of stress in my life from having to quit working do to my anxiety and panic attacks taking over my life because of having to see my mom rot away. From the men in my life being users and I believe narcissistic psychopaths because of the way they did me but that is a story in its self. But I have no appetite and haven’t for as long as I can remember and as of 2014 I am lucky if I am able to eat once a day because I suffer after I eat from bloating and distention which need me up in the ER because the pain was so bad and then found out I had ileus. It is where parts of your intestines quit working then start to die because the food just sits there and rots. But I continue to gain weight and try to lose weight with no success. I’m lucky to go to the bathroom and have a bowl moment once or twice a week. Now when I go I’m lucky if it is as big as my little pinky or maybe even skinnier.
    Im so tired of feeling like this and the Drs I have went to habe told me different things of what is going on. The ER Dr said at the time I had ileus and said I need to see a GI Dr ASAP, took over 2 months to get in to see him. He told me I had nothing wrong with me and going to the bathroom once or twice a week was normal. I don’t believe he even looked at my file. He just told me that anyone would love to have my blood work results, I guess he never looked at it because my WBC was still out of whack and I also gained aprox 10 pounds in a week which he didn’t see a problem with that especially when I was only eating once a day. Let’s just say I never went back…..
    The 2nd GI Dr tried to tell me it is my gallbladder but had a CT scan with dye and an ultrasound that showed I had no sluge or stones but still insisted it needed to come out but I never went back. These so called Dr’s never listened to a world I would say to them. Not one part of my stomach hurt no matter how hard you could push on it. Not the side where the gallbladder and liver are at nor the other side where the pancreas is at. Only place I had pain was in my mid spine, it is a burning pain and even percocet does not take that pain away. The pain will go from my back and follow around to my rib cage. I.went to the chiropractor aprox a month ago and he said I had 2 ribs out of place and boy that hurt when he got them to go back in. So this entire time that I have been telling all.of these Dr’s about this burning pain in my back that follows my ribs and hurt to touch those 2 ribs only made them all believe it was my gallbladder and never listened to anything I had to say about anything.
    Im so tired of hurting everywhere, being depressed, crying, not wanting or caring to even take a bath or go out and do anything. I have a lot of stress in my life. Don’t want to get to it on here. But the reason I’m writing all of this is because I believe I am zinc deficient.
    My hair falls out, my sores from picking take forever to heal, even if I pop a pimple it takes forever for it to go away and I’m not exaggerating when I say a month or more. My stress is so bad that I bite the inside of my mouth all the time and more so now then in a long time because of a very situation that I just went through and had to deal with but I would think I would have quit or even slowed down but I cant.
    Im tired all the time but I do seem to wake up more at night. I have health problems that I have had since finding out that my mom had what she had and I was the one that took care of her for close to 10 yrs off and on and more on the last few years before God called her home. But all of these health issues of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes started not to long after I started to take care of my mom and have to see her in pain and w
    Everything they would give her didn’t help.with her pain at all. I didn’t feel hungry then but I was at least able to eat 3 meals a day and snacks and never felt like I do today. I could go to a buffet and eat all.I could want but no way could I do that today.
    But my diabetes is getting worse. My A1C has always been around 7 and the last two times it has been 9 to 10 and I don’t understand why when I eat one time a day and if im lucky something really small later but if I try to eat something like someone else would eat I would bloat so bad and the distention would be so bad that the pain would put me in the hospital.
    But there is so much more that is going on with me but reg Dr’s don’t want to listen. But I was doing some reading about people and low zinc levels and how they have a lot of the problems that I do so I have been taking 100 mg a day for the last 5 days and I will say that it has helped some with the pain I have all over my body and in my joints, I still get bloating and distention but not like I normally would when I would eat and when I have had a bowl movement it was actually bigger then my pinky and last night it was actually one long piece instead of a bunch of little pieces. Sorry for the TMI but that was a big deal for me. I also have noticed that zits and scabs from picking habe been healing and I have been a little bit happier. Not a lot but a little but enough that I notice it. I read where zinc helps the digestive system and you need zinc to digest meat and hamburger is one meat that about kills me so I have stayed away from it because of that reason. But I also read that it helps the immune system and even your mental issues like anxiety and depression, wound healing and lots more.

