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Hair loss.

Pain points

  1. Losing hair. Shedding a lot
  2. Can see bald spots
  3. No one is taking hair loss seriously
  4. Bad hair days. Low self-esteem

Causes:

  1. PCOS: androgenic alopecia. 
  2. Autoimmune: alopecia areata
  3. Hypothyroid
  4. Nutrient-related
  5. Tension alopecia traction alopecia  
  6. Telogen effluvium 
  7. Side effects of medications like the pill 

Conventional therapies

  1. Rogaine/minoxidil 
  2. Transplant
  3. PRP
  4. Drugs
  5. Birth Control

Other therapies (that are currently being explored)

  1. Acupuncture 
  2. Essential oils like rosemary (find research if it helps)
  3. Topical melatonin
  4. Correcting nutritional deficiencies!
  5. Herbs that correct the imbalance of hormones
  6. Scalp massage: to improve blood flow and decrease inflammation

Hair loss is a distressing symptom of a deeper imbalance in the body and is one of the symptoms that present in women with PCOS.

Hormonal dysregulation in PCOS presents with an increased amount of testosterone and androgens in the blood Which clinically manifests as acne, hirsutism (the growth of darker, more coarse hair on the chin, neck, and maybe cheeks), and alopecia.

Androgenic alopecia or female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is often experienced by women who have PCOS, but also by women who have a genetic sensitivity to testosterone and DHT (the more potent product of testosterone metabolism).

Understanding Hair loss Causes

  1. Female pattern: alopecia in women is seen as the loss of occipital hair and thinning on the vertex/crown area of the head. Often the thicker terminal hairs fall out and are replaced by thinner, lighter, and sparser vellus hairs. Unlike men who suffer from androgenic alopecia, women retain their frontal hairline. A current understanding of the mechanism of action for this pattern of hair loss, especially in men, is that the circulating testosterone gets converted to DHT by an enzyme called 5-a-reductase; DHT then acts on the hair follicles to minimize them. Research now suggests this is only part of the problem, as there is inflammation in the scalp about the follicles that also contributes to miniaturization.
  1. Alopecia Areata: present in both sexes, this type of hair loss presents as patchy spots of loss over the scalp. It is often worsened or triggered by stress, and some of my patients have also reported a tingling feeling in the scalp right before they notice the hair fall. This is an autoimmune type of hair loss.
  2. Hypothyroid hair loss: diffuse hair loss or hair that is dry, brittle, and breaks easily is a common symptom in those who also have an underactive thyroid.
  3. Nutrient deficiencies: Iron-deficiency (more common in menstruating women), presents with diffuse hair loss and low energy. Low levels of zinc, vitamin B1, biotin have also been linked to hair fall, while vitamin A toxicity can also contribute to alopecia.
  4. Tension or Traction alopecia: Tight ponytails, buns or updos pull on the root of the hair and subsequently lead to hair fall. This type of hair loss is usually noticed in the frontal hairline (where ever the hair is pulled the tightest).
  5. Telogen Effluvium: A non-inflammatory (and non-scarring) form of hair loss that occurs after an event (usually due to medications). This alopecia alters the growth cycle of hair, where the hair remains in the resting phase for longer periods of time. Hair shedding is noticed after medications like chemotherapy and generally begins to grow back after 2 months.
  6. Side effects of medications: Specifically, the birth control pills. Some BCPs are made with progestins (synthetic, almost-progesterone, which binds to progesterone receptors), that are more androgenic. Progestins such as Methyltestosterone, Gestodene, Levonorgestrel, -Norgestrel, and Desogestrel, contribute to the worsening of androgenic activity like hair loss, hirsutism, and acne.

Conventional Therapies

Medications are used to treat the underlying root cause of hair loss. In patients suffering from hypothyroidism, treatments involve medications such as levothyroxine to replace thyroid hormones not produced by the gland. Hair transplants are available for moderate to severe hair loss patients.

Topical conventional treatments include Rogaine (minoxidil), that can be purchased at the pharmacy and applied to the scalp twice a day. A reported side effect is increased hair growth on the face.

Women with androgenic alopecia (with or without PCOS), are often prescribed a mix of birth control pills (with the least androgenic activity) along with spironolactone. Drugs that block the activity of 5-a-reductase are used to decrease the conversion of testosterone to its more potent form, DHT. Commitment to conventional medications is often life-long, once stopped, the hair fall returns.

Other therapies like PRP, protein-rich plasma, are cosmetic procedures that aim to stop hair shedding by decreasing inflammation in the scalp and stimulating new hair growth.

