We all have our “issues”. Sometimes they are a big deal and long lasting. Sometimes only a minor annoyance. Occasionally they overlap with friends and family, sometimes they are ours alone.
One friend has had an ongoing issue with wheat allergies. At first we thought it was hypoglycemia, then a gluten intolerance; finally shown to be a direct allergic response to wheat. Another friend had a heck of a time of things. All sorts of mysterious reactions to a variety of foods, sometimes odd reactions to environmental exposures that varied with the foods eaten. It’s been years. At one time reduced to eating largely a very narrow range of grain based foods with a small amount of milk, some fruits and not a lot else. A fairly extreme vegetarian diet, but most other foods were “causing issues”.
Now this isn’t some flaky pseudo-science cult worshiping of vegetarian as some kind of panacea. They were under the care of a couple of M.D.s at a large ordinary medical facility known for being mainstream. We all have degrees from good schools and everybody can think straight in our group. We would regularly be talking about the biochemistry of things and what were ‘challenges’ for the vegetarian in keeping a proper supply of nutrients that are widely (mostly?) found in meats. The simple fact is that eating particular foods “caused issues”. From G.I. discomfort to wide spread somatic discomforts to very low energy levels. So they were run though a battery of tests. Allergies. Endocrine. Etc. One clear problem food was anything with soy in it. Yet avoidance of soy was not sufficient, even while necessary.
Then one day it stopped.
After several years, the problem just “went away” mostly. One food group at a time, things are being tried again. Soy is still off limits, but lots of other foods are no longer triggers. Dairy is back “in”. Cheeses and yogurt. Wider range of grains and legumes. Not yet back to meat, but last I heard the occasional egg and potentially even fish were being considered for trial.
It’s been a big puzzling mystery, made only less clear by the sudden end. (One hopes it’s not just a ‘remission’…)
To me, this argues for one of two “most likely” causes.
1) Some underlying pathogen and the immune system finally beat it; or finally stopped attacking what was long gone.
2) A nutritional status issue that was finally resolved, perhaps accidentally.
There are other potentials. Not ruled out, just not “top tier”. She might have had an allergy issue, undetected in testing and wide spread in activity, that resolved. Potentially some environmental toxin of widespread use was removed from service, and as one of a very few folks sensitive to it, most folks didn’t notice. That kind of thing.
But my “best bet” would not be on an environmental issue. The nature of the problems and their easy modulation with food status strongly implied “something about the foods”. The broad range implies “not a protein allergy”. It all tends to point toward “basic nutrients needed in many metabolic systems”. I’d tended to believe they might just have a genetic mutation that fouled up some key enzymes needed for transport and use of a key element. Then it suddenly ended. Genetics don’t just suddenly stop being a problem. That pushing more toward “dietary”, IMHO.
At this point we may never know, and may never get a clear answer. That doesn’t stop me “keeping an eye out”, though.
Looking at one thing, finding another, often is a pattern for me. I was looking at something else, ran into some odd pages on something else. Down the rabbit hole… I’d generally been in the camp that just says “get enough minerals, you are done.” There’s been increasing snippets I’ve seen where “ratios of minerals matter”. Things like the nature of boron, arsenic, and aluminum biochemistry and how are they really used in the body that we’ve seen in prior postings. Where a minor element, above or below a major nutrient in the periodic chart, looks to have a needed ‘ratio’ to keep the enzyme systems working right. (i.e. we evolved in a soup of of elements that get placed in organic carriers, not just reagent purity of one particular element). Along the way I ran into discussions of copper / zinc ratios as “important”.
How important? I don’t know.
Frankly, while I’m willing to explore “fringe ideas”, I’m generally of the opinion that “Western Medicine” has it pretty well worked out for a lot of things. From surgery to antibiotics to ‘miracle drugs’; there are life saving miracles performed every single day by Western Medicine. My family has benefited from many of them. So mostly I look at the “fringe stuff” with a bit of skepticism.
OTOH, I’ve seen it clearly demonstrated that some of those “fringe” ideas have it right. There are medicines inside “herbals”. Looking into the history of many ‘modern’ drugs shows them originally found in plants. Last time I looked, the majority of drugs were that way. From aspirin in the willow tree to digitalis from foxglove, plants work. Similarly, the mind has a strong influence on the body. Many “visioning” and ritual behaviours can direct that internal control. And most particularly, just the point that each of us is genetically unique, and that we will respond uniquely to what we eat; that it is not enough to just say “take a vitamin pill” and call it done. Western Medicine is very deficient in their view of how the body interacts with the foods we eat. It’s not just a raw material mining operation…
At my core, though, I find most things that wander off to yin / yang and balancing energies and all just a touch daft. So it’s hard for me to fully “embrace” some of the links I’m going to put here. Just F.Y.I…. They may have something, and some of this does look to have M.D.s involved and proper clinical work being done. Much of it, though, is anecdotal and poorly controlled. Placebo effects and self confirmation bias are rampant in medicine, and off the chart rampant in “alternative medicine”. When I’ve “had an issue” (often with food allergies), the spouse gives me that “Are you crazy?” look when I say I’m going to do a “challenge” again with the “bad thing” once I’m feeling better. The reason is simple. If I don’t do that challenge, we’ll never know if that was correctly identified, or if it was a statistical artifact or accidental correlation. I usually repeat such tests at least twice… Yes, I’m that concerned about ‘getting it right’.
