14 Natural Remedies For Joint Pain

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Joint pain can leave you stopped in your tracks. It seems that it is becoming more and more common, especially amongst adults. Typical intermittent aches and pains can plague all of us, but when joint pain begins to become chronic, it can feel like it is becoming a way of life. And, simultaneously taking away from the ease of your life. 

Joint pain is most often felt in areas such as knees, hips, low back, shoulders, ankles, and wrists. Inflammation is the main culprit but the root cause could come from overuse, injury, muscle strain, muscle weakness, autoimmune disease, and general systemic inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications can help to ease the discomfort in the short term, but rarely addresses the root cause of that inflammation. Not to mention, in some cases, these medications can make you feel great in the short-term but actually worsen the root cause. 

There are many options to naturally decrease joint pain. If the joint pain onset is related to a deeper foundational root cause (i.e., weakened gut health, leaky gut, systemic stress, etc), then implementing some of these natural remedies could greatly decrease your joint pain and also heal your body on a deeper level. You don’t need to do all of these tips, but picking the ones that seem to work for you could greatly decrease your pain and discomfort (and bring more ease back into your life!). 

  1. Drink plenty of water (and stay hydrated). This tip is one of the most important and most foundational, yet one that gets overlooked all the time. Water lubricates and cushions the joints. Make sure that you are drinking half of your bodyweight (in lbs) in ounces of water daily, more if you consume dehydrating beverages (i.e., coffee, teas, and juices) and/or sweating often.
  2. Remove gluten, dairy, and sugar from your diet. Your body becomes more inflamed the more you eat foods that can increase inflammation. These are the main foods that cause inflammation and body flare ups. This includes not only joint pain, but also acne, rashes, and other inflammatory-related symptoms.
  3. Eat the right kind of fats. Fats are essential for overall body and hormone functioning, but the right kinds of fats are important. Remove inflammatory Omega-6 fats, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, and other seed oils. Add in more Omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, such as wild-caught salmon and extra virgin olive oil. These are excellent for managing and decreasing inflammation. If you don’t do fatty fish, you could try consuming a fish oil supplement to help get these healthy benefits. 
  4. Get plenty of sun (with skin exposure) or take a Vitamin D/K2 supplement. Vitamin D is important for supporting healthy bones. It helps with calcium absorption and those with low levels of vitamin D are linked with higher levels of osteoarthritis. 
  5. Consume plenty of high-quality animal protein. Your body needs the full set of amino acids to keep your bones strong, support muscle recovery, and decrease inflammation/joint pain. Animal protein will give you the complete range of amino acids, B-vitamins, choline, magnesium, and iron that you need to support healthy tissue. The key word, however, is high- quality — grass-fed beef, pasteurize- raised poultry and eggs, and wild game such as venison. The muscle meat is not the only part that is nutritious for your joints…
  6. Consume a form of collagen. Along with the animal protein, consuming forms of collagen are super helpful in calming joint pain. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the your body and it helps to build joints and keep connective tissue strong. Consuming collagen, gelatin, or bone broth are ways of getting in natural glucosamine, which have been shown helpful in reducing joint pain. 
  7. Use high doses of curcumin. Turmeric has become popular specifically because of it’s active ingredient curcumin. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  8. Up your magnesium intake. Most people are deficient in magnesium, even if they are eating a nutrient-dense diet. Low levels of magnesium can cause muscle aches, joint pain, leg spasms, weakened bones, and unhealthy nerve function. If you are low in magnesium or suspect that you are, try taking a high-quality magnesium supplement. 
  9. Get active. Regular exercise is critical for healthy muscle and joint function. It helps to strengthen the muscles and joints and decrease your potential for injury. Exercise is also important for balancing hormones such as human growth hormone, cortisol, and other hormones that play a role in appetite and aging. Make sure that you lift heavy weights (appropriate for your body) and stretch regularly to loosen the pressure placed on your joints. 
  10. Eliminate nightshades foods. Nightshades include foods like peppers, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, goji berries, paprika, and ashwagandha. These foods can play a role in joint pain and muscle aches — inflammation — possibly due to the alkaloid content, or toxic compounds, that those plants can give off as a self-defense. 
  11. Try a glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM supplement. This combination has been shown to be helpful in nourishing the joints for some people. It can support the health of the cartilage. There are some people who notice worsening effects, so if you try it and your symptoms get worse or you don’t notice anything, stop taking it. 
  12. Try a high-quality CBD or hemp oil daily. CBD and hemp oil have very powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can be the “thing” that helps lessen the effect of chronic pain and inflammation. Make sure that when choosing one of these oils, that you find a company that is high-quality, tested for metals or toxins, and is sustainably resourced. 
  13. Use essential oils. Lavender, Frankincense, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Rosemary are just a few of the essential oils that have been linked to decreasing joint pain. Dilute 1-2 drops in a carrier oil (coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil, etc) and rub over the affected area to help decrease pain and discomfort. 
  14. Try the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol), if you are still have joint pain. If you are still having problems after doing the foundational steps, you may need to take a deeper dive. Eliminating foods such as coffee, eggs, grains, and nuts can help to calm your body’s inflammation and chronic pain. Doing this for a few months has given some people great relief and has helped them to discover exactly what foods are triggering their joint pain. 

