PAP 124

What Lies Beneath the Symptoms

with Dana Kay

Health is the foundation of everything. The healthier our bodies are, the better they function, and the better medication and supplements may work. ADHD symptoms aren’t just driven by the brain — the entire body is one interconnected system so we need to take a holistic approach to get the very best results with ADHD. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, Dana Kay walks us through the different subsystems of the body that impact ADHD symptoms and some functional testing that could provide insights to help improve ADHD symptoms. 

Resources in this Episode

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My Guest

DANA KAY
Dana Kay is a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. She is the founder of Our Road to Thrive and the creator of the ADHD Thrive Method 4 Kids program. She has been featured in Forbes Magazine, Authority Magazine and Thrive Global.She is also the mother of a son with ADHD and has walked in the same shoes as the families that she helps. By the time her son’s doctor was suggesting the 4th medication (basically to treat the symptoms of the other 3 medications) she was done. She knew she could not continue on the same path and that there had to be a better way. So she embarked on a journey to find other more natural alternatives to help reduce her son’s ADHD symptoms. Today her son is thriving and completely off his medications.Through her long hard journey and years of education, Dana has developed a passion to help other families struggling with the same issues that she went through. In her own words, “I do what I do because it was so extremely difficult for me. It just doesn’t need to be that hard for other people.”

Thanks for joining me!

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Dana Kay (00:03): Your child's like a pie. You want to bake the best possible pie that you can bake. And it's all these different ingredients that make that pop by. And you know, that diet is one of those ingredients and getting to those hidden stresses as one of those ingredients, genetic mutations, again, that's another one of those ingredients. And so it's finding those little ingredients and putting them together to make the best possible pie that you can make for your child. And that is those ingredients are different for every single child.

Intro (00:41): Welcome to the parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author ADHD, a highlight and mindset. Mama honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to the parenting ADHD podcast. I'm thrilled today to have Dana Kay with us to discuss what lies beneath our kids. Sometimes when they have ADHD, we're going to kind of talk integrative medicine and taking a whole body approach to treatment and to really discovering all triggers, not just behavior triggers. So I am really excited to have you Dana. We know each other somewhat well. We've worked together in the past. And so I'm really excited to have you share some of your wisdom with the audience. Will you start by introducing yourself, let everybody know who you are and what you do.

Dana Kay (01:47): Sure. Thanks Penny. For having me. I'm really excited to be on your podcast. And I'm surprised we haven't done this before today, so thank you so much for having me. So yeah, as you can tell, I have not bought in USA and bought in Australia, but I do live in Seattle, Washington with my husband and my two boys. We moved here probably about six and a half, seven years ago now. And we're here for the long term and I just absolutely loving it. And I'm a board certified holistic health practitioner and really work with kids that have ADHD. Yeah. And that's all I do. And that's what I love to do because my son was actually diagnosed with ADHD at the age of four. And we went sort of on a vicious cycle of lots of trial and error.

Dana Kay (02:43): He ended up in medication and, you know, he was on three different medications and the doctor was suggesting the fourth medication to treat some symptoms that had come up from the other medications. And that sort of, when I was like, hold on, this doesn't seem right. You know, I, I want to say upfront, there is definitely a time and place for medication, but the cycle that we were in, in constantly increasing the dose and adding on new medications to treat the symptoms of the other medications, I knew that that was not the right cycle for us. And really that's what started my journey to, to, to get me to where I am today and helping other families with this more natural and holistic approach.

Penny Williams (03:32): Yeah. It's fascinating that, you know stolen our culture here in the U S we have not embraced sort of this holistic approach. Right? And so you go to the doctor and they automatically want to give you medicine for whatever that symptom is. And so often there are other things within our bodies that are also sort of feeding into the symptom or the cause of the symptom. And it's always mind-boggling to me that we compartmentalize things like that when really our whole body is one big system and we have to look at the whole thing.