So I run into this theory that the ratio of copper to zinc in the diet is very important, and widely out of whack in the modern diet. That phytates are also wound up in it (they are metal binding compounds in plants). The whole thing couched in Chinese Medicine terms of “heat” and “cooling” and such (that set my ‘suspect’ flag high…) Yet while eating Tiger Bones to cure arthritis is clearly “crazy talk”, there are many things that do work in that thousands of years old system. Especially the herbals. So it’s a good place to “mine”, just with a lot of fools gold in the ore… Plus there are other articles not so ‘encumbered’ by the “alternative feel good” phrases. So is there some “there there” in this idea? Again, I don’t know.
But the list of “symptoms” is mighty close (though starting to be so large that with that many free terms ‘you could fit an elephant and get him to wiggle his trunk’…) The major saving grace, IMHO, being that there are a couple of lab tests that can be done; so if this is “flaky talk” you can show a non-correlate with actual lab work.
For simple excess copper toxicity, this page is pretty good:
COPPER TOXICITY SYNDROME
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
Do you know anyone who suffers from headaches, fatigue, insomnia, depression, skin rashes, spaciness or detachment, learning disorders or premenstrual syndrome? These can be symptoms of a copper imbalance. It is an extremely common nutritional imbalance. It is often overlooked, in part because it is not always simple to detect.
Copper is an essential trace mineral that is vitally important for both physical and mental health. It has been studied for years, including at government laboratories. However, its importance for health is still largely unappreciated. The following article is an introduction to the large subject of copper imbalance. The author is deeply indebted to Dr. Paul C. Eck, an avid copper researcher.
COPPER’S ROLE IN THE BODY
Copper has a number of important functions in the human body. The problem usually occurs when there is too much of it in the soft tissues of the body. Here are some of the important roles of copper:
1. Bones and connective tissue. Copper is required to fix calcium in the bones and to build and repair all connective tissue. This includes the tendons, ligaments, skin, hair, nails, arteries, veins and a few other tissues.
Imbalances can contribute to osteoporosis, bone spurs, and almost all conditions of the skin, hair and nails. Others symptoms related to connective tissue include most cardiovascular problems, tendon and ligament conditions, scoliosis, and other skeletal and structural imbalances as well.
2. Energy production in the cells. Copper is needed in the final steps of the Krebs energy cycle called the electron transport system. This is where most of our cellular energy is produced. Any problem here causes fatigue, depression and other imbalances related to low energy.
3. Immune Response. b>Copper must remain in balance with zinc. When imbalances occur, one is more prone to all infections, in particular fungal and yeast infections that are so common today. For example, most people have some intestinal yeast if they eat sugars and most people have chronic sinus infections if they have common symptoms such as post-nasal drip and others.
4. The glandular system, particularly the thyroid and adrenal glands. The thyroid gland is extremely sensitive to copper. In part this is due to its nature and how easily it is influenced by the sympathetic nervous system. Common conditions seen with copper imbalance include hypothyroidism and even hyperthyroidism of a particular type that is very common that I all secondary hyperthyroidism. Grave’s disease usually due to stress, copper
imbalance and often mercury as well. Anyone with a diagnosis of Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism should have a hair analysis performed at a lab that does not wash the hair and properly interpreted.
Most often, the problem goes away with a properly designed nutritional balancing program. Reducing all stress and balancing the body chemistry are both required to resolve the condition naturally in my experience. Drugs may be needed temporarily to control the symptoms. Surgery or radioactive iodine treatment and too drastic and not needed, in my experience so far.
5. Reproductive system. Copper is closely related to estrogen metabolism, and is required for women’s fertility and to maintain pregnancy. Imbalance can cause every conceivable female organ-related difficulty such as premenstrual syndrome, ovarian cysts, infertility, miscarriages, sexual dysfunctions and more. It affects men less than women in this area, but it may affect men’s potency and sexual drive as well as that of women.
6. Nervous system. Copper stimulates production of the neurotransmitters epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. It is also required for monoamine oxidase, an enzyme related to serotonin production. As a result, copper is involved deeply with all aspects of the central nervous system. Copper imbalances are highly associated with most psychological, emotional and often neurological conditions. These include memory loss, especially in young people, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others discussed below.
It goes on from there at some length. Worth reading. But clearly both copper and zinc are important to how we function, and their ratio is likely to matter.
With that (too long?) preamble, into the fray…
Phytate and Phytic Acid
Phytic acid (known as inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6), or phytate when in salt form), discovered in 1903, is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially bran and seeds. Phytate is not digestible to humans or nonruminant animals, so it is not a source of either inositol or phosphate if eaten directly. Moreover, it chelates and thus makes unabsorbable certain important minor minerals such as zinc and iron, and to a lesser extent, also macro minerals such as calcium and magnesium; phytin refers specifically to the calcium or magnesium salt form of phytic acid.
Catabolites of phytic acid are called lower inositol polyphosphates. Examples are inositol penta- (IP5), tetra- (IP4), and triphosphate (IP3).
It is an interesting compound, with a load of phosphates around a central ring. You can look at the picture here:
(Unfortunately, it is n SVG file so wordpress doesn’t like it; while the PNG versions of it are dark)
It has been implicated in cancer prevention in the way Rice Bran acts to suppress cancer (thought the details are still sketchy) and has been shown to chelate minerals and make them unavailable or reduced availability in both human and animal feeding. If there is a low zinc diet, having high phytic acid levels would make things worse.
One of the more common “issues” in mixing large farm animal feed is getting the right mix of “stuff” so that the phytate and and other large compounds do not interfere with nutrient availability. Ruminants can generally break down phytates, but pigs and chickens (and humans) can’t.