**Click here for easy access to recommended supplements above.

Joint pain and body inflammation does not need to stop you from enjoy all that life has to offer. There are plenty of natural approaches you can try to help give you relief. Not only will these help to give you relief, but they also help to support the body as a whole!

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How To Stimulate The Vagus Nerve To Improve Your Health

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Are you feeling a little out of control? Like you don’t know how to calm yourself down? Have you ever felt stress so deeply that it feels overbearing and like you might be swallowed up into a black hole at any given moment? 

You try so many practices to calm the mind or lessen the grip of that stress, but it still feels like a black cloud hanging over your head. 

So, you turn on some music — sometimes your favorite song and other times a song that feels emotionally strong — and you start to hum. You start to sing. And then it happens…

A break in that black cloud. A lessened grip. You know the stress is still there, but something feels different and a level of relief fills you. 

That relief might be minimal or it might be gigantic. All you know is that there is a shift in how you were feeling.

You are not imagining your relief! The lessening of the stress is all so real and that is because of what you have physically stimulated. What you activated. 

What you might not know is that a simple humming or a singing of your favorite song stimulated a nerve that is critical to help you not only manage your stress, but to also help you boost your immune system, optimize your gut health, balance your blood sugar — along with a slew of other health benefits. 

The Vagus Nerve

Your sympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that moves you into action. It is your fight or flight system and if it detects a threat, real or perceived, it will trigger your fight or flight response. If there isn’t a real threat, and you do not need to activate the sympathetic nervous system, then you lean in and recruit the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part that calms you down. 

The vagus nerve is the most influential nerve in your parasympathetic nervous system. It functions like your body’s natural reset button — playing heavily on both your emotional and physical body. The vagus nerve extends from the brainstem down into your stomach and intestines, through your heart and lungs, and connecting your throat and facial muscles. Movement or recruitment of these areas help to stimulate the vagus nerve so it can learn how to be more flexible (vagal tone). Healthy vagal tone can be thought of as an optimal balance of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system actions that allows you to respond with resilience to the ups and downs of life. Learning how to stimulate your vagus nerve allows you to bring the calm and feel more collected.

Vagal Tone

Chronic stress and unresolved trauma can be a real bummer! Not only do they impact your life deeply, but it can also create a great imbalance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic functions of your nervous system. Because we live in a world that is over-stimulating and activating for the sympathetic nervous system, many of us need access to tools that help us engage the parasympathetic nervous system on a daily basis. 

Like I mentioned, the vagus nerve has a calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system activity. But, it is also important to recognize that individuals with unresolved PTSD or trauma often resort to a primitive expression of the parasympathetic nervous system which can lead to symptoms of fatigue or depression. When left untreated, chronic stress and unresolved PTSD can disrupt your physical, mental, and emotional health. The good news is that practices that focus on stimulating the vagus nerve can help regain balance if you are either keyed up with anxiety or shut down with fatigue.

This is why the tone of the vagus nerve is so significant.  Higher vagal tone is associated with better general health — better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, improved digestion and a reduction in migraines. Most importantly though, it is associated with increased emotional stability, resiliency and longevity, that which helps to balance out every other area of your life. 

Curious what your vagal tone looks like? You can easily measure it at home! Heart rate variability is a way to measure vagal tone. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when you breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. The higher the tone, the more efficient you are at relaxing. 

An increase in vagal tone is linked to a reduction in overall inflammation and an increase in emotional health and well-being. Lower vagal tone is associated with mood instability, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, chronic inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. 