Dana Kay (04:06): Definitely, definitely. And I did I did a fellowship under Dr. Greenblatt who wrote the book finally focused and he's he's a psychiatrist. And so, you know, psychiatrists are trained to prescribe medication and, but he's very much takes more of a holistic approach, which is really interesting. And, you know, he does say that medication does have its purpose, but what he really preachers is that we need to get the body into tiptop shape first. And if the body's not in tiptop shape, then you can end up on that vicious cycle of adding new medications and constantly increasing the dose. You know? So I think that that approach is one that, you know, I really want to get, get that message out there as, as much as possible and shout it from the rooftops because there's so much more to it than just medication. And I think a lot of us are we go to the doctor, as you said, and you're presented with that option of medication, not knowing that there are other things out there.

Penny Williams (05:13): Yeah. And the healthier we are, the more effective medications can be. You know, we're not saying that medication is bad. My son certainly needed medication when he was younger. Absolutely. And you know, I'm pro medication as well when it's needed. But I also realized that for the medication to do its part, we had to address some underlying health issues because like you said, medication wasn't lasting. It was, you know, a month or two, we'd be back at baseline where it wasn't working anymore. And my son also has MTHFR genetic polymorphisms, which are super common with ADHD and with autism. And so that would affect how some of the vitamins and supplements were affecting him. And so, you know, I learned pretty early that the healthier he was, the more effective his medication was going to be the easier that journey was going to be as well. So, you know, we're not just talking anti-medication here. We're just saying that the healthier you are, the better your brain is functioning one. So automatically your ADHD symptoms will be somewhat improved. And number two, you know, the things that you take to help you, medication supplements, whatever also need a healthy body to do their job.

Dana Kay (06:34): Yeah. A thousand percent. And I love that you connected it to the brain because the gut and the brain so, so connected. And that's one part that is often missed because there's a very close connection between the gut and the brain. And one of the first signs of disconnect in the brain is a gut. That's not functioning well. And, you know, the brain has many areas involved in gut function, but one of the main areas is the frontal lobe. And it talks to the gut via nerve branches and two way chemical messengers. And, you know, if you've, and I'm sure, you know, Penny and parents out there that are listening that have, you know, done research into ADHD, the frontal lobe is involved in things like attention and focus and executive function and planning and organizing, which are all common symptoms of those that have ADHD.

Dana Kay (07:31): Am I right? Totally right. Yeah. So ensuring that the gut is functioning well, gives your brain the best opportunity to function well as well. But I think the gut is responsible for making 95% of our serotonin and 50% of our dopamine, which are our happy feel-good hormones in our body. And they regulate our emotion and they maintain our mood balance and our cognitive function. And again, a lot of kids that have ADHD or autism have problems with regulating their emotions and maintaining their mood. So ensuring the guts functioning well is ensuring that, you know, the body can produce these right amount of serotonin and the right amount of dopamine, you know, to keep that mood balanced, but also to keep that connection between the gut and the brain functioning well as well.

Penny Williams (08:27): Yeah. And getting our kids to eat healthy is not the most pleasant topic. Because a lot of our kids with ADHD are also really picky eaters. And so it's even more sort of painful to say, okay, I've got to go down this road. I have to. And for, for families, with kids who are older, like mine, my son's 18, he eats what he wants and he doesn't eat what he doesn't and, you know, he's six foot and hundred pounds. So I can't really control that. Right. I can't, you know, all I can do is offer healthy foods and keep trying to teach him and helping him understand that the better he feeds his body, the better these things are going to go for him and helping him make those connections, which he just doesn't, he hasn't done that yet. And I think part of that is, is some of the autism too. But when he was young, he ate really healthy. He ate anything. We would give him. And then somehow it switched, I think after puberty and now he looks for carbohydrates and junk food. And I think that's, you know, it's the sugar in there that's giving him the dopamine had. So he's sort of intuitively figured out how to do that, but in a dysfunctional way, instead of in a healthy way, right. So how do we help our kids to really feed their bodies right. And help them to produce those hormones?

Dana Kay (09:58): That's a good question. And about honestly about 70% of the families that I work with have picky eaters. And it's a really, really common thing, especially with kids with ADHD or autism. And the interesting thing is that when we can reduce inflammation in the body and the, in the brain and the gut, the palate starts to open up. And so you know, we really focus on taking out the foods that create that inflammation. And, you know, that's, that's gluten, that's dairy and that soy, they're the top three sort of inflammatory foods out there today. And so reducing those or removing them out of the diet, reduces that inflammation when the inflammation reduces their palate starts to open up. But I'll give you an example. We had a family that I worked with, her son ate five foods when he came and started working with me and now probably six or seven months later, he's eating over 80 different foods.

