Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome (WTS) consists of hypothyroid symptoms and low body temperature. WTS is consistent with inadequate thyroid stimulation of the cells even though the supply of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland or thyroid medicine is normal (TSH thyroid blood test is normal). It is typically brought on by stress and is often reversible.
What are the symptoms of WTS?
People with WTS often struggle with symptoms of fatigue, depression, fluid retention, easy weight gain, headaches, dry skin, dry hair, PMS, irritability, low libido, insomnia, anxiety and many others. Their symptoms often come on or worsen under conditions of severe physical, mental, or emotional stress. Since the symptoms are classic for slow metabolism, their doctors sometimes order thyroid blood tests. When the tests come back normal their doctors might tell them that their thyroid is fine
What causes WTS?
Under conditions of severe stress, (like childbirth, divorce, or the death of a loved one) the metabolism can slow down, and the body temperature drops as a coping mechanism. After the stress has passed, the metabolism and body temperature are supposed to come back up to normal. However, sometimes they do not and the body can get stuck in “conservation mode” and the debilitating symptoms can persist indefinitely and often worsen under subsequent stressors.
The thyroid system is responsible for maintaining normal body temperature (normal metabolic rate). The whole purpose of the active thyroid hormone (T3) is to go into the nucleus of every cell of the body (except the few cells that don’t have DNA) and stimulate the rate at which DNA, the code of life, is transcribed. Literally, T3 determines how fast we live (our metabolic rate/body temperature).
Under conditions of stress, the cells of the body convert less T4 (the less active hormone supplied by the thyroid gland) into the active thyroid hormone, T3. Consequently, the metabolism slows and the body temperature drops and the symptoms appear.
How does WTS differ from Hypothyroidism?
There are many steps that lead from T4 being supplied by the thyroid gland (or thyroid medicine) and T3 having its effect in the nucleus of the cell. T4 is supplied by the thyroid gland, travels through the bloodstream, is transported into the cells, and is converted into T3. T3 is then transported into the nucleus and does its job. This is like a garden path with several gates along the way. Just because the first gate is unlocked does not mean you will have no problem making it through the others.
Hypothyroidism is like the first gate on the path is being locked. In hypothyroidism, not enough T4 is being supplied by the thyroid gland or thyroid medicine (TSH test is high). Consequently, there is no way for there to be adequate T3 stimulation in the nucleus. In Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome there is an adequate supply of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland or medicine (THS test is normal) but there is some other locked gate along the path that is preventing adequate T3 stimulation in the nucleus. The result is the same in both cases: same slow metabolism, same low body temperature, same symptoms.
WTS is roughly 10 times more common than hypothyroidism, even though most doctors were never taught about it in medical school. WTS is treated differently than hypothyroidism. Whereas hypothyroidism is often a life-long disorder, WTS is often completely reversible within a matter of months.
Who’s at risk for WTS?
Like many other thyroid system conditions, WTS affects 4 times as many women than men. It seems to be more common in patients whose ancestors survived famine (Irish, American Indian, Scot, Welsh, Russian; people that are part Irish and part American Indian seem especially susceptible).
How is WTS treated?
Sometimes people can recover on their own with healthy lifestyle changes such as good nutrition, diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. Indeed, any measure that improves health in general, may help the body recover from WTS. In 1988, Dr. Denis Wilson developed a special T3 therapy protocol to restore the body temperature to normal and eliminate the symptoms. We utilize this protocol in conjunction with diet and lifestyle modification with our patients when indicated.