Sluggishness, 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.
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 an accepted medical diagnosis based on scientific evidence and the symptoms are unsupported by research.
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.
It’s true that rT3 (reverse T3) accumulates in the body when people are ill. However, rT3 levels return to normal after people recover from their illness.
Even during illness, there is 40 times more T4 circulating in the body than rT3—more than enough to produce adequate amounts of active T3.
Advocates of Wilson’s temperature syndrome suggest that a body temperature below 98.6 degrees F., along with various common symptoms, may indicate Wilson’s temperature syndrome. Research has shown, however, that 98.6 reflects only an average body temperature. Normal body temperature varies among individuals, and fluctuates throughout the day in any given individual, so a temperature below 98.6 is not necessarily abnormal.
No randomized trials or scientific research exist comparing WT3 treatment regimen to placebo, (something that seems to be a “real” medical treatment but is not). The Wilson’s temperature syndrome website cites a publication written by Dr. Wilson (J Restorative Medicine, 2012) with warning indicating that it is only an opinion article.A similar study was published by Michael Friedman, president of Restorative Formulations (Puerto Rico Health Science Journal, 2006). This Both papers describe improvement in 11 patients with chronic fatigue who were given higher than normal doses of sustained-release T3. The investigation did not compare these patients to untreated or placebo-treated patients.. Research has shown that 40 percent of individuals with symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) report symptom relief even when given a placebo. This is significant because the absence of a placebo-treated group in these studies the 2006 study do not allow a comparison of which effects might be due to WT3 and which might simply be the “placebo effect.”
Liothyronine (T3) a manufactured form of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however these preparations have a short duration of action and, drug companies have been unable to formulate an FDA-approved sustained-release T3 product. Nonetheless, some endocrinologists combine levothyroxine (T4) and T3 when treating hypothyroid patients who have potential hypothyroid symptoms on T4 alone. Whether this is effective is controversial, but the European Thyroid Association has published a statement supporting individual trials of combined T4/T3 therapy in selected symptomatic hypothyroid patients. Unlike patients treated by Dr. Wilson who may have normal thyroid blood tests, candidates for combined T4/T3 all have a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, and T3 is given in doses that attempt to mimic normal physiology, and therefore avoid the serious side effects that can occur with excess T3 administration.
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.
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