Pyrrole and Methylation – are they the answer to feeling calm and clear?

Nutritional Therapy for healthy brain biochemistry. Pyrrole disorder, MTHFR, methylation.

Some of you may like to go hiking or play tennis for enjoyment. I get my kicks by attending ‘geeky’ medical conferences!  

Did you know changes in brain chemicals occur with altered levels of nutrients and can contribute to depression, anxiety, and behavioural disorders, all the way to spectrums of autism?  60% of mental health patients have a methylation disorder (MTHFR)

Last week Dr Walsh and his team from ‘Biobalance’ Medical Doctor Training spent 8 days on the Gold Coast. I was privileged to be among 80 GP’s and Psychiatrists learning from the USA’s leading researching professors and clinicians on nutrition, pyrrole and methylation, and the chemicals influencing brain function.

Here are my top ten tips for you  –

1. Brain factory
Remember your brain is a chemical factory. It makes a balanced amount of neurotransmitters including serotonin noradrenalin GABA and dopamine. It does this so you can feel calm, content and well. 

2. Food for happiness
Raw materials for making these brain neurotransmitters are amino acids (from protein), vitamins and minerals. All from food.

3. Are you up or down?
If you make too much of one brain chemical (neurotransmitter) it may fire your brain neuron’s too quickly or in a disordered way, creating a busy mind, anxiety or attention disorder. Or maybe you have too much of the other type of neurotransmitter, in excess it may slow and dull you, creating a lack of interest excitement or motivation…even depression.

4. Where does it go wrong?
It starts with your Genes. You might have a stronger ability to make one type of neurotransmitter than another creating an imbalance.   Or you may have a condition that depletes some of the essential building blocks (ie pyrrole, methylation which we will come to).

You may also be exposed to oxidative stress blocking these pathways and using up your precious ingredients.

So you may be either lacking the raw materials, destroying them, or have no blueprint to build these lovely happy calm chemicals. 

5. What is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the control of which genes are turned on or off at any time. Both the good and bad genes. The long-term outcome is either resulting disease, cell damage and ageing or it may be healing, growth, protection and repair. Another fine balancing act.   Can we influence this process?… yes many factors are epigenetic here are a few:

6. Stressors.
A combination of:
1 the genetic hand you’ve been dealt and
2 the emotional, physical, physiological stressors you’ve been exposed to
trigger epigenetic effects, which create high or low levels of chemicals involved in critical processes in the brain. 

7. What is Oxidative Stress and its link with Pyrrole disorder.

Oxidative stress is when a chemical load, a virus, an emotional stress, a physiological stress, or a physical stress sets off a cascade of reactions that depletes necessary protective substances.

Environmental working group released this article at which showed:
287 chemicals detected in umbilical cord blood
180 cause cancer
217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system

Pyrrole disorder is a genetic predisposition to producing kryptopyrrole rings with a trigger of oxidative stress that binds and removes zinc and vitamin B6 causing deficiency and signs such as poor stress tolerance, noise and light sensitivity, anxiety, no dream recall, low taste and smell, poor hair and nail quality, decreased immunity and many more.

8. Methylation. 
Methyl makes neurotransmitters, it also turns genes on and off. The methyl groups attach to histones signalling on and off messages on the DNA they are epigenetic messengers.

8% of us make too much methyl- overmethylators
22% make too little methyl  – undermethylators
the other 70% of us are A-OK.

SAMe and methionine are supplemental sources of methyl – but don’t take it if you are already over producing. This is one of the reasons some SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors – common antidepressant medication) make depressed patients feel much worse.

9. That MTHFR Gene. Does gene testing help?

There are 15 different genes involved in methylation alone. MTHFR stands for (methyl tetrahydrofolate reductase) it is one of the main methylation genes that has recently become very popular to test for. There are three main variations of the MTHFR.  Testing doesn’t help in predicting function or altering management.

Testing for genes is like seeing how much product a factory can make by looking at the size of its building.  Seems relevant, but it still depends on many factors; the amount of available raw material, the systems in place, the quality of the workers, and the demand.  A small factory can be more than adequate for a lifelong supply of product, whereas a huge factory could be useless without the right controls and parameters.

SO.. The genes only tell us the potential, not the function.

10. The happy balance
When one nutrient is depleted we need to replenish it.
When one is too high we need to avoid it. 

They usually come in pairs/ opposing partners. 
When one of these pairs is high the other is low.
You need to be specific with supplements.
Take zinc and copper for example.  Low Zinc = high copper and visa versa.

