Tests to find causes and imbalances linked to pyrrole
By Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Tests associated with pyrrole disorder
– Zinc to Copper ratio
– B6 levels
– Vitamin D
– Histamine levels
– Methylation factors
– Organic Acid testing
– GI Mapping
– Heavy metal & minerals
Discovering you have pyrrole disorder is just the start of your healing journey, because the existence of more than 40ug/dl of pyrrole (HPL) in the body for an adult is really an indication that something else is going on. I need to repeat that:
Pyrrole is really an indication that something else is going on.
Consequently, your health practitioner needs to look deeper into underlying causes and any other imbalances that coexist with pyrrole.
This article looks at the most common tests done in conjunction with pyrrole screening and what they mean for you.
If you have been researching pyrrole disorder, no doubt you’ll find many of the things people talk about are somewhat confusing.
For example, some discuss methylation and whether they are an undermethylator or an overmethylator. Just to be clear, just because you have pyrrole doesn’t mean that you have either of these methylation disorders, as many don’t. There is no actual test for methylation, but rather only indicators (as you will see below). For more info, read my article: What is Methylation?
It’s also common for people to speak about genetic defects, abbreviated as MTHFR, CBS, COMT, etc. Some can be relevant, but don’t get caught up needing to know everything about these genes, because even though many people have these defects…
Healing is about how you live your life now, which is also known as epigenetics.
The four most common tests done in conjunction with pyrrole screening are caeruloplasmin, copper, zinc and vitamin B6.
The reason is that it was once thought that those with pyrrole disorder were characteristically low in zinc and B6 and high in copper, and especially high in what is termed unbound copper. Because copper is generally bound (connected) to caeruloplasmin, this was also tested. I speak about these in the past tense as ongoing research has provided us with more understanding about pyroluria.
Interestingly, it was thought the body used zinc and B6 to bind to pyrrole to clear pyrrole from the body via urine. For this reason, those with pyroluria were considered deficient in B6 and zinc. Thus, the higher the level of pyrrole, the more deficient you were likely to be. But in truth, this is not always the case.
Why? Research by Brett Lambert from Applied Analytical Labs (AAL) in Brisbane tested pyrrole levels of people who were both on and off supplementation, and with and without good levels of zinc and B6. Results showed there was no relationship with the level of pyrrole and deficiencies in these nutrients.
Having said that, many with pyrrole may still be deficient in B6 and zinc, because a large percentage of the population, irrespective of pyrrole disorder, are deficient in these two key nutrients. B6 and zinc are key players in thousands of metabolic processes in the body and deficiencies lead to all sorts of issues, so that’s why we test these nutrients, not just because of pyrrole disorder.
Where does copper come into this picture? Again, many people with or without pyrrole have elevated levels of copper and this is partly because they are low in zinc. These two minerals antagonise each other, or in other words, when one is high the other will usually be low. We require the right balance (ratio) of these two minerals to be in harmony.
Most screening tests are an inexpensive yet powerful way to monitor your levels, and from these, individualised nutritional therapies can be offered.
Following are tests your health practitioner may organise to establish the underlying cause of pyrrole or the imbalances associated with it
A caeruloplasmin blood test is used to determine copper binding capacity.
Caeruloplasmin is a protein made by your liver and its role is to carry copper via your blood plasma around your body to the tissues that need it. As well as being a major copper-carrying protein, caeruloplasmin is also essential in effective iron metabolism. A deficiency of caeruloplasmin is known as aceruloplasminemia, and this issue crops up quite a bit with copper toxicity related conditions.
A deficiency of caeruloplasmin is strongly associated with copper toxicity and if left free and unbound, copper becomes a powerful free radical, resulting in oxidative stress, cell and tissue destruction, neurological degeneration, and a list of health-related issues. Some of these issues include:
– Pyrrole disorder
– Oestrogen dominance
– Anxiety disorder
– Chronic fatigue
– Liver toxicity
– Thyroid conditions
– Chronic candidiasis
– Alzheimer’s Disease
– Cardiovascular disease
– ADD & ADHD
– Rheumatoid arthritis
Perhaps one of the primary mechanisms through which copper toxicity can damage tissues is through oxidative stress and free radical formation. Free copper ions that are not bound to copper proteins such as caeruloplasmin, are pro-oxidants, and are highly damaging.
