Wheat, Gluten, Grain Allergy-Gluten Intolerance-Celiac Disease

by Sherry Riter in Cooking  ,Food,Gluten Free,Grain Free,Health,Paleo,Self-Development  ,Vegan

Grain Allergy Face Rash Swollen Bumps

The title of my post includes many different types of physical reactions to foods, but I will get to that in a minute. Today I’m going to start with a personal story which will be followed by some facts for better clarity and finally I will share with you the main purpose of this post.

Eleven months ago in October 2011, Alyssa and I spent a beautiful Saturday together at the Grave’s Mountain Apple Festival. It has been our “thing” to do since we moved to Richmond, Virginia, twelve years ago. On our way home, we visited the chickens, turkey and goats. We made priceless memories that day that will forever be engrained in my heart.

Before the end of the month, I developed a small rash on my face, so I tried the usual home remedies. When nothing seemed to be helping, I made an appointment with my dermatologist. Before I could see the doctor, the rash became so swollen, itchy and painful that I couldn’t bear it. A regular medical doctor said that I appeared to be allergic to something and gave me a prescription for oral steroids. The medication comes in a pill pack that starts with a high dose of steroids and tapers down to a very low dose toward the end of treatment. Oral steroids, Cortisone and Prednisone, prevent the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation, so my rash with the accompanying pain subsided during the treatment.

A few days after taking the last dose of my oral steroids, the rash returned with a few bumps and increasing to a very swollen face with lots of rashy bumps. The bumps were raised slightly and not only ached, but felt like there were ants crawling under my skin. My rash felt hot to the touch at all times and my face was so swollen, it pulled my skin taut in different directions. The skin itself would become dry and flaky. Eventually my cheeks were totally raw and so swollen that they actually felt hard instead of soft and squishy.

I was miserable.

I fired my first dermatologist because she acted like my face wasn’t a big deal at all. That was not a good attitude to have towards someone who was suffering constantly. After finding another dermatologist, we started trying to figure out what was wrong with my face. She was sure I was “touching” something on my face and that it was causing this rash because I was allergic. So I changed all the products that ever touched my face – laundry detergent, make-up, hairspray, shampoo, conditioner, face cream, make-up remover and I eliminated all fabric softeners in my washer/dryer.

Nothing helped.

I returned to the dermatologist and a couple other medical doctors to get oral steroids to keep the rash at bay for eleven months. This scenario continued until this month on Thursday, September 6th. I awoke in the morning to find that I was profoundly affected and my esophagus was constricted. I felt like I was going to suffocate. I panicked because I felt powerless to help myself because no one else could determine the root cause of my agony. When my regular medical doctor took the blood test and confidently told me she KNEW I had a food allergy, I was not convinced. During that visit, she also gave me some heartburn medication.

My patience was tested because it took a week before the results of the blood test came back. Before I tell you what’s wrong with me, I want to give you some definitions of different conditions that often are confused with each other. Most people simply are misinformed and I can clarify the differences for you. Also, if you want to know about my allergy, I want you to have the real facts about this condition. Hopefully, this information will make you better informed about your health, body and other people who are afflicted with some of these conditions.

Let’s start with wheat allergies…

Grain Allergy Face Rash Bumps Swollen

What Is A Wheat Allergy?

A wheat allergy is one of the top food allergies in the United States. When someone has a wheat allergy, their body is allergic to the proteins found in wheat. Gluten is one protein in wheat, but someone with a wheat allergy is allergic to all the proteins and not just gluten. These allergic reactions occur after the person eats wheat and can be mild to severe. Symptoms of a wheat allergy can include:

  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Lip swelling
  • Wheezing
  • Abdominal pain

What Is A Corn Allergy?