Dana Kay (11:01): And he, this, this mom had gone through a year of feeding therapy before coming to me. And she was like, well, how are we going to change the diet? And I'm like, trust me, trust me, when you can reduce that inflammation. It does open up. Now, obviously when you've got older kids, it's, it's, it's a little bit harder as you said, but what we teach parents to do is try to bring that awareness to their body earlier. And so you know, what I, what I say to families is we want to teach the kids to be aware of those body feelings. So just say, for example they're having a really good day and what I tend to do, and I, I do this with my own son is saying, Hey buddy, I, I see that you're having a really great day. You seem really calm.

Dana Kay (11:52): You really happy, I'm interested. How does that feel inside your body? And look, a lot of these kids won't be able to articulate it so we can put words into their mouth. And we can say, well, for me, I know that when I feel happy and when I feel calm, you know, I feel like there's this sunshine coming out of my heart, or I feel like my body's really relaxed and I just want to smile. How does that feel for you now, when you do that over and over again, they start to become aware of those feelings. Now, when they have a not so good day when they're angry or when they're, you know, really hyperactive, once they've calmed down, you can say, Hey buddy, I noticed today, you didn't seem as happy, or you weren't as calm. I'm interested. How did that feel in your body?

Dana Kay (12:43): And again, they might not be able to articulate it. You can say, well, for me, I know that when I feel like that, I feel like clenching my fists. And I feel like screwing up my face and I feel dark inside my brain. And then when they can start to articulate, Oh, that's how it's feeling inside my body. You can say, well, what do you prefer? Do you prefer to feel that sunshine and that happiness, or do you prefer to feel that clenching? And so when you can then tie that to what foods they've eaten, that's when they can start to make the connection between what's going on in their body and the food they've eaten. And then they start to choose and say, well, I actually prefer to feel that sunshine to feel that smile. So I don't want to eat that food anymore.

Penny Williams (13:32): Yeah. Yeah. And it's a long process. You know, it's a long process and parents need to be aware of that too. I think we look for quick results and then we beat ourselves up and say, well, it's not working. And that's a really long process to get our kids really, to build that awareness and to make those connections. And then to act on those connections, it can be a longer process. So everybody listening needs to give themselves some grace,

Dana Kay (14:00): Totally grace, for sure. And, you know, I always say, and I say it pretty much every day, Rome was not built in a day and this journey is not going to be complete in a day. You know, as a society, we are very much conditioned to pop a pill and feel better. And so unfortunately it's, it's, it's not as simple as that. And, you know, even if you go down the medicine path, it's not just going to be pop a pill and they're going to feel better because it is that constant changing the medication, you know, adding new medications and things like that. So any path that a family chooses that's right for them, it's not going to be a quick thing and we need to give ourselves that grace and understand that it will take some time, but it is possible. And, you know, I just wish that when we get that diagnosis, a lot of people get that diagnosis when the kids are younger. I just wish that this option was presented to families as well, you know, to be used in combination with medication or as a first resort or, or whatever it may be, but it's just not talked about.

Penny Williams (15:13): Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's a shame for sure. So I'm wondering what can we do while we're going through this process with our kids. They're not yet eating healthy. How do you feel about probiotics and other supplementation to kind of help the gut while we're still trying to transition to healthier foods and healthier habits?

Dana Kay (15:39): Yeah, definitely. Look, I, I always do say that diet is the foundation of everything. If you don't have a solid foundation of, of diet, then it's like building a house and you know, your house will fall down if you don't have a solid foundation and the body's the same. And so, you know, I see a lot on Facebook where people are like, Oh, well, you know, this supplement worked for me. Or what supplements are going to help my kid focus. If you don't have that solid foundation of diet trying all these different supplements, you're going to end up wasting your money. So you do have to do it at the same time, like you were saying. But to kick start the journey. What I, what I love to be able to do is yeah, bring in a good quality probiotic. They're not all made equal.

