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Cope with Fever!
Fever is your body's first response to invaders like bacteria and viruses, including influenza, common colds, coronavirus (Covid 19) and so on. These, in Chinese medicine, are 'warm diseases'.
Fever is a blunt instrument! Ideally, it may speed up deployment of antibodies to the invader, but in any case, boiling the bug alive has worked well for quite a few million years or so. It's tried and tested!
Of course, it doesn't actually need to reach boiling point - 100C! Just a few degrees higher than normal does the trick. Over 40C will do though your body may not need to reach this to kill the invader.
That's because when the invader arrives, your temperature (oral ie under the tongue) is probably 'normal', and the invader lives and thrives happily at that temperature.
This 'normal' temperature, shared with most other people, is 37.4C or 99.3F. (Even that's not quite right because the normal under-the-tongue or oral level is a bit lower normally at 36.8C as compared with the 'normal' rectal or vaginal temperature which is about 37.0C.)
So the 37.4C (99.3F) is your internal body temperature.
Anything more than 0.5C above 'normal' may be considered a fever.
But when your body raises its temperature to 40C or so, life becomes very unpleasant for the invader and it tends to die. When it realises the invader is dead, your body does a bit of clearing up and then brings itself down to 'normal' again.
Easy! Job done!
Well, job done maybe, but at a price!
You and your body are quite intimately connected and you'll have been involved in every second of the action.
If you haven't allowed yourself to have a fever for a while, you won't know what it brings. Nowadays we have powerful medicines that force our bodies to reduce their fever, reduce inflammation and make life a bit more pleasant.
In effect they suppress your body's natural fever response.
That's because fever is not pleasant. However, as explained, unless your body produces antibodies to the invader, either by discovering and manufacturing new ones or by remembering how it coped before, both of which are plan B, it's forced back to plan A, which is fever.
And if you stop or suppress the fever, it can't do the job. So the invader lives to fight another day, possibly in someone else, because every time you cough or sneeze you'll be spraying the invader out into your environment where some innocent will inhale it.
Just to repeat that ... if your body can neither find or create the necessary antibodies nor achieve the fever it needs to kill the invader, the virus/bacteria/bug lives to fight another day in someone else, and potentially in YOU again!
If we had an effective vaccine, theoretically we would neither catch the disease nor spread it. However, I have my doubts because viruses can exist for long periods in people who have no symptoms but can still spread it.
Anyway, against coronavirus there is as yet (February 2020) no vaccine so again, we're back to the body's plan A: fever.
Also, there is doubt whether vaccinations against 'flu-like bugs are as effective as claimed. That means, especially for babies under 2 and the elderly, the 'flu vaccine is relatively ineffective.
Read our page on influenza, SARS and coronavirus for ideas on how best to avoid infection, though some of that information is also here.
This page is about how to cope with fever.
Usually babies and children have fevers as they learn the ropes about life. By the time they grow up they've fortunately forgotten how unpleasant fever was.
Because it is unpleasant. But to kill the bug, you need a good fever.
So what happens in a fever, how can you prepare for it, and how do you recover from it?
And what are the dangers both during and afterwards?
If you are wondering whether I've had the coronavirus, no I haven't. I hope I don't get it too. Nor have I treated it.
And although I've read reports of Chinese medicine being used to treat it in China, I don't know what they've done. Still, I can make guesses - from my knowledge of Chinese medicine - about their reasoning and my experience of seeing influenza in patients.
But I personally have had fevers, good ones, the last such being over 20 years ago when I caught something from one of my children. I took my own advice (for a change) and had a most unpleasant night of it. When I awoke the next morning, I was drenched and my temperature had returned to normal.
And I felt really well!
Because, make no mistake, if you are lucky enough to have a successful fever, one that doesn't endanger your life, the process of boiling the bug alive also naturally burns up a whole lot of other debris in your body. After it, you often feel great!
Chinese medicine has been in recorded use for well over 2000 years, and one of its seminal works was written ~2500BC. Then, around 700 years later ~200AD appeared another important work that dealt with what are called 'Cold' diseases.
Cold diseases were observed to go through up to Six stages.
1500 years later in the 18th Century, a brilliant Chinese doctor wrote about what are called invasion by 'Warm' diseases. This theory is that of the Four Levels.