Phytate-bound phosphorous is digestible by ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, and goats, but it cannot be digested by single-stomached animals, such as pigs and chickens. Phytate consists of a carbon ring structure with balanced phosphate groups surrounding the ring. Since horses are a hind gut fermenter, they are able to process the phosphorus much like ruminant animals.
Reducing the proportion of cereal grains in the diet will usually reduce the amount of phosphorus fed. However, for pigs and chickens, and there are few economic alternatives to cereal grains. Plant breeders are working to develop feed grains lower in phytate content and higher in available phosphorus.
Phytase in the Feed
An enzyme called phytase can be included with the diet. Phytase will break down phytate and release digestible phosphorus. Mixing phytase (commercially available) in the diet will reduce the phosphorus required in supplements.
Interactions Between Nutrients
Another factor affecting phosphorus availability is the presence of other nutrients in the diet. Overfeeding calcium can limit the availability of phosphorus. Calcium and other nutrients should be fed in balance so as not to disrupt the availability of phosphorus.
Calcium:Phosphorus Ratio for Horses
Horses are a bit unique; they require calcium and phosphorus to be in a specific ratio in the diet. Young growing horses, as well as lactating mares, should receive a Ca:P ratio of 2:1, while mature horses not reproducing can get by with a 1:1 ratio. Calcium should never be fed at a level lower than phosphorus because phosphorus will tend to interfere with calcium absorption into bone. Horses at maintenance require .17% phosphorus in the diet and .24% Ca. The highest levels of phosphorus are needed in reproducing mares (.34%). Typical horse diets approach 2 to 3 times the required level of phosphorus, which can be detrimental to the environment. This high phosphorus level is partially due to the estimated Ca:P ratio in alfalfa hay being 6:1. Many horse owners try to counteract this by adding more phosphorus to the diets. Many equine supplements already contain more phosphorus than is necessary. There are also phosphorus concerns for ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, goats, and etc.
Now I bring this up just to point out something that’s very clear to folks raised on farms, not so clear to folks who spent their lives in cities and going to universities: We are all different in how we process food, and all those “flaky” ideas about different foods interacting and different nutrients interacting are common knowledge in animal feeding. Notice that special concern for horse Ca:P ratios? Horses are not like cows. Cows are not like chickens. Pigs are not like horses. Humans vary too. You can’t just feed extra Ca and expect it is just going to be excreted without issue. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It depends on what else you are eating and on your particular genetics. For most of us, it’s not a problem. For those who make kidney stones, well… So “what’s in the feed” is not a “flaky idea”. Even in humans, rice bran is shown to be cancer antagonistic. Potentially due to, in part, phytates.
Elizabeth P. Ryan, PhD, CU Cancer Center investigator, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences at the CSU Animal Cancer Center, and the review’s senior author. “There’s a delicate balance of bioactive components in rice bran that together show anti-cancer activity including the ability to inhibit cell proliferation, alter cell cycle progression and initiate the programmed cell death known as apoptosis in malignant cells,” Ryan says.
Ryan and colleagues show that bioactive rice bran derived small molecules include, but are not limited to polyphenolics, ferulic acid, tricin, β-sitosterol, γ-oryzanol, tocotrienols/tocopherols, and phytic acid.
“We’re working now to tease apart the ratios of these active molecules required for bioactivity and mechanisms. Previous attempts to isolate one or another compound have been largely unsuccessful and so it looks now as if rather than any one compound giving rice bran its chemopreventive powers, it’s the synergistic activity of multiple components in the whole food that should be studied.”
It’s not clear which parts matter, but phenolic compounds (tannins) and phytate / phytic acid in feeds are known to have both good and bad “issues” for various animals. We are no different…
Why bring up this point? Just to show that in farm production it is common to do R&D into just how much phenolics, tannins, phytic compounds, minerals and mineral ratios, et. al. can be fed to particular breeds of animals for maximum production. It is common and accepted science. Yet somehow when we come to human Western Medicine, the notion mutates. We are all seen as 100% interchangeable standardized digestive units for food, and it doesn’t matter how the “feed” is mixed or what all is in it as long as the gross numbers are right for the particular list of identified essential nutrients. Just “crazy talk” in animal husbandry, but “consensus” in Medical School…
So that’s why I mention this. Just to point out that there IS foundational science for “feed mixing” making a difference, for paying attention to those “non-nutrient” parts like tannins and phytic acid, and for making sure the minerals are in the right ratios to prevent disease. As near as I can tell, the work in this area on farm animals is far far more advanced than that for humans… So there’s room for some of those “flaky ideas” from the granola bunch to have a foundation…
Mostly people stick any old junk down their throats and other than insisting the total quantity of “essential nutrients” is in the feed mix somewhere, don’t worry about it much. Lately (decades scale – lately in historical context) we’ve started to demonize fats, cholesterol and sugars. Never mind that your body makes cholesterol and it is an essential component. Never mind that high fat foods were essential to survival in cold and harsh conditions. (Look at a traditional Amish meal and it’s loaded with fats and cholesterol. My Farmer Grandad lived to 90 something on such a diet… we’re talking bacon and eggs piled with cheese and a side of toast dripping butter…) But modern medicine ask if the copper / zinc ratio is right? Never…
Copper and Zinc
So what’s this fuss with copper and zinc? Sure, too much ‘bran’ and those phytates might be preventing effective absorption (but somehow reducing colon cancer risk…) and sure we have to get “enough” in the diet. There is a recommended minimum and if you are over that, what’s the worry?
