Estrogen gut connection, copper issues, low progesterone and detoxifications with Sara Korzeniewski, RD, FDN-P
This week I talk to Sara Korzeniewski, RD, FDN-P from The Organic Dietician about the hormone and gut connection. Sara shares her story of her own health challenges and career choices that led to her passion for helping others find balance and optimal health.
- Birth control as a solution for heavy periods and acne
- Traditional approaches vs holistic/functional approach
- Gut and nervous system functions and effects on overall health
- Rest & Digest mode vs Fight & Flight mode
- Symptoms of excess estrogen
- Progesterone role and symptoms of low levels
- Stress effects on the body
- Estrogen and Progesterone need to be in balance
- Undereating animal proteins, plant focus neglects our hormones
- Copper in excess (from environment, birth control, stress, supplements) and the effects on estrogen
SARA SHARED HELPFUL TIPS ON:
- How to improve progesterone
- Getting enough nutrients and being able to absorb them
- Foundations of good hormone health
- Balancing nutrients
Sara Korzeniewski is a Registered Dietitian and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. She specializes in helping clients get to the root cause of their Adrenal, Hormone, and Digestive imbalances. After not finding answers from any practitioner for her own hormone and digestive symptoms, she created The Organic Dietitian utilizing a comprehensive mind, body, and spirit approach. Now she helps other busy women investigate the deep root causes of their own top health complaints and find the health freedom they deserve.
WHERE TO FIND SARA:
Instagram and Facebook is @theorganicdietitian
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The gut is actually one of the biggest sources of toxicity in the body because of pathogenic bugs can create toxins. They can turn healthy nutrients into toxic substances and so on. And guess what? Those toxins can then also burden the liver. And the liver is also one part of the digestive system that also helps to filter out certain things like hormones.
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And I'll talk to you soon. All right, today on the less stress like we have Sarah cos NEK, Corion NSK, I've practiced a lot of times off, uh, air, but she is a, she's also known as the organic dietician on Instagram. She's a registered dietician and functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner. She specializes in helping clients get to the root cause of adrenal hormone and digestive imbalances. After not finding answers from any practitioner for her own hormone and digestive symptoms. She created the organic dietician, which utilizes a comprehensive mind, body and spirit approach. Now she helps other busy women investigate the deep root causes of their own top health complaints and find the health freedom they deserve. Welcome Sarah.
Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
Yeah. So kind of kindred spirits here on some of the things that we do and there's a huge need for this. I think the thing that I think of immediately here, which is kind of like, what's fun to start with on everyone is tell us about your story. You say it right away in those couple sentences that you couldn't find help in these issues. So you started diving down. I mean, I like to start with, Hey, we didn't learn this in school. You have to go after this. Yeah. So tell us about how that went for you and your journey of frustration and how it kind of ultimately led to
This. Yeah. I mean, I think just like a lot of people we start experiencing kind of like symptoms and issues and we seek help from conventional practitioners who are like, Hey, let's just go on birth control. That's a great idea. And it's kind of like, you don't know any better. And so it's like, okay, great, Hey, if this is gonna fix my problems, perfect. Easy peasy. Right. But my sister actually a long, long time ago introduced me to a woman who had her own blog back when like blogging was like even more popular than it is right now. And she was really talking more about like real food and like all this stuff. And I'm like, this makes so much sense. Like how did I not realize that like real butter is better than I can't believe it's not butter
You on birth control for a number of years or is that hard? Okay. Oh yeah.
I don't even know how long, but it was definitely over a decade.
Yeah, for sure. And you were trying to suppress which symptoms.
Yeah, so I was dealing just more with like really heavy periods, very painful periods. And the acne that I was experiencing was pretty significant, you know, really led me to become a very shy person. Definitely very low self-esteem. And I had not only acne on my face, but like all over my back and trying to like shop for a prom dress when you have back acne that you're trying to cover up, not an easy feat. Let me tell you, so yeah, it was just this birth control. Not only not fixing my problems, but it's actually potentially creating more problems. And the breaking point I really had was when my regular doctor at the time diagnosed me with a fibroid or at least found a fibroid and I was still on birth control at this point. And I was very, very shocked I guess, but not really shocked at how they don't even like recommend anything for it.