Influenza and similar diseases are nearly always 'warm' diseases so the way to recognise and treat influenza, corona-viruses and the like is as described in this Four Levels theory.
This page discusses how best to prepare for then cope with fevers as they appear mainly in the second of the four levels, called the 'Qi' level.
I don't pretend to know everything about this current outbreak of corona virus and expect to improve this page as I learn more.
As you read on, you'll see I introduce concepts in Chinese medicine. Often I use analogies to explain things. That means there is simplification which can mean that more subtle ideas are lost.
Usually, text in italics indicates something to do with or being explained by Chinese medicine theory.
In nearly every case of influenza and the like, the diagnosis in Chinese medicine is 'Damp-Heat'. It’s a way of saying that bugs like influenza, corona virus, SARS and the like, prefer a warm damp environment. If you want to avoid the illness, don’t provide it with warm damp conditions. And be extra vigilant in warm damp environments.
To understand what are called 'warm diseases' and how Chinese medicine regards them, read:
Where do you find warm damp environments?
In all these places, the virus will survive for longer. Of course, chemicals added to water in swimming pools may be enough to kill it.
But don't forget your pockets. If there's a virus on something you put in a pocket, your pocket being probably nice and warm, it will happily spread to anything else you put in there, like your hand, cash, handkerchief, wallet, keys ...
Anything physical you give or receive or share may be covered in the virus. For instance –
Thoroughly washing your hands regularly, in warm soapy water (ordinary soap is best! Not fancy liquid stuff!) should kill and clear the virus.
Cut nails short to deny the virus a hiding place at our finger-tips.
But even that's of little use if you habitually put hands to face, mouth, eyes or nose in between washing. The only good reason for wearing a mask is to remind you NOT to touch your face!
Fever can be dangerous.
If it goes too high, you may get convulsions. Children are susceptible to this: they have small bodies (not much yin to balance yang) and huge yang potential (when well, they move lots, are usually noisy and demanding, and often warmer than adults). When their bodies encounter an invader, their temperature can soar rapidly - within minutes. Soaring yang energy blocks the downward flow of Blood from the head, leading to convulsions - seizures.
If you already have inflammation, this may worsen. Inflammatory type diseases include:
Many diseases have a level of inflammation even if not classified as inflammatory-type, and include
For these you may be taking anti-inflammation medication, such as
Fever is heating and drying (yang qualities). That drains your reserves. In Chinese medicine these are your Yin reserves, so you become (Yin) deficient of fluids and energy, including immune energy.
With diminished reserves you are more susceptible to other bugs. These might include:
Since your lungs are (in Chinese medicine) in charge of your immune system, they often get the most battering, making them more susceptible to other diseases, of which the most common is pneumonia. Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, unless it's the viral form.
Another possible disease is TB which is rife in many countries and now re-appearing in so-called developed countries. TB is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
In a drought, surface crops quickly dry out. Trees may live longer because their roots go deeper to harness moisture even low in the water table.
That 'hidden' water table is the yin we're interested in here. In your lungs, it's not the moisture on their surface that matters, its their ability to maintain a cooling and moisturising action.
During a fever, your body heats up, a yang action. Too much yang quickly dries things, like the hot sun in a hot country. You need the Lung Yin energy to counter that yang.
Some of the following advice is to accustom your body to what it must do to preserve that Lung Yin energy.
This site tries to explain Chinese medicine in English. What follows uses some of the concepts of Chinese medicine. Usually you'll find a link to a page explaining the concept.
I've mentioned one concept already: yin. This makes no sense unless you have yang to compare it with. Like left and right, each is dependent on the other. But don't stop reading here because they can be applied to anything in life and help you make sense of it.
Introduce yourself to yin and yang by clicking here.
Coping with fever requires reserves. To boil a kettle you need a kettle, water and a supply of energy. These are your reserves. If you have an electric kettle it's easy: plug it in and wait a couple of minutes.
If you don't, find dry firewood, find tinder, arrange the firewood correctly, light the fire, get it going, place water-filled pot over fire and wait. Unlike gas or electricity, it takes time and you may need more fuel.
In fact it's surprising how much fuel you need and how long you must wait.
