Much of what I write is about the expensive, inequitable and unnecessarily complex U.S. health care system. About how corporate interests control both our health care system and our government--regardless of who we vote for--and what we can do about it.
I will continue to do that, but going forward I'll also write about what is going right, especially in the private sector and the nonprofit world. I'll be introducing you to individuals, businesses, health care providers and organizations that are operating outside of government and who are making a positive difference in the lives of Americans.
I'll be starting with individuals and companies I know personally or through research that in one way or another are improving access to care or quality of care--or both. Many of them are also removing costs from the system, making health care ultimately less expensive for Americans--and our government, the biggest payer of health care services--in some way.
I'm kicking this series off with Cell Science Systems, Corp. a Florida-based company that provides laboratory testing to determine a patient's food sensitivities, as well as sensitivities to food additives, other chemicals, supplement ingredients, and even medicinal herbs.
Cell Science Systems is a specialty clinical laboratory that develops and performs laboratory testing in immunology and cell biology with the objective of preventing chronic disease. Once patients learn how they react to certain foods, they can use that information to modify their diets in ways that can prevent or reduce the affects of chronic illnesses.
If they put that knowledge into practice, their quality of life can improve and spending on medical care can go down.
Cell Science System developed what it calls the Alcat Test to measure cellular reactions to more than 450 substances. Doctors send a small sample of a patient's blood to the company's lab overnight for analysis. (The test can also be accessed directly here.) The sample goes through a multi-step process in which the patient's white blood cells are tested against foods and other substances in a process known as "flow cytometry" using the impedance method of particle counting and sizing. This enables live cell monitoring of the response to each individual test substance.
After the testing has been completed, the company sends the patient a set of color-coded charts showing which foods and substances were determined to be producing mild, moderate or severe intolerances for that patient. A phone consultation with a trained counselor is also included in the price of the test.
Roger Deutsch, CEO of Cell Science Systems, says the Alcat Test can help uncover foods and substances that can trigger chronic inflammation and related health issues such as gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders.
It also has the potential to make more than a little dent in the amount of money Americans spend to try to get and stay well. In a recent interview in Leaders Magazine, Deutsch said the company's aim is not just to help people live healthier lives "but also to improve health care and reduce its costs."
Deutsch notes that recent scientific discoveries have revealed deeper levels of understanding of how food interacts with our immune system and affects metabolism in ways that can be either beneficial or detrimental.
He says the most accurate way to identify how one responds to foods and substances is not to look for one single chemical in the blood or one single antibody or factor, but to try to replicate as closely as possible in the laboratory how the whole immune system responds under natural exposure.
"Generally, most foods are safe for most people, but in modern times we are exposed to foods that are not indigenous to our culture or to our current climate," said Deutsch. "They may naturally contain substances, or have had substances added to them, that will activate the innate immune system and trigger a state of chronic inflammation."
Deutsch points to medical studies showing that patients who have used the Alcat Test and made changes to their diets have shown significant improvement of many common symptoms, ranging from fatigue to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to eczema.
One of the most recent studies, conducted earlier this year by researchers at Yale University, concluded that "dietary changes based on Alcat results may positively influence inflammation response, body composition, and self-reported symptoms of food intolerance."
The Yale study found that IBS patients who followed diets based on Alcat test results experienced a reduction in symptoms and also a lower body mass index (BMI).
Intrigued, I decided to see what foods and substances I might be sensitive to. My results showed that I have a severe intolerance to artichokes, chamomile and cumin and a moderate intolerance to a number of other foods, including cucumbers, grapes and plums. I also had a mild intolerance to gluten.
The charts I received from Cell Science Systems also included a listing of a wide range of foods that I had no sensitivity to. For the following six months I avoided the foods listed in the moderate and severe intolerance categories and cut back on foods containing gluten.
At the end of the six months, I had lost 10 pounds and felt better overall, including feeling less fatigued during the afternoon and evening. I no longer feel like I can't possibly go on without a nap at 2 p.m.
Cell Science Systems says patients can gradually (after about 6 months) begin reintroducing foods they've avoided based on test results. Because of the constant replacement of our cells, the improvement in detox capacity and possible healing of the gut function itself that comes from following the test results, there's a good chance we will no longer have the same sensitivity to certain foods after six months.
"It has been known for ages that food can be either the best medicine or a strong poison," said Deutsch. "The ancient Greeks like Hippocrates and Lucretius noted this in their writings: 'Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food," and "One man's meat is another man's poison."
There's a good chance that something you're eating--even something that is generally considered healthy--could be making you sick or at least keeping you from feeling your best. The Alcat Test might help you find out.