Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergies

As part of the NHS’ Food Allergy and Intolerance Awareness Week, today we’re looking at lactose intolerance and milk allergies. People often wrongly assume that these are one and the same, but in reality they are quite different.


First, let’s look at lactose intolerance:

During digestion, your body produces an enzyme called ‘lactase’, which breaks down lactose into two simpler sugars – glucose and galactose. These two sugars, unlike lactose, are easily absorbed into the bloodstream.


Some people do not produce enough, if any, of the lactase enzyme and so they are unable to break down lactose efficiently. It then stays in the digestive system and is fermented by bacteria, causing the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance, such as:

  • flatulence (gas)
  •  bloating
  • stomach pains/cramps
  • diarrhoea (3 or more times a day)
  • nausea

The severity of these symptoms and how quickly they strike largely depend on the amount of lactose consumed. The amount of lactose it takes to instigate a reaction varies from person to person; in severe cases, just a drop of milk in coffee can cause a reaction.

Who is affected?

Lactose intolerance is generally considered an adult-onset condition as most cases first develop in people aged between 20 and 40 years old. In rare cases, the condition can be present from birth. Lactose intolerance equally affects both men and women. Interestingly, it is more common among some ethnic groups than others. For example, almost all people of Chinese descent are lactose intolerant, whereas only 1 in 50 people born of Swedish descent have some degree of lactose intolerance. In the UK, lactose intolerance is more common in people of Asian and African-Caribbean descent.


The main treatment for lactose intolerance is to limit your intake of lactose. Depending on the severity of the intolerance, additional calcium and vitamin D supplements may also be required in order to maintain healthy bones. Lactase substitutes are also available, which you can take to improve your digestion of lactose.

If you suspect you might be lactose intolerant, you should always consult your doctor to obtain an official diagnosis before making any changes to your diet. Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed with a simple breath or blood test.

Milk Allergies:


A true food allergy is far less common than food intolerance. Unlike lactose intolerance, a milk allergy is the body’s adverse immune response to the proteins found in milk. There are two main types of milk allergy:

1) IgE-mediated milk allergy

This type of allergy is an almost immediate reaction that can occur within a few minutes of having cow’s milk. It can cause severe reactions, but more often the symptoms are mild. Sometimes anaphylaxis can result – a life-threatening allergic reaction causing swelling of the lips or mouth, difficulty breathing and collapse.

Other symptoms include:

  • rashes (hives)
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • stomach cramps
  • wheezing
  • runny nose
  • watering eyes

If you think you may be allergic to milk, it is important to speak to a health professional about it before taking action, as milk and dairy foods are an important part of our diets. They provide our bodies with essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals and proteins to assist bone growth and our overall health. Undertaking a milk-free diet means also eliminating butter, margarine, cheese, cream, yoghurt and ice cream, as well as a number of processed foods which can contain milk such as soups, processed meats, ready made meals, cakes, biscuits, baked goods, crisps and chocolate.

2) Non IgE-mediated allergy

Formerly referred to as cow’s milk protein intolerance, this condition is now known as non-IgE-mediated cow’s milk protein allergy. This type of allergy is different to IgE-mediated milk allergy and lactose intolerance. Although adults can develop this allergy, it is more commonly found in babies and children – it affects approximately 1 in 50 infants. Children with this allergy can experience symptoms from the first time they drink cow’s milk, but usually grow out of it by the time they start school. In rare instances, it can persist into adulthood.

Unlike an IgE-mediated milk allergy, the symptoms can take between a few hours to a few days after having milk to appear. Because of this delay, the allergy may go undiscovered for some time. Unfortunately, there is no easy test for this type of milk allergy.

Symptoms include:

  • eczema
  • diarrhoea
  • stomach cramps
  • vomiting

Rashes (hives) and/or trouble breathing do not occur with this type of allergic reaction.

If you suspect that you or your child may have a milk allergy, you should make an appointment with your doctor or health professional to obtain an official diagnosis before making any dietary changes. This is especially important for babies and young children; it is best to see an Allergy Specialist in order to make sure that the allergy is managed appropriately and that a healthy diet is maintained.

