Shining light on dementia and traumatic brain injury

Shining light on dementia and traumatic brain injury

We often take our health and independence for granted, but for many thousands of Australians affected by neurological disease or injury, even tasks such as making a cup of tea or remembering their way around a supermarket can be a distant dream.

Dementia Australia estimates that there were 436,366 Australians living with dementia in 2018, while an alarming 26,433 had younger-onset dementia. Tragically, the incidence of neurodegenerative disease is rapidly rising, as around 250 people are diagnosed with dementia every day. Given the devastating effects that these conditions have on individuals and their families, and sometimes harmful effects of medications, new approaches are desperately needed.

What if light could play a role? The need for safe, effective treatments has led to the study of Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), also known as cold laser therapy or photobiomodulation (PBM). This therapy uses near-infrared light to boost the body’s natural healing ability.

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Women’s Health Week 2018

Women’s Health Week 2018

Raising awareness with women that health is an important priority in life and moving it from the bottom of your to-do-list to the top is definitely a wise move to make. Naturopath, Emma McLauglin, explains how you can reach your health goals in a holistic and fulfilling way.

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Pyrroluria - What is it and how to treat it

By Quilla Watt, Integrative Naturopath

You may have been recently diagnosed with pyrroluria, or know someone who has. You may have heard that it can be a factor in many mental health issues and you’re trying to find more information. But for many, this may be the very first time you have ever heard of pyrroluria. This condition is not very well known, and not very well understood or accepted by the wider medical community. We see pyrroluria quite often in our clinic, and when treated correctly, we can see profound results.

Pyrroluria is also referred to as pyrrole disorder, kryptopyroluria, kryptopyrole disorder, Mauve disorder or Mauve factor.


What is pyrroluria?

In pyrroluria, the body produces excess amounts of a chemical called HPL (hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one), which is excreted in the urine. HPL binds strongly to zinc and vitamin B6, and pulls them out of the body. This causes deficiencies in B6 and zinc. These two nutrients are essential to the normal functioning of many pathways in the body. Zinc is essential to normal immune function, digestion, growth and repair, memory, blood sugar regulation and DNA replication. Zinc and B6 are both needed to produce important brain chemicals like serotonin, melatonin, and GABA, which are important for mood, sleep, and feeling relaxed. They are also important for making cortisol, the hormone that helps you cope with stress.

For some people, pyrroluria is genetic, and may require lifelong management. For others, it can be caused by exposure to environmental toxins or high stress. HPL excretion increases with emotional or physical stress; and with digestive issues like leaky gut. In these cases, we need to address the underlying issues rather than focus all our attention on the pyrroluria.

Many of the symptoms of pyrroluria are actually symptoms of severe zinc and B6 deficiency. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Anxiety, nervousness, and severe inner tension
  • Depression, mood swings, and episodic anger
  • Insomnia
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Poor dream recall (B6 deficiency)
  • Poor stress control
  • Morning nausea
  • Light/sound/odor intolerance
  • White spots on fingernails (zinc deficiency)
  • Hypoglycemia/sugar intolerance
  • Food and environmental allergies
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches (especially migraine headaches)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (zinc deficiency and stress both create leaky gut, which is often associated with higher pyrrole readings)


So how do we test for Pyrroluria?

A urine test can measure the amount of HPL the body is excreting. The collection procedure for the urine has to be very specific. HPL is highly unstable. Exposure to light, temperature changes, or preservatives that might be found in test tubes can mess with results. For accurate results, the urine sample needs to be collected in a dim room, snap frozen and transported to the lab on dry ice. At The Health Lodge we can organise the testing for you.


What about treatment?

Supplementing with zinc and B6 is the cornerstone of pyrroluria treatment. Supplemental zinc and B6 fix the deficiency issues caused by the amounts lost through the urine. Zinc and B6 also reduces the amount of HPL created. For this reason, it is important to not be taking zinc and B6 before testing for pyrroluria, as you may get a false negative result.

Improvement can be seen within a few days to a few weeks of starting treatment. Clinically, we see higher pyrrole readings in patients with more severe symptoms. These patients may require larger doses of B6 and zinc, and may take longer to see improvement.

Treating pyrroluria is not quite as simple as just taking zinc and B6. Detoxification pathways and antioxidant defenses can also be impaired, and part of treatment involves supporting these pathways. It is also important to address stress levels and leaky gut as they are major drivers of high HPL levels.

More recently, it has been suggested that people with pyrroluria may also have lower levels of biotin and omega 6 fatty acids. Biotin deficiency is known to cause neurological disease in animals and humans. Omega 6 fatty acids are important for normal immune function, brain function, growth and repair. Evening primrose oil (EPO) is an excellent source of omega 6 fatty acids that actually has an anti-inflammatory action. What’s more, EPO helps enhance zinc absorption, and decreases the intestinal permeability seen in leaky gut. Some pyrroluria patients may need to take omega-6s in combination with omega-3s.

Frequent supplementation with zinc can throw-out your copper and manganese balance. Serum copper and serum manganese, along with plasma zinc should be tested to assess treatment. Even with regular (and often high dose) zinc supplementation, the aim is to have all levels within normal range.

Clearly, correctly treating pyrroluria is about more than just taking zinc and B6. The information in this article is of a general nature only, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultations with you health care provider. We advise you to consult a qualified health practitioner before considering commencing any new therapies.


