Not “Side Effects.” Effects.

pills The drug companies have done such an amazing job of drilling it into people’s brains that their products are “safe and effective” and often the best option for coping with whatever ails you, there’s a point that bears repeating: Drugs do not have “side effects,” per se.

They have effects.

Some of those effects are desirable. Others, not so much. They may be called “side effects,” but they’re just as direct as any other. They’re caused by the way the drug works.

And despite the testing that is done before a drug is put on or withheld from the market, no one is really sure of all the effects any given medication might have, especially over time periods longer than that of your typical clinical trial.

This brings us to some interesting research presented last month at United European Gastroenterology Week in Barcelona.

For their study, Dutch researchers looked at 41 common drug categories and analyzed 1883 fecal samples from two patient groups, one healthy and one diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease or syndrome. The researchers then compared the test results of those who took prescription drugs against those who did not, as well as the effects of single drugs versus combinations.

All told,

They found that 18 common drug categories have an important impact on the bacterial composition of the gut microbiome, which could lead to undesired consequences for health.

Four groups of drugs were found to have the greatest impact on bacterial balance: proton pump inhibitors, metaformin, antibiotics, and laxatives.

The analyses revealed that people who took PPIs had more upper gastrointestinal tract bacteria, and that their bodies produced more fatty acid. Meanwhile, those who took metformin had higher levels of Escherichia coli, a bacterium that can cause diarrhea and urinary tract infections.

Also, a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors was associated with increased levels of Eubacterium ramulus — another potentially harmful bacterium — in people with IBS.

Meanwhile, oral steroids were associated with higher levels of methane-producing bacteria, which could contribute to weight gain and obesity.

And this doesn’t even consider the impact of these drugs on the biological terrain, even as pharmaceuticals are one of the most common pollutants that get in the way of the body’s inherent ability to self-regulate. (For more on the terrain, start here.)

Simply put, drugs are intended to force particular actions in the body rather than support the body’s own natural healing abilities. Studies like the above provide a potent reminder that they trigger other actions – and reactions – as well.

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KTH Flashback: Yes, Dental Care Can Cost. Avoiding It? Even More So.

empty dental chair According to a new report from the ADA Health Policy Institute, about 1 in 5 American adults skip needed dental care. Far and away, the main reason they give is cost. They say they just can’t afford it or don’t want to spend the money.

But one thing wasn’t exactly clear in the news coverage on this report: Does “needed dental care” include preventive exams and cleanings, or were the researchers just looking at problems such as decay and gum disease that require more extensive treatment?

If it does include regular care, skipping lower cost preventive visits is a pretty poor strategy for keeping costs in check.

Would you avoid taking your car in for regular maintenance just to save a few bucks? Of course not. You know that without that ongoing care, your car won’t run as well, meaning hefty repair bills in your future.

The same kind of thing goes for your mouth, as well.

The Cost of Dental Work – & the Cost of Avoiding It

Originally posted March 1, 2010; updated

A few months ago, one of our dental team members was out shopping when a store manager, not knowing her occupation, asked if she had any good tips for dealing with a toothache. One of his employees had a broken root canal tooth and was in severe pain. Indeed, the employee – a young man of about 20 – looked very pale and held onto the counter the whole time they spoke, as if he would fall over were he to let go. Explaining that although she wasn’t a dentist, our team member said that she did work for a dental office and suggested some stop-gap remedies.

“But really, you should see a dentist as soon as possible,” she insisted. “You shouldn’t let something like that go for too long. It’s not just hellish to endure the pain and not being able to eat. If there’s infection, it can be really dangerous.”

“I know, but I can’t afford it,” replied the clerk. “I’m on my mom’s insurance, but it won’t kick in until February. I don’t get insurance here. And I just paid $1700 to Western Dental for the root canal.”

Our team member sympathized and shared some of the tips and resources for finding affordable care that we’ve shared with you here. The young man thanked her, then went on break to buy some ibuprofen and Anbesol to try to kill the pain so he could at least make it through the rest of his shift.

This is an all too common occurrence, with many folks feeling economic pressure as never before and looking for more and more ways to cut back our spending to make sure their money lasts.