For more information and advice food allergies and intolerance, visit Allergy UK:

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Coeliac Disease and Wheat Intolerance


The NHS awareness drive this week focuses on food allergies and intolerances. In itself this subject covers a broad range of conditions with varying levels of severity for sufferers. Today we’re looking at coeliac disease and wheat intolerance.

Often incorrectly thought of as the same condition there are some differences of note between coeliac and wheat intolerance. Coeliac disease specifically describes a genetic, auto-immune reaction to the protein gluten. Coeliac sufferers who ingest a small amount of gluten will cause the body to begin attacking itself, in turn damaging the walls of the small intestine. Symptoms include diarrhoea, constipation,  bloating, vomiting, sudden weight loss, hair loss, anaemia and osteoporosis. Around 1 in 10.000 people are affected by the skin manifestation of coeliac known as dermatitis herpetiformis which displays a spectrum of eczema-like symptoms. Coeliac disease unlike wheat intolerance often results in deficiencies of vitamins and minerals as the body becomes less able to absorb them.

Whilst coeliac reactions are instant a wheat intolerant person may experience a delayed, gradual reaction to eating wheat. Symptoms however are very similar to coeliac disease which in turn can also be confused with gastric conditions such as IBS. There is some conjecture as to the existence of wheat intolerance with studies yet to firmly establish diagnosis.

Although it is extremely rare people can also be allergic to wheat which if ingested can cause severe, even life threatening reactions. Fortunately a skin-prick test can reveal a wheat allergy, although wheat intolerance cannot be shown by the same methods.

In all cases the only known treatment is to avoid eating wheat and gluten altogether. This extends beyond avoiding bread, pasta and cakes. Wheat  is included in many other products including beer, ketchup, soy sauce and even ice cream. Gluten is also widely used and can be found in foods you may not expect to find it in, these include processed meats, canned soups, some crisps and even tinned vegetables.

For wheat intolerant people it’s important to note that food marked as ‘gluten free’ won’t always necessarily also be ‘wheat free’. A great deal of vigilance needs to be exercised by sufferers of both conditions when approaching their diets. Even with mainstream supermarkets starting to stock gluten/wheat free alternatives and dedicated health food shops becoming more frequent, the challenge remains to maintain a balanced diet whilst avoiding many common foods. In our current climate of ever-rising food prices the additional expense of gluten/wheat free alternatives can also be a struggle, especially for those families on lower incomes.

Knowing that you or your loved ones have a food intolerance can be a major worry and a resulting change in life style and approach to eating is required. Raising awareness for both coeliac disease and wheat intolerance remains an important activity, especially when you consider that with coeliac disease an estimated half a million people may have it without yet knowing.


We’re proud at Express to be able to offer a considerable range of gluten free foods at competitive prices.

With food allergy and intolerance awareness running all week we’ll be back later to highlight some other dietary controlled conditions to do our bit to support this good cause.

In the meantime please do take a look at the coeliac society page and the UK allergy website where you’ll find free information and support.

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Stoptober Reflections


Stoptober is officially over now and I’m  pleased to be able to say I’m one of the success stories. Across the UK an estimated quarter of a million people have taken part in the 28 day quitting challenge. Statistics floated around by NHS campaigners inform that after this initial 28 day period of abstinence you are five times more likely to remain smoke free and consequently will extend your life by approximately one week. If one extra week on Earth is enough to make you want to smoke again then stop to consider the money you’re saving. My lungs and my wallet are now both on speaking terms with me again, good to have you back guys!

Before I set out on the non-smoking adventure I would spend upwards of £25.00 a week on fags, in the first four weeks alone I’ve saved £100, each year that adds up to well over a grand. If you also factor in the drop in price of life insurance there’s more to be saved. For me I estimate I’m heading for a further saving of around £200 a year once I rework my premium.  In my extra week I may well be a wealthy man. As I set out to do, back at the beginning of Stoptober, I’ve saved enough money to take my wife out for a posh meal, although please don’t tell her this, it’s supposed to be a surprise.

