What should I avoid eating if I have Wilson disease?

When you start treatment for Wilson disease, your doctor may recommend avoiding foods that are high in copper, such as

  • chocolate
  • liver
  • mushrooms
  • nuts
  • shellfish

After treatments have lowered your copper levels and you begin maintenance treatment, talk with your doctor about whether you can safely eat moderate amounts of these foods.

If your tap water comes from a well or runs through copper pipes, have the copper levels in your water checked. Water sitting in copper pipes may pick up copper. Run the water to flush the pipes before you drink the water or use it for cooking. You may need to use a water filter to remove copper from your tap water.

For safety reasons, talk with your doctor before using dietary supplements , such as vitamins, or any complementary or alternative medicines or medical practices. Some dietary supplements may contain copper.

What are clinical trials for Wilson disease?

Clinical trials—and other types of clinical studies —are part of medical research and involve people like you. When you volunteer to take part in a clinical study, you help doctors and researchers learn more about disease and improve health care for people in the future.

Researchers are conducting clinical studies to better understand liver diseases, such as Wilson disease. To learn more about National Institutes of Health-sponsored clinical trials, click here.

What clinical studies for Wilson disease are looking for participants?

You can view a filtered list of clinical studies on Wilson disease that are federally funded, open, and recruiting at www.ClinicalTrials.gov. You can expand or narrow the list to include clinical studies from industry, universities, and individuals; however, the NIH does not review these studies and cannot ensure they are safe. Always talk with your health care provider before you participate in a clinical study.

How is NIDDK- and NIH-funded research advancing the understanding of Wilson disease?

The NIDDK and other components of the NIH support basic research to increase our understanding of Wilson disease and lay the foundation for future advances in diagnosis and treatment. Research topics include

  • understanding how copper is absorbed from the intestines, handled by tissues including brain and liver tissues, and then removed from the body
  • understanding how the gene mutations in Wilson disease lead to copper not being properly removed and building up in the brain, liver, red blood cells, and kidneys
  • developing better tests that doctors could use to check for Wilson disease in all infants at birth
  • developing better treatments for Wilson disease and better ways to check copper levels in the blood and liver
  • developing gene therapy for Wilson disease that might keep copper in the body at safe levels without the need for a special diet or lifelong treatment with chelating agents

Source: National Institutes of Health; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/01/2018.

References

  • Bandmann O, Weiss KH, Kaler SG. Wilson’s disease and other neurological copper disorders. Lancet Neurology. 2015;14(1):103–113.
  • Coffey AJ, Durkie M, Hague S, et al. A genetic study of Wilson’s disease in the United Kingdom. Brain.2013;136:1476–1487.
  • Kanwar P, Kowdley KV. Metal storage disorders: Wilson disease and hemochromatosis. Medical Clinics of North America. 2014;98(1):87–102.
  • Kim JW, Kim JH, Seo JK, et al. Genetically confirmed Wilson disease in a 9-month old boy with elevations of aminotransferases. World Journal of Hepatology. 2013;5(3):156–159.
  • Schilsky ML. Liver transplantation for Wilson’s disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.2014:1315;45–49.
  • Schilsky ML. Wilson disease: diagnostic tests. UpToDate. Available at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/wilson-disease-diagnostic-tests . Updated December 1, 2015. Accessed May 14, 2018.
  • National Institutes of Health; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/

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