This syndrome, yet again, stems from a malfunctioning thyroid gland, but it is different than hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's even though patients with Wilson's manifest many of the typical low thyroid symptoms. Patients with Wilson's Temperature Syndrome have low body temperatures, sometimes significantly lower than the normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (96 or low 97 degrees). The cause of this low body temperature is the body's inability to convert T4, which is produced directly by the thyroid gland, into T3, the usable form of the thyroid hormone. Thus, the thyroid gland is producing plenty and sometimes even too much T4, but the body is unable to use it.
These are the basics of Wilson's, but from here on, it gets more complicated and I'll do my best to explain. Unlike hypothyroidism where the thyroid is either genetically low or has been damaged, this syndrome can develop in anyone at any time of their life without longterm damage to the thyroid. People often develop Wilson's after a prolonged virus or other major stress to the immune system. Stresses to the immune system cause the body to go into overdrive, producing more of all the hormones including thyroid. In normal people (ha! normal) or rather, in people with optimally functioning endocrine systems, the body fights off the virus or deals with the stress and afterward, the hormone levels return to normal without any longterm problems. But in those with less than optimally functioning endocrinology, especially adrenal glands, the body can forget to turn down the hormone production after it has been stressed. These people's thyroid glands keep producing T4 and adrenal hormone as well as other hormones that help to convert T4 to T3, T2, and T2, and there is way too much of everything, especially T3. The brain recognizes that there is far too much T3 and it responds by stimulating the endocrine glands to make what's called reverse T3. This hormone looks to the body like usable T3 and it bonds to the receptor cites on the cells that T3 would normally occupy, but the problem is that reverse T3 is inactive, thus causing the body to develop the first stage of Wilson's syndrome, inadequate T3 in the cells. After a little while, the brain recognizes that the cells do not have enough usable T3, and it tries to fix the problem by pumping up the thyroid gland to produce more T4 which should be converted into T3 and begin replacing the reverse T3 in the cells. But by this point, the body is in a downward spiral because low thyroid and low body temperature decrease the production of the converting hormones like cortisone and the body can no longer effectively convert T4 into T3. Thus, the second stage of Wilson's develops because the cell cites remain blocked by reverse T3.
The symptoms of Wilson's manifest themselves at this point (low body temperature, slow metabolism, weight gain, depression, etc) and if not corrected, they will cause increased stress on the body and continue becoming worse. The most obvious symptom of Wilson's is allergies due to low body temp. Allergies begin to manifest themselves once the body has dropped to 98 degrees and they become steadily worse as the temp drops lower. The best way to discover a consistent low body temp is the same way women check to see if they are ovulating: take your body temp every morning as soon as you wake up, even before you get out of bed. This is called the basal body temperature test. Record the temp each morning, and in a week or two you should notice what your average body temp is, and if it's lower than 98 on a regular basis, you probably should start investigating Wilson's or one of the other thyroid diseases.
The best cure for this syndrome is to take T3 by itself which will raise the body temperature and stimulate the converting hormones to convert T4 to T3. The best thing about Wilson's is that is doesn't last forever, and usually synthetic T3 can be decreased and eventually stopped entirely. Important note: Most doctors will prescribe cytomel which is synthetic T3, but most patients with Wilson's respond much much better to a time release T3 that is only available at certain "alternative" pharmacies around the country (One is Bellmar Pharmacy in Denver, CO). This medication must be taken every 12 hours and is released slowly into the endocrine system, preventing the body from manufacturing more reverse T3 and starting the vicious cycle over again.
In addition to time release, most patients with Wilson's respond well to herbal treatment. I take Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Eleuthero, Fo-Ti (or Ho-Shou-Wu), Wild Yam, and Devil's Claw twice a day and have noticed a difference. Also, I would recommend a good multi-vitamin and fish oil and flax oil (the omega-3's) for everyone with endocrine problems of any kind.
As you may or may not remember, I mentioned (twice I think) the adrenal hormones as significant players in the Wilson's syndrome cycle. I'll explain more about adrenal hormones in a later post once I find the book I want to quote, but for this post, people with Wilson's should note that cortisone and the other adrenal hormones contribute to the conversion from T4 to T3. Thus, Wilson's sufferers should also follow the treatment protocol for those with adrenal problems, the protocol that I promise I will explain next post.
Another important note: I mentioned earlier that the basal body temperature test can be a good indicator of Wilson's disease. It can also indicate any number of other related problems such as low adrenal or hypothyroidism. This is why doctors don't rely on temperature tests alone. It's still important to get a blood test, and if you suspect Wilson's, ask your doctor to test your reverse T3 or your usable T3 specifically. If the doctor simply tests your T4, T3, and TSH (the three typical blood tests in a normal thyroid test), your levels will come out normal even if your T3 is completely unusable and you have Wilson's.
Here's an interesting website that I found that might be helpful: