Many more people suffer from allergies these days than ever before. This may be caused by external sources such as pollen, animals or environmental chemicals. But it might surprise that certain foods also contain substances that can contribute to allergic reactions by increasing our histamine load.
Our body requires histamine and it is normal to have small amounts of it in our body; it allows our body to function normally through dilating the capillary bed and allowing our nonspecific immune system to access hard to reach areas.
When found in excess amounts, histamine can contribute to many allergy type symptoms including:
– runny nose and watery eyes
– headaches and dizziness
– rashes and skin redness including itching and hives
– nausea and reflux
– disturbance of regular sleep patterns.
Many of us are familiar with the term ‘antihistamine’, that is, a type of medication found on the labels of numerous over-the-counter medications. These types of medications may be necessary in some cases but, largely, making simple dietary changes can help to reduce symptoms.
Here are some suggested foods to avoid to aid in reducing excess histamine in your system. They may not necessarily need to be taken out of the diet permanently but only as a short-term adjustment to allow your body to rebalance.
Aged and fermented foods:
Cheese, yoghurt, alcohol (all types including beer, wine and spirits), pickled vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles etc), bread, products showing ‘yeast’ or ‘yeast extract’ on the label, vegemite, soy sauce, aged meats (salami, tinned meats – as a general rule the older the meat the more histamine content).
Sour tasting foods:
Vinegar (all types), citrus fruit and tomato-based products (including tomato paste, sauce and the raw forms), some nightshade vegetables (eggplant, potato, capsicum).
Chilli, hot curry.
Additionally, heat is a histamine trigger as it can cause mast cells (which contain histamine) to release their contents in the skin and cause itching. Avoid exposure to extremes of heat (hot showers, sitting next to external heat sources).
When making dietary changes, it is always recommended you consult your practitioner to ensure your nutritional needs are being met. We can work with you to develop an appropriate meal plan to support your work in addressing specific health issues.
We also run programs which address balanced eating in conjunction with overall health and wellbeing. The latest of these is our 4-week RESET Program, developed and delivered by naturopath Phil Chua. See the full details here.
For more information, contact us to arrange a consult with one of our qualified and experienced naturopaths here.
Christmas can mean many things to people but for myself and my family it’s all about the food. Both of my grandmothers used to lovingly make their puddings the old-fashioned way – from scratch – and when they passed away our tradition was gone. Sadly, my mum missed out on the cooking gene (she admits this herself!) and was never interested in making the pudding. Enter the pre-made supermarket puddings (urgh). Once I commenced my health journey and went gluten free and dairy free, I didn’t have to eat the chemical-laden puddings and, with no good alternative, just learned to live without it. (Devastating, I know.)
But then, a few years ago, I came across this seriously amazing recipe and thought I’d give it a go. With some minor tweaks, it has become a Christmas staple. I even have a couple of family members who send me money to make them a special batch for taking to their in-laws (or in the case of my sister, to keep in the freezer so she has a personal stash of pudding well beyond Christmas!). And the best part? You can make it 100% gluten free and dairy free by switching the butter for coconut oil. I’ve also made it using different types of flour (i.e. coconut flour) and duck eggs instead of chicken eggs and it’s still fabulous. It may even be possible to replace the eggs with mashed banana or egg replacer, although I haven’t tried doing this. If you give it a go, please let me know how it turns out. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with this delicious pudding, unless you were my mother, of course. (Sorry Mum! Love you.)
Here’s the recipe.
375g raisins, roughly chopped
200g dried apricots, roughly chopped
150g pitted prunes, roughly chopped
¾ cup brandy
¼ cup green ginger wine
½ cup dark berry jam of your choice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon mixed spice
4 eggs, at room temperature (or 3 duck eggs)
250g butter, melted, cooled (or swap for coconut oil)
4 tablespoons of light olive oil
½ cup coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice)
1 ½ cups banana flour (or 1 cup of coconut flour)
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
Add to a large mixing bowl the dried fruit, brandy, wine, jam and spices. Mix well, cover and stand overnight, stirring occasionally. (Pro tip: I usually leave it for 2-3 days so the fruit gets good and drunk).