Dana Kay (16:22): And so ensuring that you do have a good quality one is, is great. And start that gut healing process while you start changing the diet as well. There are some base supplements that are really known to help with that, that natural journey with ADHD, you know, a good quality fish oil is, is so highly researched and really can help that help that brain and, you know, get the body into tip-top shape. As I said, a good quality probiotic, magnesium as well. But I will say that some kids don't do well on magnesium. And so that's why you need to kind of take that bio-individual approach. Magnesium is actually used in over 300 biochemical processes in our body. And most kids these days are deficient in magnesium. That being said that when I started my journey with my son, I read on some Facebook group that magnesium was going to be the be-all and end-all, and I was so excited about starting it, and I was waiting for Amazon's delivery and it came and I gave it to my son and it did the opposite. He had a major meltdown. So, you know, working with someone that can really identify what it is for your child is really important because you could spend so much money trying to find the right supplements for your child. I think I could probably put both my kids through college with the amount of money that I spent on random supplements. Yeah.

Penny Williams (17:57): Yeah. I used to have buckets of them. Well, we tried this one that didn't work. And so I put it in the bucket in the closet. And I, I finally got rid of it a couple of years ago because we clearly weren't going back to it. But yeah, you can really invest in that rabbit hole and not see a lot of results. We had the same problem with magnesium and it turned out that a different form of magnesium worked great and he did need magnesium, but that just off the shelf, first magnesium pill that I bought did not agree with him. And we had that experience with a lot of supplements and come to find out that it was that in th fr polymorphism that was making him not able to always break down or process some of the supplements that I think we all take for granted that you just, you get a vitamin and it's helpful. And sometimes your body can't use it. And the form that you get it, folic acid of course, is the number one for, for MTHFR. But I'm seeing a lot more supplements now that include methylfolate instead of folic acid, like I'm seeing the industry getting on board with that and recognizing that if they just go ahead and give us methylene versions of stuff, then those people who have that issue won't have an issue with your product. Right. So I'm seeing that a lot.

Dana Kay (19:20): Yeah. So am I, and the good quality vitamins are definitely do that. I think the ones that you buy at target, or, you know, the, the supermarket, they tend to have just the standard form of folic acid. I remember, you know, my prenatal vitamin that contain folic acid and, you know, the doctors say, you've got to have folic acid, you've got to have folic acid. Well, I came to find out I have the MTHFR genetic mutation and I probably shouldn't have been taking folic acid. And so I should have been taking the metal laded version, but yeah, you are right. More and more supplements are including it. But I think that you need to focus on the ones that are good quality rather than ones you might buy at at the supermarket. Yeah.

Penny Williams (20:05): And I remember giving my son like a Flintstones multivitamin when he was really little and it would always, it changed his mood for the worse he was, he would get really grumpy and I'm like, I don't understand. This is just a common children's vitamin, right? They'd every pediatrician will tell you, give your child a multivitamin. And it was making things worse. And it turned out it was that folic acid in there, and he just wasn't able to process it. So it was building up and causing mood issues which is just crazy. It's crazy to think that we can be so sensitive to something that's so common, but it's true. You know, you really have to then be a detective and say, okay, what in this product or whatever. I mean, they're adding folic acid to cereal all the time. So it could be a food that, that is causing it, but really sort of drilling down and figuring out what is it that is causing this and why, because things can be made worse, defy things that we feel like are innocuous.

Dana Kay (21:11): Yeah. Look, I I very much like myself to a bit of a detective because that's, that's what we, that's what I like to, you know, help families with. And, you know, we take that more functional approach rather than, you know, that traditional approach in, in trying to identify what are those hidden stresses inside the body. And, you know, the way that we do that is with functional lab testing. And you know, the first thing as I, as I mentioned earlier, was the gut that gut brain connection. So, you know, one of the tests that we do and encourage families to do either gut tests looking at is the gut functioning. Well, it is that I'm able to connect and talk to the brain well, and look for things that are underlying hidden stresses. And, you know, another one of those tests is that genetic testing looking for that MTHFR, or there are other mutations out there that are common with ADHD and autism.

