S1 E9: Supportive Supplements


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Amanda: Hey, this is Amanda, women’s health dietitian.
Emily: And I’m Emily, nutritional therapy practitioner.
Amanda: And this is the Are You Menstrual? podcast where we help you navigate the confusing world of women’s hormones and teach you how to have healthy periods.
Emily: Each week we will be diving into a different topic on women’s health and sharing our perspective using nutrition, female physiology, and metabolic health.
Amanda: Our goal is to help you wade through conflicting health information and empower you on your healing journey.
Emily: We hope you enjoy it. 

Amanda: In our last episode, we shed some light on popular supplements that we recommend avoiding, we choose to avoid personally, and why. And now we want to dig more into supplements that we do really enjoy whether that’s a supplement form or a food form. We’re gonna kind of go through both today. And I know we specifically covered things like iron, zinc, vitamin D, that kind of stuff. Make sure you listen to that episode if you haven’t yet, I think it’s a really important one. And not that we don’t demonize all supplements. But we think it’s important to understand why you’re taking something and how it’s helping you or could be creating more harm in the body.

And today we’re going to focus more on okay, how can we get the main nutrients that we need and maybe are harder to get from food. Food first is definitely our approach, but there’s certain nutrients that maybe you don’t like eating that food…we’re going to talk about liver. Or maybe it’s something like magnesium, very difficult to get from food. So we’re going to kind of go through what are our kind of top supplements/food sources of supplements that we really like and we find are foundational for ourselves and the women that we work with. And again, please do your own research. Talk with your doctor or dietitian before you stop or start anything just like last episode, right? We are nutrition professionals, but we are not your nutrition professional. And this podcast is really for informational purposes only. The goal is to make you think, get you looking things up, starting to do your own kind of research process, and decide what’s best for you.

Emily: Okay, so the first one we’re going to start with is one that y’all are going to be so tired of hearing after this season of this podcast, because we’ve talked about it so many times. But it’s actually a whole food. It’s not what you think of as a typical supplement. But that’s beef liver. Like I said, we’ve talked about this in our most nourishing foods and mineral-rich foods. But if you are someone who maybe does not want to eat beef liver, because as Amanda said food first…we really believe that eating these foods are going to be your best bet. But beef liver is also available as a supplement and it’s a whole food supplement. So there’s nothing synthetic, there’s nothing unnatural about getting like a supplement with desiccated beef liver, but we call it nature’s multivitamin because of how rich it is in so many minerals. So again, you’ve got your B vitamins, your copper, selenium, iron, etc. The list goes on and on…vitamin A…And they all are in the perfect amounts to work optimally in the body. So that is why we love beef liver. I personally have not been so brave to buy raw beef liver and cook it or eat it like that. I’m just not there yet. I…my hope is to get there one day. But I’ve done a couple things. So in the past from my local farmer, I’ve bought what’s known as primal ground beef, which has organ meats including beef liver, inside a ground beef, and I’ve cooked that up in certain recipes. Can’t taste it at all. And I know I’m getting a little bit of that beef liver inside my ground beef. So that’s one way to do it. But I did also start taking, I believe it’s the Ancestral Supplements beef liver when I started working with Amanda, and that has been amazing for me. I don’t take a multivitamin. I don’t take anything like that has those synthetic ingredients. I just take the beef liver as my multivitamin. But I know Amanda, you do it a little differently. So how do you take your beef liver? 

Amanda: So I do it a couple of ways because I, I do think you know there’s differences in cooked beef liver and raw, right? Because one of them is gonna be cooked, you can miss out on certain nutrients. The other one is going to be raw so certain nutrients are going to be more bioavailable. There’s benefits to both, so I like to do a mix of both. And I will make…cook duck liver because I don’t…beef liver is rough you guys. If you haven’t, if you’ve had beef liver then you know. I find beef liver to be very difficult to eat. I didn’t grow up eating it. I remember my dad…he loves liver and onions. Like my mom would make liver and onions for him like every once in a while as like a treat, and I was like this is the grossest thing ever. It’s one of those things where it’s, like, my husband did grow up eating it, he can eat it fine. Not a big deal. So I get duck liver, it’s a lot more mild tasting. And I always soak it in milk first. You could also use a lemon or some…you just need some sort of like acid, right? So milk works really well. It also reduces the iron content in the liver, and if you listen to last week’s episode on iron, like, we get plenty of iron if you eat animal foods in your diet. Not that beef liver has a ton of iron, it really doesn’t. People always ask me that. What about the iron content? It does, it really doesn’t have that much. So I soak it in milk and then I cook it up really, just like not too much—don’t want to overcook it. And then I put it in my food processor with a ton of herbs, like, an obnoxious amount of herbs—I love using thyme—and then cream cheese…

Emily: Oh interesting. 