Unfortunately, a good number of people are cutting back on dental care, or at minimum, putting it off as long as possible and then looking for the lowest cost option possible, whether or not it’s the best option. Consequently, many dentists are seeing a significant uptick in emergency cases. According to a Wealthy Dentist survey, 63% of dentists report such an increase. Emergency room visits for dental problems have skyrocketed, as well.

But economic hardship isn’t the only reason people defer care. After all, before the economic crisis, dentists still saw many people putting off treatment as long as possible.

We think there are a couple reasons why deferring dental care is so easy. For starters, many dental conditions – such as periodontitis (gum disease) and caries – don’t cause pain or discomfort until the problems become severe. Only then will some people contact a dentist. But at this point, problems typically require much more treatment at much greater cost than they would had they been treated earlier in the disease process.

Second, there is still a strong tendency – even amongst those in dentistry – to view the dentist as a sort of glorified mouth mechanic. Consider this bit of a post from the now defunct blog Dentist Love:

As I guy, I like to think of myself as a handyman.

I’ve fixed leaky faucets, broken toys, faulty light switches … you know, lots of around-the-house projects.

But when it comes to my truck or my motorcycle, I must admit I leave it ALL to my mechanic. Why? Because I’ve tried engine repair on my own in the past and had horrible results.

I think the same goes for my dentist.

When you take this perspective, it’s easy to think as dental care being only something you pursue when something goes wrong. But as Dr. Verigin writes,

I question their philosophy, which I variously call “industrial dental medicine,” “corporate dental medicine” or “Western school medicine.” This outlook views the decay process as an abnormality in a functioning machine. Primary symptoms are suppressed with specific “silver bullets.” The patient plays victim. The dentist is a glorified mouth mechanic, tooth engineer or oral plumber. Disease processes are reduced to computer code.

Our 21st century outlook, integrated, biological dentistry, focuses first on the parents and their children. We work together to develop health strategies for their lives. They become clients and students, not patients. The dentist by definition is a doctor, which also means “teacher.” Since our dentistry focuses on the underlying mechanisms of the disease process, my staff and I teach and coach our clients by enhancing awareness of the whole body implications of dental disease. Beyond teaching basic cleaning techniques, we encourage proper nutrition to chemically and electrically enhance the body and reduce the risks of decay.

Obviously, this is much more involved and more demanding of the individual’s active participation in maintaining his or her dental – as well as systemic – health. But it also provides the tools and knowledge for the most cost-effective approach to dental and oral health: preventive care. If you take care of your teeth and oral tissues through proper hygiene, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices, you minimize the risk of chronic and costly dental health problems that will really put a dent in your bank account.

If problems do arise – say, an accident occurs and you lose, break or loosen a tooth, or a tooth or the gums become painful for any reason – it is vital to your overall health to see a dentist as quickly as possible. Not only can a dentist help with pain relief but correct the problem and prevent infection which, if left untreated, can affect other areas of the body and even, in extreme cases, cause death.

One handy resource for knowing what to do – including how quickly to seek help for dental injuries – is Dear Doctor’s “Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries” (PDF). This simple and clear chart lets you know in what cases immediate treatment is called for and those in which treatment is less urgent. It also provides some useful tips for tending the injury until you can get to a dentist.

Of course, there are situations other than direct injury that should also prompt you to see a dentist as soon as possible for evaluation and treatment – particularly if you have pain and/or sensitivity that doesn’t go away, or if you have heavy bleeding in the mouth or abscesses. These are all signs of oral problems such as decay, infection and exposed roots that will not fix themselves on their own or get better over time. Once you are aware of the problem, again, it is in your best interest to contact a dentist immediately. An untreated problem will only get worse and be more expensive to take care of properly.

Fortunately, when it comes to the financials, you do have options for paying for the care you need:

If you have dental insurance, it will likely cover at least part of the cost. If you don’t have insurance, there are other financing options you can pursue, from in-office payment plans to consumer credit plans (e.g., CareCredit) specifically designed to cover dental and medical costs.

