I recently learned of the term “pyroluria” in relation to social anxiety. Which is surprising to me, given that I’ve been writing about social anxiety going on 12 years now, and this is the first time I’ve heard this term.
Obviously, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. What is this condition that supposedly could cause social anxiety?
What are the ramifications and how do you treat it?
I soon went down a rabbit hole of information trying to decipher fact from fiction. My research background of course took me first to Pubmed, but that was mostly a dead end.
There were only two studies on pyroluria and not many more on pyrroles (a product of pyroluria) or other related terms (such as the mauve factor).
So instead, I ventured into the territory of other online articles and natural health forums/Facebook groups.
What I discerned is that there is a burgeoning economy surrounding this condition as well as an underground movement of supporters who want to get the word out. But I was still scratching my head—what did this have to do with social anxiety?
Anyway, my conclusion, from what I have read, is that if there is some connection between pyroluria and social anxiety, it has yet to be supported by the research literature. And, it doesn’t seem like anyone is investigating it either, in the mainstream.
So, my cautious suggestion is that if you do go down this alternative health path, be very aware of what you are doing.
In my opinion, nobody should be diagnosing or treating a condition that has not been proven to exist.
While some people may have anecdotal experiences, that’s not what professionals are supposed to base their treatments on.
With that being said, if you’re considering seeing an alternative health practitioner to be assessed or treated for polyuria, I’d suggest you be aware of the following five facts.
Pyroluria Is Not a Medical Diagnosis
Polyuria is not recognized by mainstream medicine as a diagnosable illness. It was first put forth as a hypothesis by Dr. Abram Hoffer in 1958. He detected something unusual in the urine of patients with schizophrenia in that they had a large number of pyrroles. Pyrroles are a byproduct of hemoglobin synthesis that are excreted in the urine.
These pyrroles bind to vitamin B6 and zinc, which causes the nutrients to be excreted from the body. So, Dr. Hoffer surmised that supplementing with B6 and zinc would help people with schizophrenia and others with high pyrroles. However, his research could not be replicated and his hypothesis was abandoned by mainstream medical researchers.
Most Evidence About Pyroluria Is Anecdotal
While we do know that pyrroles exist, the evidence that they are linked to psychiatric illness and that this can be treated with vitamins has yet to be supported with appropriate research evidence.
What this means is that individual people are telling stories about how they were helped by nutritional treatments. Ideally, we need this proposed disorder to be subjected to proper clinical trials to assess just whether these claims are true.
If Pyroluria Exists, It Isn’t Likely the Cause of Your Social Anxiety
The notion that all social anxiety is caused by the whisking away of nutrients from your bloodstream seems pretty nonsensical—but this is what some alternative practitioners are arguing.
Some are even arguing that the symptoms of pyroluria mimic those of introversion, and that if you treat an introvert with the recommended vitamins (B6, zinc, and evening primrose oil), that person will cease to be an introvert. Hmmm. . . is all I can say.
For one thing, introversion and social anxiety are two different things.
And for another, introverts aren’t generally looking for a solution to their introversion (unless they also have social anxiety).
How or why pyroluria became linked up with social anxiety and introversion I have yet to understand.
To the best of what I can discern, one alternative practitioner summarized symptoms that she noticed in her patients with pyroluria, and they seemed to match up with traits of introverts.
Needless to say, the whole thing needs to be unraveled properly—not supported with anecdotal stories.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
I will be the first to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know. It could be that pyroluria is a real problem and that vitamins are the cure. But we need to do proper research to determine that.
Funding Might Be an Issue
I’ve read that there will never be research on this topic because the cure is vitamins and not drugs, for which a profit can be made. If the cure is already in your medicine cabinet, why would anyone bother to fund the research?
Well, I’ll go out on a limb and say that if it was really a viable hypothesis, someone would be investigating it in the mainstream. Surely someone out there would pick this up. But that hasn’t been the case.
Pyroluria Is Treated with Vitamins
Since the suggested treatment for pyroluria is taking a combination of B6, zinc, and evening primrose oil supplements, it isn’t likely that there would be any negative outcomes. At the same time, if you do decide to go this route, you should do it under the supervision of a medical professional of some kind.
I’m not sure I offered too many solutions if you’re looking for answers on pyroluria. The best I can suggest is that if you’re at all curious, ask your family doctor for his or her opinion. That should be your first step.
You’re always free to seek out alternative medicine, but I’d hate to see anyone trying an approach that hasn’t been scientifically validated over one that has research support.
On the other hand, if traditional medicine hasn’t worked for you or psychotherapy hasn’t gotten you anywhere, then perhaps you’ve got nothing to lose.