Guest Posts


What if You Had a Life Threatening Allergy to Food AND the Steroids That Could Save Your Life?

 

What would you do if you were told you had anaphylactic food allergies and were unable to use the steroids that could save your life?  What would you do if after years of living in fear, you were told you were given a false diagnosis?

Please welcome Julie Moore of  Natural and Free and  Fibro, Fit and Fab! Her story is unbelievable!  I admire Julie’s incredibly positive attitude and passion to use her experience to help others.

 

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Almost 10 years ago now, I had what I thought was an allergic reaction to food. I’d never had an allergic reaction to food (I had seasonal allergies, skin sensitivities and that sort of thing, though).  I thought for sure that’s what it HAD to be, because I’d just eaten.  The reaction involved what I thought was anaphylaxis.

 

I will admit that I panicked.  I could talk.  I could swallow, but my throat felt tight. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I felt sick…and my mind instantly went to “I’m going to die! Get me to the doctor NOW!”  The more I panicked, the worse it got, so off to the doctor I went.

 

At the Urgent Care, they asked me if I had a history of asthma.  I told them no, but it did run in my family.  They nodded, sent the doc in, and had him look down my throat.  He asked me what I thought caused it, and I told him that we’d just eaten at a Chinese place where I’d had some seafood and nuts. I had no history of food allergy personally (my brother is allergic to casein and egg whites, my mother to fish).  He just kinda took it all in, and though he thought everything looked ok, gave me a steroid shot.  At this point I felt a little better, but not completely.  He assured me I’d be fine.  He then gave me some Prednisone pills and sent me on my way. He told me to avoid the possible offensive foods and to return if it happened again.

 

I was starting to feel pretty confident then.  I figured it would be easy enough to avoid nuts (tree nuts and peanuts) and seafood.  I would be just fine, I told myself…But I wasn’t.

 

A few days into the Prednisone, I had another “reaction”. I went back to the Urgent Care, this time telling them that I had difficulty breathing while on Prednisone.  You can imagine how much they hated that.  For those of you who don’t know, steroids are how they treat severe allergic reactions when things like Benadryl don’t work.  If I was allergic to steroids, I had no way to treat a severe reaction, which is what I thought had brought me to the hospital in the first place!  This was very not good.

 

The doctor there told me that I must have allergy testing done.  She told me that if I indeed had food allergies and could not have steroids and had an anaphylactic reaction, that was the end of me. That, needless to say, freaked me out.  No one wants to hear they could die the next time they eat.  I quickly agreed to the scratch tests, and they were scheduled for about a week or so later, to make sure the Prednisone would be out of my system.

 

Until that appointment I was a mess.  I was afraid to eat too many things since I couldn’t take anything if I had a reaction.  I’m sure I drove my family nuts, too, worrying about everything.  It was no way to live, that’s for sure.

 

Well, the day of the appointment came.  I was scared, but also relieved in a way.  I would finally know what the problem was!  I could live life “normally” again…or so I thought.

 

I won’t get into it all, but the allergist that conducted my test was far from professional. For one, his nurse used a scented marker to mark the spots for testing (a HUGE no-no).  For two, she tested on the most sensitive areas of my back that are most likely to show false positives (I found that out years later, but I’ll get to that in a moment).   For three, he did not wait the full 15 minutes before checking the results which can lead to misdiagnosis.  That’s not the whole of it, but that’s enough to give you the idea.  Anyway, since I was none the wiser, I took the diagnosis at the doctor’s word, not willing to question it, though there were warning flags I brushed aside.

 

The results, tainted as they may have been?  I was allergic to soy, lobster and peanuts. I was to avoid all soy, all fish and seafood and all forms of tree nuts (because of possible cross-contamination) and peanuts.  I was sent home with a script for an epi-pen, told to take 2 Benadryl and a Zantac at the first sign of any tickle in my throat after eating or I was dead. Yes, he really did say that.  In the same breath he told me not to use the epi-pen unless I absolutely had to (and which he almost didn’t prescribe me).  I gulped hard, but figured I could do this.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I would soon find out, it was very hard.

 

Oh, it wasn’t avoiding the fish/seafood and peanuts/tree nuts that was difficult.  It was the soy. When I checked my cupboards and my labels I was shocked.  It was everywhere!  It was in my bread, my ice cream, my yogurt, my cereal – I wanted to cry!  I had to restock, and that first trip to the store was a nightmare, let me tell you!