Alternative Therapies

  1. Acupuncture: Done locally in the scalp, acupuncture causes a micro-trauma which stimulates blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow brings nutrients for the follicles, and may stimulate new hair growth while also decreasing local inflammation.
  2. Topical essential oils: Rosemary essential oil also may support new hair growth by improving circulation to the scalp.
  3. Topical Melatonin: Research suggests that a 0.1% melatonin solution applied nightly to the scalp improves hair growth in the occipital area of the scalp. It is suggested that melatonin may also act as an anti-inflammatory in the area. The same research finds that applying melatonin to the scalp did not affect blood concentration levels.
  4. Correcting nutritional deficiencies: while low levels of biotin are typically seen in rare genetic conditions, it is also present in patients taking medications for epilepsy, in those who consume large amounts of alcohol (also causes vitamin B1 deficiency), and smokers. Iron deficiency is common amongst menstruating women; while the range for “normal” ferritin levels is great, as a naturopathic doctor I like to see serum ferritin greater than 70 ng/mL.
  5. Herbs that may improve hair growth include those that support the elimination of excess testosterone and DHT from the body and others that block the conversion of testosterone to DHT. These include reishi, saw palmetto, nettle, licorice. Other herbs that support the production of estrogen and progesterone, like vitex and white peony may also help correct the hormonal imbalance in some women.
  6. Scalp massage stimulates blood flow to the hair follicles. Massage may also decrease inflammation. While more research needs to be conducted into the exact techniques, when and how often, massaging one’s scalp can relax the mind and decrease stress – win!

 

Female pattern hair loss (FPHL)/androgenic alopecia is a distressing symptom of hormonal imbalance and PCOS. FPHL may even trigger psychological symptoms of low mood and depression. In fact, hair shedding is often overlooked by many professionals as a reaction to stress or a short-term change in diet and lifestyle habits. Some women may not even notice that hair loss has occurred until at least 25% has fallen/not grown back. In my practice I focus on uncovering the root cause of hair fall, be it thyroid-related, hormonal, or even autoimmune; no one-size-fits-all approach is going to stimulate every patient’s hair growth. This process may take longer for some, but treating the appropriate root cause is worth it.

 

Note from Dr. Usman, ND

Please share this article! I personally know just how hard it is to find the right (and relevant) information out there. A lot of androgenic alopecia studies are conducted in men, and there isn’t enough evidence to support female hormonal balance and hair growth – yet. The more we talk about hair loss and natural therapies in women, the more we can support those experiencing female pattern hair loss.


If you’d like to book in with me to discuss hair shedding solutions, please click here.

 

 


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Irregular menstrual cycles are frustrating!

A young woman recounts her experience with irregular periods:

“The hardest part was knowing when it [her period] would come and understanding where the heck my emotions were at. I was tired in school and didn’t have much focus [around menstruation]; the emotional instability really rocked me..”.


Irregular, out-of-whack menstrual cycles are common in PCOS. This could look anything like periods that show up twice in a month, or once every month and a half; some periods just change it up each cycle to keep you on your toes. So much for tracking your cycles and planning out safe days to wear white jeans because the irregularity makes Aunty Flow’s next visit unpredictable.

Nearly 20% of women of reproductive age have PCOS and almost 70% of women with symptoms of PCOS remain undiagnosed in Canada. That’s a lot of women living with the discomfort and mental stigma of irregular periods, acne/hair growth, infertility. This article focuses on irregular cycles and how unpredictable menstruation affects the lives of SO MANY WOMEN.

Uncovering the cause of irregular periods

  1. PCOS: Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the amalgam of an imbalance of hormones, also known as an endocrinopathy (fancy word for, an issue with the endocrine – hormone – system). We know that PCOS presents with irregular periods and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular issues. The natural cycle of hormones stimulates ovulation which contributes to the balance of estrogen and progesterone with which (if no fertilization) brings about a period. In PCOS, this delicate cycle is thrown off contributing to the lack of regular menstruation.
  2. Stress is another factor that affects the cycle of hormones (mentioned above). If your body is under extreme or chronic stress, it wants to survive first. The body uses any and all of its resources to make sure you’re safe and sound. I.e. the body takes resources away from your digestion and reproductive organs, ultimately affecting your cycles.
  3. Thyroid dysfunction causes a variety of menstrual-related problems as abnormal levels of thyroid hormones affect the release and amount of sex hormones available to bind and act on the body.
  4. Weight: Extreme weight changes disrupt the balance of hormones. Crash diets, malnutrition, anorexia can all lead to irregular periods or amenorrhea (no period). Obese women also demonstrate abnormal hormone profiles; in obese women with PCOS (or at risk of PCOS) tend to carry extra fat around the waist and abdomen rather than the hips.

Do I have PCOS?

While irregular cycles (short: less than 21 days or longer: more than 35 days between periods) are one symptom of PCOS, menstrual irregularities are also present in thyroid dysfunction, periods of stress, and extreme changes in weight or diet. Speak to your doctor/naturopathic doctor about further testing to confirm a diagnosis of PCOS.