Whisk eggs and butter together. Add to fruit mixture with sugar, flour, oil and bicarbonate of soda. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
For a traditional steamed pudding:
Grease a 10-cup capacity pudding basin with melted butter. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Brush with butter again. Line base of bowl with baking paper.
Spoon mix into prepared basin.
Cut 1 large sheet of foil and 1 large sheet of baking paper. Lay paper over foil. Make a 3 cm pleat in the middle. Place, paper-side down, over pudding. Secure with string or use pudding lid to lock down.
Place an upturned saucer into the base of a large, deep saucepan. Place basin onto saucer. Pour hot water into saucepan so it comes one-third of the way up the side of the basin. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Keep checking water level as the water can evaporate and may need to be topped up. Simmer for 5 hours or take off lid and check with a skewer (this is risky as it is very hot!).
Remove pudding from water. Stand for 30 minutes. Turn onto a platter. Serve as desired. Alternatively, cool completely then store.
(Recipe courtesy of Natural Evolution Foods)
If you want to do what I do and have individual puddings:
Grease cupcake pans (or use silicone moulds) and add pudding mix. Don’t fill them quite to the top as they will expand a bit.
Bake in a 180° oven for 35-40 minutes OR steam them in a water bath in the oven OR steam them in your Varoma dish in your Thermomix. (This is what I do.)
Individual puddings can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until Christmas Day. Warm them in a gentle oven or re-steam them in the Varoma and serve with custard, cream or ice cream (dairy or non-dairy options).
Any way you make this it is absolutely delicious, and your entire family will love it. I don’t even tell my family it’s gluten free (because they would turn their nose up at it!) and they think it’s the bee’s knees.
Enjoy and have a very merry Christmas!
Denise Berry BHSc
To learn how you can eat healthy, feel well and take care of your body for the long term, book an appointment with one of our naturopaths; they would love to help you!
The food we eat for breakfast and how we eat it can have a significant effect on how we feel for the rest of the day.
For our grandparents, a cooked breakfast was the norm, but this trend has changed over the last couple of generations with many of us now opting towards a more ‘grab and go’ type breakfast focused on convenience. This switch has been driven by a couple of factors.
Daily food routines
We tend to slow down and have larger meals when we have the time to cook and enjoy them. For most households, this is after our regular workday has finished and has led to dinner being the largest meal of the day.
When we get into any health pattern we must stop and consider if it serves our health. Having our largest meal towards the end of the day affects other areas of our health. We suffer with the amount of energy we have during the day (which is lower as there is less fuel available for us), our sleep quality is not as good as it could be (as our digestion is working when it would ideally be resting) and we have a tendency towards weight gain.
Did you know that it is not written anywhere that you must have cereal or toast for breakfast? Some of the cereals on the market might even be the worst thing you could have!
Dual income households
Our grandparents are largely the last generation to commonly have one person stay at home. Now it is much more commonplace for both people in a relationship to be working, meaning our priorities have shifted. Many of us are often in a rush to get out the door in the morning, not realising the importance of fuelling our body for the day.
When we eat a great breakfast, our blood sugar levels are more balanced throughout the rest of the day. This means we are better able to be emotionally balanced and make better food choices.
Here are three simple things to look for when it comes to breakfast:
minimal refined foods (keep sugars to a minimum and consume less packaged foods where possible)
add some protein (this can be from eggs, nuts and seeds or even animal sources)
sneak in some vegetables (With nearly 70 per cent of the population not even getting to five veg and two fruit daily, getting some plant matter in early is a great way to start the day with a win on the board.).
Ensuring we have enough of the right food in the morning and eating slowly to assist our digestion will give us the best start to our day.
Feel better and live healthier, starting with a good, wholesome breakfast.
…because it’s the only outfit we will wear for the rest of our life.
Did you know that true skin health starts deep inside? In fact, the condition of our skin, along with our hair and nails, gives a good indication of our internal health.
As with most health conditions, skin conditions start in the gut. How our gut processes food, assimilates nutrients and expels wastes has a direct impact on the health of our entire body, including our skin.