Activating Your Vagus Nerve

  • Do yoga, but specifically any yoga practice that stimulates the path of the vagus nerve can have a profound influence on the tone of the vagus nerve.
  • Meditation — especially loving-kindness meditation, mindfulness meditation, and Om chanting increased heart rate variability
  • Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. In studies, ujjayi breathing showed quite effective. This type of slow breathing involved 6 breaths per minute, which would be about 5 seconds per inhale, 5 seconds per exhale.
  • Humming, chanting, or singing — especially emphasizing the long, slow exhalation to stimulate the vocal cords.
  • Thinking positive thoughts of others and increasing social connection — this stimulates the heart center of the vagus nerve.
  • Using cold water. Take a cold shower or splash cold water on your face. You can also achieve the same effect by holding a ziplock bag filled with ice cubes against your face and holding your breath. Or submerge your tongue in cold liquid.
  • Laugh more and laugh out loud!
  • Practice the Valsalva Maneuver — Exhale against a closed airway by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out. It increases the pressure inside of your chest cavity thereby stimulating your vagus nerve.
  • Take your probiotic. Cultivating healthy intestinal bacteria improves the mind-gut connection and your vagal tone.
  • Get some mild exercise in — it stimulates gut flow and vagus nerve activation needed to initiate this response.
  • Do some gargling. It activates the vagus nerve by activating the muscles in the back of the throat while exhaling slowly.
  • Get a massage. Neck, foot, and pressure massages may stimulate the vagus nerve, as can gently massaging around the carotid sinus located on the sides of your neck.
  • Get enough zinc. This was shown to increase vagus stimulation and is a common mineral that some people don’t get enough of.
  • Eat more seafood — According to several scientific reviews, omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA increase heart rate variability (HRV) and lower heart rate. HRV is directly linked to vagus nerve stimulation.
  • Engage in prayer and pray out loud.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature is soothing and calms the nervous system, but some studies link sunlight to increasing vagal tone.

Stimulating the vagus nerve stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turns reduces your neurophysiological experience of stress — super important for optimal health and wellness. It reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, influences the limbic system in your brain (where emotions are processed), and stimulates digestion so your body can absorb the nutrients you are giving it. Start practicing the art of stimulating your vagus nerve to relieve anxiety, depression, tension and the general sense of unease when stress builds up. 

Try to practice daily as a preventive measure to ensure greater emotional resilience and improved health!

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How To Easily Decrease Your Aches And Pains

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Living life can be painful.

From tight shoulders to achy knees to low back strains — they can all creep in unexpectedly and leave you feeling like you have aged decades.

She prided herself on being fierce in life; Always on the go and challenging her body in ways that would make Superwoman jealous. Long days of taking care of the kids, fitting in her workouts, cleaning the house, or working a physically demanding job. Some days if was all of the above.

But as she got older, things started to change. She started to change. Her body wasn’t as flexible and her mind stopped her from trying feats that were never previously questioned.

She couldn’t squat down as low because her knees ached and her hips hurt if she sat too long.

She had chronic pain in her upper back and neck and noticed that even turning to reach in the back seat of the car caused jarring pain to shoot into her shoulder.

She would wake up in pain, wondering how she could possibly injure herself while sleeping.

She felt decades older than she really was and would say over and over, “I am getting so old.”

The worst part? She felt unattractive and uncomfortable in her own skin. She no longer felt like this young, attractive, vibrant, energetic woman. Life’s sparkle dulled a bit.

Does this sound like a version of you? I hear this story from women all the time. I have been a version of this woman myself!

It can feel daunting to take care of yourself and your body when you have so many demands on your plate. It is easy to push away what doesn’t seem immediately necessary — to change it to another day. But for many of us, that other day never really comes and if that is your story, then you may be left with years of built up tension and tightness spreading throughout your physical body.

You are an energetic being. And being an energetic being, your energy needs to flow through your body or else it could get trapped in areas throughout your body. One example of this is shoulder tightness. Stress and pent up emotion may result in you clenching your neck and shoulder muscles, unknowingly squeezing them upwards towards your ears and creating this tightness to start setting in. That continual contracting (squeezing) of the muscle creates a muscle spasm, which is a continual dose of energy being given from that muscle. This then causes the muscles and other soft tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia, etc) to start tightening even more, decreasing the flow of natural energy movement through that area. The more energy that gets stuck, the more you are thrown off physically, emotionally, mentally, and so on.

Where To Begin

There are many places you can begin when trying to get rid of the physical aches and pains that may be holding you back. You want to reevaluate questions such as :

  • Are you eating a whole foods, low processed, low sugar nutrition plan?
  • Is your gut health strong? Food allergies, autoimmune disorders (i.e., Celiac disease, IBS, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus), Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory diseases, Alzheimers, and even mood imbalances may be signs that it is not.
  • Are your shoes supportive?
  • Do you need orthotics in your shoes?
  • Are you stretching regularly?
  • Do you get massages or other body work?
  • Are you getting enough sleep and rest?
  • Are your workouts supporting you or breaking your body down?
  • Are you getting adequate nutrient support like magnesium or Vitamin D?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it can help you get a little closer to honing in on the long term support you are giving your body.