If money is an issue, be up front about it. If you get public assistance of some kind but can’t find a dentist who will accept it, ask about other payment options. If you live near a city with a dental school, you can get low-cost services at their clinic.

For more information on finding a dental school clinic or other source of reduced-cost services, see the NIDCR’s website or contact your state dental association about available assistance programs where you live.

Just don’t do nothing.

Image by me and the sysop, via Flickr

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What Every Jack o’Lantern Needs Is…a Good Dental Theme?

About 10 years ago, we found out just how sacred the Halloween candy tradition is to some people when our post on alternative treats drove an extreme amount of new traffic to our blog – and a whole lot of spirited (pardon the pun) comments. Many were supportive, but of course there were others that suggested we wanted to ruin Halloween.

Since then, rising concerns about sugar and campaigns such as the Teal Pumpkin Project have made the concept of healthier or non-food treats seem far less weird, let alone potential cause for your house getting egged or TPed.

Still, think “Halloween,” and “candy” is likely one of the first thoughts that comes to mind – which is probably why more than a few people think that what every jack o’lantern needs is a good dental theme. What could be more suited to a sugar saturated holiday?

So without further ado, here are some of our favorites…
 
carved pumpkin saying did you floss
 
carved pumpkin decorated with dental floss and floss picks
 
toothless jack o'lantern with plastic fangs in glass of water
 
pumpkin with realistic teeth carved
 
jack o'lantern dentist and patient
 
smile makover jack o'lanterns before and after
 
jack o'lantern with braces
 
jack o'lantern saying smile
 
Have an amazing jack o’lantern – dentally themed or otherwise – to share? Post it in the comments!

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Why We Start with the Biological Terrain: Sarah’s Story

man looking out windowIf you’ve been dealing with long term illness and then learn about the impact that things like cavitations, root canals, or mercury amalgam can have on your health, it’s easy to think that simply addressing them is all that you need to finally begin healing.

But despite what you hear from some corners of the internet, these aren’t actually “root causes.”

According to the concepts of regulative medicine that inform actual biological dentistry, the ultimate root cause of any illness or dysfunction is an acidic, polluted, disordered biological terrain – the extracellular matrix, which you can think of as the body’s internal environment.

If the terrain is neglected, simply removing dental burdens may alleviate symptoms to a degree but generally isn’t enough to fully restore health for the long term. It’s “like fixing a door on a house that’s burning down.”

This is why Dr. V always starts with a biological terrain assessment and EAV diagnostics, in addition to all the usual dental exams and taking a comprehensive health history. If these suggest a compromised terrain, his treatment plan begins with correcting those problems.

This was the case with a woman who, this past summer, traveled all the way from Minnesota to consult with Dr. V about suspected cavitations.

For many years, Sarah had been dealing with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that damages the thyroid and is considered incurable by conventional medicine. She said that she had seen numerous doctors for it, but while there were some minor improvements, she made no real progress.

She didn’t have any root canal teeth or mercury fillings, though she was advised to have lots of teeth removed after a cone beam scan showed significant bone loss She refused this option, wanting to know WHY the bone loss had occurred and find a way to save her teeth, not just give up on them.

That’s when Sarah reached out to us.

BTA resultsExams and testing showed no strong sign of cavitations but significant disorder in the terrain. After discussing the findings with Dr. V and reviewing his treatment recommendations, Sarah decided to get started right away with Phase One of healing the terrain: cleansing to decongest it and re-establish proper cell-to-cell communication.

For the terrain, you see, is like a sponge. Toxins – both exogenous (coming from outside the body) and endogenous (generated from within through various metabolic processes) – are absorbed by it constantly in order to protect the individual’s cells. If the terrain isn’t cleansed, the individual will become symptomatic.

Symptoms are like a clogged drain. While a more alkaline diet will help slow the running faucet and prevent overflowing, remedies are still needed to open the channels of elimination: skin, bronchi, kidneys,and intestines.

So in addition to following a more alkaline diet – and scheduling LANAP treatment with a provider back in Minnesota to address her advanced gum disease – Dr. V prescribed a regimen of select Pekana and Sanum remedies at a very low dosage in order to keep from overstimulating her body’s immune and other regulative symptoms.