Our skin is our largest organ! That’s right. It’s not just a flesh bag to carry our muscles and bones in, it is an organ and has a functional role in our health and wellbeing.
Let’s have a look at the structure of our skin.
The skin is comprised of three main layers. The outer most layer is called the epidermis; this is the part of the skin we see and touch. This layer varies in thickness, depending upon the body surface it covers. For example, the skin on the soles of our feet is thicker and courser than the skin on our face. The cells that make up this layer are called keratinocytes.They layer together, like a brick wall, producing a physical barrier to protect our body from external pathogens. This outer most layer also contains melanocytes to give the skin its pigment [colour] and protect it from the sun by producing melanin. Langerhans cells [immune cells] are also a part of our skin. They provide both a physical and chemical barrier to protect our body.
The next layer down is the dermis. It is 20–30 times thicker than the epidermis and is structurally made up of collagen—a denser, more fibrous substance—and elastin which gives the skin its stretchiness. The dermis layer is what gives our skin structure, integrity and elasticity and houses hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous [oil] glands. These structures provide sweat and oil to the skin surface, creating a barrier to pathogens.
The bottom layer is known as the hypodermis. It is made up of a specialised layer of adipose [fat] and fibrous tissue. It cushions and insulates the body and stores excess energy in the form of fat.
It takes about 28 days for the skin cells to move from the base layer up to the surface layer. Once they reach the outer most layer, the bonds between the cells break apart and the skin sloughs off. Any changes made internally for skin health can take up to a month to be apparent. Routine is key here. Stick with it, be consistent and the changes will surface.
Now we know a bit about the structure of our skin, let’s have a look at how it functions.
The main function of the skin is to act as a barrier between our internal and external environments. It acts as both a physical and a chemical barrier to prevent microbes, chemicals, allergens, toxins and carcinogens from entering our body. This function is supported by the immune cells located in our skin tissue.
Our skin does this by dilating or constricting the blood vessels near the surface of the skin and this controls the transfer of heat out of our body. As previously mentioned, the fatty layer of the skin provides insulation against the cold. Our other temperature control mechanism is through evaporative cooling via our sweat.
Ultraviolet (UV) protection
This occurs through the production of melanin, produced by the melanocytes. Melanin is a dark pigment that gives skin the multitude of colours we see. The darker the skin tone, the more melanin present. Upon exposure to UV light, the melanocytes upregulate their melanin production. This melanin travels up to the keratinocytes where it absorbs the UV light, protecting the basal layers underneath from UV damage.
Vitamin D production
This is a fat-soluble nutrient essential for our health and wellbeing. Vitamin D is a little different to others in that it doesn’t come from our diet but rather from exposure to sunlight. We make a cholesterol-based substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol in the sebaceous glands of the skin (these same glands produce sebum and can become infected in acne). Exposure to sunlight, specifically to UVB rays, converts this substance into vitamin D over a 2–3 day period.
The skin has a large nerve supply which gives us the sensation of touch. The skin is a direct interface with our external environment and is constantly feeding back sensory information to our brain.
When the integrity of the skin is compromised, through injury or a wound, it has a cascade of events to help the wound close and heal as quickly as possible to protect the organism—you.
Ok, so what does all of this have to do with our gut you might be wondering…
Both our gut and skin are highly innervated and have an extensive vascular supply [nerves and blood are what we are talking about here]. The skin and digestive systems are where the outside meets the inside and provide a physical and immune barrier to prevent our internal structures from exposure to pathogens. You might be aware of the gut microbiome—a population of microbes inhabiting the digestive tract, essential to homeostasis. Well, our skin has its own microbiome.
Research has established a bio-directional communication between the gut and the skin known as the ‘skin–gut axis’. So, we could think of our digestive tract as the internal skin system. In fact, it is lined with cells that are similar in structure to that of our external skin cells and is host to a multi-functional population of microbes. As such, these two organ systems are essential to the structure, function and health of the organism—again, you!
As naturopaths, we commonly see clients with skin issues who also have some level of gut dysfunction, and we wouldn’t treat one without the other. Acne, dermatitis and psoriasis are three common conditions that are very much related to the gut and manifest in the skin.
