Myth vs Fact

Wilson's Temperature Syndrome

  • Editors
  • Stephanie Lee, MD, PhD
    Douglas Ross, MD

Wilson's SyndromeSluggishness, poor concentration, assorted aches and pains—most of us experience these symptoms from time to time. If they persist or grow severe, we want a diagnosis quickly so we can find some relief. With thousands of accepted medical diagnoses, however, pinpointing the precise cause of our problems can be a challenge.

One umbrella diagnosis suggested for literally dozens of common ailments from fatigue, to depression, to headaches, is “Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome.” This syndrome is not an acceptable medical diagnosis and should not be confused with Wilson’s disease—a medically recognized genetic condition caused by a defect of having too much copper in your body specifically in the major organs.

What is “Wilson’s temperature syndrome”?

E. Denis Wilson, M.D., described Wilson’s temperature syndrome in 1990 as the presence of multiple symptoms along with a low body temperature and slowing metabolism, caused by illness, injury, or stress. Metabolism is defined as the process of converting calories and other nutrients from the foods we eat into the energy needed for all life processes. The many possible symptoms attributed to Wilson’s syndrome are common and non-specific, meaning they can occur in many diseases or even be part of a normal, busy life. Dr. Wilson argues that the syndrome represents a form of thyroid hormone deficiency, even though low hormone levels are not reflected in blood tests.This syndrome is not an accepted medical diagnosis based on scientific evidence and the symptoms are unsupported by research.

Thyroid Hormones

The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces two key thyroid hormones.  One is L-thyroxine—called T4—the more abundant but less active hormone.  The other is tri-iodothyronine—called T3—the active hormone. Most T3, however, is made outside the thyroid gland as the body converts T4 to T3. This process occurs in muscle, the liver, kidneys, and other organs, accounting for more than 80 percent of T3 production. T3 influences virtually every organ system in the body, coordinating countless biochemical processes that sustain life and keep us well.  Some T4 is also converted into an inactive form of thyroid hormone, called reverse T3 or rT3.

Dr. Wilson’s Theory

During periods of stress or illness, more T4 thyroxine (a thyroid hormone), than normal is converted into the inactive rT3 (reverse T3). According to Dr. Wilson, prolonged stress leads to excess rT3 in the body, which in turn interferes with the normal conversion of T4 thyroxine to biologically active T3 triiodothyronine. As a result, the active form of T3 cannot be made in quantities needed to adequately fuel the cells’ energy needs. This thyroid hormone deficiency—one that is not apparent in blood tests—lowers body temperature, triggering many non-specific symptoms.

Advocates of Wilson’s temperature syndrome suggest this condition can be reversed by taking special time-released preparations of T3 triiodothyronine, called Wilson’s T3 (WT3). Most pharmacies do not sell WT3; it must be obtained from a specialty compounding pharmacy. Several cycles of WT3 treatment reportedly can elevate body temperature to 98.6 degrees F. A modified protocol adjusts the WT3 dose if the pulse is greater than 100, or if patients experiences other adverse symptoms. After several months, the patient is weaned off this therapy and normal production of T3 triiodothyronine resumes. The total amount of T3 recommended by Dr. Wilson is much higher than the amount of T3 needed for normal thyroid function.

Additionally, physicians certified in Dr. Wilson’s WT3 protocols often utilize organic herbs and vitamins marketed as “Restorative Formulations”, which are only available through trained healthcare professionals.

A Critical Assessment of Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome

In summary, Wilson’s syndrome—a supposed thyroid hormone deficiency that is not supported by science, it describes common symptoms that many people experience. Doctors worry that some of these symptoms may be due to serious medical problems that can be treated successfully but require prompt medical attention. Pursuing hormone therapy for Wilson’s Syndrome might distract patients from seeking a proper diagnosis of a treatable medical condition. Inappropriate therapies, unfortunately, may cause serious health consequences.

This resource was developed to help dispel the myths about Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome and provide factual information on its history and relation to medically proven diseases. Unproven treatment can leave you feeling sicker, if you are having symptoms of hypothyroidism (thyroid deficiency) the best source for answers is with a qualified endocrinologist. Find one near you using our directory.

Additional Resources

American Thyroid Association - https://www.thyroid.org/american-thyroid-association-statement-on-wilsons-syndrome/

Mayo Clinic- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/expert-answers/wilsons-syndrome/faq-20058414

Wilson’s Disease (NIH)- https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/wilson-disease

Edited: April 2019