Zinc is a very important mineral. It is used in all sorts of metabolic pathways. Enzymes all over the place need it. If you are short on zinc, a wide array of illnesses crop up. Just depends on which enzymes are needed and which are being shorted of their zinc at the time. Cadmium is one of THE most horrific toxins on the planet. You die with your bones dissolving into mush and just breaking under the weight of your flesh as you lie in bed. It replaces zinc in key enzymes and then they don’t work… You do not want to be short of zinc.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Deficiencies of zinc have been linked to:
Delayed skeletal maturation and defective mineralization of bone (monkeys)
Hypogonadism in males
Lack of sexual development in females
Delayed puberty in adolescents
Delayed wound healing
Stretch marks (striae)
White spots on fingernails
Reduction in collagen turnover and synthesis (in chicks)
Reduction in collagen (in humans)
Poor Immune system
Cross-linking of collagen
Hyaluronic acid abnormalities (in swine)
Defective connective tissue
Cataracts (in salmon)
Teeth with black plaque like deposits (rats)
Abnormal levels of zinc have been found in the eyes of people with:
cataracts or glaucoma
macular degeneration, myopia or retinal detachment
Zinc has been found useful in treating myopia (nearsightedness).
It is one of the foundation minerals on which our metabolism is based. You do not want to be deficient in zinc.
How about copper? Well, it is important too, but widely available in foods. As you read this next quote, notice that it is often an abnormality that lets us see what copper does in the body (when it stops doing it…)
Copper deficiency is a very rare hematological and neurological disorder. The neurodegenerative syndrome of copper deficiency has been recognized for some time in ruminant animals, in which it is commonly known as “swayback” The disease involves a nutritional deficiency in the trace element copper. Copper is ubiquitous and daily requirement is low making acquired copper deficiency very rare. Copper deficiency can manifest in parallel with vitamin B12 and other nutritional deficiencies . The most common cause of copper deficiency is a remote gastrointestinal surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, due to malabsorption of copper, or zinc toxicity. On the other hand, Menkes disease is a genetic disorder of copper deficiency involving a wide variety of symptoms that is often fatal. Copper is involved in normalized function of many enzymes, such as cytochrome c oxidase, which is complex IV in mitochondrial electron transport chain, ceruloplasmin, Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase, and in amine oxidases. These enzyme catalyze reactions for oxidative phosphorylation, iron transportation, antioxidant and free radical scavenging and neutralization, and neurotransmitter synthesis, respectively. A regular diet contains a variable amount of copper, but may provide 5 mg/day, of which only 20-50% is absorbed. The diet of the elderly may contain a lower copper content than the recommended daily intake. Dietary copper can be found in whole grain cereals, legumes, oysters, organ meats (particularly liver), cherries, dark chocolate, fruits, leafy green vegetables, nuts, poultry, prunes, and soybeans products like tofu. The deficiency in copper can cause many hematological manifestations, such as myelodysplasia, anemia, leukopenia (low white blood cell count) and neutropenia (low count of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that is often called “the first line of defense” for the immune system). Copper deficiency has long been known for as a cause of myelodysplasia (when a blood profile has indicators of possible future leukemia development), but it was not until recently in 2001 that copper deficiency was associated with neurological manifestations. Some neurological manifestations can be sensory ataxia (irregular coordination due to proprioceptive loss), spasticity, muscle weakness, and more rarely visual loss due to peripheral neuropathy (damage in the peripheral nerves), myelopathy (disease of the spinal cord), and rarely optic neuropathy.
So we need it, but unless you have had stomach surgery or have a genetic disease, odds are you get plenty. I note in passing that food rich in copper include chocolate and soy, two foods that are headache triggers for some family members; and that excess copper / short zinc lists headaches as a symptom.
This article is the one that seems to have some good stuff in it, but then wraps it up in Chinese Traditional and “Alternative” language that makes me cringe…
Copper-Zinc Imbalance: Unrecognized Consequence of Plant-Based Diets and a Contributor to Chronic Fatigue
Written by Laurie Warner, MA, CNC
Thursday, 14 February 2008 14:38
Yet the parallels with the friend are rather notable. The list of fatigues, pains, and other issues is clearly similar. The push into a vegetarian diet (and the way it can cause sensitivities to other foods to increase, causing even more push into more extreme diets) are all too familiar. For better or worse, 1/2 my family is vegetarian as are some of the friends, including the one “with issues”, and I’m well versed in the “benefits”. I’ve also seen the same trend to increasing food “pickyness” and “issues” as the vegetarian ramp happens. (People can be remarkably unaware of how they are choosing a feedback loop that can have negative outcomes, just every step seems reasonable…)
I’ll leave it for you all to read that article. Quotes of it out of context are unlikely to have the whole effect. I’ll just quote the “lead in” where things are not quite as “alternative”…
A commonly reported consequence of vegetarian or vegan diets, or even diets that rely too heavily on plant foods, is chronic fatigue. Many sufferers subsequently embrace the principles enumerated by Weston Price, adopting a diet containing more nutrient-dense animal foods and fat; however, the fatigue often persists, even after considerable time on the new diet.
While Americans have been receiving a broad education on the nutritional value of plant foods, evidence has accumulated to indicate that diets that rely too heavily on plant food sources have special problems of their own. Those of us interested in traditional nutrition have become familiar with some of these, including fatty acid imbalances, B6 and B12 deficiencies, and untreated phytates in whole grains, legumes and nuts. As we continue to delve into these areas, the seriousness of these dietary imbalances continues to emerge.
Disruption of the copper-zinc ratio is an overlooked contributor to intractable fatigue that follows excessive reliance on a plant-based diet. The result is toxic accumulation of copper in tissues and critical depletion of zinc through excretion. This condition usually goes unrecognized because copper levels in the blood can remain normal. Also, most doctors are unprepared to meet with extreme zinc deficiency and its baffling effects on many systems of the body. Hair mineral analysis, competently used, is the tool which can unravel the complexities of this growing problem.