Amanda: Yes, cream cheese. And think it’s like a quarter cup of heavy cream.

Emily: Oh my gosh. 

Amanda: …and like salt, garlic, all that kind of stuff. So it’s like, Is it liver at that point? Probably not. But I can eat it on like sourdough crackers or on a piece of sourdough. And it’s like I enjoy it. And it doesn’t taste like liver. It’s crazy. So that’s like how I’ll do cooked duck liver pate. And I get my duck liver from White Oak Pastures. They’re, I think they’re in Virginia. And you can get it…they have meat you can buy online that’s frozen. I just moved so I’m still kind of getting a grasp on like my best, like, local meat opportunities. But I’m in North Carolina, so it’s really not that far. I used to still get it from there when I was in Texas. So yeah, White Oak Pastures has it and, or I’ll, I buy that one and I chop it up into like small pieces and freeze it and swallow those like capsules. I’ve been doing that for like the last few months to see if I notice a difference between taking the frozen beef liver capsules and, or like Ancestral Supplements or Paleovalley Organ Complex or something like that. And I haven’t noticed a significant difference. My digestion shifted a little bit in the beginning, and I did notice a bit more energy. It’s just one of those things where it’s, like, it’s a different form, right. You’re gonna lose some nutrients during that freeze drying process making the Ancestral Supplements or whatever brand it is…beef liver supplement. Again, I think it’s good to just get a mix. So I’ll like eat some via pate, I’ll take the frozen ones, or I’ll take the capsules. But the frozen you can put in smoothies and you can’t taste it. And so that’s like another or you can do that with the capsules. I don’t know how many capsules you could get in there before you would taste it though. Have you experimented with that?

Emily: So I have not but I do remember someone in our membership saying that that’s what they did. And I don’t remember how many she put in there. Maybe it was up to three? 

Amanda: I think she put like three or four. We can ask her. 

Emily: Yeah, because she would just empty the capsules right into her smoothie, and she said she couldn’t taste them. Personally, I’m just like…I’d rather just swallow the whole capsule. 

Amanda: But if you know that it’s in there, you’ll…

Emily: Yeah. It doesn’t mix with my fruit. But no, I feel like you have to play with it. And any way that you can tolerate it or even dare I say enjoy it, because some people do, I think that’s the best way. Because again, what is that the vitamin P pleasure. If you’re someone who enjoys eating liver…it might be more of a traditional thing if you’re someone that grew up with that, that’s just nostalgic for you. It’s something that your parents made you…that’s the best case scenario, right? Like you enjoy eating it, it’s a part of your diet. But if it’s not, like me—I never grew up eating beef liver unfortunately—I don’t think there’s anything wrong with, you know, adding a capsule supplement to your routine just to get those crucial vitamins in. Especially when you think about, you know, in contrast to a synthetic multivitamin, it’s, it’s so much more beneficial. So there’s tons of ways to do it. I’m impressed with you, Amanda, about the frozen one, the raw frozen because I just…I don’t know if I could just swallow that.

Amanda: You can’t taste it at all. You can’t even smell it, because it’s frozen. 

Emily: That’s fair.

Amanda: But I have…there are some people that they freeze them and then they let them thaw out and then swallow them and chase it with juice. And I’m like good for you guys. But it just, like, it’s not going to happen. But yeah, so that…there’s so many different ways to do it. I would also say, like, we keep saying beef liver, because it’s got great copper content, you know. Which if you listened to our previous podcast episodes, you know copper is really important for our metabolism. Really, really important mineral, but it requires vitamin A, and that’s what, that why the beef liver is just so magical because it’s got a ton of copper, it’s got a lot of vitamin A. So it’s really one of the perfect things to use.