It was basically you get a call from the nurse, not even the doctor. And it's like, okay, yeah, you have one cuz I had an ultrasound done and it was like, okay, see ya, good luck. You know? And I was like, wait a second. Like what can I do about it? Because yeah, cuz at the time, like I felt like there was action steps I could take, I just didn't really know what exactly they were. And I was kind of like, wait, wait, wait. Like what can I do about it? And her response was we don't do anything until it starts to really negatively impact your life. Like until you start really having a lot of symptoms or it starts to become a big problem. And that was not unacceptable answer for me. So needless to say, I never saw that practitioner ever again. And it was cuz she basically was like, well, what we do for fibroids is birth control.
And I was like, but I've been on birth control for many, many years. And I guess what, I still developed the fibroid. So that made no sense to me. Right. So that was really the starting point of, okay, something's gotta change here. Mm-hmm
And so did some certifications. That's when I did the FDN program really enjoyed that was able to actually start my practice kind of based on that, but have done of course, many trainings since then, because when we're passionate about this stuff, you know, we can't get enough
My diet as a kid, definitely very processed high sugar, you know, obviously just environmental stuff that we all come into contact with stressors, we all deal with, you know, really led my gut to be a big issue. And so started to really, you know, piece by piece, build my health back up and really address more of the deeper rooted causes and even traumas and you know, all of that and I'm in such a better place now and don't need birth control and things like that. And so this is now what I teach clients and support clients as I work to empower them to really become their own self healers, just like I had to do for myself.
There's lots of things I heard in your story. And I love the very specifics you gave about trying to shop for prom dresses in high school. And you know, at that time you're just kind of like, I'm gonna deal with this thing cause there's no other option. And I think what I wanna underline here is that there's always options, always mm-hmm
And I'm like, if I could do nothing, I wouldn't even be here. Right. Right. Like there is no reason for, I mean, that's like a good way to say, find a new practitioner I guess. And that's okay. That's okay. It's not, it's not practitioner bashing. It's just like, okay, you're not really a fit for me I guess. Um, because I would like to optimize and improve things and not have these symptoms. And like you said, if you'd already been on the, what the first option is, you know, we're very quick things happen over time, so silly. But when they've been part of our overall makeup and foundation and history, it's hard for us to notice them. And then something like a fibroid just kind of sends us into a tailspin. Like this doesn't even make sense. I thought I was already doing the right things there. Yeah. How long did it take you to kind of go on this journey of discovering what to do differently? Because like I'm really glad you brought up the nervous system in addition to the gut, which has been my revelation of recent, especially with hormones, everyone says, oh, my hormones are this or that. And for me, hormones are not a primary root cause. They're a secondary root cause. Mm-hmm
Yeah. So the nervous system really has many functions. It's kind of like, I feel like it's the computer, you know, of our bodies. And it's really designed to kind of monitor our environment, whether it's our external environment or even our internal environment. And it's basically its job is survival kind of first and foremost. So we actually have three branches of our nervous system, but most people think of two. They think of rest and digest, you know, which is you're parasympathetic. And they think of fight or flight, which is sympathetic. And that fight or flight mode is designed to allow us to run away from danger to ensure our survival. And once that threat has gone away, we should be able to get back easily into that rest and digest mode. And this is literally where everything else happens, right? Like you digest your food, you absorb your nutrients.