I am going to give you some pro tips you can do at home or whenever you need immediate relief. But before I do, let’s talk about some areas that will help support you in the long term.

Massage and Other Alternative Medicines

Massage is fantastic to ease pain in several different ways. It affects your nervous system through the nerve endings in your skin. This stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural “feel good” chemicals, and they promote feelings of relaxation, a sense of well-being, lowered stress, and lowered pain. But it doesn’t stop there. Massage can also increase blood flow to sore or stiff joints and muscles, assists the lymphatic system in flushing away waste products and toxins, helps to ease tightness and break up scar tissue, and it has been shown to be a natural painkiller because of it’s trigger to release opioids into the brain (and speeds up the flow of the hormone oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes muscles and encourages feelings of calmness and contentment).

Massage is not the only avenue to explore. The following have been showing high levels of effectiveness in decreasing pain and body aches from a root cause level:

  • Acupuncture
  • Reflexology
  • Reiki
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Nutritionist for dietary healing
  • Herbal remedies 
  • Essential oils
  • Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi
  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis or guided imagery
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or Tapping)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What Can I Do For Immediate Relief?

  • For tightness and pain and tension, you can try one of the above therapies that is easy to implement at home. Try 5-10 minutes of quiet or moving meditation (which could come from yoga, qigong, or tai chi). You could also perform some self-massage on the affected area using some healing salves or gels to increase the healing process. For this, I love using Badger’s Sore Muscle Rub. It has a nice soothing warming effect by using cayenne extract and it helps to ease some of the muscle tightness with it’s essential oils.
  • If it is tight muscle spasms you are experiencing, try some trigger point release. This is a technique in which you apply deep, constant pressure on the sore muscle spasm with your finger, elbow, thumb or whatever is most comfortable for you. It that is uncomfortable or you need to get deeper, you can use household items, such as a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or golf ball. Hold each muscle spasm for about 10-90 seconds or until you start to feel some release in the tightness. You can either hold each with a constant pressure or use small, kneading, circular movements to help loosen. Again, whatever feels most effective for you.
  • For tight and sore muscles, you can try foam rolling for an at home self-massage that massage the muscles and the fascia in your body. Here is a link to show you how to get started.
  • If you are experiencing tight feet, arch pain, or a sharp pain in your heel, you may be on the verge of (or already experiencing) some plantar fascitis. Try stretching and self massage. Perform a standing calf stretch or a standing step stretch. To loosen up the arch, roll a golf ball under your foot with moderate pressure,or whatever pressure feels comfortable, for a 3-5 minutes. For better results, you can use a small water bottle with frozen water inside to add the cooling effect and calm down the inflammation. For heel pain, try some light massage over the painful area, again for 5 minutes or until it feels as though the pain is subsiding slightly.
  • For cuts and burns and scraps, there are a few easy home remedies to give you relief:
    • Mix three or four drops of lavender oil together with a few drops of coconut or tamanu oil, always after it is cleaned.
    • Cayenne pepper can be used on minor scrapes and scratches for quick relief, but never on open wounds. Cayenne contains capsaicin, which helps speed healing and blocks pain messages to the brain — wipe off when pain is lessened.
    • You can also try an aloe vera plant.  Break off a leaf and squeeze gel directly onto the affected area. Aloe vera seals the injury, relieves pain and provides quicker healing. Reapply 3-4 times daily.
    • Limes and lemons have been proven to have an antibiotic effect and can kill bacteria.
    • Tea tree oil is great because it is antiseptic, antimicrobial, and has many healing properties.
    • Arnica gel provides excellent pain relief and healing of cuts, scrapes, and burns.
  • If you got an upset stomach or nausea, try sniffing some lavender essential oil and/or ingesting real ginger. There are ginger chews and ginger snacks that can relieve an unsettled stomach. I also like using Doterra’s DigestZen for immediate relief in bloating, indigestion, and nausea. It is my go-to oil for motion sickness!
  • If you are looking for some over the counter products that are reliable and easy to use, I recommend the following:
    • Topricin for soothing relief associated with arthritis, lower back pain, carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia, or work and sports related injuries.
    • Arnicare by Boiron is an excellent homeopathic medicine to assist with pain relief, stiffness, swelling, and bruising.
    • Skin Gel by AloeLife is my go to for burns, wounds, and scars (and much more).