If you feel like you have maybe, you listened to our iron episode, and you were like, you know, I think my iron is out of balance. Maybe you’ve seen high iron in your bloodwork or on your hair test. That’s where the beef liver really comes in. There are other types of liver, like duck liver, very comparable nutrient-wise it still has a good amount of copper and it’s got a ton of vitamin A. If you can’t do duck liver, maybe you can’t find it near you…chicken liver is also a great option. That one is the most mild tasting, right? Like, I think that’s why duck liver is so mild, it’s similar to chicken. It doesn’t have quite as much copper, but it does have a lot of vitamin A. 

But I mean, there’s other foods that are high in copper, too. Maybe you’re, like, I definitely need more copper. So I’m going to prioritize shellfish, seafood, you know, white fish, that sort of thing that…that’s going to give you more copper. Maybe you’re going to do cacao, you know, chlorophyll, those things are going to be great sources of copper as well. I just think that the beef liver, duck liver…it’s easy. It’s all in one, right. And a lot of us are looking for more convenience. And if you can’t do any of those, and you want a different option, like, but you still need a supplement, like, I’ve never found like a chicken liver or duck liver supplement. You could do Oysterzinc, it’s like an oyster supplement. Same idea as the liver one, it’s just dehydrated in capsules. There’s a brand called Smidge that has an Oysterzinc supplement and it’s, it’s got a ton of copper, zinc, B12, selenium, iodine…It does have a good amount of iodine so make sure that that’s appropriate for you—talk with your doctor. But it doesn’t really have lots of vitamin A. But you could add in some cod liver oil, which we didn’t plan on talking about today because it’s not one that we think everyone needs to take. But if you’re someone that can’t do the liver, the types of liver that we mentioned, and you, you need a capsule, you could do Oysterzinc and then you could consider some small amount of cod liver oil to get your vitamin A…or dairy, you know, egg yolks. All those things are gonna be great vitamin A sources.

I know we’re gonna get this question because I get it on Instagram all the time. We have not found a kosher beef liver supplement, unfortunately. So that’s another one where a lot of my clients that are kosher, they do the Oysterzinc and the cod liver oil. Or they’ll just prioritize other types of liver in their diet. 

Emily: Okay, I’m going to be like a little bit of a devil’s advocate here. And I’m going to ask you a question. So, and this goes for both pregnant and non-pregnant woman, Amanda, but I am pregnant. And you know, I’ve read the studies on vitamin A, and even though I know that they use synthetic vitamin A and all of that, how much liver should I be prioritizing, either pregnant or not pregnant? Is there an upper limit?

Amanda: So technically, there is an upper limit for vitamin A, because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin. So it’s a little less than four…about four ounces a week would meet like the upper limit for vitamin A. The cool thing is there’s lab testing and so readily available for us now. So whenever we have clients that are pregnant, and they’re worried or maybe they’re just, you know, worried about getting too much vitamin A in general, we’ll have them get their retinol tested. And it’s a very simple blood test. You can go on places like Request a Test and you can order your own blood tests of just retinol if you want. You can ask your doctor to test it. Don’t say vitamin A, because they’ll test beta carotene and that’s not going to help you. So make sure you ask them for retinol. And then that way you can know, like, what…are my levels appropriate? Do I have high retinol? That’s like a sign of inflammation. And then you might want to be careful with your vitamin A intake.

But we do get that question a lot where people are really worried about vitamin A, but the majority of the women that we see are very deficient, especially when they’re pregnant. I’ve seen so many women in third trimester with very depleted vitamin A and then their hemoglobin are way lower than they should be. Like, obviously, it’s going to be lower during that time. But if they want to do a home birth, then they can, right, because…in a lot of states, at least…because their hemoglobin has to be a certain level. And so that’s when it’s like, okay, we really need to prioritize that whole food form of vitamin A.

Emily: I actually am entering my third trimester this week, and I cannot wait to check my retinol levels. I have not checked those in probably years so I have no idea. But I definitely have a suspicion that my retinol is low just because of all the things I was on pre-having kids that depleted my vitamin A levels. So, super interesting. And I think with everyone to you know what, regardless of your levels, or what you’re going through, or if you’re pregnant, not pregnant, I think if you are going to supplement with beef liver, just make sure you start really slow. I would say on the bottle, it always has I think like up to six capsules a day, which is what I’ve worked my way up to over time. But I would just start with one or two per day, see how you feel? For a lot of people, it can have some stimulating effects, and some people can’t even tolerate it after, you know, experimenting around with it for a while. So I would say just start with one. How do you feel and if you’re, you feel great, you don’t really notice a huge difference. That’s when you can start titrating up.