Financial incentives aside I’m noticing improvements in my health. I can now chase down the bus with a degree of vivacity and won’t wake up in the morning with cloggy lungs. In general I’m finding I have higher energy levels and now, since the worst of the cravings seemed to have passed, my overall focus and concentration are also on the rise. Above all this I’m rediscovering sensations of taste and smell, most noticeably in the fact that I don’t walk around smelling like an untended ashtray.

Looking towards next year I find myself in uncharted territory, Nearly every year prior to this I’ve approached new years resolution time with the overbearing thought that I really should be quitting come next January. Now I’m looking towards new years with unprecedented plans to kick-start the fitness regime. What Stoptober propagates is the notion that it’s time to start quitting now as opposed to setting that future goal, one that for me would always result in a fail. Don’t do tomorrow what can be done day, a wiser man than I once said. If your willpower snaps under the pressure, dust yourself off and start again tomorrow, it’s a much healthier way of approaching quitting. I dread to think how many cigarettes I would have smoked between now and January if I was playing this the old school, quit for new years way

On reflection it’s never been easier for smokers to quit, cigarettes become more and more expensive, smoking worldwide is becoming less and less tolerated publicly,  the market is full of nicotine/cigarette alternatives to help you on the way and there’s plenty of free advice, encouragement and support to be found both off and online.

The Stoptober Website remains as a beacon of help and if you are sure within yourself that you are ready to quit, head on over there. If you’re a smartphone acolyte there’s some handy quitting apps to download, if not you can send off for free quitting packs to be sent to you the old fashioned way.

Being an online chemist we’ve got plenty to offer too, we’ve got an informative quitting guide for your perusal and an extensive range of quitting aids to suit all types.

As sure as night turns to day, so Stoptober makes way for Movember. Not content with bastardising just one of the twelve months for the purposes of public awareness, the charitable health organisations at large are using November as an awareness month for men’s health issues, the focus being that us chaps grow a mustache.

I’m going to think about joining in over the weekend and if I do I’m sure you’ll be bombarded with my mug shot in various hirsute states.


Express Chemist

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Day 25


Although the end of Stoptober seemed a long way off at the outset, it’s soon come round to the final stretch. I’ve had my ups and downs on the way but I’m pleased to say I’ve only fallen off the wagon once. As I reach the end of the fourth week I’m starting to think less about smoking. My mood seems to have generally levelled out and I’m finding it much easier to stay focused at work.

I still keep my Vapourlite close but I’m using it less often. Points in the day when historically I would have been smoking like clockwork have all but gone from my life. The most difficult time was always the morning, the first fag of the day signalling an abrupt wake up call to my brain and somehow magically getting the system going. As a result I would often skip breakfast despite knowing this to be unwise. Indeed on reflection there is an aspect of intellectual denial in the smoker’s character, for one they smoke knowing it to be harmful, such is the nature of addiction.

I’m now a keen reconverted breakfaster and enjoy my cereal and chat with my eldest before we part company in the morning. I’ve found the craving for that first morning smoke has now completely disappeared. It’s often mentioned that reforming smokers eat more, this is certainly true for me. I’ve accepted that my weight may increase as a result, (although I can’t say I’ve noticed myself ballooning as yet) this really is the lesser of two evils however.

At work I still on occasion get strong cravings. With my smoking colleagues exercising their right to nip out the office and puff away I do sometimes want to join them. As I’ve already mentioned when these urges emerge I like to take five minutes to read and if that doesn’t hold my attention I’ll reach for the Vapourlite,

The post work reward fag, for me one of the most enjoyable in the past has now been replaced with either a brisk walk or, more recently, an impromptu ‘bus meeting’ with my content writing cohorts. Neither are acceptable places for smoking, the latter in the eyes of the law and the former in the eyes of fitter, smarter, healthier future me. With quitting ideally leading to a life change for the better I like to take the opportunity to take the other extreme as it were and do something positively healthy when a craving comes. It’s a good old trek back from work and I’ll get a decent marching pace on. I can then take solace in the fact I’ve done myself good not bad.

Evenings during the week would often see me rushing to get the kids bathed and bedded so that I get out for a smoke, if things weren’t running smoothly I would often get agitated for being held up. I’m pleased to say this time of the day is altogether a much happier, relaxed time now.