Especially in cases of long-term illness, you want to start gently. As the body adapts to the changes, you can ramp things up.

After about a month of Phase One, Sarah sent us a progress report. She has graciously allowed us to share it – and her whole story – with you here, to show what’s possible when you take a terrain-based approach to healing.

I’ve been meaning to write for a couple weeks and tell you about how well I’m doing, but I have been too busy! And not too busy sleeping, but too busy DOING THINGS! It’s amazing!

I am so very grateful to all of you for your support, knowledge, kindness and caring towards me on this healing journey. While I do not feel 100%, I have more energy than I’ve had in months, and I have more mental interest in things, as well. The last couple mornings, I’ve woken up with enthusiasm, as well. I’ve been working 45 hour weeks in 4 days outside of the house, then putting in more hours in my home office the other 3 days, as well as completing projects around the homestead. I would have been unable to do half of this a month ago, plus I would have needed several days with naps. I’ve only had 1 nap in the last 4 weeks and that was last Sunday when I fell asleep reading after a grueling week.

My digestion has improved, as well as all the symptoms I had listed on the chart. Everything has improved from 20-50%, except for the cholesterol and bone density which have not been tested. I feel less of a need for all the supplements I was taking, though I continue to take them at a reduced level. My TSH level rose out of optimum range on my last test, but rather than up my Armour Thyroid, [my doctor] wants to leave the dose at 45mg for another month and see what happens.

I am at the fully prescribed level of the 3 herbals and at about 14 drops of the homeopathics. I felt like I was maybe pushing too hard with the homeopathics as I had several days of “angst,” so I decided to hold at 14 for a week. I think I am ready to increase with the next bottle (today is an off day).

I’m scheduled for the LANAP procedure in 2 weeks, on the 15th & 16th of October.

So thank you Gary, Joanne, and Jill…for your immense part in my wonderful, new life. My heart is full.

We are so honored to be a part of Sarah’s healing, so happy to see just how well she’s responding to the treatment, and so excited to see how she continues to progress – progress she has agreed to let us share with you along the way. Stay tuned!

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Reprogramming Your Brain

smiling womanOver the years, evidence has built up, suggesting that positive mental states can indeed affect your health for the better. Consider, for instance, how one trio of studies showed ways in which hope can affect physical well-being.

In study one, greater hope was associated with depth of commitment to a healthier diet and regular exercise. In study two, the integrative hope scale was associated with a wider array of health behaviors as compared to a standard goal-oriented hope scale. In study three, a hope-centered content analysis of testimonies provided by long-term breast cancer survivors revealed a strong reliance on attachment and spirituality, dimensions typically neglected in psychological studies of this [hope] construct.

But what’s especially awesome is that we have the power to change our brains to orient toward more positive mental habits. Here’s one way of making that happen:

Keep Exploring

Image by St0rmz, via Flickr

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Really, Fruit Is Okay

fruit standHow about a little good news this week?

According to recent data from the USDA, although we’re still consuming far too much sugar, Americans seem to be enjoying more whole fruit and drinking less juice.

It’s a healthier option, to be sure. Fruit juice, after all, is essentially concentrated sugar. Between that and its acidity, it’s pretty much murder for your teeth, both destroying their enamel while feeding the pathogens that contribute to decay

It’s none too kind to the rest of your body either.

More, you lose some of the most beneficial compounds in fresh produce when you juice it, such as polyphenols and antioxidants. With whole fruit, you get the total nutritional package – vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, enzymes, and fiber.

“But it still contains sugar!” screams industry, seemingly baffled as to why a person might think raw fruit is healthier.

It’s difficult to tell whether consumers will continue to turn away from juice and toward raw fruit. It may just be a fad stemming from sugar concerns that could fade once people become aware that many raw fruits contain plenty of sugar. According to Healthline, three to four cups of watermelon has nearly as much of the sweetener as a can of sugary soda….

This is true. It’s also a poor comparison. “Three to four cups of watermelon” is three to four SERVINGS – vs. a single serving of soda.