A corn allergy is not a gluten allergy. Corn is a cereal grain and has many proteins. Not a lot of people are allergic to corn, but when they are, it can be very severe. Allergic reactions can occur as a result of eating both raw and cooked corn. People with a corn allergy or another cereal grain are often allergic to other grains. Symptoms of a corn allergy can include:

  • Skin rashes
  • Asthma attack
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety and a feeling of impending doom
  • Anaphylaxis

As you can well imagine, corn is used as an ingredient in many products such as:

  • Baking mixes
  • Corn starch (food thickener)
  • Sodas/fruit drinks (corn sugar)
  • Cosmetic base
  • Pill coating
  • Spice mixes

Grain Allergy Swollen Face Rash Bumps

What is A Gluten Allergy?

A gluten allergy is an allergy to the gluten protein in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Not only can a person be allergic if they ingest the gluten protein, but they can also suffer an allergic reaction if they touch something that has gluten in it. Symptoms of a gluten allergy can include:

  • Chest pains
  • Runny nose
  • Severe gas
  • Asthma or trouble breathing
  • Tissue swelling
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Very irritable
  • Memory problems
  • Upset stomach
  • Itchy eyes
  • Symmetrical, intense burning and itching rashes with lesions found especially on knees, elbows, upper back, back of the neck and scalp, and the buttocks
  • Eczema
  • Hay fever
  • Hives

Gluten is used as an ingredient in many products such as:

  • Cosmetic powders
  • Cosmetic creams
  • Bread
  • Beer
  • Malt
  • Malt flavoring
  • Malt vinegar
  • Flour – wheat, white, durum, farina, graham, semolina, spelt
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cake
  • Brownies
  • Pie
  • Cereal
  • Matzo
  • Gravy
  • Imitation crab
  • Cookies
  • Chips – tortilla, potato
  • Crackers

I think you get the idea. Lots of stuff has gluten in it.

What Is A Gluten Intolerance?

If a sufferer has a gluten intolerance, they will most often have minor symptoms that do not cause significant damage or disruption to regular body functions. By eating a gluten-free diet, people with gluten intolerance will avoid uncomfortable, but non-life threatening symptoms that dissipate when the gluten is eliminated from the body. Symptoms of a gluten intolerance can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting

What Is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a permanent inherited condition where the body’s immune system starts attacking normal tissue. The body becomes intolerant to wheat protein, oats, rye and barley. People who have Celiac disease often suffer from deficiencies because their body is unable to absorb the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and calories from their food. This disease will not be “outgrown” and requires a lifelong restriction of gluten from the diet. Symptoms of Celiac disease often takes years to develop. Symptoms of Celiac disease can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Irritable bowel

This disease is too often under-diagnosed in the United States.

As a side note – The part of the immune system that is triggered by allergic reactions is different from the part of the immune system that is responsible for the autoimmune reactions of Celiac disease.

What Is A Grain Allergy?

A grain allergy is an allergic reaction to the proteins (not just the gluten protein) found in all grains. Let me repeat that – all grains, not just wheat or corn. Symptoms of a grain allergy can include:

  • Skin rashes
  • Asthma attack
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Bronchospasm
  • Headaches
  • Anaphylaxis

There are many grains that have to be avoided by anyone that has a grain allergy. Any food product that includes ANY of the grains has to be permanently removed from the diet. Some of the most popular grains include:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat berries
  • Cracked wheat (Bulgur)
  • Farro
  • Kamut
  • Rice
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Polenta
  • Corn
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt berries
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • Wheat

Will You Just Finish The Story?

When I received the phone call from my doctor on Thursday morning before I left for work, I was scared and excited all at once. After finding out, I was very shocked and was so upset that I couldn’t even cry. For the next two days, I barely ate and was in mourning for the loss of a style of eating that I have become accustomed to for nearly fifty years. The blood test came back with an extremely conclusive result that I have developed a grain allergy with the worst being wheat, corn and oats.

Did you just grasp what I said?