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Women, Weight-Loss, And How To Balance Your Hormones

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It all shifts.

Every single inch seems to shift to a part of the body that it wasn’t meant to be. 

The thighs move up to the hips, the butt moves up the belly, and the back of the arms extend their goodbye with just a little extra jiggle than you might want. 

The shift happens for men and women, but women are more afflicted because of their delicate hormonal balance that can easily get upset. 

It Isn’t All About The Calories

People have been brainwashed to think if we eat a little less or follow the latest fad diet, that the weight will just melt off of us — regardless of your age or current hormonal disposition. 

Unfortunately, there continues numerous dieting models that place this hypothesis on a pedestal, promising their female clients success. And then when it doesn’t work or only works for a short period of time? 

Well…

You blame yourself. You must have done something wrong or did not have the magical willpower unicorn to help you stay on track.

I discovered that the calorie-in/calorie-out hypothesis has been widely disproven and remains the greatest misconception women have about diet and weight loss. Calories matter, more to some women than others, but hormones matter more.

Most diets don’t work for women. They fail to address the hormonal root causes that are the most common reasons for resisting weight loss resistance — excess cortisol, insulin and/or leptin blockage, estrogen dominance, a sluggish thyroid, low testosterone, and problems with the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) control system.

The HPA (Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal) Axis

The HPA axis is the boss of all your hormones. It sits up high looking out over the hormonal kingdom and communicating based on how it interacts with other hormones. The root cause of cortisol imbalance is usually a dysregulated HPA axis. 

When the HPA is up-regulated, you churn out too much cortisol. Think muffin top, feeling like you’re constantly racing from task to task, feeling wired but tired, quickness to anger and irritability, and rapid weight gain.

When the HPA is constantly up-regulated, it can get super burned out, like how you feel after those days of back-to-back meetings and then coming home to making dinner and managing your kid’s soccer schedules.

At this point, the HPA becomes down-regulated and suddenly you have a lack of stamina, you are quick to catch a cold, your viewpoint turns more negative, and your thyroid begins to show imbalances.

Since the HPA is often the root cause, the key is resetting it. Any other attempt at fixing the hormones will likely fail in the long run if the HPA is not addressed and stabilized.

It All Starts With Cortisol

There are so many steps you can take to address your cortisol and it really is bio-individual. Some are more researched than others, with my suggestions below being some of the most researched and successful with my clients. Here is my simple protocol to get you started for balancing cortisol.

  • Start a regular massage routine. Getting a massage once or twice a month not only prioritizes self-care, but it also helps the muscles and the fascia to release tightness and it helps to move stuck energy throughout the body. You can do this by paying for massage and/or you can start a foam roller practice, which acts like a self massage. 
  • Add B Vitamins and Omega-3’s if you are deficient. Both of these nutritional gems helps to soothe the nervous system. You can get them in supplemental form or you can eat foods like salmon, leafy greens, liver, beef, eggs, sunflower seeds, and nutritional yeast for B vitamins. Want more Omega-3’s? Fill your meals with foods like walnuts, almonds, fatty fishes, avocados, and chia seeds.
  • Honor your voice. This was the biggest action step for my own personal success! Talk through what’s stressing you with someone you trust. Get it off your chest and learn how you can work through it so it doesn’t consume you. While you are at it…
  • Honor your energy. Restore your energy by regular meditation or yoga sessions to help calm the nervous system and bring your conscious awareness back into homeostasis and alignment.
  • Drink more green tea. L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, helps to reduce stress. Limit your coffee and alcohol, especially if you are more sensitive to either of these. 
  • Eat more dark chocolate. Yes, eat more dark chocolate, but make sure that it is the 75% or higher variety or raw cacao. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral necessary to balancing your stress response. 
  • Take phosphatidylserine.  Phosphatidylserine is helpful to take until you perceive less stress and your HPA is no longer hypervigilant. 
  • Add an adaptogen that helps to reset cortisol. You can try Ashwagandha or Rhodiola, often being successful when taken at night. To help increase your testosterone, you can try some Maca in the morning. 

As you get older and your hormones begin to naturally transition into a peri-, post-, and menopausal stage, it is even more important to pay attention to your stress levels and to the hormones that play critical roles. Next blog, I will be talking about the key hormonal players that you need to know about that keep you in balance and living your best life yet!

References: 

  1. Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250/
  2. Hellhammer, J., Vogt, D., Franz, N., Freitas, U., & Rutenberg, D. (2014). A soy-based phosphatidylserine/ phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) normalizes the stress reactivity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis in chronically stressed male subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Lipids in health and disease, 13, 121. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-13-121

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