Amanda: Yeah, like, especially if you’re someone that has maybe…you’ve gone through our Master Your Minerals course or you’ve gotten a hair test done. If you have very low mineral levels overall, then you want to make sure that you go slowly. Or if you’re a fast 4, those people tend to be a lot more sensitive. So it’s, it’s easy to see on a supplement like, oh, six capsules, okay, I’m just gonna start with six. And then you could feel like a…We have a lot of clients, if they take too much too fast, they feel like super stimulated, right. Almost like stressed out, like, they’re buzzing, they have difficulty sleeping. It’s very nutrient-dense—that’s why we love it, right. But if you are someone that’s coming from a depleted place and you’re adding in all those minerals, all those different reactions are getting turned on, right, and your body might not quite be ready for that. So always go slow, even if you’re, especially if you’re adding it to like food and stuff too. And then just see how your body responds.

Emily: Right, and just, you know, FYI, we usually save beef liver until phase two of the healing protocol, when, whenever you go through our Master Your Minerals course you’ll see that, so it’s not the first thing we start with. And that just goes to show that it’s super powerful. And like Amanda said, you want to kind of get your minerals in a good place before you start adding all these super nutrient- and mineral-dense supplements, or foods, I guess.

Okay, so that covers beef liver, we’re gonna go to the next one. And again, super popular one, but we’re going to talk about magnesium. So we talked a lot about magnesium in relation to stress, because it is the first mineral that we burn through when we are stressed. And when you combine everything that we kind of experience in today’s modern age, with all the stressors that we have going on, and the fact that our soils are pretty much depleted of magnesium, you’ll actually find that most of us are deficient in this important mineral. So unfortunately, there’s not a ton of magnesium that you can get from foods. There are magnesium rich foods, relatively, but me and Amanda are both fans of adding extra where we can just to make sure that we’re supporting our stress response. So how do we do that? So there are several ways, and one of my favorite ways is topically—so that can either be through taking Epsom salt baths, or foot baths, or using a magnesium oil spray or lotion. So the brand is called the Ancient Minerals. They have a really good Epsom salt or a spray that you can just do like 6-15 sprays  like once or twice a day on your arms and legs or your torso and that gets a good dose in.

Amanda: You can put on the bottoms of your feet too, if you want. A lot of people do that if they notice they have like a burning sensation. I will say it’s probably 50/50, like half of our clients can do the spray no issues and then the other half it burns no matter what. Right. So if it burns on their skin, I’m usually like try the bottoms of your feet for a while, let your body adjust. Ancient Minerals does make an aloe vera version of it. So it’s a little bit calmer. But I’ve had people that still cannot do that one. The lotion has the least amount of magnesium. It’s like 40 milligrams in one pump of lotion. And that I found works if you do the spray, and it’s like burning your legs off I would try the lotion. It’s less magnesium, but it’s not going to be so irritating. And if you’re using, you know, you’ll probably use like two pumps of the lotion that’s still 80 milligrams of magnesium. 

Emily: Yeah, that’s I’m definitely someone who it’s a little bit it’s not necessarily a burning sensation for me. So I use the regular oil, like the regular spray. And it’s not terrible. It’s just I have made the mistake of using it after shaving, which is a huge no-no, do not do that because it will burn. For me it’s more itchy. So for a while I kind of after, right after I spray it, especially if it’s the first time I’ve used it in a while I do notice that my, you know, my arms and my legs kind of itchy. But it only lasts for about five minutes and then it’ll subside. So that’s a good option for people that are just like, you know what, I’m, I don’t want to take a lot of pills. Like that’s not for me. I just want something to help support my magnesium levels. Do that or do the Epsom salt bath. It’s so easy. It’s relaxing, it can become a regular part of your routine. It’s nice to have options when maybe pill popping is not your thing.