Because of the suffocation factor last time I had a reaction, I immediately quit eating all grains on Thursday, September 13th. Seven days later, my rash is one hundred percent gone, the swelling has subsided completely and the ant-crawling feeling disappeared after ELEVEN months of pain. On top of that, I feel extremely energetic! I’m still quite sad that I can’t simply go into the kitchen and make a sandwich, wrap some chicken in a tortilla, whip up a cake or a million other things that I have cooked all my life. Not only has this been a physical adjustment, but it has also been a mental adjustment that required an incredible amount of self-talk. After much research, I’ve found that there are alternatives to grain flours used in cooking and I won’t have to adjust my recipes that much either. So going forward, I will offer the “regular” recipe and the “new grain free” recipe for each food I cook. I really do need to write a cookbook now. :D

There is also another positive side of this diagnosis. Maybe you remember my post called Abs, Legs, Thighs, Hips And Cute Buns. One of the side effects of not eating grain is weight loss. So the fat that was on my tummy…well, it is quickly disappearing. By next weekend I will probably have dropped a whole pants size. With the fat dropping off, the 6 pack abs are going to be much easier to obtain. It may not happen by my 50th birthday in January, but it will be a reality sometime next year.

So all-in-all, I’m doing tremendously better and my outlook on food is not so grim as it was right after the doctor called. I still have my moments of sadness, but I’m not near as sad as I was terrified when my esophagus was swelling up and cutting off my air supply. The mystery has finally been solved. I have an allergy to ALL grains which I now avoid and my face is once again creamy white like my header photo. :D

Can you believe it took so many doctors that long to determine my grain allergy?
 

 

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This post was written by...

Sherry Riter, also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LuckyGirlGankee September 20, 2012 at 2:12 am

Wow!!! I really feel for you. On the other hand you FINALLY know what the problem is, and although I am sure it is a terrible adjustment, the benefits – the weight loss – always a benefit, is your gift to YOU! You go girl – – you’re 50’s are going to bring a whole new YOU!!!!

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2 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Yes, FINALLY!!!!! My jeans are baggy today! Yay!!!!

Agh! 50! LOL

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3 Skip_D September 20, 2012 at 7:32 am

Yikes!!!

First, thanks for the incredibly clear, concise, yet thorough review of these various conditions. I can only imagine how much research & effort went into its preparation. Of course, second, I can imagine how much this reflects your frustration after all the failed diagnoses you’ve had to deal with. Third, I know what a change in your life style this final correct diagnosis inevitably brings to your life. However, fourth, I can see & feel how much this diagnosis & change in diet have improved your health & sense of well-being. On balance, I’m very happy for you, despite the awareness of how you must have felt when first faced with how many foods & products that you love would have to be forever removed from your life.

Congrats!!! :D {{{huggsssss}}}

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4 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I really needed to understand the differences between them because after telling people, they kept mistaking it for “gluten” or a disease! I figured if I understood ALL of them, I would be better able to explain my “allergy to grains”

Who woulda thunk it? LOL

Thank you, Skip. I feel so good today that I can’t hardly believe I’m Sherry.

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5 Momma Sunshine September 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

I recently concluded that I have a gluten intolerance. I feel so much better when I don’t have any gluten in my diet at all, but if some sneaks in, it’s not the end of the world. I feel so much better not eating it! There is definitely an adjustment that needs to be made, since gluten is in SO MANY THINGS, but for me, it’s worth the extra effort to feel this good.

I’m glad that your health mystery was solved! I think that more people have food allergies/intolerances than they realize. Here’s to your continued improvement!

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6 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm

It is so hard to believe how many things have grains in them! I am just going to have to totally give up processed food!!! Fresh everything is really the easiest way to go.

Thanks for the well wishes!!!!

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7 Joan September 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm

So happy that you finally got the right diagnose! And after your diagnose you adhered to the proper diet and now your symptoms are gone. That’s great news! I agree, now you definitely have to write a cookbook offering the “regular” recipe and the “new grain free” recipe for each food you cook! :)

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8 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I can’t hardly wait to make my first cookbook. So much excitement that I can’t hardly contain myself. I feel so good today!