In particular, it is becoming clear that plant-based diets, and lighter diets generally, cause serious nutrient imbalances and long-term damage to digestion and cellular metabolism that are not easily corrected. This is of consequence for us in the traditional foods movement because we are asking people to return to higher density foods they may not have eaten for many years. Proper physiologic balance can be restored, but the period of transition in some cases may be longer and more difficult than we have anticipated.
An Unrecognized Danger
This article explores a major hurdle to dietary recovery, which has remained little-known, although an accessible book by Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, introduced the topic in 1999.1 The fact is that the micronutrient copper is widely available in unrefined foods,2 but the mineral zinc, needed in larger amounts to balance copper, can only reliably be obtained in optimum amounts from land-based animal foods, in particular eggs and red meats.3 These of course are among the foods that have been most stubbornly attacked by mainstream nutrition authorities. They are also among the foods lacto-vegetarians and others who have conscientiously adopted light diets have the most difficulty in reintroducing.
It is tragic that Americans who have been inspired to adopt healthier diets have been so harmfully misled by the anti-animal foods dogma, often against their better instincts. I myself was led into this trap in the mid 1970s, and have only found my way out of it in the last few years. Although I found the Weston A. Price Foundation material when it first appeared, and benefited from many of its suggestions, I was unable to consistently expand my diet, or even tolerate any fat, until I learned to recognize and apply the lessons of the copper-zinc imbalance. In fact, this imbalance could very well have killed me.
A brief survey of copper/zinc imbalance will show why this condition can be so serious. Copper is an essential trace mineral, but it is needed only in minute amounts. It works in a paired relationship with zinc, sometimes in complement and sometimes opposing. Copper is present in most foods, and is also absorbed from the environment.4,5 When zinc is present in abundance, and when there is enough quality protein available to bind it,6 copper can be handled freely, and the excess can be readily excreted trough the bile.7,8
When the diet is lacking in zinc and protein, however—and in fats to promote bile production —use of high-copper foods, and environmental copper, primarily ingested through our water, promote buildup of copper in our tissues.9 The late Carl C. Pfeiffer PhD, MD, formerly of the Brain-Bio Center in Princeton, New Jersey, has provided us with the most comprehensive overview of nutritional problems associated with copper and zinc in his classic study Mental and Elemental Nutrients.10 As he succinctly puts it, “Deficiency of zinc accentuates copper excess.”11
Here we have a classic dilemma of the medical flight from traditional diets. In lighter diets generally, and in heavily plant-based diets in particular, zinc is sharply reduced relative to copper,12 protein is curtailed, and fat is provided scantily at best. The excess copper that builds up in tissues is in unbound, inorganic form,13 highly immobile and creates a low-level toxicity that interferes with many body systems. Particularly affected are the liver and digestion,14 which are already hampered by increasing deficiency of zinc. As bile function and digestive vigor decline, difficulty with meat and fat develops. Legions of light-diet and vegetarian adherents feel justified in their choices because heavier food becomes unpalatable to them.15
When you back up stream from this article, to other places in the ‘search stream’, there’s a large body of “alternative medicine” wrapped around the name “Pyroluria”
Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D.
Pyroluria (or malvaria from the term mauve factor) is a controversial diagnosis in the branch of orthomolecular medicine, a branch of alternative medicine and is alleged to be caused by the presence of excessive levels of a pyrrole in the body.
Pyroluria was initially described by Abram Hoffer, a pioneer in alternative medicine such as orthomolecular medicine and orthomolecular psychiatry. Proponents claim that pyroluria is relatively common, but few, if any, mainstream medical experts regard the condition as genuine, with few or no articles on pyroluria found in modern medical literature, and the approach is described as “snake oil” by critics, such as the pediatrician and author Julian Haber.
According to proponents, one of the pyrroles (kryptopyrrole or mauve factor) is a by-product of improper hemoglobin synthesis. However, other pyrroles have been implicated, and what literature exists on this topic is unclear. These pyrroles are then said to bind to vitamin B6, and zinc and are eliminated through urine, potentially causing deficiencies of these compounds. Pyrolurics are also said to become deficient in omega-6 fatty acids (specifically arachidonic acid). However, other studies have either failed to detect hemopyrrole and kryptopyrrole in the urine of either normal controls or schizophrenics, or found no correlation between these chemicals and mental illness.
The pyroluria hypothesis was advocated by Carl Pfeiffer of Emory University, the Princeton Brain-Bio Center, a precursor of the Pfeiffer Treatment Center. According to Pfeiffer, pyroluria is a form of schizophrenic porphyria, similar to acute intermittent porphyria where both pyrroles and porphyrins are excreted in the human urine to an excessive degree. Pfeiffer described the histories of patients of his who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, whose urine contained extraordinarily high levels of kryptopyroles, who returned to health within a week after he prescribed the appropriate amounts of vitamin B6 and zinc.
The Center claims an 85% success rate for treating ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia, but other scientists say their methods have not been rigorously tested.
Pyroluria is sometimes claimed to affect people with ADHD, alcoholism, autism, depression, down syndrome, manic-depression, and schizophrenia. However, pyroluria is not considered related to schizophrenia in conventional medicine.
Individuals who are assessed as having pyroluria may be diagnosed with coeliac disease, epilepsy, or psychosis; proponents say these may be mis-diagnoses, actually representing symptoms of the underlying pyroluria. Pyroluria is sometimes claimed to have a genetic origin, with proponents saying the condition runs in families. The elevated kryptopyrroles that are said to be found in pyrolurics are claimed to increase dramatically when these people experience stress.