Amanda: Yeah, and it’s, I think too, like, we even recommend starting with topical inside of our course, like phase one. We’re like start with topical magnesium. Let your body get used to it. It’s not as high of a dose right? But it’s, it’s gonna let you kind of lean into that if you have, if you’re an athlete, if you train a lot, it’s really helpful to use topically on your muscles or if you have any pain. I’ve actually had clients use it for cramps, like, they spray on their lower abdomen when they have period cramps. So I think the topical is nice to have and it’s a good one to start with. And then if you’re wanting to do more of an oral supplement route, that’s when you need to experiment to find out which magnesium is going to work best for you. 

There are so many different magnesium supplements out there. And there’s a lot of different thoughts on supplementing with magnesium. We have found that we have like really three main magnesiums that we like and work for people. It’s just finding the one that you tolerate the best is key, and it’s super individual. So like magnesium malate, for example, it’s a great one. We notice that for some people, it can give them more energy. And that’s technically what it’s known for. But it doesn’t for everyone. Like, we have some people that take it before bed, and they’re fine. So magnesium malate can be more energizing. Magnesium glycinate, that one tends to be more relaxing, it’s very easy to digest, it’s well absorbed. I do have found that for some people, the malate…it tends to cause looser stools at higher amounts. Again, not for everyone. So that’s why you want to experiment. And then the last one that we really like that, this one’s actually liquid form…which some people just don’t do well with taking pills, they don’t like it, they forget, they want to be able to add something to like a smoothie, or even to an adrenal cocktail. And so they’ll do magnesium bicarbonate, and this is the liquid one. Mitigate Stress is a great brand that we’re going to link in the show notes. It’s also helpful for acid reflux. Like, if you get reflux at night, we have a lot of like pregnant clients later on in that, like, end of second beginning of third trimester, you know, things are moving around pretty much no matter what you do, you’re having some reflux…the magnesium bicarbonate can be really helpful for that.

And you can make your own if you want, like you could get a magnesium hydroxide powder, and then mix that with carbonated water. Or like I make it in a Soda Stream. I’ve been doing this stuff for a really long time. So of course, like I do a lot of weird stuff. I do, I try lots of different things. You don’t have to take in magnesium all those different ways. I do, like, I do a topical, I like to do Epsom salt baths. Or I’ll use the lotion. I don’t do both, I’ll do, like, one or the other each day. And then I do take a pill form. I like to take magnesium glycinate before bed because it does relax me and helps me sleep. Like during the day, I’ll just take, I’ll drink magnesium bicarbonate. So I find that, like, in some people, like, if you’re trying to take a lot more magnesium, maybe your needs are much higher. Like you have a very high magnesium burn rate, you have lots of stress, or you’re super depleted, you might need a lot more. And sometimes when you try to take a ton of one certain kind, it can cause GI issues. So getting it a few different ways can minimize that. But you don’t have to do all those ways.

Emily: I’m kind of the same as you, though, I, I started taking just one thing two or three times a day. But now I mix it up just because I know how they affect me. And again, it’s all personal experimentation. But I’m the same. I do magnesium malate in the morning to energize me. Magnesium glycinate in the evening to relax me. And then if I’m experiencing some heartburn, you know, like pregnant women do, I’ll do a shot of the bicarbonate to help with that. And then Epsom salt baths are just kind of intermittent. Whenever I take a bath, I’ll just throw some salts in there. It’s real easy, not something I think a lot about. So again, there’s just…any type of way. It’s kind of with the beef liver—everything is very personalized. You can make it work for your lifestyle and your needs.

But we do want to say one thing about magnesium supplementation I actually am new to learning. I used to think that oh, magnesium, everyone loves magnesium. It’s like the miracle pill or supplement, everyone should take it. And while in some respects this is true, and it is beneficial for most people, I would say that it’s really helpful to know your mineral levels before you just start heaping on the magnesium. Because you really want your sodium and potassium levels to be in a good place before you start going crazy with magnesium. And this is because magnesium can actually push sodium and potassium down. And if you’re already low on those, that’s when you can start having symptoms from maybe too much magnesium. So we don’t ever supplement with sodium and potassium, we do, we get those in mineral-rich foods. And if you want a refresher, go back and listen to Episode Seven where we talk about how best to support sodium and potassium with foods. But also if you do you end up doing the HTMA and the Master Your Minerals course, you’ll learn a lot about your own sodium and potassium levels that will kind of give you better insight into magnesium supplementation. 