The real challenge for me now is the weekend, although In the past I’ve never smoked a great deal during these precious days off, I would always mark the event with a Saturday morning fancy coffee and fag. I’m still reaching for the Vapourlite now which is helping. I figure I’ll eventually replace the coffee itself with something else, intending as I do to get shot of the E-cigarette as well, but for now this will do just fine,

Only 3 more days to go now and then I hope, the rest of a lifetime smoke free. Best of Luck!


Express Chemist.

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Day 17


It’s the 17th of Stoptober and now over the half way point. Well done to all of you who’ve managed to stop smoking this long. I have to confess I had a momentary lapse over the weekend, in hindsight it strikes me as interesting that this weakness in my otherwise invulnerable armour of willpower came at a moment of boredom. I wasn’t stressed or moody, tired or lacking in concentration, I was simply at a loose end. In my defence I only had a few drags when I realised what I’d done and immediately despised myself. Encouragingly for me it wasn’t at all enjoyable, I got a rush to the head, felt a bit sick and had to sit down.

The whole experience drove home the point I raised in my last post about quitting being a total life change. Too often before have those idle moments been occupied with a cigarette. I have tried my very best to keep my days busy and at work this isn’t a struggle at all. At home on a rained-off Sunday with the kids entertaining themselves and a overwhelming urge to chill like a champ, I’m finding my willpower gets pushed to it’s limits.

I don’t think I should be chastising myself here for not having filled that moment with activities of self advancement or distraction. We all deserve to be able to rest and I’m wary of over-filling my downtime to the point where I stress myself out, thus providing a cause to smoke again. Heaven knows I’ve got enough stresses in life without adding to them my own sense of self loathing for not having taken the chance to go zorbing, do parkour or learn Klingon.

Sadly what I didn’t have during my moment of weakness was my new toy, one of these newfangled Vapourlites. I have to admit I’ve always been put off from trying smoking alternatives when I’ve given up in the past, tending to view them as replacing one addiction with another. I’ve been much more open minded this time round. After speaking to Matt the pharmacist last week I was schooled in the idea that nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) are acceptable, useful treatments. Much of what keeps us hooked on regular tobacco  is the 100s of additional unknown ingredients added to cigarettes by companies not only invested in keeping you smoking, but smoking their brand. Nicotine itself is a massively addictive substance but when inhaled as a vapour is free from all the life threatening chemicals you’ll get from smoking tobacco.

Lead, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and a host of other toxic substances that would sound at home in a Victorian chemistry set are all wilfully being inhaled by smokers. Put into this context there is a strong argument to include NRTs in your quitting plan.

Electronic cigarette with parts isolated on a white

Whilst I’ve yet to try nicotine gums, sprays, patches and the like, what I find particularly good about Vapourlites is their two-fold ability to replace the bodies nicotine craving whilst also substituting the habitual act of smoking. Unlike the herbal tobaccos I’ve tried there is a gratifying ‘hit’ from inhaling a good burst of vapour, a fairly successful analogue of smoking to my mind.

I took my vapourlite down the pub, previously the place where I was most likely to start smoking again and was able to enjoy a drink without once thinking about smoking a real cigarette.  I was also able to sit in for the evening with my non smoking friends, a scene which previously seemed the stuff of a bygone era.

I can also sit at my desk at work and puff away on my vapourlite without breaking any laws or offending my colleagues. This has gone a long way to eradicating my need to break up the hours by running outside to have a fag. One final point before I cease my eulogy is that the vapourlite, unlike the conventional cigarette doesn’t invite you to smoke the whole thing in one go. I can casually take a drag or two as required and  put the thing down with a new found sense of finality. I’m hoping this helps me out when i get to the stage to give up the vapourlite, at present it certainly feels as if points in the day when I would smoke almost like clockwork are slowly disappearing.

I understand there is a massive greyness surrounding the legal and medicinal definitions of electronic cigarettes and knowing not to mix politics with art shall leave that one up to the suits to decide.

For me honestly however I am finding my vapourlite a helpful companion to have with me on my journey to quitting.