Dana Kay (22:11): The other tests that I really love is something called an organic acid test. And it looks at over 70 different, important markers in the whole body and how it's functioning. So it can show you the need for specific nutrients, things like B vitamins, which are really, really important for our compromised kids. Diet modification, things like solicit plates. I mean, a lot of people have come across the Fingal diet, which really focuses on taking out salicylates out of the body. Well, we can just do a test to find out is the body overloaded with these salicylates? Is it an issue for this particular child or not? This test also looks at your detoxification pathways because again, a lot of our kids with autism or ADHD have compromised detoxification pathways, and this world is so full of toxic exposure. These days in, you know, heavy metals or glyphosate sprayed on non-organic food.

Dana Kay (23:12): And if, if the body can't detoxify them out, then they're building up and building up and building up in our body. And of course we are not going to be functioning well when that's happening. So that, that test looks for that as well. But also it looks at your neurotransmitter. So your serotonin and your dopamine norepinephrine and your epinephrin I love this test because it was actually originally designed by a doctor for kids with autism. And that's why I love it so much, but it's now widely used to explore that root cause for so many other concerns. Yeah. ADHD, sensory issues, you know, so much more than just ADHD and autism it's, it's widely used for so much more now. And that's why I love it.

Penny Williams (23:59): And it's a really simple test. If I remember correctly, it's a urine sample, right? Yeah. So no needles, no, you know, you don't have to fear taking your kid for a blood draw or anything. This is a simple, simple test to do

Dana Kay (24:14): Totally. And you can do it at home. And that's the great thing about it. There's a, there's another test that I've just I've always had used it, but I never used it as my first round of investigation. And it's not talked about a lot, but it's, I've just been seeing it more and more and more, and it's called a crypto pirate test. Now, crypto spirals, when you've got this elevated urine crypto spiral level, it can result in a dramatic deficiency of zinc and vitamin B6. You might've heard it being called something like para Lauria or viral disorder, or maybe elevated pyros. Have you heard of that before? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And it is frequently identified in behavioral disorders, ADHD, autism, things like that. And interestingly, the symptoms that are common to pylori are include poor tolerance to physical and emotional stress, poor anger control, emotional mood swings, poor short-term memory. And a lot of those symptoms are again, common to those with ADHD or autism. And so I've actually added these tasks into my base tests now. And again, it's a urine test. It's so simple and you can do it at home and send it back to the lab. And it's relatively cheap as well.

Penny Williams (25:34): Well, yeah, they're not that inexpensive. Which is great. And I'm sure the cost has even come down since we did it like 10 years ago. Yeah.

Dana Kay (25:43): Yeah. It's like $82 now. So it's so yeah, really, really cheap, but it's, again, it's not talked about it's never presented as an option. But it's such a common thing that I'm seeing more and more. I probably see it in about 50% of, of cases now. And it's it's such an easy fix in terms of things just adding in some zinc and some vitamin basics and some other minerals and vitamins, just to balance that out. And, you know, some kids can feel so much better within a couple of weeks. Some kids, it takes longer, you know, if it's really high, but again, it should just be sort of standard protocol when you go to the doctor. Well, let's just do some base tests. See what's going on in their body, see what we can balance out. Let's fix the diet a bit. And then when the body is functioning, well, if we've still got some concerns, then we can look at medications,

Penny Williams (26:40): Right? Yeah. You've been talking a about B vitamins and that reminded me to you that that's a really common issue for people with MTHFR. And I used to try to load my kid with B because that's all everybody talks about with ADHD, B vitamins, B12, and it, again, it would have a negative impact on him and turns out he needed the methylated forms of the B vitamins too.

Dana Kay (27:05): Definitely, definitely. And you know, I've got a lot of kids that don't do well on B vitamins as well. So, you know, we have to be really careful, a lot of, a lot of practitioners when you go and you've got autism and you go to a practitioner, a lot of them are like, well, we need to give you B12 shots. But a lot of kids don't do well on them. And so it, you need to really just take that bio individualized approach rather than that standard across the board approach.