While copper toxicity is a major cause for concern, it is something that can be effectively dealt with by powerful nutritional therapies but we also need to remember that copper is a very important trace element that has many important roles in the body. These include:
– Connective tissue formation
– Nerve conduction
– ATP synthesis (energy)
– Iron metabolism
– Brain health via neurotransmitter synthesis
– Gene transcription
– Synthesis of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase
– Skin pigmentation
– Nerve tissue: myelin sheath formation
– Blood vessel formation
In a rare inherent disorder called Wilson’s Disease, copper is not bound to caeruloplasmin but is stored in your liver until it overflows into the bloodstream which can then lead to build up in your brain, corneas of your eyes, kidneys, liver, bones, and the small glands near the thyroid called parathyroid. If not treated, the liver and brain damage from copper poisoning can be fatal. But this is rare.
Whilst Wilson’s Disease is a rare condition, there can be other situations where copper is not fully bound to caeruloplasmin. Therefore, high levels of copper toxicity can be in the blood plasma with a concurrent copper deficiency at a cellular level. This can be balanced by addressing mineral and metal imbalances, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalances and healing any gut issues.
Lower-than-normal caeruloplasmin levels may indicate:
– Low adrenal activity e.g. adrenal fatigue, high chronic stress (the most common cause)
– Deficiencies of cellular antioxidants such as metallothionein and glutathione (quite common)
– Excessive use of Vitamin C (common)
– Wilson disease – genetic: excess storage of copper (rare)
– Menkes disease – genetic: kinky hair syndrome (rare)
– Copper deficiency at a cellular level, but may have high levels in plasma
High caeruloplasmin levels may indicate or be noticed in:
– Copper toxicity with zinc deficiency – common with over methylation
– Pregnancy, oral contraceptive pill use, and hormonal imbalances
– Lymphomas – a type of cancer
– Acute and chronic inflammation states
– Alzheimer’s disease
– Schizophrenia & Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
A serum blood test, or alternatively, a hair analysis test, is used to measure levels of copper, zinc and other minerals for their correct ratios.
Disturbances of copper metabolism are very common, but a true copper deficiency is relatively uncommon (perhaps affecting 5-10% of the population) but could potentially become an issue with the overuse of zinc supplementation when treating pyroluria. The treatment for high copper is both molybdenum and zinc.
Some Causes of Copper Toxicity
Genetic Mutations: that negatively alter copper-transport proteins such as Caeruloplasmin (CP gene). Genetic mutations that influence or cause the development of Huntington’s (HTT gene) and Wilson’s (ATP7B copper transport gene)
Environmental Copper Toxicity: Sources include – copper pipes, dental fillings, copper-contaminated foods, contaminated municipal drinking water containing copper sulphate as an anti-fungal, copper IUD’s, copper fungicides, copper cookware and jewellery.
Nutrient Deficiencies: Vegetarian and Vegan diets are naturally high in copper and low in zinc. Animal proteins and seafoods are the richest sources of zinc.
Increased Oxidative Stress: Deficiencies of cellular antioxidants such as metallothionein and glutathione, both of which bind to free copper ions.
Nutritional Solutions for Copper Toxicity
High doses of any one nutrient can alter other important nutrients in the body due to their relationship to each other. If you have copper toxicity, it is important to know that taking too many copper antagonists can result in a copper deficiency at a cellular level. So it’s important to consult with an experienced practitioner to help you choose the right supplement regime and monitor your levels.
The following nutrients are used to clear excess copper:
– Arachadonic acid (omega 6)
– Sulfur (sulfur amino acid cysteine is essential for the formation of glutathione and metallothionein, both of which bind to free copper)
– Vitamin B-6
The following nutrients can protect against copper-induced oxidative damage:
– Vitamin E
– Vitamin C
– Alpha Lipoic Acid
– Beta Carotene
A plasma blood test, or alternatively, a hair analysis test is used to determine zinc levels.