Express Chemist

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Review: Live XXL Ultra Brights ‘Purple Punk’


It’s no big secret that I’ve been dying my hair since the age of 15, and over the last 7 years I’ve been just about every colour of the rainbow. I’ve used several different brands of semi-permanent veggie-based dyes, all with quite mixed results. So naturally, when we got the new Live XXL Ultra Brights range in, I was very excited! There are 6 colours to choose from at present, they have a bright red, hot pink, dark pink, purple, orange and blue. I’ve have red hair for some time now and fancied a bit of a change, so I volunteered to be a guinea pig for the ‘Purple Punk’ dye. Here is a picture of my hair before application – it’s a pretty faded red, more so on the ends of my hair:


The instructions say to apply this to clean, damp hair, but in my experience my hair takes the colour better (particularly semi-permanents) when it is clean and dry. The box also states if you have long (past shoulder length) or thick hair, you should use two boxes. My hair is just past shoulder length but very fine, so I foolishly thought “One box will be plenty!” I was wrong; there are patches where the colour hasn’t taken fully because there just wasn’t enough dye to go round. So, word to the wise – even with fine hair, if you have hair past your shoulders, you will need more than one box. Possibly the best thing about this dye is that if you do have any left over, you can just pop the cap back on the tube and keep it for as long as you like. So no wastage!

I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy this dye is to apply. I’m used to getting the mixing bowl and brush out, donning gloves and cape like a polythene superhero and throwing newspaper all over my bathroom to protect it from looking like a crime scene when I’m finished. But when you open the box, you are greeted with a tube of dye, an instructions leaflet, a pair of gloves and 2 sachets of conditioner. So simple! I read through the instructions and did the patch test as required, all was OK, so I popped the gloves on and squeezed the dye into the palm of one hand. The consistency of this dye is a little bit like tomato puree – it’s a thick paste, which is great as it means it doesn’t run everywhere and is much easier to control. You can just splodge it on your head and work it through to the ends of your hair with your fingers.

It says to leave the dye on for 15 minutes, but I left mine on for 45. My experience is that the longer you leave this type of dye on, the better. (Don’t worry; it doesn’t contain any peroxide or ammonia, so it won’t dissolve your hair if you leave it on for a bit longer than instructed). When it came time to rinse my hair, it took about 10 full minutes for the water to run clear. Don’t be tempted to rinse your hair a bit and then leave the shower whilst your hair is still pouring purple – if you do, the colour will ‘bleed’ constantly all over everything and you will have purple running down your face when it rains or when you sweat. Consequently, you will end up with purple pillows, towels and clothes. So… rinse that hair!

Having said that, one thing I noticed about this dye compared to others I have used is that it doesn’t stain anywhere near as badly as other types of dye – it was very easy to wash off my skin where I had accidentally splodged some on my neck, and it didn’t turn my shower purple! Therein, however, lies Ultra Brights’ biggest flaw. This dye has a limited strength of pigment, therefore you will find the colour result will be minimal, if any, on darker hair. If you have already dyed hair, such as I did, the dye will only cover so much. The parts of my hair that were the most faded took the dye the best, and gave a lovely bright purple colour, whereas the top of my hair where the red was still present, gave a more pinky result. Here’s how it looked once I had dried and styled it:


As you can see, I’ve got a bit of a two-tone thing going on, but I think this would have been helped with a second tube of dye. I was impressed with how shiny the colour is and happy to see that it came with two applications of conditioner (which smells gorgeous, by the way!) Semi-permanents can sometimes be very drying to hair so it’s great that they have included conditioner in the box.

On the whole, my experience has been a positive one, although I am aware that this dye is very low on the permanency scale – the box states 6-8 washes.* My hair is quite porous at the top but not on the ends, so I’m sure I will be seeing some major fading within a few washes, sadly. It’s already faded a bit and I’ve only washed it once! Still, it’s so easy to apply that it would not be a big deal to reapply this once a week if necessary and, as it’s a paste, you could even try mixing a little with your conditioner or shampoo to use as a top-up treatment each time you wash.


  • Easy to apply
  • Bold, shiny colour
  • Doesn’t stain as badly as other dyes
  • Comes with conditioner


  • Will only take on bleached/light hair
  • Colour fades within a few washes

Rating: 4/5

Express Chemist

Purple Punk and the rest of the Live XXL Ultra Brights range are available to buy from for £5.49 each.