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9 Kristi September 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm

What suffering you’ve been through! I am very glad you finally got a diagnosis. Giving something like that a name has got to provide some emotional relief, too. Thank you for outlining the differences between all these problems.

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10 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I’m so glad too, Kristi!!! It has been a huge relief because I thought I had some dreaded disease that was killing me! Thanks for visiting!

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11 Shannon @ Enjoying Gluten-Free Life September 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm

There is a mourning period we all go through when we discover we can’t eat wheat, etc., even when we know we feel better without them. If you’ve eliminated all grains and pseudo-grains (quinoa, buckwheat, etc.) there are substitutes such as almond flour (yum!) and coconut flour.
Be careful making recipes with wheat flour for others. It hangs in the air for 24+ hours. I realized how much got in the air when I was making a chocolate cake and could taste the chocolate just from what was around me. Just remember that you aren’t alone.

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12 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Thanks for the tip with the “hanging in the air”…I may never be able to walk into Panera Bread again.

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13 mom September 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I agree with Joan…write your cookbook and all the recipes you try with regular flour, you can give it to mama, lol. I will be just down the hill!!! I have been checking what I can cook to help you on holidays. I’m sorry and glad at the same time. Sorry for the price you have to pay and happy we are at the bottom of this big problem. It will help you feel physically better and in so doing, all other things in life will be easier to battle. love you

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14 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm

You’re funny. I’m so glad someone finally figured it out! Now I know why doctors “practice” medicine. (rolling eyes)

Love you too!

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15 Rosey September 21, 2012 at 10:28 am

How wonderful that you posted this, I bet it helps more than one person out!

I found you on the Friendship Friday Hop. Happy to be here!

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16 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Thank you, Rosey, for hopping over here! I hope my experience will help many people. At least I know I’m not alone.

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17 Alahnna September 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I am so sorry for your loss. As someone else mentioned, you do experience a period of mourning and adjustment. Welcome to the fold. As much as it seems to be a trend nowadays, it truly is a new lifestyle many people are choosing in order to stay healthy and happy.

I look forward to seeing your modified recipes!

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18 Sherry Riter September 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Thank you Alahnna! It’s nice to know that I’m not alone even though this new life is making me feel so great!

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19 katherine September 22, 2012 at 9:07 am

that is miserable my friend. I have many allergies too..Our grandchildren suffer from allergies as well. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop . BIG hugs!!!

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20 Sherry Riter September 22, 2012 at 11:31 am

YES! UGH! LOL I’m soooooooooooooo glad this nightmare is over! {{{{hugssss}}}

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21 Michelle September 23, 2012 at 2:36 am

Oh my…I am so sorry to hear you had to suffer all this. How awful. However it is wonderful that you found the problem and relief!

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22 Sherry Riter September 23, 2012 at 2:43 am

Yes! Thank you! I’m so glad I finally KNOW something! It’s a BIG life change.

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23 katlupe September 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm

That is an act of God that you found you have this allergy. It really is! And you will find a much happier and healthier way of eating due to it. I eat low carbs and I use almond meal, flax seed meal and coconut flour in place of wheat flours or for breading foods. We like it better anyway. Has more flavor.

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24 Sherry Riter September 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thank you, Katlupe. This is a drastic switch that I was totally unprepared for and didn’t see coming at all. I feel like a fish out of water. *sigh* It is going to take a bit to get my footing. I feel lost in the kitchen.

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25 Trish December 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Hello there,
Came across your site randomly…a question for you about the blood tests you mentioned: do you by any chance know what kinds of blood tests they ran? I am working with a GP and soon a referral to an allergist, and know there are various ways to test the blood with varying outcomes. I have similar symptoms to you.
Thank you!

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26 Sherry Riter December 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I have no idea if there was a name to the blood tests. I do know that she tested all the main allergens…grains, egg, dust, grass, dirt, trees, etc. She tested all the different kinds like wheat, corn, barley, rye, maple, oak, pine, etc.

I already knew that I was allergic to melons, strawberries and avocados.