Your integrative team of healthcare specialists

At The Health Lodge, we believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in addressing all aspects of your health. Your team may include general practitioners, naturopaths, psychologists, and acupuncturists. This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.


Some extra stuff…

For some, this next bit may be a bit boring. For others, it may be a bit confusing. Safe to say the really important info has already been covered, but we wanted to take the opportunity to straighten a couple of things out, especially for any health praccies reading this.

  1. We don’t actually know how HPL is made. HPL is commonly thought to be a by-product of haemoglobin synthesis. This was a theory put forward in the 1970s by Carl Pfeiffer. It is true that when the body makes haemoglobin, pyrroles are produced. However, we don’t actually know that this is how HLP is made. Interesting preliminary evidence is now suggesting that gut bacteria may be involved in its production.
  2. It’s not kryptopyrrols. Mauve factor was incorrectly identified as kryptopyrrols in two articles published in1969 and 1970. However, later research shows that kryptopyrrols are not found in human urine, and the mauve factor is actually HPL. Also, the term pyrroles is not specific enough. Pyrroles are a family of chemicals with similar structures, so the term Pyrroluria doesn’t actually mean much. It is specifically HPL that we are interested in when we are talking about Pyrroluria.


For health practitioners after more info, we recommend two articles co-authored by William J. Walsh, an internationally recognized expert on biochemical imbalances and founder of Walsh Research Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to unraveling the biochemistry of mental disorders.

Discerning the Mauve Factor, Pat 1 Woody R. McGinnis, MD, Tapan Audhya, PhD, William J. Walsh, PhD; James A. Jackson, PhD; John McLaren-Howard, DSc, FACN; Allen Lewis, MD; Peter H. Lauda, MD; Douglas M. Bibus, PhD; Frances Jurnak, PhD; Roman Lietha, MD; Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES, Mar/Apr 2008, VOL. 14, NO. 2

Discerning the Mauve Factor, Part 2 Woody R. McGinnis, MD, Tapan Audhya, PhD, William J. Walsh, PhD, James A. Jackson, PhD; John McLaren-Howard, DSc, FACN; Allen Lewis, MD; Peter H. Lauda, MD; Douglas M. Bibus, PhD; Frances Jurnak, PhD; Roman Lietha, MD; Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES, May/Jun 2008, VOL. 14, NO. 3

Lyme Disease Co-infections

Ticks can carry more than just Lyme disease. When people are infected with Lyme, they can also be infected with other nasty organisms from the same tick bite. We call these guys Lyme co-infections. Diagnosing Lyme disease should include checking for co-infections. Lyme co-infections further complicate an already complex condition. Each co-infection can alter the symptom picture, and can make primary Lyme symptoms much worse. Treatment programs have to be tailored to also target the co-infections, and recovery can take much longer. But without treating the co-infections, the patient cannot regain full health. Common co-infections include Babesia, Bartonella, Rickettsia, and Erlichia.


Babesia is a parasite similar to the one that causes malaria. As in malaria, Babesia parasites infect the red blood cells and cause similar symptoms. Babesia infection can often have mild, nonspecific symptoms. It can also be severe and life threatening, especially in the elderly and in people who are immunocompromised. 

Acute infection involves fever, chills and haemolytic anaemia. Less severe cases may experience a more gradual onset of headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle and joint pain, high fever and shaking chills, nausea, and vomiting.

Lyme patients with Babesia co-infection also often experience blurry vision, ringing in the ears, dizziness and lightheadedness, shortness of breath and a feeling of pressure on the chest, night sweats, nausea, and sometimes Bell’s palsy. There is also a cycle of flare-ups every 4-6 days. Lyme patients who fail to respond to treatment can often have an untreated Babesia co-infection.


Bartonella are aerobic bacteria that like to live inside cells. As with Babesia, Bartonella infection can range from mild to severe. With Bartonella the onset of illness is slow. Signs and symptoms include swollen lymph glands, fever, fatigue, headaches, an unusual streaked rash, enlarged spleen, raised liver enzymes, and aches and pains in joints, muscles and bones.

Lyme patients with Bartonella co-infection can also experience light sensitivity, neurological symptoms including tremors and muscle twitching, racing heart, headaches, anxiety, agitation, new stretch marks, and tender nodules under the skin, usually on the shin, outer thigh and back of the arm. There can be rapid improvement following treatment, but the symptoms can return if treatment is stopped too soon.


Rickettsia are a group or organisms that lie somewhere between bacteria and viruses. Rickettsial diseases range from mild illnesses to severe life-threatening infections. Common symptoms include headache, fever, chills, and aching muscles. Depending on the type of Rickettsia, there may also be a rash, cough, chest pain, runny nose, sore throat, nausea and vomiting, and abdominal pain.


Erlichia comes with a rapid onset of symptoms. These include muscle pain (but not necessarily joint pain), headaches, and neurological symptoms such as shooting pains and seizures. Tests may show a low white blood cell count and raised liver enzymes. We also usually see fast improvement with treatment.

Testing for co-infections

Testing for Rickettsia can be done by your GP and is covered by Medicare. Unfortunately, Australia is behind on the testing for Babesia, Bartonella, and Erlichia. For the most reliable co-infections testing we use IGeneX, a specialist Lyme lab in the US.