Pyrrole Disorder – an Overview

Everybody excretes a small amount of a substance in their urine called hydroxyhermopyrrolin-2-one, or for short, HPL (also called Mauve Factor or Mauve).1 However, early research and clinical observations over 50 years show that some of us are excreting, and therefore producing, large amounts of this potentially toxic substance.

In high levels, HPL may be linked to neurobehavioural (behavioural issues related to the nervous system) and digestive complaints. Elevated HPL is a condition now called Pyrrole Disorder.

What is HPL or Mauve?

Research is lacking in the area of identifying how HPL is produced in the body but it is believed to be a hereditary factor. It was first discovered by a Canadian psychiatrist, Dr Abram Hoffer, who upon testing people with schizophrenia found many of them, who had the similar symptoms, also had urine that developed a mauve colour; hence, the name Mauve Factor. Working with Dr Carl Pfeiffer, they found a testing standard for urinary HPL called kryptopyrrole. For many years the term kyrptopyrrole was used incorrectly instead of HPL or Mauve Factor; kyrptopyrrole is a different substance with a similar structure.1

After further research, the Pfeiffer group found that a raised HPL level was not limited to schizophrenia. The conditions or situations that may be linked to Pyrrole Disorder include:

  • Down’s syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Criminal behaviour
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Learning disabilities
  • ADHD
  • Neuroses
  • Alcoholism1

Pyrrole Disorder, Stress and the Gut

HPL may be a stress-induced factor. It has been proposed, with support from clinicians and an experimental study, that emotional and physical stress increases HPL excretion very quickly. It is also believed that stress and high HPL may affect the production of haeme, the iron carrier in red blood cells. This has a detrimental effect on energy production and increases oxidative damage to the cells, as the body is unable to produce enough antioxidants and other important detoxification factors. Many of the conditions listed above involve oxidative stress.1,2

This increase in oxidative stress (liken it to the cell rusting) is also seen when the gut wall becomes leaky or impermeable. The intestinal wall is naturally equipped with tight junctions that maintain its integrity to keep large or foreign substances from travelling from the gut into the body. When this barrier is damaged it can lead to an increase in intestinal permeability, also called Leaky Gut Syndrome. Stress (physical, emotional and oxidative) increases intestinal permeability. Observations suggest that this in turn increases HPL excretion.2

Nutrients for Pyrrole Disorder

The investigations by the Hoffer and the Pfeiffer group included the use of vitamin B6 and zinc. They found that high doses of these nutrients provided significant improvement in HPL levels and symptoms. Clinically, they found that there is a pattern of pyrrole disorder with low vitamin B6 and zinc levels. This, with other investigations suggested that high HPL levels may complexor join to these nutrients and carry them out of the body through the urine. Oxidative stress is also increased with the deficiency of these nutrients.1

Vitamin B6 and zinc have been used a standard treatment for Pyrrole Disorder for many years. Clinicians with experience in this area have advised that long-term treatment is usually needed, with possible adjustments in dosage at times of stress or growth spurts in children. A regulated and monitored dosage regime by a health professional is recommended as low dosages may have no effect on the signs and symptoms of Pyrrole Disorder.1,2

Other nutrients that may be important are fish oils, evening primrose oil, magnesium and antioxidants. 2

What does Pyrrole Disorder look like?

Many of the signs and symptoms of Pyrrole Disorder correlate with zinc and vitamin B6 deficiency, potentially linking the loss of these nutrients with this disorder. There are a large number of presentations associated with this condition and they vary with each person. These may include1:

  • Poor dream recall (also vitamin B6 deficiency)
  • Mid-morning nausea (also vitamin B6 deficiency)
  • Not hungry for breakfast in the morning (also vitamin B6 deficiency)
  • White spots on nails (also zinc deficiency- HPL may be marker of zinc deficiency)
  • Stretch marks (also zinc and vitamin B6 deficiency)
  • China doll (pale) complexion or inability to tan (HPL may affect skin pigmentation)
  • Digestive complaints, such as constipation or diarrhoea (also seen in many conditions listed above)
  • Sensitivity to bright lights, sounds and odours
  • Stress intolerance, irritability &/or explosive anger
  • Anxiety, depression and pessimism
  • Skin complaints – dry, dermatitis, itchy, keratosis pilaris
  • Joint complaints

Testing for Pyrrole Disorder

Testing for Pyrrole Disorder is an easy and non-invasive urine test. HPL is extremely sensitive to light so the test requires a urine sample taken within a dark room and should be the second urination of the day; HPL is mainly excreted during the day, not during the night. You must also stop taking vitamin B6 or zinc for at least three days before the test to provide an accurate result.

Due to the lack of gold-standard studies many mainstream medical practitioners do not validate the existence of Pyrrole Disorder. However, many health professionals (naturopaths, biomedical practitioners and some GPs) who do use this test can refer you to a pathology laboratory or provide you with a home testing kit. Regular monitoring by a health professional is recommended as dosages may need to be varied according to changes in your lifestyle and test results.



  1. McGinnis WR, Audhya T, Walsh WJ, Jackson J a., McLaren-Howard J, Lewis A, et al. Discerning the Mauve Factor, Part 1. Altern Ther Health Med. 2008;14(2):40–50.
  2. McGinnis WR, Audhya T, Walsh WJ, Jackson J a., McLaren-Howard J, Lewis A, et al. Discerning the Mauve factor, Part 2. Altern Ther Health Med. 2008;14(3):50–6.
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