Now you know a bit about the structure and function of our skin, what can we do to help ensure healthy skin through all phases of our life?
One of the biggest influences we can have on the health of our skin [and our gut] is our diet. Just like everything else in the body, our skin needs nutrients to do all the amazing things it does. Eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods helps to feed and nourish the microbes in the gut and on the skin. Because the lining of the gut and the skin are made up of living cells, they need nutrients to carry out their many functions. Having a healthy, optimal-functioning gut that can digest, absorb, synthesise and assimilate nutrients is paramount to healthy, nourished, glowing skin.
Here are the top skin-loving nutrients.
Yep, our cells, including skin cells, are made of fat. To make sure they are nice and plump and juicy, ensure you have regular intake of good quality fats. Oily fish containing essential fatty acids or cold-pressed organic olive oil are loved by our entire body, including the skin.
Fat soluble nutrients
Protects the skin from UV damage and slows ageing of the skin. It also promotes healthy skin cell production, keeping the skin barrier intact, which means nice, firm, healthy skin. Through this action of enhancing skin integrity and barrier, it also prevents against infection. When the skin surface is damaged in some way (even through dryness), it makes it easier for an infection to enter.
It comes from the sun and is synthesised by our skin cells. Vitamin D ensures the healthy turnover of skin cells, promotes wound healing and maintains the barrier of the skin. It is also an essential nutrient for the immune system and fighting infections.
This provides protection from the sun, preventing sun damage to the skin, and also anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. Being a fat-soluble nutrient, it helps to keep skin cells plump and juicy.
Protein and collagen
The protein we eat is broken down into amino acids, the building blocks of our body. The body uses the amino acids to make other proteins – collagen and keratin – which form the structure of the skin.
Working hand in hand with collagen, Vitamin C allows the protein matrix to hold its shape and is also helpful for the immune system and fighting off infections.
Water makes everything in our body work better and the skin is no exception. Our skin loves pure filtered water. Water aids in digestion, circulation, absorption of nutrients and even the excretion of wastes. While our cells might be made of fat on the outside, they have water on the inside which helps them to keep their structure and carry out all the functions they need to.
To sum it all up, our skin is a living organ in the body, made up of various types of cells with specialised functions. Both our skin and our gut have an ecosystem of microbes that have many beneficial functions in maintaining health. These microbes communicate with each other. Eating a nourishing wholefood diet helps to support the health and function of both our skin and digestive tract.
A note on skincare
Be informed about what you put on your skin. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, or you wouldn’t eat them, it’s probably safe to say you don’t want them on your skin either! There are heaps of luscious natural skincare products on the market or why not make your own?
If your skin needs some extra love and support or if you have acne, psoriasis or dermatitis, the issue isn’t skin deep. It is gut mediated and we need to support your gut health to support your skin. Book a consult with a naturopath to assess what is going on and the best way to support you and your skin.
Written by Amanda Lorch (BHSc) Naturopath & Kinesiologist
We live in a world where everything is so available, commonly at the click of a button, with a tap of your card or by a quick Google search. Instant gratification is here; it’s so 2019 and I am not sure it is going anywhere any time soon.
Technological advances are great and often needed. But how are they really affecting us?
I am a naturopath who works one on one with clients. I hear from people all the time that they want their health to be better. What I also hear is that they want it to happen quickly, often asking for a pill for their ill, wanting the easiest path possible.
And this is where instant gratification is becoming a problem.
Often a disease or set of symptoms has come about over several months or sometimes even years. I see clients who have had constipation for ten years, an autoimmune condition for 5 years or eczema on and off since birth.
I’m not sure we are all really willing to put the work in, change habits and change our way of living to get healthy. Well, not with our currently mindsets we aren’t anyway.
Health resolution takes time. Even if you do take a pill or natural supplement that reduces your symptoms and makes you feel like it has been resolved, in reality, when you stop taking that pill, your problem will come back. And perhaps worse and with more symptoms or another disease along with it due to the common side effects.
It’s time to get real.
Now is the time to give yourself the TIME you need to heal, TIME to create good habits, TIME to change your life.