Now think of your body which is the kettle and its water. Firstly you are much bigger than the kettle. You have 8 pints or 4.5 kilograms of liquid in you and it's arranged in various ways, not all easily accessible by the pump, your heart.
Your cells contain mitochondria which are the mini-furnaces you need. They use fuel in the cells and in your blood.
So all your reserves come from your body: the liquid, the fuel and the furnaces.
For effective fever, you need good fuel, healthy furnaces and a resilient body. That means it helps to be fit.
By 'fit' I don't mean you can run a mile in 4 minutes, or lift 100kgs in one arm. Those come with training and self-discipline but they won't help you cope with fever on their own.
What about flexibility? Well, a flexible body is usually a young body or a well-schooled older body and both youth and yoga may help you stay fit. Certainly you'll probably have less inflammation in your joints to worry about. Your system may be running more efficiently too, and an efficient system is what you need to cope with fever.
If you are interested in yoga you are probably interested in which foods are best for health, so you may also be someone who eats sensibly and doesn't suffer the inflammations that come from a poor diet containing a lot of processed or sweetened food. You probably don't smoke too, smoke being another source of inflammation.
Probably the nearest I can get to what I mean is when someone can do intensive exercise for a few minutes, raising blood-pressure, breathing rate, heart-beat and probably temperature and then, after stopping, his breathing, blood pressure, temperature and heart-rate return quickly to normal. That shows his body can speed up and relax down quickly, like a well-tuned car engine.
This is the equivalent of raising a fever then cooling down. Raise the fever to kill the bug, then cool off quick!
In Chinese medicine, your reserves are explained or classified in various ways. For more you'll need to click on the links, but here's a start:
Fortunately, to understand the rest of this page you don't need to have looked up all those links! They just give you sources to consult if you want to know more about the reasoning behind the suggestions.
Again, to cope with the fever you need good reserves. I wrote a book on 'yin deficiency' several years ago.
However, the difference there was that the yin deficiency arose after a draining event, possibly a high fever, but also from overwork and other causes.
Here you want to accumulate reserves before your body enters battle! What can you do to help yourself survive the fever and quell the invader?
1/ Don't overlook this one! Your Mind is the source of your biggest inflammations. Resentment, envy, frustration, anger, grief, fear, worry. We all get these from time to time, but the longer they persist, the more likely they are to be sources of illness, including inflammation. If you can, talk these things through with yourself or your partner. Prolonged fever will drain you and make you less able to resolve difficult issues later. If so, they'll become chronic.
I wrote a whole book on how this form of stress affects you. See Qi Stagnation. I include in this continued feelings of aggrievement, victimisation, revenge, discrimination, no matter how justified: the fact you maintain them in your thinking will incline your body towards heat. Stress is implicated in many forms of ill-health, and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
2/ 'Hot' Foods. Fever is, obviously, heating. Don't make yourself more susceptible by over-heating yourself even before the invader arrives! If you don't already know the foods that make you hot or worsen your inflammation, see what Chinese medicine lists as 'hot-foods'. Some may apply to you.
3/ Your Lungs. Atmospheric toxins are potentially inflammatory. We know how car fumes increase asthma. Even if you don't have asthma you may be breathing air that contains smoke! And what if you smoke or vape? The act of smoking slightly stimulates your lungs, which has the effect of calming you. (Your Lungs descend energy, hence the benefits of taking ten deep breaths when cross before taking any action.) Trouble is, smoke puts carbon and carbon dioxide in your lungs. If you don't know about the dangers of these, what with global warming, you haven't been paying attention.
4/ Your Lungs rule your Skin. Many skin treatments are yin in nature, being moisturisers, emollients, anti-inflammatory, fillers, hydrogenating. That you need them, if not just for anti-ageing, suggests that the air you breathe and live in is drying and/or inflammatory. Do you perhaps just need more exercise in fresh air? It's free.
5/ Food, especially sweet food. That means sugar and all things sweet. Why?
Your gut is partly ruled by your Lungs. Simply put:
Further down this page are suggestions for how to increase the health of your gut, and therefore your lungs. This part of the page is how to reduce the likelihood of inflammation in your gut.
Your gut contains, they say, up to 90% of your immune reserves. These are the 'good' bugs that help both to prevent disease and then to aid recovery. They help give you resilience.