 

I tried to eat pre-made stuff still, but more often than not I’d have a “reaction” to something.  I’d get angry then look at the labels.  If there was no obvious soy name that I’d happened to miss, I would go online to find out which ingredient was linked to soy, which drove me nuts.  I was angry that companies didn’t have to say it contained soy if they used just soybean oil or soy lecithin or used another name for soy. I hated that I had to decode everything.  It just didn’t seem right or fair.

 

I will admit that I was a bit paranoid around food. That doctor had me absolutely terrified to try any new food or any food for that matter.  Eating was something I did only when I had to, and then I’d watch the clock for 15 minutes to see if I’d have a reaction or if I’d be just fine.  It was no way to live, but it was where I was at the time.

 

Fast forward to a few years later when we moved, and I got a new doctor. He figured out that I had asthma, but it was exercise-induced.  I told him about the reaction I’d had, and he said it sounded like more of an asthma attack than anaphylaxis.  He wanted to re-test me for allergies via blood test. I was a bit skeptical, but agreed to the test.

 

The results?  No food allergies. I thought he was insane.  I asked him how that could be.  He said he didn’t know.  He referred me to an allergist to have another skin prick test done to be on the safe side, which I agreed to.

 

The allergist I saw was an hour and a half away from where I lived, but let me tell you, he was worth going to!  He is an amazing man, and very good at his job, not to mention his staff was beyond wonderful.

 

When I told them what I’d gone through, they told me that the doctor had acted unprofessionally, and I would not get that kind of treatment there.  They then proceeded to do their tests.  It turned up that I indeed have exercise-induced asthma, and that I did NOT have any food allergies (though I was allergic to ragweed on a minor scale).  He believed that my reaction was probably an asthma attack coupled with severe heartburn due to my weight and diet that simulated the feeling of anaphylaxis.  To be 100% sure though, I had to go through a food challenge where you eat the food you might have reacted to and see if/how you react.

 

The results of the challenge?  No food allergies. I was free of my burden!  I could go back to eating how I used to!  No more living in fear of every bite!  No more watching the clock for those dreaded 15 minutes after eating to see if I’d need to take some meds!

 

Fast forward again to August of 2012.  I’d been having some issues with chronic fatigue, wide-spread pain, mood swings, etc. and my doctor diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. I didn’t know much about it, but I did some research and found out that eating whole, natural foods and avoiding food triggers would help.  Ironically, besides processed food, one of my triggers is soy!  I’m glad I learned years ago how to identify it, because it’s making this leg of my life’s journey a whole lot easier.

 

It’s taken me awhile to get to this point, but here it is: Allergies or even chronic conditions like Fibromyalgia are not the end-all.  You learn through them, you find new friends and allies to help you through them and vice versa, and you learn that quality of life is not defined by your position in life.  Quality of life is defined by your perspective.  I choose daily to be grateful for what I have, for the moments (though they can be fleeting) that I am pain-free, and for the unique opportunity I have to help those like you who suffer from these things and more.

 

I wish you all the best on your journeys in life!  If I can be of help to you in any way, be it to talk or just listen, feel free to contact me at any time.

 

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Julie Moore is a wife (married for 12 1/2 years) and mother of 3 (ages 10, 8 and 2). She is also the author of Natural and Free, which provides allergy-friendly recipes and helpful information for those who suffer from or care for those suffering from one to all of the top 8 allergens.  She also authors Fibro, Fit and Fab! where she chronicles her journey to becoming fit and fabulous despite having Fibromyalgia.  Posts about her life in general and topics she is passionate about pop up there, too.

 

A Seven-year Itch with Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Photo Credit: Wikepedia

 

Please welcome J. of  cygnusopus.blogspot.com as she shares her 7 year battle with a terrible  itchy rash.  It turns out that rash was  caused by an autoimmune disease called Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) or Duhring’s disease which is connected with gluten intolerance.  Since I had never heard of this disease, I asked J. to share her story here.  I hope her story can help one of my readers who might be unknowingly  suffering from the disease.

 

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When I was 21, I returned to America after 16 months is Europe. My time in Europe was great.  But towards the end of my stay, I started getting scaly patches of skin at the edges of my scalp, and sometimes I’d get little blisters on the bony parts of my body. They itched like crazy.  I had no idea what was causing them, because they would come and go.