So, let’s talk about what it takes to change your health. I believe so strongly in the four pillars of health – good diet, good sleep, low stress, movement for your body. I believe you need to create good habits in ALL four pillars to create better health.
So, how do we create good habits?
You start. You start somewhere. Often, I help clients identify the pillar of health that needs the most work to start with. Having a healthy life is about developing good habits. So, what is a habit?
A habit is a series of three things:
1) a cue
2) an action
3) a reward
A cue is a trigger for you. It triggers your brain that it’s time to start the action. Then you will take an action based on that cue (eventually totally unconsciously, by the way) and, when you take action, there will be some type of reward.
Let’s look at something as simple as drinking water. If you have a glass on the bench full of water and a full water bottle on you at all times, this becomes your cue. You are more likely to take action when you have that visual cue and, when you do, you no longer have headaches, sore muscles and a foggy mind—the reward.
Did you know it can take up to 30 days to turn a habit into a conscious thing you do?I admit it can be difficult to make change; often our bad choices are easier than the good ones. However, once you do create new habits, they will become natural to you. You just have to put in some effort to get to that point.
Whatever you are trying to achieve at the moment, there are so many ways you can really take ownership of that one thing. You can do it one day at a time and establish the consistency you need.
One more thing before I leave you to change some habits.
Let go of all the expectations, the labels, the diagnosis. It is time to get real. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what DNA you have, what you have been diagnosed with. What matters is what you are willing to REALLY do to make a change.
It will not happen overnight, it will not happen by taking a pill every day.
It will happen if you are willing to create healthy habits and put in the TIME it’s going to take to really HEAL you.
Behavioural problems, fussy eaters, allergies and intolerances, problems socialising or adapting to new situations and poor concentration and memory at school are all very common problems parents are faced with. But what can you do about it?
Commencing development from the moment we enter the world, our belief system is the very foundation by which we make our decisions and it governs our behaviour. It is pretty much set by the time we are five years old, with most of our beliefs ingrained by the age of three. Were you capable of logical, rational thought processes by the age of three? I know I certainly wasn’t.
So, if this system isn’t based on rational thought and logical deduction, how does it form? It forms based on your experiences of the world and how you perceive what is happening to you or around you.
A child born into a wealthy family in Melbourne with loving parents and siblings is going to have a very different belief system to that of a child born at the same time in a favela in Brazil and left abandoned. It’s not that one is better or worse, it is just the different experiences in early life that create our belief system.
This system keeps expanding as we grow and have new experiences, though most of our future decisions and experience are run through our already established belief system to evaluate an outcome. Basically, we are making decisions based on beliefs that we didn’t consciously choose for ourselves, and we may not even be aware of those beliefs and why we choose to behave the way we do.
This acts as kind of a filter for us. We get bombarded with over two million bits of information or input every second. If all of that information were to get in, our brains would probably explode! So, our clever little brains created a filter system through which we run all of our experiences of the world (all those bits of information every second) and it grabs out 134 bits of information per second (that’s all we can really take in). Based on the belief system we have set up and all the filters in place, we form an opinion. This opinion then governs our behaviour and what we do with that information. The problem is that no one really stops to think about why we do what we do, we just do it.
As children, it is even more overwhelming being bombarded with all of this information and not having the maturity or fully developed critical thinking and reasoning to deal with it. This usually manifests as bad behaviour outbursts, overly sensitive and emotional children, disturbed sleep and problems adjusting. It is this emotional overload that can trigger fussy eating and food intolerances, which further exacerbates the poor behaviour.
Parents become stressed and emotional themselves trying to comprehend what is ‘wrong’ with their child and why they are behaving so badly, why they aren’t sleeping and why they get upset when placed in new situations. The parents’ stress and emotions then come into play for the child and they become even more overwhelmed.
Kinesiology can help. A stress management tool, kinesiology helps to identify stress (both conscious and unconscious) in the body, mind and emotions, and helps to release that stress and bring clarity and calm. Kinesiology helps parents and children understand their emotions and provides tools to help express them in constructive ways, rather than suppressing them or becoming overwhelmed by them.