Amanda: And some people know this but, like, maybe you’ve taken magnesium and you’re like, actually hasn’t really helped, then that could be—why it could be because your sodium and potassium are depleted. So we’re always talking about adrenal cocktails…that’s really like the best way. And then of course certain foods that are high in potassium, like the starchy carbs, stuff like that, fruit, mixing that with sea salt—that’s all going to help support those levels. So we recommend doing that first. And then adding in magnesium once you’ve already been doing that for at least like a month, and then you’ll tolerate it better, right? You typically, you’re not going to have all those negative side effects. Usually we don’t feel good or we get that crazy buzz or we don’t sleep as well or feel manic or something with a supplement, because we’re going too quickly. And it’s not even always on purpose, right? Sometimes we’re just going by the label, like, we feel like we’re actually following instructions for once. But everyone’s very different. So go slow, we usually recommend starting with like one or two hundred milligrams of magnesium at first, whether that’s like topically, which is a lot, you know, that’d be two pumps of lotion. I think it would be like six sprays. Six of the sprays, and I don’t even know about the, the bath salts. 

Emily: Yeah, I’m not sure about that. I honestly don’t even, I just pour a cup of bath salts in.

Amanda: I put like two or three cups, and that’s a little you know…what, and the Ancient Minerals one on the bag I was reading, I’ll link that, that’s my favorite one. I’ll link it in the show notes. But it’s like, I think they said to put like, the whole bag in there. It’s like an eight pound bag. I was like, I’m not spending $20 on a bath. Yeah, I’ll put three cups in. And then it basically last me for like five or six baths. But yeah, it just was, it was kind of insane. I don’t know how many milligrams are in like one bath. But the topical, you don’t have to worry about as much. It’s the oral supplementation, that’s what can really throw off your sodium and potassium if you’re taking too much too fast.

And if you want to avoid the digestive issues, you know, like sometimes people get loose stools from too much magnesium too quickly, even though they’re like, I know I need this, my levels are depleted. So you just need to slow down. Ideally, eventually you’re going to work up to close to five times your body weight in milligrams. So if you’re someone, I’m just going to use 150 pounds for an example, because it’s easy math, then you would want to get up to about 750 milligrams throughout the day. And again, sometimes people even need more than that. You, you really want to test and not guess. The hair test is a great way. You can also get your magnesium RBC tested, and you want that level to be about 6.5. So that’s typically what we recommend.

And I know people are gonna ask, what about Natural Calm? Natural Calm, it can calm you, but it’s magnesium citrate—magnesium citrate is not well-absorbed. So while it can help you have a bowel movement, it can help you feel calm, it’s not going to necessarily improve your magnesium status in your body. So we have some clients that like to use that if they’re traveling, and maybe they get anxious, or it messes with their bowel movements, or it just helps them sleep. And we’re like, that’s fine. But we wouldn’t necessarily count that towards your daily kind of intake for magnesium. So I would say if you’re, like, I want to start with food first before I even do topical…cacao, getting like a nice raw cacao powder, cooked leafy greens, bone broth, which you can add leafy greens to and get even more magnesium. And then grass-fed dairy is also going to have some and then avocado. So those are going to be like your highest amount that you can get from food. We don’t know how much is really in those foods, you know, because the quality of our soil and everything. But if you’re not already eating those, that’s like where we would start. 

Emily: This is why I would indulge in like a dark chocolate bar every night. I’m getting my magnesium in. But yeah, you just got to play around with it, like Amanda said, and just try to get those foods in because those foods also have a lot of other things going for them too. It’s not just magnesium, so you can’t go wrong.

But okay, we’re gonna move on to vitamin E next. I feel like vitamin E is super underrated in the mainstream health and wellness sphere. We don’t talk about it a lot. I didn’t really know a ton about it before I started working with Amanda. But now I’m a huge fan. So vitamin E acts similarly to progesterone in the body—it reduces stress and opposes estrogen and androgens, which is super fascinating to me. So if you’re someone that is low on progesterone or maybe has some estrogen dominant symptoms, this can be incredibly helpful. But it also acts as a powerful antioxi

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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