In a nutshell you are unique and every stressor has a compounding impact on your mental wellbeing and risk of disease. Nutrient balance, especially Zinc, Vitamin B6, Methyl donors and Copper, are critical for mental function. But remember that high or low levels of nutrients can both be damaging – so don’t take them all! There is no ‘one size fits all answer’ – woe is the multivitamin pill in anxiety and depression.

Is your brain biochemistry out of balance? What can you do today…

1. Eating a diet rich in protein and good quality fat provides the body with the necessary building blocks. You require amino acids for manufacture of brain neurotransmitters and essential fatty acids for healthy cell membranes, which allow for healthy nerve function.

Nature is truly marvellous, have you ever cracked open and looked inside a walnut – it looks just like your brain if you peeked inside your skull. A co-incidence? or divine intelligence? Either way raw nuts – especially walnut and brazil, seeds such as sesame linseed and pumpkin seeds, and avocado are truly brain superfoods.

2. Avoiding exogenous oxidative stressors. Living a ‘low tox life’ will protect you from further depletion. Alexx is the go-to-girl for all things low tox. or

3. If you have symptoms of anxiety and/or depression pathology testing can identify where focused high dose nutrient therapy may be beneficial.

Pyrrole – Kryptopyrrole testing is a urine test which is only available at two specialised labs in Queensland. This tests ranges in price from $80-$140 depending on transportation costs.

Zinc, Copper, Ceruloplasmin and Histamine are blood tests. They are private tests and are not available via medicare. A request form is required from your doctor or naturopath, and the cost varies depending on the lab.

If you would like to know more about testing for these conditions, you can contact a integrative mental health trained doctor at or via

For more information on Dr Walsh his book and research can be found at
Nutrient Power –  Dr William Walsh

4 Comments on “Pyrrole and Methylation – are they the answer to feeling calm and clear?

  1. Could you please give me the names of the labs which do the pyrolle testing in SE Qld or accessible

  2. Amanda

    I am a librarian and have undertaken thorough searches via university databases to find some evidence base for pyroluria or pyrole disorder. There are some early articles dating back a number of year but no current research in this area except for some very technical writings about bio-markers and psychosis which I don’t quite understand. I have, however, found a lot of information online mainly from complimentary medicine practitioners. I’m trying hard to find a solution to some nutritional issues that my daughter faces (and our nutritionist has suggested pyrole disorder) but I’m not sure that I accept that treating ‘pyrole disorder’ is going to be effective given the lack of evidence that elevated levels of pyrole lead to depletion of B6 and zinc and any associated symptoms. Your thoughts would be appreciated

  3. Karen

    Hi i have tested positive to the mthfr gene and need to know more .i have chronic fatigue depression low libido and liver malfunction i am a 52 yr old female. …i need a dr who specializes in this ailment in tweed or gold coast pls help

  4. Kate Nagy

    Thank you that was very informative and easy to understand.
    I have recently found out that my 19 yo daughter has Pyrrole disorder and the MTHFR gene homozygosity (under methyalator). She may even have Gilberts Syndrome as throughout the years of having her blood tested she always has a high bilirubin result. I already knew that she has thalssemia minor beta. In my understanding these are all genetic disorders that involve the blood. I have been on a steep learning curve getting my head around all this.
    I recently had to go to Italy, where my daughter was living with her father on a self sufficient community where she was born, and bring her back home to Australia. She had a psychotic episode. That is a long story in itself. However after being back in Australia & her being on anti-psychotic drugs I embarked on my journey into bio-chemistry and finding ways to help & support my daughter. She is currently unwilling to have couselling or see a psychologist. She is very untrusting of psychiatrists.
    Our relationship has always been difficult as she blames me for taking her away from Italy and her father. She is very angry.
    It isn’t easy and its just baby steps at the moment. She has gone from not wanting to take any supplements to now agreeing to. To aknowledging she has genetic issues which have attributed to what happened in Italy.
    I have always tried to manage the thalassemia through diet and when necessary supplements. She enjoys spinach, kale & silverbeet steamed with olive oil, lemon juice & salt to dress it. I have the cupboards stocked with almonds (which she soaks before eating) sunflower, pepita, sesame & linseeds. She likes the sakata seaweed biscuits. She loves frozen peas & blueberries. She also likes to drizzle tamari over things. She is vegetarian at the moment.

    Any suggestions you may have would be appreciated.
    Thank you,


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