Great Smokies Medical Center of Asheville

Lymphocytes and Your Health

Few people would check their car’s speedometer once a year and think that doing so would protect them from getting a speeding ticket later that year.
Yet, that is exactly what many people do with their health if they rely on the laboratory serum tests routinely performed during annual physical exams to screen for health problems. Just like a speedometer reveals a car’s speed at a particular moment in time, serum testing that is routinely done in physician’s offices measures the biochemical status in a narrow window of time.
Routine serum testing is useful in detecting some acute health problems and to monitor chronic diseases. But, serum testing is not useful in assessing nutrient status, in large part because nutrients aren’t necessarily in the serum. For example, 50 percent of the body’s total magnesium is in bone and 49 percent is inside cells. Only one percent of the body’s total magnesium is in the serum.
Scientific research originating in the 1950s eventually led to the development of more sensitive laboratory assessment of nutritional status using white blood cells (lymphocytes) instead of serum.
Since the average life span of lymphocytes is four to six months, functional testing of nutrients in lymphocytes reveals a person’s nutrient history over a far longer period of time than serum testing can.
An overwhelming amount of scientific evidence documents the ability of deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, and other essential micronutrients to suppress the function of the immune system. Suppression of the immune function has been shown to contribute to chronic diseases such as arthritis, cancer, and heart disease, to name a few. Nutrient deficiencies also contribute to millions of people becoming the "walking wounded," going through life not ever feeling or functioning well.
Causes of nutrient deficiency include poor dietary quality, decreased absorption, and genetic defects. Certain stages of life (such as adolescence, pregnancy, lactation, and aging) and circumstances in life (such as overly strenuous or prolonged exercise, stress, prolonged or extreme dieting, and many illnesses) can create a temporary exaggerated need for specific nutrients.
One need look no further than nature for everyday examples of how people become sick or age. Oxidation is a natural process by which all matter decays. Examples of oxidation in nature are iron turning to rust, a cut apple turning brown, and a newspaper turning yellow with age. Oxidation in the body has been shown to cause cellular damage that results in heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and virtually all chronic illnesses. It has been said that we don’t age, we rust.
Some nutrients function as antioxidants to keep oxidation in check. These nutrients include the vitamins A, C, and E; the minerals zinc and selenium; glutathione, and many others.
SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc., of Houston, specializes in functional assessment of a select group of nutrients and antioxidants in lymphocytes that play vital roles in health and disease.
Virtually everyone could benefit from knowing their glutathione and antioxidant status and taking appropriate steps to correct any deficiencies.
SpectraCell’s Functional Intracellular Analysis (FIA) can be used preventively to tweak and promote good health over a lifetime or to monitor the effects of a particular nutritional regimen.
People who take prescription drugs may find that identifying and correcting their nutrient deficiencies may enable them to decrease or even discontinue their drugs under medical supervision.
People facing an inherited pattern of disease may find that risk can be minimized by correcting nutritional deficiencies. Many inherited health problems need nutritional deficiencies for the risk to manifest, such as elevated homocysteine levels associated with heart disease that is fueled by deficiencies of vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid.
The nutritional recommendations based on lymphocyte testing is very individualized, unlike the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) which are merely intending to avoid a blatant deficiency state and not optimize health.
SpectraCell’s functional nutrient and antioxidant laboratory tests are covered in part by Medicare. In our experience, private insurance generally follows Medicare’s precedent, but we cannot speak for any specific insurance company’s decision as the specifics of their contracts with members vary from policy to policy.
Established GSMC patients who would like to be tested for underlying nutrient deficiencies should make an appointment for a routine non-fasting blood draw by GSMC’s lab staff, and schedule a 30-minute appointment about three weeks later with their GSMC healthcare practitioner to get their test results and recommendations based on their specific deficiencies.

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