Children respond very well to kinesiology, which is a non-invasive, gentle modality. They find it very relaxing and feel better able to deal with the information they are processing in everyday life.
Naturopathy is also beneficial in these situations to make sure the child has all the essential vitamins and minerals required for brain function and neurotransmitter synthesis.
The two modalities combined create a beautiful integration of body, mind and spirit—the perfect tools to reduce anxiety and depression, improve energy and mood and find a sense of comfort, ease and wellbeing in their own skin.
It is always beneficial for parents to have kinesiology sessions in conjunction with their child’s treatments to help manage their own stress in the situation and better understand their own belief system and why they behave as they do.
Did you know that using the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) could cause nutritional deficiencies? This is relevant as it can contribute to, or cause/worsen, many health issues that naturopaths often see in their patients.
Signs of nutritional deficiencies include:
acne, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin
depression and anxiety
muscle cramps, eye twitching, muscle aches and pains
poor nail health – brittle nails which break easily
hair thinning or hair loss
poor immune health and recurrent infections
fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and weakness
numbness and tingling or burning sensations
irritability and loss of memory or concentration
cracks or sores in corner of mouth
stomach/intestinal inflammation – nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
What evidence is there to support this?
There is a range of evidence which suggests the use of the oral contraceptive pill can cause nutritional depletion in the female body. Some of the major vitamins and minerals that are affected by the use of the pill include B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12, vitamin C, selenium and zinc (1, 2). Additionally, evidence exists which suggests the OCP can increase serum vitamin A and copper levels. As such, patient monitoring is advised (3, 2).
One of the most recent forms of evidence comes from a case-control study on the B12 and folate status of 71 healthy females using ‘low dose’ OCP for greater than or equal to three months and 170 controls. It was found that OCP-users showed significantly lower concentrations of cobalamin than the controls (4). This study concluded that vitamin supplementation or different contraceptive methods should be considered in women with pre-existing cobalamin deficiency or restrictive dietary habits (4). Furthermore, another recent review stated that the OCP has been shown to impair folate metabolism and create some folate deficiency but is unlikely to cause anaemia in patients who have a good dietary intake and are absorbing folate efficiently (5). The main concern is when patients are not consuming adequate amounts of nutrients, or have gastrointestinal malabsorption which is affecting absorption, in combination with taking the OCP (5). The review further demonstrated the effects of OCP on B vitamins and concluded that supplementation may be necessary to consider for patients taking the OCP (5).
There are similar findings on vitamin C. In the same review they found that, in OCP-users, vitamin C levels in platelets and leukocytes are lowered, specifically those containing estrogen which is thought to increase the metabolism rate of vitamin C (5). However, similar to folic acid, when patients consume adequate dietary intake of ascorbic acid, there is no threat to the ascorbic acid status as a result of using OCs for periods of six months to seven years (5). Conversely, the situation may be different for patients who have a poor diet, unhealthy habits or pathology of malabsorption (5).
When to see your naturopath
You may benefit from seeking advice from a naturopath if you:
are on hormonal birth control (OCP, IUD, vaginal ring, progestin injections, hormonal implant)
have any nutritional deficiencies as outlined above
have gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, IBS, IBD
experience frequent colds, flu or infections
would like to try natural conceptive methods which do not cause nutritional deficiencies.
For professional advice on management of nutritional deficiencies and non-hormonal forms of contraception, click here to book an appointment with our naturopath, Karly Fisher.
(1) Stargrove, M., Treasure, J., & McKee, D. (2008). Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions. USA: Elsevier.
(2) Sarris, J., & Wardle, J. (2010). Clinical naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice. Chatswood, NSW Australia; Elsevier.
(3) Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs & natural supplements: An evidence-based guide. Sydney: Elsevier Australia.
(4) Sütterlin, M. W., Bussen, S. S., Rieger, L., Dietl, J., & Steck, T. (2003). Serum folate and Vitamin B12 levels in women using modern oral contraceptives (OC) containing 20 μg ethinyl estradiol. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 107(1), 57-61.
(5) Palmery, M., Saraceno, A., Vaiarelli, A., & Carlomagno, G. (2013). Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 17(13), 1804-13.
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