* Do be aware that as with all semi-permanent colours, it can ‘stain’ hair. There is no guarantee you will get back to your original colour after using one.

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Day 10

images - Copy

I hope all you Stoptoberians are doing well, I managed to make it through the weekend without smoking one cigarette although I came very close to falling off the wagon more than once. I still find I get pretty touchy at times, most especially in the morning. I’ve also found that I’ll get unexpected bouts of tiredness during the day, often interwoven with an overall loss of concentration and motivation.  To help get by I’m still focusing on my self-congratulatory and (hopefully) wealthier future self, although right now he does seem a long way off.

I finally managed to have a chat with Matt, our in-house pharmacist yesterday, which was, for me, very fulfilling and insightful. I fully expected to walk away from our meeting with my head full of appropriate nicotine replacement therapies, quitting plans and the like. Instead I was imparted with some very useful, sagely wisdoms which I’ve already taken on board and find are a great help.

At the core of the whole Stoptober ethos is something almost Zen-like and pure in it’s simplicity. Before we can embark on our journey to quit we must, and this is most crucial of all, want to quit. Matt mentioned the notion of ‘thinkers’, fence-sitting smokers if you will, who toy with the idea of quitting. Often for this group of smokers engaging in total abstinence is a set up for failure. I think it’s fairly safe to say that generally smokers enjoy smoking, despite being fully aware of the health risks. Thinkers might do better to engage in reducing their cigarette intake, or delay approaching the whole quitting game until they can honestly say to themselves that they are ready to do so. I feel I need to digress here to say that despite going against the whole Stoptober message, cutting down on smoking is still a good thing.

So we’ve soul searched and we’ve optimistically confirmed within ourselves that we’re ready to quit, what now? Well, I suggest here embracing a second truth, that quitting smoking is a massively life changing event. In removing such a previously ever-present activity from our lives we not only have to deal with the withdrawal. Smoking inhibits the bodies ability to use food efficiently, quitting smokers therefore may well notice their weight going up despite apparently eating the same amount. Not smoking will also afford you more time, it’s important to now have a new focus to fill this time. In this sense our journey to quitting is more about a change to our life style as it is to our health.

Matt suggested a good approach here is to make two lists. The first is a list of the reasons why you want to quit, this should be fairly straightforward for all of us. The second list should contain all the reasons why you smoke. With your second, exhaustive list, set out to identify the triggers that send you reaching for the fags and clearly outline what you’re going to do instead.

Applying this methodology to my own life I instantly face the void left by the loss of the workaday fag break. In many ways smokers exclusively enjoy this last workplace ‘freedom’,  a legitimate reason to walk out of the building. In the past when I’ve been on the quitting-train, work, after the pub, has been the most likely place where I’ve crashed out and gone back to smoking. Particularly stressful work loads, pompous ego-fuelled office politics and self-rewarding for a job well done, all act as triggers.

I’ve taken on board the idea that quitting smoking is about a total life change and in the interest of bettering myself, if I’m confronted by a smoking trigger I deliberately take 5 minutes or so to read something. I have books with me and the internet at my disposal. Having read something I’ve not only avoided the urge to smoke but have also got the brain cells going.

If my willpower is pushed to it’s absolute limit then I have smoking alternatives to hand. I’d like to spend more time on the subject of nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and so will do another diary post next week on this.

Other than NRT, the recommendations from Matt were to try hypnotherapy or just plain old willpower. It’s very affirming to hear the latter from a pharmacy professional. Whenever I’ve given up in the past it’s always been under my own steam. I believe that the person in charge of you is you, I’ve never got on with people who can’t admit responsibility for their own actions. In short, it’s you that’s been stupid enough to go and get hooked on cigarettes and it’s you only that can stop it.

So fellow Stoptoberians, be strong, be resolute,  be truthful to yourself, keep yourself focused and active, exercise your strength of will and above all DO NOT SMOKE!

Good luck, keep it up, I sincerely hope that next time I post about Stoptober that neither you or I will have smoked again.


Express Chemist

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