It allows, you know, you to have enough energy to make hormones and you know, all of these things. Right. And the problem with our modern day society is because of lots of different possible stressors. Even though we don't have dangers, like we used to, we don't really have to run away from bears and tigers and things like that. But we have a lot of other stressors in our lives that your brain doesn't know the difference between it treats all stress the same. So when we are constantly in this fight or flight mode, we cannot tap properly into rest and digest mode. And I always say that the nervous system has to feel safe more often than not in order for healing of any kind or proper functioning of just about any bodily system to happen. And so we need to be able to flow easily back into rest and digest mode, but we typically don't, mm-hmm,
Pull more. It's just UN it's unnatural for us because if we've already been doing it one way for me, even to help teach it to clients, it feels mildly unnatural because it doesn't feel as tangible as some of the other things that we can be doing is the easiest way for me to describe it. And so, and also it's like, I don't wanna have to change my behavior in that way. Right. Right. Like, or the biggest concern is lack of recognition around it. And I call this being a bulldozer mm-hmm
That's like a really toxic belief that will ultimately end in some kind of blow up eventually. Right. I would say like almost always, uh, that's a real good path to auto immunity, not to pick on auto immunity is really broad topic, but I've just never seen stress and nervous system issues, not a giant component, which then creates food issues can create gut issues, et cetera. Right. Mm-hmm
Yeah. So I mean, I was more constipated for sure. And obviously you have to poop on a regular basis to help get extra hormones out of your body. Such as estrogen. I also realized through some functional lab testing, you know, like a GI map stool test, my beta Goana Aase levels were massively high. Like I was over double what's considered normal and beta glucuronidase is an enzyme that's produced by certain pathogenic organisms that can actually block your ability to properly get estrogen out of the body. I always say kind of estrogen is like a two year old child trying to cross the road. Like it needs to hold someone's hand to like get over there. Right. And kind of estrogen's the same. It needs support getting out of your body. But when you have pathogens that are ING, this enzyme, it basically tears that two year old child's hand away from the parent trying to walk 'em across the street.
And so now the child can't right. So can't get to the other side and then that estrogen really circulates in the body and it can cause it to become really elevated. So your gut, you know, also can produce certain hormones as well as help eliminate them. So there is a huge component there. And I always say that the gut is actually one of the biggest sources of toxicity in the body because of pathogenic bugs can create toxins. They can turn healthy nutrients into toxic substances and so on. And guess what? Those toxins can then also burden the liver. And the liver is also one part of the digestive system that also helps to filter out certain things like hormones. Mm-hmm
Yeah. So backing up elevated estrogen can look like heavier period flow, moodiness, breast tenderness, maybe some acne fibroids, like Sarah said. So that's kinda why we're talking about this excess estrogen. What's kind of easier for our brains is like, okay, birth control, suppresses estrogen. So it's reducing symptoms or if you Google estrogen dominance or estrogen excess, I would say like, I would recommend to people probably not one of the best ones to Google because it'll look like do this mm-hmm
And so, um, there's a lot of opportunities for it to miss. And if you miss out on the opportunities to correct those imbalances, they're gonna show up some other way too, right. Or you're not gonna ultimately love how things are going. So I always think like if, as much as possible, we always want to it's for some people, maybe it's not a fit for them. They're probably not listening to this podcast. Um, if it's not a good fit for them to kind of do the correct way, but there's just a lot of pieces to it. Mm-hmm
Yeah. I think a lot of women always associate hormones with like reproduction, right? Like, Hey, if I wanna have a baby, let's think about hormones, but like hormones do so much more than just, you know, baby making and yeah. So estrogen dominance, which isn't always the greatest term, but it's just what people know. Right? So it can be not only high estrogen and potentially normal progesterone, but it can also be normal estrogen and low progesterone and progesterone. I always think of it as being more like of a calming, you know, hormone, so to speak. So we might experience if it's low things like irregular menstrual cycles or even more spotting between your cycles, it obviously does trigger is a big hormone that triggers ovulation and lack of ovulation can prevent from being able to have fertility success, even just headaches, migraines, your mood, you know, how your mood changes more anxiety or depression, even trouble sleeping because of the calming effect, hot flashes, more PMs type symptoms.
Anything that even looks like estrogen dominance, like your cramps, your tender breasts, your heavy periods could in fact be again, normal estrogen, but low progesterone levels. And it, you know, these hormones have to be kind of, they're happy dancing together, like the whole cycle long. So these symptoms might not necessarily be all month long, but they might be at certain points of your cycle because it is very possible for hormones to look normal at certain points. And then other points is when they're kind of getting out of whack, your hormones don't necessarily have to be out of balance the entire time. Although that can't happen too.