Zinc is the second most abundant mineral in the body (after iron) and is an essential trace element that activates several hundred enzymatic reactions fundamental to a healthy life.
Zinc and copper are antagonists, meaning that increasing one can lower the other. While zinc toxicity is possible, far more common is zinc deficiency and copper toxicity.
Zinc is involved in supporting:
– Gene expression: to support genes switching on and off
– Nervous system function: for emotional stability & mood balance
– Immune function: the formation of white blood cells
– Brain function: for neurotransmitter production and balance
– Zinc possesses powerful anabolic activities in the cells
– Zinc is essential for blood clotting and platelet formation
– Zinc is involved in vitamin A synthesis
– Folate is made available to the cells through zinc enzyme reactions
– Along with copper, zinc makes ZnCu superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant
– Growth & development of children
– Testosterone and semen formation and motility
– In the body, the highest concentration of zinc is found in the male prostate gland and semen and therefore much is lost with ejaculation
– Assists in the removal of cadmium and copper
You can see how important it is to have adequate levels of zinc. Given that many diets are high in copper, which antagonises zinc, we must ensure we have plenty of zinc to be healthy.
Food sources of Zinc
– Seafoods especially oysters (highest source) and herring
– Meats, especially red meat
– Nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin and sunflower seeds
– Brewer’s yeast (vegan forms are not as high as seafood and meat)
Zinc to Copper ratio
A blood test or a hair analysis test is used to determine zinc to copper ratios.
When you have a blood test for zinc and copper, it is common to see both zinc and copper within the ‘reference range’.
This might look good, but clinically, the ratio between the two minerals is more important than their individual values.
Different ratios are recommended for blood tests compared to hair analysis tests.
The ideal ratio in blood should be 0.7:1.0 with copper being the lower value. Whereas the ideal ratio for a hair analysis is 8:1, with zinc eight times higher than 1 unit of copper.
For either test method, zinc levels needs to be higher than copper levels. But most test results show the reverse, with copper higher than zinc – which we don’t want.
Most of our foods (except for meat) tend to be high in copper and lower in zinc and this is where supplementation can help, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
Because these two minerals antagonise each other (where zinc pushes copper out and high copper reduces zinc), it is important to have the levels of each mineral tested and ratios worked out prior to prolonged supplementation (however, short bursts up to a month for immunity are fine).
It is important to monitor levels of copper and zinc every six to twelve months because both minerals are important for good health, and it is easy to get an imbalance.
In a hair analysis if a Zinc (Zn):Copper (Cu) ratio is below 6:1 then copper toxicity is very likely.
Symptoms related to copper toxicity include emotional instability, depression, anxiety, loss of taste or smell, and hair loss. The use of zinc to balance this toxicity needs to be done slowly to avoid a detox reaction, often called ‘copper dumping’.
A blood test is used to determine B6 levels.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, forms the basis of many different pathways in our body, including the formation of hormones, neurotransmitters, detoxification pathways and much more.
Pyridoxine (B6) is a water-soluble vitamin, yet it is possible to build up in the body to toxic levels. Most water-soluble vitamins just flush down the toilet if in excess, but B6 is different. So if taking B6, your levels should be monitored.
Pyridoxine consists of three related compounds: pyridoxine, pyridoxal 5 phosphate (P5P) and pyridoxamine. I mention this because you can sometimes see B6 written in these different ways. P5P for example, is the more active form of the vitamin and more commonly used for those with pyrrole disorder.
B6 is required for the proper absorption of B12 and magnesium, and the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. It also helps linolenic acid (a type of good fat) function better in the body.
B6 plays an important role in the breakdown and utilization (digestion and usage) of proteins, carbs and fats. B6 must be present for our body to make antibodies and red blood cells, and to release glycogen from the liver for energy, and muscle contraction and expansion. Therefore, it is super important for our energy, movement and our immune system.