More, because of its extremely high water content, watermelon’s impact on blood sugar levels is extremely low. The same can’t be said for a Coke.

Truth is, you’d have to eat far more fresh fruit than you could comfortably eat in one sitting for its sugars to affect you the same way as those in a soda. You’d need to eat 3 to 6 apples to get the same amount of sugar as in one 8-ounce glass of juice. You’d need to eat 2 to 4 oranges.

Meantime, 12 ounces of juice may have as much or even more sugar as that can of sugary soda.

Really, fruit is okay. Yes, there’s naturally occurring sugar in it. Like anything, you should avoid it in excess. But to treat it like the equivalent of pop or some other sugar-saturated product? That’s a whole lot of spin…

Image by Marco Verch, via Flickr

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But Does Fluoride Stop Decay? Not So Much, Suggests New Study

applying fluoride varnishElsewhere on the fluoridation front, another new study questions the conventional wisdom on fluoride varnishes.

The literature review and meta-analysis, published last month in Caries Research, looked at data from 20 earlier studies from 13 countries to see how effective such treatments are when it comes to preventing tooth decay in preschoolers.

Fluoride varnish has its fans, of course, because it’s relatively cheap and easy to provide, there’s less risk of the child swallowing fluoride, and besides, everybody just KNOWS that fluoride prevents decay.

Except when it doesn’t.

“As much as we want fluoride varnish to be effective, the current evidence doesn’t support a huge benefit for its use in young children,” Dr. [Joana] Cunha-Cruz [one of the study authors] said.

At best, its benefits were found to be only “modest and uncertain.”

At the surface level, the results showed a statistically significant difference favoring FV [fluoride varnish]. Overall, the lower increment of caries in the varnish group was of one surface per child or less. This difference is possibly clinically irrelevant. At the tooth level, no significant difference was observed between children who received FV and those who did not. Finally, at the individual level, the meta-analysis showed that the risk of developing new dentine caries lesions was reduced by 12% among the children who received FV when compared to those who did not. This was a rather modest benefit as a large number of the children developed new dentine caries lesions, regardless of FV use. [emphasis added]

Despite this, the authors appear to remain believers in fluoride, not questioning its use in toothpaste, rinses, or other applications. To their credit, however, they also emphasize that cutting out the sugar is “an even more cost-effective strategy” when it comes to preventing decay.

Absolutely.

For truly, fluoride is no silver bullet. What does help? As ever, eating right – nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods with few or no added sugars and refined carbs – and maintaining a healthy biological terrain.

Previously

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The Latest Study to Link Fluoride Exposure with Lower IQ

pregnant woman drinking waterFluoride is an unqualified good for preventing tooth decay, suggest its defenders, and fluoridated water is the best means of delivering it to the most people, particularly those who lack access to regular dental care.

We have zero doubt that such folks mean well, but they also seem to overlook a critical point: All drugs – and that’s what fluoride is considered when used in this way – have “side effects,” i.e., effects other than the favored ones. (Here’s a quick overview of fluoride’s.)

One of those effects is lower IQ, as dozens of studies have demonstrated and as new research in JAMA Pediatrics recently confirmed.

Specifically, the study looked at the impact of fluoride exposure during pregnancy on the IQ of the mothers’ offspring. Over 500 mother/child pairs were included. Children’s IQ scores were measured at age 3 to 4.

In this study, maternal exposure to higher levels of fluoride during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ scores in children aged 3 to 4 years.

In the CTV news clip below, lead author Dr. Christine Till talks about her team’s findings and significance. She also responds to some of the pushback by those don’t question fluoridation.

Other researchers have lauded the study, describing it as “carefully conducted and analyzed” and “an excellent study.” Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health, insists that the “CDC has to come out and look at the risk-benefit ratio again, because they can’t continue relying on studies that were carried out decades ago.”

Indeed.

Image by Małgorzata Sulej, via Flickr

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Reason to Ditch the Soft Drinks #189

crushed Sprite canIn news that should surprise exactly nobody, yet another large study has shown a relationship between soft drink consumption and death risk.