    So after me telling you some of what my life consists of I was wondering if there was anyway of you getting ahold of me or .email ahold of you to try and help me get better. I’m so tired of being tired and not feeling good, not able to enjoy food, not be able to go to the bathroom, be out of all over pain, depression anxiety and so much more and just taking the 100 mg of zinc has helped me more then any Dr has I just need to have someone help me know what my levels are so I’m not taking to much. I would say being that my body dont digest food or supplements correctly, I really don’t know how much I am getting when u do take 100 mg. I know I am deficient in magnesium and I take 1000 Mg a day and the blood work still says I’m deficient and even taking 2000 to 2500 mg a day to try and help me go to the bathroom it still don’t effect me. Most people wouldn’t be able to get off the pot. Lol. But also deficient in vitamin D, potassium and honestly who knows what esle. I do remember when I was in my teens I tried these pills that were to help you lose weight but they didn’t do what they were supposed to do which was turn to like a slime and cover the food you ate so you wouldnt absorb all the calories but instead when I would go to the bathroom it would be in the same for that I took it. So I know I have had problems since I was little but they are getting so much worse now. I hope I hear back from you. I would leave my phone number so I could talk to you but I don’t think that would be to smart of an idea but it is to the point I would do that and probably even give my address to you on line because I am in need of help so much.

    Thank you and hope to hear back from you. God bless.

  4. I was wondering.
    Is it any idea to test this and that While on SSRI.
    I dont know how much SSRI is effekting the body.
    For example.ssri tend to normalize zink levels,
    Maybe that is The reson why it help a little bit for those with pyrrole dissorder.
    But what about The other importent indicators.
    Any idea??
    Its an interesting question

  5. This is absolutely blowing my mind. I have been sober now for 18 months and have been searching for what I am deficient in that is causing so many of the symptoms you have listed. I have always struggled with mood disorders. I have recently been thinking I need to find a doctor who can order testing. Do you happen to have a recmmendation for a doctor in the Bay Area (CA) who would be knowledgeable about this as well as other possible hormonal imbalances or nutrient deficiencies?

    1. I don’t know anyone in the Bay Area, but I can work with you via phone and get you tested. Click here to schedule a complimentary session with me to see how I can help.

  6. Thank you for this very informative blog post.
    1. Can you explain the specific impact of pyroluria on the various neurotransmitters? For example, which ones become deficient?
    2. Do you believe pyroluria, methylation imbalances and copper toxicity are
    also behind drug addiction and what seems to be the increasing prevalence of gender dysphoria/confusion/ fluidity among teens today?

    To learn that there is a biochemical basis to disorders such as alcoholism should lead us to be compassionate and to help those suffering find natural ways to heal. Thanks again.

    1. Yes, pyroluria, methylation imbalances, and copper toxicity are very much connected to addictions of all kinds, as well as the identity challenges teens face today.

      1. Dear Sami,
        Thank you very much for your reply. I know several families with children struggling with addictions and “identity challenges” and have referred them to this post — particularly since they have gone the traditional route of detox, rehab, therapy and prescription medication without success. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge.

  7. Hallå samantha.
    I suffer from depression all ny life. And from age 20 severe anxiety.
    I haven been drinking a lott intill age 30 when i was starting SSRI whish gave med som relief from anxiety but not depression. I’m now 40 year old and loking for something else than SSRI.

    I did som testning.
    DNA test was polymorf in

    Htma tells me adrenal fattigue.and coppar imbalance.

    Irisdiagnos show poor
    Adrenal and thyroid gland.
    Liver and bile poor as well.

    Pyrrole show hpl 15.
    Which is borderline.

    Now tog my question.
    I cant figure out If I.m over or under metylated.since i live in sweden/Umeå there is no help here regarding knowledge in metylation.what do you think.?

    The big question is.
    If following nutrientbalance program from TEI.will that be enough.
    Or do i ned to treet Pyrrole and metylation in The same time?.
    Or where would you start?.
    This is difficult figure out on your own.
    Can you recomend where to get some help please ??
    Love your site by The way.
    Ragards Richard.

    1. Hello Richard,
      In case you are not aware, you may find some helpful information and resources at Look under Clinical Resources/Find a Practitioner/Other Countries. I just checked the site for its current list of Walsh trained practitioners and did not see anyone in Sweden but did see practitioners in England, Ireland, Norway and Portugal.
      Another helpful resource would be the book written by William J. Walsh PhD called Nutrient Power. The book will help you understand the methods used by practitioners who follow the Walsh method. From my reading, I have learned that the Walsh method does not use hair analysis/nutritional balancing but rather a urine test for pyroluria and blood tests to check copper, zinc and whole blood histamine (which is used to check methylation status).
      The first step is to have the urine and blood tests done to identify all problem areas. Dr. Walsh writes it is common to have more than one imbalance. If one is found to have, for example, both pyroluria and a methylation imbalance, the nutrient regimen would include addressing both problems at the same time. Hope this helps you a bit. Best wishes to you.

      1. It is common to have multiple biochemical imbalances. We do use HTMA but it needs to be used in conjunction with blood and/or plasma and urine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Schedule a Free One-on-One Consultation

If you’re ready to start your healing journey, schedule your free one-on-one consultation to discuss your current mental and/or physical health challenges, history, and desired health goals. Take the first step on your healing journey today.

Scroll to Top