B6 aids in the conversion of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, necessary for the proper action of RNA and DNA (our genetic structure), but also to keep our mood happy.
B6 helps to maintain the sodium and potassium balance which regulates normal function of our fluid balance, nervous and musculoskeletal systems. B6 is one of the B vitamins that if taken alone, can cause an imbalance in the other B vitamins, so it is best taken together with the rest of the B’s (except in certain situations – monitored).
Deficiency of B6 can lead to low stomach acid, resulting in poor digestion, cracks around the mouth and eyes, numbness and cramps in the arms and legs, slow learning, visual disturbances, neuritis, arthritis, and increased urination.
As you can see, B6 is a very important vitamin. One of the main problems I see is when people diagnosed with pyrrole disorder are often automatically prescribed high doses of B6 without even being tested to see if they need it.
Another frequent issue is that many cannot tolerate B6. Some can tolerate B6 in very small doses of say 10-25mg, and others may tolerate B6 in its active P5P form. But if not tolerated at all, then methylation pathways need to be looked at and addressed first. For more, please see my article What is Methylation?
Rich sources of B6 in the diet
Turkey is one of the richest sources of B6 (contains 7mg per 85g serve). Other sources include: chicken liver (0.85mg per 100g): Chicken breast (0.6mg per 100g); and similar amounts per serve of bananas, beef, avocado, pistachio nuts (shelled), Atlantic salmon, tuna, pinto or kidney beans, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds/tahini, spinach, sweet potato; chickpeas/garbanzo beans which provide 0.2mg per cup.
A blood test is used to determine Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that we store this vitamin in our fat. We also need fat for the absorption of this vitamin, which can be acquired though digestion of foods such as fish, eggs, supplements, or from the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to Vitamin D from the sun.
Because vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium from the intestinal tract as well as the breakdown of phosphorus required for bone formation, vitamin D is needed for good bone and teeth development and protection.
Vitamin D can help to maintain a stable nervous system, normal heart rate and normal blood clotting due to its relationship with calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin D is absorbed along with fat in the intestinal walls with the aid of bile from the gall bladder. After absorption or formation from the skin, vitamin D is transported to the liver for storage but can also be found in the skin, brain, spleen, and bones.
The body can store quite a lot of Vitamin D, but an excess can cause high levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, which can lead to hypercalcaemia, which can then create calcification of blood vessels and kidney tubules.
It is believed that vitamin D and the parathyroid hormone work together to regulate the transport of calcium, so a deficiency can lead to tetany, a condition characterised by muscle numbness, tingling and spasms. Some say that vitamin D deficiency can also cause myopia (near sightedness).
Some might say, ‘Why do I need to test for vitamin D if I get out into the sun and eat oily fish?’ Well we have four known genes that control the conversion of our vitamin D and many people have defects in these genes (referred to as SNPs) that don’t effectively allow the conversion process to work properly. This leads to deficiency states even with a good diet and exposure to the sun.
A vitamin D test gives your practitioner a snapshot of this important vitamin. I have found that many people with pyrrole disorder also have defects in the vitamin D conversion genes and do well with supplemental D.
Supplemental vitamin D is best taken with vitamin A, so fish liver oils that contain both A and D is a good way to get both at once (cod liver oil).
A blood test is used to determine homocysteine levels.
Homocysteine is produced in the body from the amino acid methionine (amino acids come from our protein foods). Elevated Homocysteine can lead to cardiovascular disease, so we certainly don’t want it too high, but we also don’t want it too low.
We need homocysteine to produce glutathione, our major intracellular antioxidant, and without adequate glutathione our bodies have a lot of trouble detoxifying. Low homocysteine levels are also related to neurological diseases.
The magic number for homocysteine is 7, below 6 is low and above 8 is high. Clinical levels above 15 are considered dangerously high. The measurement is recorded in micromoles per litre (mcmol/L) of blood.
Not all practitioners working with pyrrole test for homocysteine, but I like to because it’s an easy marker to check some of your methylation capacity because homocysteine is regulated by vitamins B6, B12 and folate also known as B9.