So if you have a stressful week and your nervous system gets sent down the wrong direction all week, then estrogen can start to get blocked. Progesterone can start to get suppressed. And maybe that cycle doesn't turn out quite the way you want it. Even though half the month maybe went okay, the other half was like, oh, a little more stressful. And until we kind of stop, it's so easy. Like we often can't remember what we ate yesterday, which is fine. Yeah. You know, I'm not, I'm saying like I have the same problem. I'm just saying it's easy for us to overlook stress and nervous system. Yeah. Nervous system imbalances, let's say so. And then if we have unchecked gut symptoms, which may not look like gut symptoms, right. Like you said, constipation, and I think a lot of people have, they don't recognize constipations if you're not having like a banana style bowel movement every day. Yeah. Yeah. Then we're not quite where we should be. Right. Mm-hmm
Okay. So we talked about how low progesterone feels. And one other thing to mention is that high estrogen symptoms can also be low progesterone, which is sneaky. And a lot of times with a higher estrogen, it's like a Teeter totter and progesterone, like you said, it needs to dance. And when one partner is really dominating, it kind of suppresses the other partner. So let's talk about, this is like the very popular topic. That's kind of a little more difficult. Like it's almost easier to try to work on estrogen access and estro to dominance. And that might just be my bias than low progesterone, but there needs to be a conversation about low progesterone. So let's talk about what people can do to improve progesterone.
Yeah. So, you know, ultimately again, I always think of, yeah. Trying to potentially investigate which factors are contributing to low progesterone that, you know, we've kind of mentioned like, is there gut issues? And in my experience, I don't know if yours is the same, but I have really yet to have a client come to me that didn't have some sort of gut dysfunction because ultimately gut dysfunction happens due to a lifetime of factors happening. I mean, even the gut health of your parents and your grandparents are gonna influence what your gut health is like when you're born. So ultimately we might just be born with not so great gut bacteria and things like that. I just think it's again, part of kind of modern day society to some extent, but so you could do some functional labs to kind of help pinpoint those types of things.
But in general, I always say, I tend to find women undereat animal proteins and fats, you know, and in our kind of plant forward, somewhat society we tend, or even for women who are maybe struggling with weight, which again can go back to gut health and nervous system and hormones. They're trying to eat all these vegetables and things and maybe lacking in the animal proteins in fat. But remember hormones are made from cholesterol, which is a fat, you know, so that could be a factor again, going back to stress, like we said, and the nervous system, which could be a whole big topic in and of itself. But even our emotions, even traumas our thought processes, how we think about ourselves can be a stressor. Inflammation can be a stressor on the body, blood sugar. I balances can be a stressor. So those like stress can come from hundreds of places, external internal.
So I oftentimes do get clients who are like, but I'm not really that stressed or I don't really feel that stressed, but remember stress can also be hidden. It's not always obvious. It can be internal external. So that's always a huge one working on, you know, regulating the nervous system. I also see nutrient deficiencies to be really big too. And again, that can go back to guess what the gut, because are you breaking down and absorbing things really well? You know, again, are you getting enough bioavailable nutrients from more of the animal proteins and fats and things like that. So like vitamin B six magnesium zinc, vitamin a vitamin E all of these things are really helpful for progesterone production. I also think of the thyroid, which is another hormone producing land that is affected by all the things we're talking about as well. But you need adequate thyroid hormone to make progesterone.
And if you also have low progesterone and this can raise your thyroid requirement, making the thyroid work harder. So addressing that as well, certain medications like if people are on antidepressants, which is again, if you've got low progesterone and you have mood issues, most of the time, a conventional, doctor's gonna say here's some antidepressants, but guess what? That can also affect progesterone. So it's taking a step back, looking at the body as a whole supporting the body as a whole, cuz I think people tend to focus and hone in on hormones only and say, okay, progesterones low. How do I raise that? And I often get a, what supplements can I take, you know, to raise progesterone. But really it goes back to these big foundational things so that the body can work properly so that you can absorb nutrients and your body isn't stuck in a stress mode and therefore suppressing progesterone. I always find that addressing those root causes are gonna be more effective, you know, long term.