SO that ADHD / Autism link caught my eye. Along with advocating for ever less meat in diets, ever lower fat levels, and largely increasing the consumption of copper containing foods, our current food fads are advocating for ever more “bran” in the diet and higher levels of things like phytic acid that bind to zinc. Add in even a minor genetic predisposition, and you could get a food fad driven “epidemic”. (IFF there is any currency to the theory…)
BUT: It’s very easy to test. There is a urine test for the metabolite. Hair tests for the degree to which the body is trying to dump excess copper. The “treatment” is readily available for trial being mostly B6 and some zinc pills. (With some likely diet modification). And there is a clinic claiming success, so there ought to be some published work on it.
A quick web searched turned up a load of links. Just skim down the list, it’s long:
Pyroluria was initially described by Abram Hoffer, a pioneer in alternative medicine such as orthomolecular medicine and orthomolecular psychiatry.
More at The Free Dictionary
Pyroluria – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Information
Complete information about Pyroluria, including signs and symptoms; conditions that suggest it; contributing risk factors; what else it can lead to; what has similar symptoms; recommendations.
diagnose-me.com/symptoms-of/pyroluria.html More from diagnose-me.com
Pyroluria – Jeremy E. Kaslow, M.D.
PYROLURIA. Pyroluria is a genetically determined chemical imbalance involving an abnormality in hemoglobin synthesis. Hemoglobin is the protein that holds iron in the red blood cell.
drkaslow.com/html/pyroluria.html More from drkaslow.com
Pyroluria: How Pyrroles Affect Physical and Mental Health
Pyroluria is a genetically acquired chemical imbalance in which the body produces an abnormally large number of chemicals known as pyrroles. Learn more about this condition and the testing available to detect it.
integrativepsychiatry.net/pyroluria.html More from integrativepsychiatry.net
Pyroluria is a genetic deficiency in zinc and B6. It has been found in high rates is psychiatric populations.
nutritional-healing.com.au/content/articles-content.php?heading=Py… More from nutritional-healing.com.au
Pyroluria – A Hidden Disorder – Natural Insight on HubPages
“Many great people in history have shown the signs of pyroluria. Among them are the poet Emily Dickinson and the scientific philosopher and discoverer Charles Darwin.
naturalinsight.hubpages.com/hub/Pyroluria-A-Hidden-Disorder More from naturalinsight.hubpages.com
pyroluria supps…my experience…it’s WORKING !!! | Psycho …
i just decided days ago to try the regimin for pyroluria and it seems to have helped a lot so far…i had discounted the…
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Do You Have Pyroluria? | Primal Body Primal Mind Diet and …
PYROLURIA QUESTIONNAIRE. 1. Little or no dream recall. 2. White spots on finger nails. 3. Poor morning appetite +/- tendency to skip breakfast. 4. Morning nausea. 5. Pale skin +/- poor tanning +/- burn easy in sun. 6. Sensitivity to bright light. 7.
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Orthomolecular psychiatry – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Orthomolecular psychiatry is the use of orthomolecular medicine for mental illness. The approach uses unorthodox forms of individualized testing and diagnosis to attempt to establish an etiology for each patient’s specific symptoms, and claims to tailor the treatment accordingly, using a …
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyroluria More from en.wikipedia.org
Pyroluria~Information about Kryptopyrrole Disorder
What is pyroluria, or Kryptopyrrole disorder? Symptoms include ADD/ADHD, Autism, Alcoholism, Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia. How is it addressed naturopathically with orthomolecular (nutrition) therapy including vitamin B6 and zinc mineral.
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Pyroluria – Online Doctor Diagnosis of Medical Symptoms …
Pyroluria is a familial disorder which occurs with stress, where an above-average amount of a substance consisting of
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Kryptopyrrole & Pyroluria Testing by Direct Healthcare Access …
KryptopyrroleA test for diagnosing Pyroluria. Pyrrole Disorder, Also known as Pyroluria, is an abnormality in biochemistry resulting in the overproduction of pyrrole molecules.
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Pyroluria: Hidden Cause of Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Depression …
Site sponsored by Safe Harbor, a nonprofit corporation: Our thanks to the following for making this information available to us. DIRECT HEALTHCARE ACCESS II LABORATORY
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pyroluria – What The Hell is THAT? – Medical, Nutritional …
Page 1 of 4 – pyroluria – posted in What The Hell is THAT? – Medical, Nutritional, and Lifestyle Alternatives: OK, so I recently asked my doc about pyroluria… she looked at me as if I was talking about tin foil hats or something, she had never heard of it before and didnt seem interested in …
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ADHD Information -pyroluria
Over four million children and millions more adults in this country have been diagnosed ADHD. The only problem is that not one MD or shrink can actually PROVE their diagnosis is correct.
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Leigh Ann Chapman ND – Pyroluria
Pyroluria . Pyroluria is a condition that has been associated with disorders such as depression, autism, ADHD and alcoholism. Read more about Pyroluria below…
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Pyroluria and Depression – Causes of Depression
Find out if pyroluria could be causing your depression, anxiety and shyness
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Frequently Asked Questions – PYROLURIATESTING.COM | Pyroluria …
Frequently Asked Questions What is pyrrole disorder / pyroluria? Pyrroles are primarily normal by-products of hemoglobin synthesis. Pyrrole Disorder is an abnormality in biochemistry resulting in the overproduction of pyrrole molecules.
