Pyrrole Disorder and Methylation imbalances may hold the key.

Pyrrole disorder affects kids both on and off the spectrum, genetics definitely plays a role and usually one or both parents will test positive.

The key nutrients that are deficient are vitamin B6 and zinc and the key symptoms in kids are:

  • anxiety
  • spectacular tantrums and meltdowns
  • poor behaviour and mood control
  • taking a long while to fall asleep
  • not hungry in the morning
  • inability to handle stress
  • negative pessimistic attitude
  • depression and mood swings
  • learning difficulties
  • skin problems

In this article I’ll be focusing more on the biochemical patterns that are contributing to symptoms. This way you will have a better understanding of why nutrition and nutrient therapy are key players in helping your child.

Pyrrole disorder is often part of a bigger picture of biochemical changes and mineral imbalances in the body. It’s hard to know what comes first – if it’s the pyrrole disorder that leads to the imbalances or the imbalances lead to pyrrole disorder. There is also involvement of the gut microbiome as many kids with pyrrole disorder have digestive issues.

The copper-zinc balance is the most commonly affected. I often see drastically raised copper levels that are associated with the zinc deficiency of pyrrole disorder. Copper excess is involved in lower dopamine levels and higher norepinephrine levels. This is seen in kids as the behaviour problems typical of ADHD, Autism and violent behaviour.

Methylation is another common alteration in kids with Autism, special needs and behaviour problems. Methylation is a complex process in the body. If it becomes unbalanced, it creates a range of biochemical changes that have a far reaching effect on metabolism and even on genetic expression. Symptoms that can indicate methylation imbalances are:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • addictions
  • defiance and behaviour problems
  • OCD
  • food sensitivities
  • sleep problems

So the million dollar question is, “Why does methylation become imbalanced?”

There is no one answer for this at the moment but I’d like to discuss two important factors.

1. Vitamin and minerals are used at every step in the methylation process. If levels are inadequate then the process cannot work as designed.

Here’s an example – if you build a house and you don’t have enough windows, then you can’t build the house exactly as you want. Think of the window as a vitamin or mineral that is deficient. You have two options for your new house:

  1. To change the design slightly which may mean it doesn’t function as well as you would like, it depends on how many windows you are missing
  2. Wait until there is a window available. This may be OK but there are likely to be other domino affects to your life such as delays to moving in that then complicate other plans. I’m sure you get the picture.

Well this is exactly what happens in the methylation cycle. If there are vitamin or mineral deficiencies, the body will do its best to compensate or “redesign”. It will change the process slightly or it will hold up a reaction that then affects other reactions. The key here is that these processes affect how our brain functions, grows, learns and develops. Our biochemistry is changed and the impact can be mental health conditions, Autism, ADHD etc.

Correction of methylation involves a prescription of vitamins and minerals that are tailored for each person and improvement takes time.

2. The second point is understanding how methylation is set up in an unborn baby. A study by Dominguez-Salas et al 1 shows methylation is determined around conception and is highly dependent on mum’s nutrient levels. This study shows that a mother’s diet affects her child’s genes. So again research is showing the critical impact that nutrition has on our genes and biochemistry which in turn impacts our brain function.

We are seeing the emergence of a new model for ‘brain’ conditions like Autism and mental health. Studies are showing these conditions are complex interactions of the mind, body and environment, with many scientists agreeing that nutrition is the biggest environmental factor outside the womb.

So we are back to the importance of nutrition again.

We need to move away from food that comes in packets, that is loaded with additives (check the numbers on the labels) and has low nutrient density to food that is nutrient dense. Here are 13 tips to help:

  • Focus on expanding your child’s palate by adding, don’t focus on what to remove
  • Keep presenting new foods over and over again. Offer non-food rewards if they take a bite, then two bites and progress from there
  • If your child is a picky eater there is a good chance that they are deficient in zinc
  • Each meal should contain protein, carbohydrate and good fat
  • Growing brains need fat; cook with coconut oil, ghee, duck/goose fat and use olive oil on salads and mix it into dips.
  • Introduce home-made chicken soup – one of the most healing meals on the planet. You can blend in cauliflower and zucchini for a creamy version
  • Make broths from organic chicken wings or other bones, start your child drinking it and use as the base of many meals, for example cook rice in it
  • Start adding vegetables like zucchini into homemade muffins and cakes
  • Start juicing. Start with fruit juice very similar to what your child drinks now, then gradually add vegetables such as celery, cucumber, zucchini, small amounts of ginger, beetroot and then greens like lettuce and kale
  • Blend some avocado into smoothies, start with small amounts and gradually increase
  • Blend cooked chicken breast into soups and even small amounts into smoothies
  • Look at recipes from the paleo diet
  • Kids love dips – use avocado as a base, blend in some lemon juice, salt to taste. You can blend in some celery to make it go further. Create your own using avocado as the base. Make your own hommus with chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice. Baked pumpkin blended with a little olive oil makes a great dip


  1. Maternal nutrition at conception modulates DNA methylation of human metastable epialleles.Paula Dominguez-Salas, Sophie E. Moore, Maria S. Baker, Andrew W. Bergen, Sharon E. Cox, Roger A. Dyer, Anthony J. Fulford, Yongtao Guan, Eleonora Laritsky, Matt Silver, Gary E. Swan, Steven H. Zeisel, Sheila M. Innis, Robert A. Waterland, Andrew M. Prentice & Branwen J. Hennig. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4746


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Julie Damant is the leading Autism Naturopath in Australia, specialising in Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, PDD, learning difficulties, allergies and children’s health. Julie is a degree qualified Naturopath, has completed specialised training with the MINDD Foundation, Michael Sichel and numerous post graduate courses in Naturopathy.

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