 

I went to a doctor just a few weeks after getting back to America.  He looked at the blisters, which had been scratched to oblivion, and he wasn’t certain what to call it. He finally pronounced it as some type of eczema and sent me on my way.

 

That was doctor number one and year number one. The rest of the doctor visits blur, but throughout the next seven years I visited 6 other doctors, rotating between family physicians and dermatologists.  The diagnosis was usually eczema, psoriasis or come back when the blisters erupt again.

 

Finally, on year seven while living in Virginia, my family physician referred me to a dermatologist. I sat down with her and explained the symptoms. At the end of my explanation, she said she knew exactly what it was but needed to take a biopsy just to be certain.

 

She found a blister that was intact, cut it out and sent it to a lab. She was right. I had Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) or Duhring’s disease.

 

DH is a skin condition characterized by watery blisters that erupt periodically (most often on the back, hairline, elbows, knees, face, buttocks, back of neck but can erupt on other parts as well) on the skin.

 

The blisters are fiercely itchy and seem worse at night. For me, the blisters would most often erupt during times of extra stress like my menstrual cycle or times of high emotional stress. DH usually manifests between 20-30 years of age but can occur earlier or later.

 

DH can be treated with Dapsone, but the drug requires regular blood monitoring as it can affect the red blood cells. Dapsone also only addresses the eruptions and not the intestinal problems causing it. DH is a symptom of gluten in the diet and can be eliminated by following a gluten-free diet.

 

Because gluten causes DH eruption, some consider DH a symptom of Celiac Disease. However, there is still enough unknown about it that other camps aren’t comfortable lumping them together. Either way, what works for those with Celiac Disease, works for those with DH, so my journey on a gluten-free diet began.

 

Within days of being gluten free my symptoms were gone and my blisters have not returned. In my case, the DH was a blessing in disguise. I doubt I would have recognized the symptoms of Celiac Disease until I was suffering from one of the more severe side-effects.  Because my skin was so problematic, I was forced to find someone who could finally tell me what to do.

 

In the States, DH and Celiac Disease often get misdiagnosed, but fortunately, more doctors are getting educated about these diseases. Celiac related issues are commonly diagnosed in Europe and have been at the forefront of medical studies there for some time.  This makes sense because DH and Celiac Disease are mostly European diseases and are particularly common in those of Irish descent.

 

I realize I’ve probably raised more questions than I’ve answered, so I’ve listed some resources below that have more information. I tried to list a mixture of  web sites from both the U.S. and Europe that cover both DH and Celiac Disease .   Hopefully these resources will  fill in the gaps for anyone wanting more information. I also included a site that address the issue of vitamin deficiencies for those with DH or Celiac Disease.

 

It’s my hope that others won’t have to go through seven or more years of agonizing blisters. If you suspect you might have DH, see a dermatologist and request a skin biopsy. The tricky part is leaving the blisters alone so that a viable one can be taken.

 

Dermatitis Herpetiformis Resources:

 

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J. is a stay-at-home mom with three kids. She and her family have traveled various parts of the world for her husband’s job and most recently reside in Virginia. J. blogs at cygnusopus.blogspot.com and sometimes covers gluten-free information there.

Food Allergies: A Hidden Eczema Trigger

 

 

 

 

Please welcome Jennifer of  It’s an Itchy Little World and The Eczema Company.  I am truly thankful for Jennifer as it was her blog that ultimately lead me to the Eczema Program at National Jewish Health that changed our lives.  Many of you have asked me to finish the story and provide an update.  It’s coming soon!

 

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When my son was first diagnosed with eczema I took the prescribed medications and dutifully applied them as his pediatrician directed. I knew nothing about eczema. I started researching online and kept stumbling upon something – food triggering eczema. Food? Really? I was intrigued. I asked son’s pediatrician who said it was possible food was related, but not likely as only a very small percentage of children with eczema have food allergies. Knowing what I know now I wonder if by food allergies the physician meant positive reactions to certain foods as determined by blood or skin test only and not by an actual food challenge. Because we did test our son, blood and skin prick, and the only positive results he received was to walnuts in the skin prick test the first time and hazelnuts in the skin prick test the second time. No other allergies were detected.

 

No relief with medication

Fast-forward two years, our son’s skin continued to worsen despite attempts applying cortisone, which aggravated his skin even more when we’d take mandatory breaks from using it. Since the cortisone hadn’t helped our son, we moved to other solutions trying natural creams and natural therapies with mixed results. In March, we started supplementing my son’s diet with probiotics, omega 3-6-9 oil, a natural immune balancer, and some homeopathy drops – all with the aim of healing him from within.