Penny Williams (27:32): Yeah. And you know, there's this test, I'm sure you're aware of that cheek swab to determine what medicines are good for your child. Right. And it's so very misleading because it looks at one set of genetic markers and there's so much more that goes into whether a medication is effective or not. And it's, it's that same thing, you know, they're, they're marketing it as though it's going to be the answer. It is going to tell you specifically, this medicine is right for your child. This is going to help. This is going to do it. And it's not that, but it does look at some of the things that we are talking about, MTHFR calm tea, and there's a handful of others, but you know, it really has to be this whole approach because that is just looking at one piece of it. When those tests were coming onto the market.

Penny Williams (28:35): A couple of those companies reached out to me to do a review, to test them with my son. And we had already been through the ringer with medication was supplements. You know, all of these things just were not going well. We had a list of probably four or five medications that were extremely bad side effects for him. And we took one of the tests and they all came out green perfectly okay. To give to him that it wasn't doing well for him. Yes. And we did another brand, another company. And I said, no, we've already done this. And it's not accurate for us. And they were like, Oh, they're all different. And we did theirs and all, but one, one was orange that we had never tried, but all of the ones that we had on this list of these are absolute no-nos for him.

Penny Williams (29:26): Like, you know, psychosis from, from an anxiety medication kind of thing. They were coming up as. Okay. And so, you know, there were other things going on there that were impacting the way that his was using and reacting to those medications. So it really does take like this whole approach to figure this stuff out. Not just, well, I'm going to do this one test and then go from there. Like, I'm just going to do the oats test. Yeah. That gives you a lot of information, but there's other aspects that you need to be watching out for too. So it's interesting. And again, I think it's part of our culture where we're very much a fix-it culture and our medication, our medical community has just kind of fix the problem instead of how do we prevent medical problems for the most part. I mean, of course there are physicians out there who, who do want to take a holistic approach, but it's just not the majority.

Dana Kay (30:26): Yeah. And I think, look, it's it's tough. It's, it's getting more and more you know, prominent, there's a lot more people talking up and talking out about it. And you know, hopefully one day it will sort of become mainstream until then, you know what you're doing is great in getting, you know, the help out there for families. I'm trying to get the word out to as many families as possible as well. And I like to think of it like a pie, your child's like a pie. You want to bake the best possible pie that you can bake. And it's all of these different ingredients that make that pie. And you know, that diet is one of those ingredients and getting to those hidden stresses as one of those ingredients, genetic mutations, again, that's another one of those ingredients. And so it's finding those little ingredients and putting them together to make the best possible pie that you can make for your child. And that is, those ingredients are different for every single child. So it's finding that team around you that can help do that for your child.

Penny Williams (31:31): Yeah. And again, there's practitioners like you, there are integrative meds doctors or functional med doctors out there who do a little of both. We worked with an integrative med stock early on, and that's how we had all these tests and things done. And so you just have to kind of look around and know who to look for somebody who's going to take that holistic approach. Do you want to share the here at the end of the episode, how families can work with you? Where can they go? What can they do to get more info?

Dana Kay (32:05): Okay. Yeah, for sure. So you can either go to my website, which is our road to thrive.com. And I'm going to spell it because I never say our right. Cause I don't have the accent. So it's Oh, you are road to thrive. How would you say our, our, our, I know it sounds like H O U R our icon. I can't get the, the, the R at the end. So our road to thrive.com is my website. I also host a, a Facebook group which has a lot of great families in it. It's called the ADHD parent nutrition support group. And I do lots of training there for free couple of times a week. I give a, you know, give away a lot of free recipe guides and, and training and things like that. So that's a really, really supportive group that you can join as well.

Penny Williams (33:03): And we'll have links to everything on the show notes as well, but I just wanted to be sure that you let people know where to go, who are listening. And so you can find those show notes at parentingadhdandautism.com/124. I just want to thank you again, Dana, it's always so enlightening and insight fall to talk to you about holistic care. There's so much information that we just don't get in the mainstream, and it's, it's amazing the work that you're doing and the lives that you're changing.

Dana Kay (33:39): Well, thank you so much. And thank you so much for having me and giving me the opportunity to, you know, talk to your audience as well. And I think that what you're doing is, is just as fantastic and, you know, bringing all of these different options to families out there.

Penny Williams (33:54): Thank you with that. We will end the episode. I will see everyone next time. Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.

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