The blood can be tested for all of them if they take enough blood. She took A LOT of my blood! It sure was better than having to be pricked all over my back.

Don’t give up! I wish you the best of luck! Hang in there and if you feel the need to complain and whine, come on back. I feel for you. {{{hugsss}}}

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27 BJ January 18, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I have been suffering for over 2 years what I thought was chemicals in our town water supply is now a grain allergy. My symptoms are face and neck rash, itchy eyes, back, scalp. I have gained 30 lbs. I am 65 and now know what I have to do.

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28 Sherry Riter January 18, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I’m so sorry you have a grain allergy!!!!! I gained so much weight and felt soooooo sick! Now I feel so much better!!!!!!!!!!!!

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29 Susan June 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hello there. Thank you for sharing your story. As I started reading it, it sounded like I was writing it. It is exactly how I have been feeling for 5 months or so. I have been to the allergist and dermatologist. I was treated the same by my dermatologist. I changed things like she asked, nothing got better on my face. I mean I literally have the same symptoms you have. I am at my wits end. I don’t believe a thorough blood test was done. I have been trying to eliminate things that I noticed trigger the symptoms, but its happening all the time now. Something I thought was safe to eat I am reacting too. I am thinking I might have the same allergy. I am trying to get in with my GP now and I will ask about these blood tests. My nerves are shot dealing with this as well as my skin. I don’t think my face can take much more of this mess.

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30 Sherry Riter June 21, 2013 at 8:09 am

You sound exactly like how I felt! I’m so sorry! Have you gone to the doctor yet? The blood tests are not THAT extravagant, so it should be easy to determine if you are allergic to grain. Make sure you read all the labels on EVERYTHING. Corn is a grain and corn syrup or cornstarch seem to be in just about everything. :( I eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables all the time. Also, processed meats like like deli meat, hot dogs and even some hamburgers have wheat filler in them. Let me know how it works out for you!

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31 Kenya January 5, 2014 at 12:24 am

Were the symptoms any where else on your body. I get what looks like the same bumps everywhere but my face. I have been on antibiotics for almost three weeks.

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32 Sherry Riter January 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

Yes, Kenya, I had the bumps on my arms, neck and chest. Plus, I was swollen, retained water and had an overall skin sensitivity.

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33 Angela Daniel April 13, 2014 at 11:59 pm

My husband is allergic to all grain. We have tried all the pseudograins, and, although it takes a few servings of buckwheat or quinoa relatively close together to cause a really bad reaction, the reaction always comes. Corn is the worst. Rice causes the least reaction of the true grains. He has never been tested for allergies. We did, however, spend about 10 grand on blood work, mris, a spinal tap, and I can’t even remember what else. This was about two years ago. His allergy manifests as an extremely stiff neck with incredible pain. When he has a really, really bad reaction he also throws up incessantly for hours on end. This happened for several years. At first, it was every couple of months, then weeks, then every few days till he couldn’t get out of bed. The doctors thought he had spinal meningitis. I kept cramming the chicken noodle soup and chocolate chip cookies down him trying to make him feel better. He had a blood sugar test come back high, so we basically removed all carbs except vegetables from his diet. As we reintroduced new things, we finally discovered the problem on our own. Now, my whole family is grain free, and our health has improved tremendously. The more I read, the more I think grain is really not something humans were ever made to eat at all. Removing grains took about 70 pounds off us collectively, and my daughter’s sinus infection that had lingered for 5 months was completely gone in two weeks. I’m not sure why I decided to post this, it’s just rare to see someone else who understands the difference between a gluten allergy and a grain allergy. Everyone is always trying to feed us gluten free food, and no one understands, lol!

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34 Sherry Riter May 2, 2014 at 7:38 am

“Now, my whole family is grain free, and our health has improved tremendously.” Yay!!!! I’m so glad you found the culprit and everyone is feeling better. :)

“Everyone is always trying to feed us gluten free food, and no one understands, lol!” Yes, they do!!!! LOL

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