 

A food allergy connection?

Although allergy testing had been inconclusive, I wasn’t convinced food had nothing to do with my son’s raging eczema. Next step was an elimination diet – also in March we removed dairy, soy, corn, tomatoes, nuts, shellfish, peas and eggs from his diet. I was especially careful there was no harmful food cross contamination and I learned to read food labels like a pro – making sure everything was made on separate machinery and didn’t “contain traces” of other harmful foods. After one month on the diet there was no change in his skin. What?! I was sure food was the culprit!

 

Elimination diet success

But, guess what I had missed? Well, missed isn’t being honest – I intentionally hadn’t removed gluten from my son’s diet, which is one of the top eczema food triggers. When he was restricted from so many foods already, I couldn’t bring myself to remove bread and crackers as well, which he adored. I just didn’t have the heart. When I was discussing my disappointment in the diet with a friend they kindly reminded me that I left out gluten. Well of course I did! But they were right, as soon as I removed gluten completely (oats included) from my son’s diet, his skin cleared up within days! We waited a few more days and then started reintroducing each food one at a time, during the food challenge phase, to be sure we could exactly identify which foods were the triggers. My son’s food triggers were easily identified as: dairy, gluten, soy, corn, and some tree nuts.

 

Identifying all the triggers

I am in daily contact with parents who will tell you the same story – food triggers their children’s eczema. For some the itching and hives is immediate, but the eczema may come days later and for some the eczema is obvious within hours. But in many case, and in ours, food is not the only eczema trigger. Until all the triggers are identified there may be no improvement in the eczema. This means if all the food triggers are found, but detergents and indoor allergies are unknown triggers and are not removed, the eczema may continue to worsen. There can be multiple triggers and they can be very difficult to identify. My son’s eczema is triggered by multiple foods, seasonal allergies, laundry detergents (we use soap nuts now), heat, and stress. When we removed or limited exposure to the triggers and added the natural supplements to his diet, my son’s skin improved by 95% in three months.

 

While there is a definite link between food allergies and eczema, there are often many more triggers at play. Identify your or your child’s triggers and you should see a vast improvement in the skin.

 

 

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Jennifer is a work-at-home mother of two. One with eczema, food allergies, and asthma. One with mild eczema. She blogs about her family’s battles with allergies, eczema, and asthma at It’s an Itchy Little World. Jennifer is the founder of The Eczema Company, which offers specialty clothing and natural skin care for children with eczema.

 

 

 

Could the Problem be Eosinophilic Esophagitis?

 

 

Please join me in welcoming Colette Martin, the blogger behind Learning to Eat Allergy-Free.  I met several children with Eosinophilic Esophagitis at National Jewish Health.  These kids are amazing!  Many of them can eat only a handful of foods or less, but with the miracles of science, they are living a normal life.

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When my son was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EE, or EoE) in 2001, doctors understood very little about the disease. It was his gastrointestinal specialist who initially made the diagnosis, following an endoscopy of his esophagus. The inflammation was clear, but not the cause.

 

The road to Patrick’s EE diagnosis was long and stressful. It was a bit like an episode of House, where the doctors treat for everything they can think of, the patient gets a little bit better, then worse yet again. As an infant, Patrick was treated for colic. In elementary school he was tested for lactose intolerance and indeed determined to be intolerant. But just avoiding milk didn’t resolve his symptoms. Next it was acid reflux; the purple pills seemed to help for a while, but masked the real problem. It wasn’t until we determined that he was allergic to milk, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, and eliminated those foods, that he started to get better.

 

When my son’s GI specialist suggested it could be EE, I started researching. The little information I could find talked about children with feeding tubes (in the most extreme cases of EE the patient can’t tolerate any protein at all), but we also found some descriptions where allergies to a limited list of foods would trigger the EE. When we read how patients described the disease we both said, “Ah ha! That’s the answer.”

 

Because the disease is unlike any other, the symptoms can be very telling. Kids will say things like, “It feels like something is stuck in my throat, ” or, “My throat is closing up, ” or, “My throat feels fuzzy.” But you may not hear any complaints at all, because this is just normal for your child.

 

EE sufferers may cough or gag to try to get the food unstuck. During what I call an EE episode, a child may hold their chest, or complain that their chest hurts.