It also houses plenty of the opposition. Probably, if you are healthy, the good bugs are always on top of the bad ones. But you can shift the balance the other way by feeding the bad ones what they crave and which will make them multiply and become stronger.
What do they crave?
Sugar and pretty well all things sweet or that quickly turn into sugar when eaten. Read more at https://www.hyperbiotics.com/blogs/recent-articles/your-microbiome-on-sugar
When feeding on sugar your baddies produce:
What about artificial sweeteners?
By the way, even artificial sweeteners are out, according to an article in Nature (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25231862).
It seems they may also kill you! (https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/09/18/artificially-sweetened-drinks.aspx)
6/ Alcohol, especially excess alcohol, is warming, so inflammatory. It upsets the lining of your bowels reducing the quantity of probiotics living there.
Let's assume that, despite every precaution, you expect to catch the corona virus, or some other form of influenza. Also, that once you've caught it, you will get a fever. Also, that it may last some days when your body will be dependent on its own resources.
What can you do to increase your body's resilience? How can you prepare to cope with fever?
But, before proceeding, please read my disclaimer.
This comes down to doing your best to strengthen your yin energies. In this context, yin reserves include:
What can you do?
Prebiotics will, by the way, also improve your sleep patterns!(https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/03/16/prebiotic-foods-improve-sleep.aspx)
Vegetarians, even vegans, will be delighted that these foods don't include foods from animal sources.
As you cope with fever what might you experience? Here's a list of the kinds of symptoms people often get as they cope with fever. Let's hope you don't get them all!
If you have ever suffered from heat-stroke, you may remember how impossible it is to cool down: you feel burning. Or suppose you sit in a very hot bath for too long; it becomes intolerable. In bed, if you are too hot, you get restless, toss about searching for a cool area, or stick your legs out.
But with a fever of the kind your body needs to cope with its invader, it may need to maintain the fever for some hours. Let's hope it doesn't need it for days! Usually a few hours is enough.
Yang is hot and restless. Small children are usually yang, They move a lot, they make a lot of noise, they are demanding and they are hot little bodies. in a fever, you become a bit like that.
Heat comes out as redness, dryness, thirst, restlessness and complaints. Also, reduced attention span. (All yang. Who does this remind you of?)
Yang in excess makes thoughts rush, and can produce vivid dreams and even delusions.
You become angry, complaining, desperate for relief. You'll remember why medications to quell fever and reduce discomfort are so attractive. Ideally, if you want your fever to be fast and effective, avoid such medication.
Your head is at the most yang end of your body. It gets hot, headachey and dry. Out of it come complaints.
You may get this all or some of the time. It can accompany nausea.
Lungs feel dry and hot. Air doesn't feel cool enough. It may become sore to breathe or cough. (Beware onset of pneumonia with sore chest on coughing or breathing, and fever.) Mucus may be coloured, yellow or green, and thick: or blood-stained. Although this kind of mucus, Lung Phlegm Heat is a recognised syndrome in Chinese medicine and has been so treated for millennia, you may wish to discuss your options with a doctor. If it is of bacterial origin, he may have antibiotics for it.
Breathing may be an effort - difficult to breathe. You may feel short of breath even when not moving. Climbing stairs may take time and need frequent rests. For more, read Lung Heat.
Normally when you swallow, food descends. But during fever, yang pushes things upwards so you may be nauseous and unable to stomach, let alone swallow food or water. It may help to breathe deeply a few times before you try to swallow.
You'll want food and fluid to be cool.
Excess yang energy can work here in two ways. The hot way is to constipate you: dry , hard stools, difficult to evacuate. The 'restless' way is to give you foul-smelling diarrhoea. (The smell is from the heat, the frequency and urging is the restless aspect of yang.)
The heat can cause dryness and a rash around the anus. (Teething babies know all about this.)
By the way! Don't be too ungrateful for how your body uses diarrhoea to unburden itself. Indeed, cathartics force your bowels to move and are often given to clear heat, in Chinese medicine.
Cool - tepid - flannels on forehead, upper back, neck, underarms and behind your knees are the best places, but of course, if they reduce your discomfort they may also be reducing your fever, the point of which was to kill the invader. So, maybe try to resist too much cooling.