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The Forsyth Chiropractic Center – Dr. Robert Zee … Serving Cumming, Georgia and surrounding areas. Chiropractic care, massage therapy, and a host of other alternative therapies
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Pyroluria – E A R T H . C L I N I C – Holistic Health and …
Remedies for Pyroluria, a blood disorder and genetic condition that causes anxiety, depression.
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Pyroluria – Overiview & Treatment – Holistic Integrative …
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Pyroluria, Pyrrole Disorder, Kryptopyrrole, Pyrroluria and …
Pyroluria, also known as kryptopyrroluria,Pyrrole Disorder, Kryptopyrrole, Pyrroluria and Pyrolle Disorder produce too much of a byproduct of hemoglobin synthesis called kryptopyrrole (KP).
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A4everFamily.org – Pyroluria!
In three years our son has been identified with many different acronyms to describe his symptoms…RAD, PTSD, SID, PDD-NOS just to name a few.
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Pyroluria, Pyrrole Disorder, Kryptopyrrole, What is Pyroluria …
Pyroluria, also know as Pyrrole Disorder, Kryptopyrrole, Mauve factor or Kryptopyrroluria inhibits the body from utilising Zinc & B6 which may result in Depression, Autism, ADD/ADHD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Learning Difficulties, Schizophrenia…..
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Pyroluria, zinc and B6 deficiency, can cause anxiety and …
http://fatnews.com/ Hi, this is Larry Hobbs @ FatNews.com. LarryHobbs@fatnews.com Pyroluria can cause life-long Anxiety and Depression as noted in this video clip of Joan …
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•This condition could be an underlying reason behind why some people get Lyme Disease, and others don’t. And, why some people recover pretty fast, while others’ terrible symptoms linger for years.
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Pyroluria | Easy To Love But Hard to Raise
In the Huffington Post article, Is Sensory Processing Disorder the New Black?, the story of mom Samantha and how she handled identification, diagnosis, and treatment of her daughter Lucy’s neurobehavioral disorder matches closely my own experience with my twins who struggle with Sensory …
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Pyroluria – Natural Health Protocol
Pyroluria is known by many different names including Pyrrole Disorder, Kryptopyrrole, Kryptopyrroluria, Mauve Factor and Hemepyrrole. Pyroluria can best be described as the abnormal synthesis and metabolism of the oxygen carrying molecule in your blood, called haemoglobin.
naturalhealthprotocol.com/pyroluria.html More from naturalhealthprotocol.com
Pyroluria (or malvaria from the term mauve factor) is a controversial diagnosis in the branch of orthomolecular medicine, a branch of alternative medicine and is alleged to be caused by the presence of excessive levels of a pyrrole in the body.
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Diagnosing Pyroluria. A few years ago, a very sad young woman entered her doctor’s office, ushered by her mother.
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Obviously I was already taking Niacin, B6 and Vitamin C as part of my Pyroluria treatment, perhaps this is why the Pyroluria treatment benefited me.
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Reference for Pyroluria – Search.com
Pyroluria. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Leukemia is a symptom of pyroluria, caused by zinc deficiency. However, not all people with pyroluria develop these deficiencies, as pyroluria…
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Emed – Pyroluria – The Missing Link in Depression
Ever suffered from depression but had no relief from antidepressants? You may be suffering from Pyroluria. If you’ve never heard of this condition, your are not alone.
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Pyroluria – Kryptopyrroles | Smart Nutrition
There are many signs and symptoms of Pyroluria which can occur at any age but is brought on by stress. Symptoms of pyroluria – High Kryptopyrroles.
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Pyroluria / Malvaria Support Forum , Alternmative Layout
Hi, Iíve recently started taking doctor prescribed doses of zinc and b6 for pyroluria and find that I feel bloated, foggy and really cant handle stress. … …
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NationMaster – Encyclopedia: Pyroluria
These deficiencies can cause mental and physical problems. Leukonychia is a symptom of pyroluria, caused by zinc deficiency. Not all people with pyroluria develop deficiencies…
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Many more than I can read, so a “Dig Here!”… Often from the “alternative” side of medicine, but some from M.D.s and with good analytical approach. It looks like there is someting to it; though exactly what is a bit muddied by the usual piling on of everyone and their cousin who doesn’t feel good saying “Look! ONE out of my 15 symptoms match, so I’ve got that!”… which is just wrong….
This page is fairly typical, and has a ‘checklist’ I’ve seen elsewhere.
The following includes the most common symptoms associated with the condition Pyroluria. If you answer “yes” to 15 or more of these then further testing may be worthwhile:
1. Little or no dream recall
2. White spots on finger nails
3. Poor morning appetite +/- tendency to skip breakfast
4. Morning nausea
5. Pale skin +/- poor tanning +/- burn easy in sun
6. Sensitivity to bright light
7. Hypersensitive to loud noises
8. Reading difficulties (e.g. dyslexia)
9. Poor ability to cope with stress
10.Mood swings or temper outbursts
11.Histrionic (dramatic) tendency
13.New situations or changes in routine (i.e., traveling) particularly stressful
14.Much higher capability and alertness in the evening, compared to mornings
15.Poor short term memory
16.Abnormal body fat distribution
17.Belong to an all-girl family with look-alike sisters
20.Reaching puberty later than normal
21.Difficulty digesting, a dislike of protein or a history of vegetarianism
22.Tendency toward being a loner and/or avoiding larger groups of people
23.Stretch marks on skin
24.Poor sense of smell or taste
25.Feel very uncomfortable with strangers
26.Frequently experience fatigue
27.A tendency to overreact to tranquilizers, barbiturates, alcohol or other drugs (in other words, a little produces a powerful response)
28.A tendency toward anemia
29.History of mental illness or alcoholism in family
30.Easily upset by criticism
31.Sweet smell (fruity odor) to breath or sweat when ill or stressed
32.Prone to acne, eczema or psoriasis
33.A tendency toward feeling anxious, fearful and carrying lifelong inner tension
34.Difficulty recalling past events or people
35.Bouts of depression or nervous exhaustion
36.Prone to frequent colds or infections
Again, if you have answered yes to 15 or more of these then consider testing further using a urinary screening test for the presence of elevated kryptopyrroles via Bio Center Lab in Wichita, Kansas (Phone: 316-684-7784 or 1-800-494-7785). Here is their website for more information.