 

Children with EE may eat slowly – not because they aren’t hungry or are picky – but simply because it’s hard for them to get the food down an inflamed esophagus. Your child may be the last to leave the table or leave their meal unfinished. They may require a great deal more liquid to get the food down, especially with certain foods. My son found lettuce extremely difficult to swallow, whereas mashed potatoes would go down easily.

 

With an EE reaction, the esophagus becomes inflamed. Imagine a rash up and down the esophagus that causes it to swell and close up. And when the esophagus swells, food gets stuck and it can be very painful. Another key symptom is vomiting – when the esophagus closes up there is no place for the food to go but up.

 

It is especially hard to determine what foods cause this autoimmune reaction, because it may not be an immediate reaction and it may take days for the esophagus to clear up once it swells. My son didn’t react at all to scratch tests; it was a combination of blood tests and observed reactions to food that allowed us to confirm his food allergies.

 

If you suspect your child has EE, you aren’t alone. Approximately one in every 2000 people suffer from EE. Traditional food allergy symptoms include rashes, gastro-intestinal symptoms, and – in the most severe cases – anaphylaxis. With EE the primary symptom is inflammation in the esophagus.

 

Organizations including the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders support the community and fund research to find a cure.  I urge you to visit their site to find out more. You can also learn more about my family’s journey with EE at Learning to Eat Allergy-Free.

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Colette Martin is a food allergy mom, an allergen-free baker, and author of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts. When her son was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis in 2001, triggered by allergies to wheat, milk, eggs, soy and peanuts, she had to reinvent how her family ate. Having first learned to bake in her grandmother’s kitchen with wheat, butter, milk, and eggs, Colette understands first-hand what it means to transform her kitchen to accommodate multiple food allergies. As she modified her recipes to eliminate the top eight food allergens and gluten, she discovered her own intolerances to wheat and soy.

Tessa’s Story

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Please welcome Tessa of Tessa the Domestic Diva as she shares her story of fighting for her baby’s health and comfort.  A story I know a little too well.


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Even as a child, I was drawn to food and how it is was made.  My mom spent time as a Home-Economics teacher before having three girls, so I guess it was only natural for at least one of us to want to be in the kitchen with her while she baked and created with a limited number of ingredients, and very little money.  Over the years, I learned, crafted, and experimented with all sorts of recipes.  But it has only been since the birth of my son that I have become a real cooking scientist: pushing the boundaries of what I knew, using completely new ingredients, and learning more than I ever thought possible.

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{Guest Post} From Pain to Purpose: How I Became the “Grocery Geek”

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Please welcome Christy Pooschke, owner and operator of Grocery Geek. I asked Christy to share her amazing story of overcoming Fibromyalgia. I hope it will encourage you as much as it did me.

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All of my life, all I’ve wanted to do is to help people. I can remember sneaking out to the TV room late at night when I was a little girl and watching those shows where you can adopt a starving child in Africa for a few bucks each month…and pretty much save their life. I used to sit there and cry watching those poor children with bugs crawling all over them, and I so wished that my parents would “adopt” them. Even at a young age, it was hard for me to see that there were people out there who were hungry and sick and suffering; and I just couldn’t accept that there could be such injustices in the world. I desperately wanted to DO something to help them!

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Cinnamon Pear Baked Oatmeal (Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Please welcome Anne of Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy.  You’ve heard me talk about her before.  She and I think a lot alike when it comes to food.  We like to keep things real and simple.  We also know what it means to deal with multiple food allergies.

I have been making baked oatmeal adapted from one of Anne’s recipes for several months now.  We love it so much that I asked Anne to share it here for the rest of you to enjoy.  This Cinnamon Pear Baked Oatmeal is what she came up with.  I can’t wait to try this one!

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How to Get Your Kids to Give Up Junk and Eat Healthy Food

Please welcome Becky Mauldin, N.D. of Pure Vitality!  Becky is passionate about helping others regain their health and stay healthy.  Becky knows first hand what it’s like to deal with chronic illnesses and allergies and she want to help people overcome them.  You can read her inspiring story of how she overcame a life threatening illness through prayer and alternative medicine here.

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Is your family protesting your new healthy way of eating? It can be difficult to transition to a healthy diet when you have children. As you may already know, changing your whole family’s eating habits overnight is likely to cause loud opposition. No one likes having their favorite foods snatched away. Instead, proceed gradually with just small changes at a time. I have had to learn these things the hard way, so here are some tips to make your transition easier.

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