If you have skin already tending to dryness and heat, the fever will probably worsen it. However, if the dryness is because of inefficient circulation, you may find fever helps!
If you are normally a cold person, meaning you usually have cold hands and feet, this fever may change that in the future, because in a way it burns away old deposits in the 'pipes', your veins and arteries.
All this yang energy can strain your heart. To keep your blood moving round your heart beat increases. Up to a point that is good, like revving a car engine: you want it to be able to rev freely. But unfit or old hearts may suffer: for them there is potential danger. Such people would ideally have been on a good diet beforehand, including foods containing omega-3 oils, vitamins K2 and D3, enough Magnesium and so on. These or prior treatment for Blood stasis may help to avert danger.
It is possible to reduce fever using appropriate medication. But in that case your body won't achieve its objective, possibly allowing the invader or its friends to re-group and attack again. If you suppress it too often, you may end up with chronic symptoms, of tiredness, catarrh, depression and stiffness. You may also develop post-viral fatigue.
As so often with yin and yang: yin actions are slow, yang are fast. You need both for health. If you suppress yang, you end up with more yin or with diminished yang going on for longer.
Overall, to cope with fever you need resilience. That's what this page is about.
That resilience will serve you well in other aspects of life after you've had the opportunity to cope with fever!
During treatment, if the disease is classified as being due to Wind-Heat at the Wei or Defensive level ...
The treatment principle is to release the Exterior, expel Wind/Heat and restore the descending and diffusing energy of the Lungs.
There are both acupuncture and herbal formulae for this.
Note on the treatment principle. The rest of this page talks about having a 'good' or effective fever, so that your body kills the invader and, one hopes, develops antibodies to it. That is different to the treatment principle set out above.
I do not know if this is what Chinese doctors of traditional Chinese medicine are doing, but it will be something along these lines.
The problem is that, in the West,
Also, I doubt whether we could obtain sufficient supplies of the herbs for the kind of herbal formulae needed. Acupuncturists may have difficulty running their clinics if clinics are seen as places where 'flu like diseases are spread.
Also, nowhere in the treatment principle does it mention antibodies or an invader, concepts not developed until much later. If your understanding of disease centres purely around virus and antibodies it cannot easily encompass a completely different way of looking at disease, one based on energy.
So, on this page, I am not giving herbal formulae or acupuncture prescriptions as most people could not make use of them.
For some people, a fever is very healthy. But not all. If the following occur, you may need medical attention or advice. They suggest that your body is not able to cope with fever as well as you'd like.
NB Bear in mind that health providers put themselves on the front line and may be the first to succumb. They may be in no position to help you.
Help may come from the brave who have not succumbed and from those who have recovered. These may not be medically qualified or capable. Survivors may also be exhausted!
Producing and maintaining a fever takes energy: your energy!
After a good fever, you'll be tired: well, exhausted.
You must rest. In fact, that is probably all you can do.
2/ Food? and Water?
Partly you will have used up some of your jing-essence. Often an indication of this is backache, worse standing or walking slowly, but there are other symptoms, see either Kidney yang deficiency or more likely Kidney yin deficiency. Try not to stand for long. Avoid walking slowly. (So don't go shopping in IKEA! I'm convinced people are seeded into the shop through the day and paid to go slow. Work out for yourself who is paid most!)
But you'll need food. I suggest my dish Clogstoun Congee to begin with, to increase your energy and fluid levels. It is gluten free and fairly simple to make and nearly everyone can absorb it safely.
Later move on to stews and cooked foods. Suggestions here. Be sure to chew well.
Now is the time when you may start enjoying again some of the weaker 'hot foods', including ginger and mild spices. You'll know if you go too far because your stools will become urgent, smelly and loose: 'the runs'.
Whereas if your stools are difficult to retain, odourless and runny, you are probably eating too much 'cold food'. For example, too much fleshy, juicy fruit might produce this.
Are there other ways you can improve yourself? Almost certainly your Lungs will have become somewhat yin deficient.
There are some foods and herbs that may help this Lung Yin deficiency, but please don't eat JUST these foods. For health, you need balance, and with a balanced diet every food contributes something to the whole. So the Mediterranean diet is good in many ways.
So, if you think you may have Lung Yin deficiency, you may want, cautiously, to try some of the following, unless you already know they don't suit you. Bear in mind that these foods or herbs are for yin deficiency: yin is generally cold and moistening. That means these food have a cold energy.