Testing for this condition is simple, relatively inexpensive and readily accessible to anyone without a prescription.
NOTE: It’s important that a clear laboratory diagnosis is determined before attempting high dose supplementation with zinc and/or B6. Working closely with a qualified health care provider knowledgeable about this condition is strongly suggested.
Well first off, 36 items? Many of them “repeats” of various kinds of anxiety? Heck, I can get to 17 on that list without a whole lot of trying. ( I have very pale skin thanks to the redhead gene, so don’t do well in the sun either… I reached puberty “later than others”, but then again, my whole family is ‘late bloomers’ and tend to live into their 80s and 90s if not subject to cancer causing agents. Essentially, normal variation can cause several ‘hits’.)
So I’ve got some “suspect flags” up on the whole thing. Yet… It is quite possible that a copper / zinc imbalance can cause a whole lot of those ‘symptoms’ and could explain many trends, both in our society at large, and in individual lives of people I know. So what’s it cost to get a few zinc pills and cut back at on the copper & phytate rich grains and nuts? Just to see?
This M.D. pegs it as genetic; but is there room for a non-genetic variation? (or marginal case where your genetics predispose a little, but without a complete failure of the enzymes?…)
Pyroluria is a genetically determined chemical imbalance involving an abnormality in hemoglobin synthesis. Hemoglobin is the protein that holds iron in the red blood cell. Individuals with this disorder produce too much of a byproduct of hemoglobin synthesis called “kryptopyrrole” (KP) or “hemepyrrole.” Kryptopyrrole has no known function in the body and is excreted in urine.
Kryptopyrrole binds to pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and zinc and makes them unavailable for their important roles as co-factors in enzymes and metabolism. These essential nutrients when bound to kryptopyrrole are removed from the bloodstream and excreted into the urine as pyrroles. Arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) also becomes deficient.
The effect of pyroluria can have a mild, moderate, or severe depending on the severity of the imbalance. Most individuals show symptoms of zinc and/or B6 deficiencies, which include poor stress control, nervousness, anxiety, mood swings, severe inner tension, episodic anger (an explosive temper), poor short-term memory and depression. Most pyrolurics exhibit at least two of these problems. These individuals cannot efficiently create serotonin (a neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety and depression) since vitamin B6 is an important factor in the last step of its synthesis. Many of these persons appear to benefit from SSRI medications such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, etc. However, as with all mind-altering drugs, side effects occur and the true cause of the mental difficulties remains uncorrected. In addition these individuals often have frequent infections and are often identified by their inability to tan, poor dream recall, abnormal fat distribution, and sensitivity to light and sound. As you can imagine an SSRI will not correct these metabolic effects. More healthful benefits may be achieved by giving the appropriate supporting nutrients.
Pyroluria is detected by chemical analysis of the abnormal pyroles in urine detectable as a purple (on testing paper) metabolite in called “the mauve factor.” Most persons have less than 10mcg of KP per deciliter. Persons with 10-20 mcg/dl are considered “borderline” pyroluric and may benefit from treatment. Persons with levels above 20 mcg/dl are considered to have pyroluria, especially if the above symptoms are present. The chemical analysis for KP is difficult due to the tendency for this chemical to decompose. Sometimes it is necessary to repeat the urine test to properly determine the level of KP being excreted. To make the initial diagnosis, no vitamins or minerals should be taken for two days before the urine is collected (This is to avoid false negative results). The specimen should be handled properly as well – collected and frozen immediately and protected from any light by being placed in aluminum foil.
So there’s a large range of “outcomes” from the test, which would seem to indicate both that the test is tricky, and that there are plenty of opportunities for ‘borderline’ cases and / or folks with variations of the genetics that are not “broken” and full on disease, but might have ‘increased levels and risks’. Those, then, could be triggered by diet and environmental factors.
There would even be the potential to get many of the same symptoms via a diet only approach that drove available zinc levels ‘crazy low’ though perhaps without the pyroles in the urine.
So there’s enough going on with copper / zinc levels and their ratio to be very interesting, and potentially quite important to a lot of folks (both for physical as well as mental health). There’s clearly a genetic component for some (many?) folks.
That kind of complex environment / genetic / dietary interaction is exactly the kind of thing that makes it hard to pin down ADHD, Autism, and food related reaction “diseases”.
Unfortunately, this all also has that “wiggle his trunk” aspect of just too many free variables being “fitted” to the elephant. It has all the makings of a “fad disease in the making”.
So what to do? Well, for me, it’s pretty simple. Tell the friend to check out the pyroluria list and see if it fits their symptoms. Maybe they will decide to take some added zinc and see what happens. I’ll likely add some zinc to my diet as an experiment (just to see if I notice anything, though I doubt it. I’m unlikely to suddenly start remembering dreams and get a tan ;-) For others, it could be a very good thing to know about, or it might be only an interesting side show on human nature and the emotional way people approach diet fads and medicine.
In any case, having a good zinc level is very important, and having too much copper is a bad idea…