If the homocysteine level is high, B6, B12 and folate can lower homocysteine levels. However, if your levels are low then you may be taking too much of one or all of these vitamins. You won’t ever get low homocysteine because of food consumption – only from excess supplements or low glutathione.
While high homocysteine can be treated with the above vitamins, low levels of homocysteine can be treated by first checking that you are not taking too many of these vitamins. High homocyteine levels can be also treated with sulphur-containing amino acids such as methionine, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and taurine as well as increasing sulphur foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and eggs.
But be aware that some people can’t tolerate the above supplements and foods due to either dysbiosis, sulphuration pathway issues (often due to toxic overload in the liver), or other genetic defects that inhibit this pathway.
In these cases, careful investigation into possible causes needs to be investigated before using nutrients.
You may not know you have an issue with any these things, such as vitamin and mineral levels and homocysteine, until you start taking these nutrients. At least this gives your practitioner some further clues of where to look. I say this because some people give up trying to treat pyrrole disorder because they seem to react to many products. There’s always more than one way to create balance.
A blood test is used to determine histamine levels, which is the main indicator to determine over or under methylation.
Histamine levels are often tested in those with pyrrole disorder because it forms part of the tests to determine if someone is an undermethylator or an overmethylator. Just because you may have pyrrole it doesn’t mean that you also have one of these conditions, although many do. It’s important to find out because it can help determine the supplements that suit you best.
For example, if you are very low in histamine, this is a marker for over-methylation and supplements of fish oil and folic acid can serve you well, but the same supplements for an under-methylator often make someone feel unwell.
Histamine testing is done with blood, but it can be a bit unreliable because histamine levels can fluctuate depending on various influences. For example, if you have hay fever, sinus or asthma you will have high histamine, but only while you currently have a flare.
If you take antihistamines, or not currently having an allergy response, then your histamine levels will be normal, but the levels won’t go very low, like they would for an overmethylator.
Also, gut bacterial imbalances and parasites release histamine which can give an otherwise normal reading an elevated reading of histamine.
Histamine can also be found high in certain foods, such as aged, cured and fermented foods. If you have high histamine levels or problems with these foods, the chances are you will have some form of bacterial dysbiosis and are undermethylating.
Histamine tests can be confusing to interpret, but with thorough questioning, a good practitioner can unravel whether you are an over or under methylator (or neither) and recommend appropriate diet, lifestyle, and suitable supplements.
For further information see my article What is Methylation?
Blood tests are used to determine methylation factors.
A methylation factor does not refer to whether a person is an over or under methylator (see histamine testing above). Instead it’s about the 2 key nutrients, B12 and folate, that support the process of methylation.
Simple B12 and folate testing can be done with a normal blood test, but this only reflects the amount of B12 and folate running through the blood at the time the sample was taken and is not always a true indication of what is happening at the cellular level.
Certainly, if either of these vitamins are low in blood there is need for concern, but sometimes we can be under an illusion that all is good with our B12 and folate levels when really they’re not.
The more common symptoms of low B12 and folate are low energy and poor short-term memory. Other symptoms can include bleeding gums or mouth ulcers, nausea, diarrhea, constipation or cramping, feeling dizzy/light headed, low blood pressure, poor concentration and confusion, mood changes such as increased anxiety or depression, muscle aches and weakness or joint pain, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats.
Testing (via urine) the organic acids Methyl Malonic Acid (MMA) and Formiminoglutamic acid (FIGLU), which are intermediate markers for intracellular levels of B12 and folate respectively, provides a much better indication of how well the body can absorb, utilise and store these important vitamins in our cells. The higher the level of these organic acids, the lower the availability of B12 and folate for our needs.
I’ve tested numerous people with pyrrole disorder and other health conditions who seemingly have normal or even high blood levels of B12 and folate, but quite high levels of the organic acids MMA and FIGLU. Their symptoms tell me they need B12 and folate, yet blood tests show they are fine – then testing these organic acids reveals a different story. Consequently, prescribing B12 and folate, especially in the active (methylated) forms, results in improved symptoms.