Yeah. There's a lot of,
There's a lot more to it than that, but those are some basic,
Yeah, there's a lot of pieces to that and it's not real immediate. So that is a challenge for us as humans. Isn't it? Mm-hmm
Yeah, normally what I say is like, it's okay. If you really need to use those types of interventions to help with how you're feeling in the present, you know, I totally get that. Like we don't wanna feel like we're suffering for a long period of time while we're trying to like investigate what else is going on. But like I always say if you're 30, really in the vast majority of cases, you should be making your own progress room. And so if you aren't, would you rather find out why you're not and work on addressing those so that you can make your own, you know, and again, it's a choice, uh, you know, no judgments ever
Here's this, you know, and just take it. Mm-hmm
So technically just factually speaking, it's not really a solution. Next we talked about this scenario I gave was a 30 year old woman. So a sex hormone producing woman. So there's two phases of life, right? Baby making and not baby making technically whatever your choices are personally, that's how your body physiologically works. Mm-hmm
Yeah. But at that age you get a bit of a choice. And as we get older and we kind of transition away from producing as much of our own hormones, there's always, always, always choices, but you know, the choices become slightly less maybe. And like maybe if you are at the age where you're not gonna produce a ton of your own progesterone, then your options are to replace or decide what you, depending on or reduce the severity through inflammation, whatever. Right. So just kind of like reviewing mm-hmm
Because I've gut and other issues and stress issues. But also that low progesterone is gonna become like more recurring theme if it's not already. And like you said, under eating is a big thing. The stress of the last couple of years, all of a sudden people are gonna be like, I don't even know why I don't feel well. Right. And like, we don't love to be told, well, it's stress
Yeah. No good synopsis.
All right, cool. So I know you like to talk about copper issues, Sarah, so let's talk about that and how it kind of fits into this as well. So first we've actually done full episodes, kind of talking about this pretty recently with Amanda Montalvo, we talked about copper about a month ago, depending on. And you talked about bile earlier, by the way, I was thinking, making a mental note let's release the full episode on bile after Sarah's episode
Yeah. Well really what we're finding is that copper is becoming more and more problematic due to, again, going back to good old environment, there's a lot of things that can affect copper. I mean obviously just exposure to it. It can get passed in utero. So again, if like your mother had more copper, it can get passed along to you. And so we're seeing kind of generation after generation going higher birth control use can also increase copper. Even if it we're not just talking copper, I U D but any sort of birth control, especially when it has estrogen in it, because estrogen can increase copper, copper can increase estrogen. Stress is another huge one because that blocks production of a copper transport protein that's required to help get copper properly out of the body and you know, so forth and so on. Not to mention also supplements that might have copper in them, which is why I'm not a huge fan of multivitamins.
So copper has a lot of effect. Copper is a important mineral as any mineral is important, but typically when it becomes too elevated, for whatever reason, it becomes more what we consider toxic. And it may not be totally obvious. Like when we do hair tissue, mineral analysis testing, sometimes copper can be high on there, but it can also be low, which doesn't necessarily mean that your copper is low because our body typically starts to store it as a way to protect us from it kind of floating around doing damage. So it can go in like the liver, it can go in the brain. And so we might not always see it, but copper, like I said, can affect estrogen when copper is high, estrogen can go high. So that can be one contributor. If you have high estrogen and people don't always realize it, copper is also antifungal. And so when we start thinking about gut health, you know, copper should be found in some of your gut lining, but if we're toxic in it and we're storing it, it's again, it's going where we don't want it to go and it's not really sticking around in the gut. And so this is when, where we might start to see elevated fungus and things in the gut, like candida or reoccurring chronic, you know, yeast infections and things like that. Um,
Can we back up a second and talk about what's the utility of copper for people and also doesn't the body just keep things in balance and why is it getting out of balance? Right. And you kind of talked about that already, but just to kinda back up and say, why does this even matter? Yes, it produces certain symptoms, but, and maybe that's where you wanna go, but like why does this matter overall? First of
All. Yeah. Yeah. So again, nutrients, vitamins and minerals impact vitamins and minerals. So if something is too low, something is too high, it can actually negatively affect other things, but also there are certain nutrients that are required to work together. Well. So like copper, when copper starts to kind of get outta control and starts to become elevated for all, a lot of those reasons that I mentioned, and it's hard, you know, to get out of the body, then it's actually very excited to on the adrenal gland. So it can start to actually decrease sodium and potassium, which are two hugely important minerals, but it can also start to push things like zinc out of the cell and now it's lost and now we don't have enough zinc and we need zinc for lots of things, including like testosterone production, right? So it actually can start to mess with other things or impact other nutrients when we don't have adequate amounts. Perfect. And so it, isn't always just taking nutrients and thinking we're covered it again, is looking at that balance because you might need more of one nutrient, less of another to kind of help balance things out and then kind of checking in on those things periodically and then making adjustments as needed.