Published earlier this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study analyzed data from more than 450,000 European adults whose health habits were followed for 11 years or more. Compared with those who drank 1 soft drink or less per month, those who drank 2 or more servings a day were found to be at greater risk of early death.

When the researchers analyzed their data, accounting for factors that could increase the risk of death, such as body mass index and smoking, they found that participants who consumed two or more glasses of soft drinks per day were 17% more likely to die early compared to those who drank less than a single serving of soft drinks per month.

There was one surprising detail, though: It didn’t matter if the drinks were sugar-sweetened or relied on artificial sweeteners. Both had a negative impact.

In fact, the jump in risk of early death was even greater for those who stuck with diet drinks. While those who regularly had sugary drinks were 8% more likely to die early compared with those who drank little or none, regular consumers of diet drinks were 26% more likely to die early compared with those who steered clear of the stuff.

As Dr. Bicuspid reported,

Consuming sugary drinks was also linked to death from several diseases, including circulatory diseases, digestive diseases, and Parkinson’s disease. However, no association was found for deaths associated with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, participants with a healthy body mass index (BMI) who consumed sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks had a higher risk of death. The researchers suggested that the associations between sugary drink consumption and mortality may be independent of any role that body fat may play.

Of course and as ever, correlation doesn’t equal causation. This type of study can’t tell us a thing about causes. It can only show that a relationship exists.

It also doesn’t account for many other factors that might explain the relationship. For instance, it’s quite possible that soft drink consumption is a proxy for a bad diet, heavy in hyper-processed products, low in nutrient-dense whole foods.

“There are only so many things you can account for when it comes to different types of factors,” [Dr. Bruce Y.] Lee [of Johns Hopkins University] said. “These are very complex systems.”

But one thing IS clear: Soft drinks certainly don’t help.

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Brushing Your Teeth Matters, but It Isn’t Everything

So yes, of course, oral hygiene matters. But it’s not everything, as new research in the BDJ reminds.

The study was just the latest to look at the oral health of elite athletes. It included Olympians and pros alike, representing 11 sports all together. But when it came to the state of their teeth, those 352 participants were a lot less elite.

Nearly half had untreated tooth decay. Almost all had early signs of gum disease. About a third reported their oral health having had a negative impact on their training and performance.

What makes this all the more surprising is that most of these athletes also reported practicing good oral hygiene. Nearly all said they brushed twice a day, while 44% reported flossing daily – figures much higher than for the general public. They don’t smoke. They tend to eat healthfully.

Yet, as a group, their teeth and gums were a mess.

And for that, much of the credit can go to the sports drinks, energy gels, and energy bars they frequently consume. Nearly 90% reported drinking the beverages regularly, with another 70% using gels and 59% using the bars.

Constantly consuming these often sugar-packed products mean a feast for the harmful microbes that live in even the cleanest mouth. That means more and longer exposure to the acidic waste they produce. Those acids destroy tooth enamel, leaving the teeth more vulnerable to decay.

Sugars also fuel the chronic inflammation that’s the hallmark of gum disease and acidify the extracellular matrix (terrain), further paving the way for a variety of health issues in the future.

These results echo those of earlier studies we’ve blogged about, which also pointed to other potential reasons for poor dental health among elite athletes. These include

  • Dry mouth, with less saliva protecting the teeth.
  • Carb-loading.
  • Bruxing (clenching and grinding), during times of exertion, as well as during sleep.
  • Stress.

In many cases, it may be a combination of factors, with high sugar/carb consumption being the most constant. All the toothbrushing and flossing and dental visits in the world are only going to be partly helpful at best if the body is constantly taking in sugars.

Those things still matter, of course. But there’s still bound to be plenty of damage to deal with. As one researcher has put it,

Without sugars, the chain of causation is broken, so the disease does not occur (Sheiham 1967). So, it is clear that sugars start the process and set off a causal chain; the only crucial factor that determines the caries process in practice is sugars. The other factors are additional factors that alter the primary effect of sugars, not alternative contributors (Sheiham 1987; Scheutz and Poulsen 1999)….

Image by Michael McCullough, via Flickr

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