MTHFR gene defects
A blood test, or an oral swab test is used to determine MTHFR genetic defects.
For those with pyrrole disorder, it’s often suggested to test a couple of gene markers for folate conversion. These genes are collectively called MTHFR.
The letters MTHFR stand for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. See how the last part of the first word says ‘folate’. The MTHFR gene is a genetic polymorphism, or what is seen as a genetic variance or flaw in many people.
In other words, MTHFR is about two genes that help the body to convert folic acid into its active usable form.
A mutation in the MTHFR gene may affect fertility in both sexes, mood disorders, mental health, autism spectrum disorders, increase risk of venous thrombosis, and is associated with elevated plasma homocysteine, which was discussed earlier.
But it’s not just about those with pyrrole. About half of the population has this genetic defect that can increase the risk of hardening of the arteries, potentially leading to heart attack, stroke and blood clots in the veins.
Although these mutations do impair the regulation of homocysteine, the consumption of plenty of folate essentially ‘cancels out’ the effect of this defect, especially if the folate is consumed from foods or the more active form of folate such as calcium folinate or 5MTHF.
You may hear the terms heterozygous and homozygous, and compound heterozygous or homozygous. But what do they mean?
Your genes come from both parents, which is made up of two alleles (one from each parent).
Two good genes, means no fault is expressed. One bad gene from one parent but not the other parent is called heterozygous. Two bad genes (one from each parent) is called homozygous.
There are two main types of MTHFR gene variants which are called C677T and A1298C. So if you have one variant/fault on each of these two types we call that compound heteroxygous.
But if you have two variants/faults from both parents on both the C677T and A1298C genes, we call that compound homozygous. When this occurs, the foetus will usually miscarry.
It’s worthwhile for future parents to be tested for MTHFR to see the relative risk for their baby to have the gene mutations. If both partners have these markers, then it is advisable for both to take the more active forms of folate pre-conception as a preventative to reduce the risk of miscarriage and passing on the faulty genes.
A urine organic acid test is used to provide a comprehensive insight into numerous metabolic dysfunctions.
When looking into the potential causes of pyrrole disorder, one of the more useful tests is the organic acids test. We’ve already looked at two specific organic acids, that being the Methyl Malonic Acid (MMA) and Formiminoglutamic acid (FIGLU), which gives us a clearer picture of our B12 and folate at a cellular level. Well there’s more…
There are over 60 different organic acids that can be tested to give us an overview of several major body systems, as well as an analysis of various nutritional deficiencies, plus markers for dysbiosis including bacterial overgrowth, fungal and other gut health imbalances.
Organic acids are in fact metabolic intermediates that are produced by the body as part of energy production, neurotransmitter processes, detoxification and intestinal activity of microbes, both good and bad.
By assessing organic acid levels, we can pinpoint many metabolic dysfunctions occurring at a cellular level so a customised treatment strategy can be formulated.
The OAT assessment evaluates:
– B group vitamin utilisation
– Neurotransmitter abnormalities
– Citric acid cycle abnormalities
– CoQ 10 insufficiency
– Amino acid insufficiency
– Nutritional deficiencies
– Potential gut dysbiosis
– Fatty acid metabolism
– Yeast infections
Conditions where organic acid testing is useful:
– Pyrrole disorder
– Digestive system problems
– Immune issues – auto-immune conditions
– Chemical or food sensitivities
– Blood sugar imbalances
– Fatigue of unknown causes
– Mental health imbalances
– Joint pains
– Skin disorders
A GI Mapping stool test is used to determine gut health and associated issues.
If you have pyrrole disorder and digestive symptoms are present, no matter how mild, then it’s important to check for leaky gut and the status of your microbiome.
Following research by the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) and more research since, testing of the gut microbiome (gut flora) has been revolutionised. Testing gut flora was previously performed by cultures and microscopic evaluation. Now, thanks to the HMP, we can test more accurately the state of the digestive system using DNA analysis of microbes.