So, you know, the body's super smart and it is good at balancing things. So why does it struggle to balance? And minerals are really tricky, right? They're not like something you just wanna go take a whole bunch of certain ones. Some of 'em are fine and others are like, oh, you don't wanna be single dosing things. Why isn't our body helping control the balance of copper there? Like what happens, what breaks down to where that's not happening? Well,
Yeah. So this kind of goes back to again, we always wanted to take a step back and look at things as a whole, because if we're stressed right, then we have a hard time making that copper transport protein because the adrenals actually help your liver makes relo plasm, which is that copper transport protein. And so again, the body's always trying to do what it can to protect itself, but it's also, it doesn't have enough energy to allow everything to function perfectly all the time. So it's gonna pick and choose what it thinks is most important. And survival is always most important, not worrying about balancing minerals and things like that. Right? So that kind of goes back to the nervous system needing to be in more rest and digest to allow these things to happen. So typically looking at a lot of those, you know, nutrition and lifestyle factors that are gonna ultimately impede your ability to keep minerals in balance.
And when your stress response is chronically activated, you utilize more sodium and potassium in order to support that whole process. And so that's when those can start to get decreased, especially if we're not consciously thinking about making sure we're getting extra, you know, in our diets during those times. And then going back to the gut, everything goes back to nervous system in the gut, right? Are you even absorbing things that you're eating? And then we could also talk about the fact that just our soils are more depleted. So it's a little bit harder to get certain things through the diet. So needing to just be a little bit more conscious of, am I getting enough? Am I breaking it down, absorbing it? And is my body working in such a way to where I'm losing a lot more minerals and I'm not properly replacing them.
Yeah. So again, I really find truly low copper, like where we're really deficient is very much not a common thing because even if it is showing up low, like on HTMA test, much of the time, it's just hidden to where it's there, but it's not bioavailable. We're not able to utilize it well, which is not why we're not really seeing it on a test like that. And the symptoms of high and low copper can be similar because of that reason, because it can be high in the body, but we're not using it. So the body's kind of presenting as if it's like deficient in it. Right. Mm-hmm
Right. So as far as what you can do about it again, I would suggest working with a, a well trained practitioner, cuz not all of them are on hair tissue, mineral analysis testing, but again, going back to stress and nervous system, we're a broken record here, but that's gonna also help with making that copper transport protein, obviously minimizing any exposure to copper. So like if you're still on birth control or if you're taking a multivitamin or something that has copper in it, like that would something you'd wanna be very cautious about. I also usually suggest looking at how much animal foods you're incorporating into your diet, especially your animal rich foods are gonna be much richer in B vitamins, bioavailable zinc, which also helps to balance copper a bit, your retinol vitamin a, which is also required for that cerrillo plasm production to help copper get out.
And your plant foods have beta Carine in it, not retinol vitamin a so that's important. And some people might even incorporate a little bit of like quality liver into their diet. That's kind of a really nutrient dense source of all of those nutrients as well. You could even look at like a red light therapy is kind of pretty popular these days that can also kind of help make copper a little more bio available so it can work on getting exited out of the body. And then of course looking at your gut and healing, your gut is also a big factor cause that's a big form of stress on the body. You wanna make sure you're able to break down and absorb a lot of these nutrients really well. Gut has a huge far reaching approach on just about every aspect of things.
Okay. Sarah, thank you so much for talking to us about your story of estrogen excess or estrogen dominance, low progesterone, which we will see as the new pandemic undoubtedly related to lack of nutrients, nervous system imbalances to beat a dead horse here and gut imbalances. Thanks for talking to us about the estrogen gut connection, the estrogen copper connection, why copper's a problem high, low copper, and just kind of like pulling back the curtain a little bit on that for those very health savvy biohackers that are listening and not fully understanding, you know, maybe they're not making super gains in certain areas around hormone balance, even though they feel like they're doing all the right things, right. Sarah, where can people find you online?
So on my website is the organic dietician.com. Um, I also do have a free heal your gut for good four part video training that people can sign up for there as well. And then I'm also, I'm mostly on Instagram, but you can also find me on Instagram or Facebook, both at the organic dietician. Perfect.
Thanks so much for coming on today.
Thanks for allowing me to have a platform to share my passions,
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