Although you have just suffered a fever, you have also burned a lot of fuel and are tired, so your warming energy is depleted. Too many cold-type foods can extinguish what warmth you have remaining, so although these foods have a yin quality, too many of them may be harmful. Be sure to take warm foods too! First please read my disclaimer!
Of course, this list doesn't cover all Lung yin tonics. And many of the items listed help other organ energies too.
In addition there are Chinese herbal prescriptions, but it is easy to get these wrong if self-prescribing, or to continue to take them even though they aren't really helping, making them an expensive waste of time.
Too Much Yin Food causes diarrhoea
Also, too much yin food/herbs, being moistening and cooling, eventually gives you diarrhoea of the sloppy, cold variety: this is the kind that just passes through you without saying even Hullo to your blood, so you gain nothing from having taken it!
Too much food
Don't overeat, as you recover. A little and often is better!
OK! You've learned to cope with fever, but now, with reduced reserves, you may feel cold. Wear lots. Stay warm in bed if you can, but not so you lose strength in your back and abdomen. You need to move around a bit, even if just moving from room to room.
If you go outside, be very sure to wrap up well round your head and neck. Invasion by wind-cold is a real possibility.
This is when you may want to turn up your central heating again.
Also, there is a simple set of movements which flex your spine and can help get you moving. You need no equipment except your body and a space to do them indoors. They increase your heartbeat only a little but may help your breathing. They are for most people very safe, if done at first with caution. They are mildly warming.
I'll put up a video of me doing them. Soon. Before doing them, please read my disclaimer!
4/ As energy returns, find out who in your neighbourhood is suffering the acute phase. They could probably do with your help. But...
5/... I am assuming you had a good fever!
If you had to suppress it, and never let it rip through and burn out the invader, or it never happened, you may be susceptible to a repeat performance as the bug regroups and returns to the attack ... or one of its close friends or successors gets ideas ...
If that happens soon after the invasion you will have less reserves to repel it. And beware getting cold and tired when outside, because that makes you more susceptible to wind-cold invasion, mentioned above.
6/ Treatment as you recover
Get some treatment! What would your acupuncturist do to help your recover?
First, he'd want to make sure you didn't have any remaining Lung Heat. After all, there's no point putting the furniture back if the house is still on fire! He's worried about your susceptibility to eg pneumonia!
He'd check your pulse. If it's still 'rapid' or 'floating' he might suspect that, even if your fever has long gone, you still have some burning embers left behind.
Then he'd check your tongue. If still red or if it still has a yellow coating, these also suggest Heat.
There are acupuncture treatments to deal with this continuing Heat - also Chinese herbal prescriptions.
If, to prevent a dangerous reaction to the disease, you took anti-inflammatory medicines (including antibiotics - perhaps to forestall pneumonia) - he might be worried about latent heat. There may be things he can do for that, too.
Then he'll be interested in any remaining symptoms, such as a cough. As you'll have found out, a persistent cough not only drives everyone mad but can disturb sleep, which you desperately need to help you recover.
Acupuncture for cough is nearly always successful, though you may need several treatments. (I once gave my wife treatment at 4am for a deep, racking cough she'd had for several days. She went straight to sleep, and so did I. However, in case you wonder, very few acupuncturists are available to give treatment at 4am. If so available, they are probably a bit peculiar.)
But, having cleared any remaining Lung Heat, your acupuncturist will want to deal with any Lung Yin deficiency. These are your deep water table of reserves, needed for ongoing strength, immune defences and equanimity.
Of course there are acupuncture treatments for this, though you'll need several of them. Here also is where his knowledge of diet and Chinese nutritional medicine comes in. Some of that knowledge is listed above but he may be more specific. Herbs too.
And talking of herbs, this is where sage tea (made from the Western herb Salvia officinalis) may be useful, as it is both a Qi tonic and replenishes deficiency of your Lungs. However, before you take any such action I refer you to my disclaimer!
That's why it's best to get treatment from someone professional, knowledgeable of YOUR particular needs!
So gradually you improve until ... having learned how to cope with fever ...
7/ ... Eventually, you go out more, you meet friends, you eat normally ...
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