Note: GI-MAP is an abbreviation of Gastrointestinal Microbial Assay Plus
The complete microbiome mapping test (GI Mapping) performed by NutriPath in Melbourne, and various other labs around the world for our non-Australian friends, can assess microbes that contribute to illness and also assess the balance of good bacteria needed to maintain a healthy balance.
With a single stool sample, the GI Mapping test looks at immune and digestive markers, including markers for leaky gut (intestinal permeability), pathogenic bacteria (such as Helicobacter Pylori), opportunistic pathogens, fungi (including candida), viruses, numerous parasites and good bacteria types and levels.
GI Mapping also looks at markers for short chain and long chain fatty acids which help to assess if you are feeding your friendly bacteria with the right foods to promote good health.
Conditions where GI Mapping is a useful assessment:
– Abdominal pains and cramps
– IBS or IBD
– Leaky gut symptoms
– Signs of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
– Constipation or diarrhoea
– Allergies and intolerance
– Thyroid abnormalities
– Vague aches and pains that don’t seem structural
– Strange symptoms where you can’t find a cause
Heavy metal & mineral screening
Blood, urine, or hair tests are used for heavy metal and mineral screening, however hair analysis is preferable.
Many who have pyrrole disorder commonly have what is termed ‘heavy metal toxicity’ and have imbalances in their mineral levels.
Previously I mentioned how copper and zinc antagonise each other or compete for absorption. The same can happen for many other minerals. The term ‘heavy metals’ actually refers to the more toxic types of minerals, but in truth, they are all minerals.
The term ‘heavy’ is often used because of the molecular weight of that mineral. Science aside, we need a healthy balance and we need some minerals in higher ratios to others and we are better off without some of the more toxic types.
It is difficult to get a true indication of our good and bad mineral levels because we can’t easily test our total load in the body. Some minerals, including the toxic ones, are stored in fat cells, our brain tissue (also fat), our bones, our arteries, and our hair.
When testing blood for minerals we get a snapshot of what is circulating around at the time the blood sample is taken. When we test via hair or urine, we are testing what has been excreted from our body, which provides an indication of what has been in the body for about the last three months.
We often can’t tell what our levels are like until we do something to create movement in minerals. For example, a detoxification program to clear toxic minerals, or the removal of mercury during dental work, or when taking high doses of zinc and we start to see copper rise. In these cases, it’s not really mineral levels rising, but clearing minerals from the body.
So what do we test? I personally like to start with both a blood and hair test before starting any treatment to obtain a ‘base level’ of minerals. This provides a good indication of what is moving around the body and the ratios between the minerals. Any of the toxic minerals that show as elevated in the base level helps us to be aware of elements that are competing with our good minerals.
For example, we saw earlier that copper *antagonises zinc. However, lead, mercury, aluminium, nickel and cadmium also compete with zinc. No wonder we have trouble getting enough zinc.
* An antagonist is something that competes with or blocks another; an agonist is something that helps another. Thus a substance like a vitamin or mineral can either inhibit (antagonist) or enhance (agonist or be synergistic) another vitamin or mineral.
High levels of lead block or antagonise our calcium absorption; taking calcium can help clear excess lead. Chromium is also antagonised by lead and chromium is a good detoxifying mineral.
Iron absorption is interfered with by lead, mercury, and aluminium. Magnesium is inhibited by elevated levels of cadmium (found in high concentrations in cigarettes) as well as lead. There are many others.
We get contaminated by toxic minerals and metals from our water supply, medications, vaccinations, food supply and other sources. Many cannot clear toxins well due to various detox pathway genetic imperfections, exposure from work or home environments, and other factors such as viral, bacterial, and fungal load on the body.
For example, when there is elevated candida in the body from antibiotics and/or a high sugar/carb diet, the body holds onto mercury longer because mercury helps bind the toxins from candida. It is considered that you won’t clear mercury properly if you have candida/mould in the body, until you clear the candida.
Testing minerals in the body at the start of a program and along the way helps a practitioner to monitor progress and recommend changes required for specific minerals and dosages.