 

Management

Treatment for regulating periods always start with diet and lifestyle interventions. If PCOS is the likely cause, cutting out sugar and increasing exercise (more HIIT training!) are my favourite places to start. The less sugar a woman is consuming, the less her insulin levels will spike and the less fat she will store on her body. This is especially important for obese women. If I suspect an underlying thyroid dysfunction, after a thorough investigation, I’ll recommend specific herbs and supplements to help support natural thyroid hormone balance.

 

Some of my favourite herbs for treating irregular periods:

Vitex: Also known as Chasteberry, acts on the hypothalamus-pituitary system by slightly elevating LH and decreasing FSH in favour of producing more progesterone.

Black Cohosh: Traditionally used for treating menopause symptoms and painful periods, this herb is estrogenic and helps balance hormones to support menstrual regularity.

Rhodiola: A herb that helps the body deal with stress effectively.

Dong Quai, Alfalfa, Flaxseed, Licorice: which all help to balance hormones

 

Our young woman with the irregular cycles on her menstrual experiences after making dietary and lifestyle adjustments:

“Having regular periods helps me have regular emotions and I can plan out my outfits”


If these symptoms sound like you, or someone you know, book in an appointment with me to uncover the root cause of your irregular cycles and how naturopathic medicine can support your hormones and regulate your periods. Life is unpredictable, periods shouldn’t have to be!


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Anxiety is characterized as a state of hyperarousal. present in other anxiety-type disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, mania or bipolar disorder, personality disorders, PTSD, or phobias to name a few. Emotional symptoms of anxiety include nervousness, irritability, dream, insomnia or trouble sleeping, easily startled/distracted and difficulty in concentrating. Physical symptoms of anxiety are often overlooked; these include muscle twitching, restlessness, shakiness, fatigue, muscular aches or tension.

How does your body experience anxiety?

Anxiety is the heightened response of the Autonomic nervous system; the ANS controls the heart, gastrointestinal and genitourinary systems (including sexual health and libido), and parts of the Neurologic system. It is quite possible to suffer from heart palpitations (a fluttering feeling in your chest), shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, a sensation of choking, heartburn/nausea/vomiting, stomach aches, frequent peeing, dizziness and or headache, while experiencing anxiety or an anxious episode.

Canadians are anxious.

In 2016, nearly 4 million Canadians had been diagnosed with a mood and/or anxiety disorders

In Ontario, about 10% of the population has a mental illness and receives only about 7% of health care funds

Don’t Panic! Anxiety is manageable and treatable. Check out these tips for managing grounding and managing anxiety:

Diet
  1. Avoiding stimulants like coffee, caffeinated drinks, stimulating drugs
  2. Stabilize blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar can trigger feelings of anxiety. Eat a meal or small snack every 2 hours if you find that feelings of “hanger” trigger anxiety.
  3. Removing other foods that trigger anxious feelings
Mindful Activities
  1. 4-7-8 Breathing

Inhale for 4 seconds. Pause for 7 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. Closing your eyes if you feel comfortable, practice this type of breathing throughout the day and during periods of anxiety and stress, starting with 3-5 cycles. Exhaling for twice as long as inhaling reminds us that no matter how much we take in, we must always let go of more.

  1. Toe Wiggling

In a standing, seated, or laying down position. Wiggle your toes; focusing on how they feel in your shoes or socks. Are you bare foot? How do they feel rubbing against each other? By bringing your attention downwards to your feet, you are bringing attention from your thoughts and into your body.

  1. 5 Senses

Name 5 things you can SEE.

Name 4 things you can TOUCH.

Name 3 things you can HEAR.

Name 2 things you can SMELL.

Name 1 thing you can TASTE.

Supplements, Vitamins, Minerals

Dr. Usman takes extra care when it comes to your health. She may recommend specific supplements or nutrients (individualized to your treatment plan) that will help you to manage your symptoms and to improve your mood and energy. Note: any botanical, herb, supplement, or vitamin that Dr. Usman prescribes, is specific to your health needs and takes into account any medications you’re currently on or underlying health conditions. Self medicating can be dangerous; just because its natural, doesn’t always mean its safe. Consult Dr. Usman, ND, prior to trying any new supplement, herb/botanical.

Acupuncture

Dr. Usman may recommend a course of an acupuncture treatment weekly for 4-8 weeks to help improve and stabilize mood, improve energy, and lessen symptoms of anxiety.

Yes, when anxiety happens it can feel like your thoughts, emotions, and sometimes your bodily functions are running away without you. There are effective ways to manage the underlying root cause while improving the uncomfortable symptoms. If this article resonated with you and/or you think someone else may benefit from it – please do not hesitate to share this blog! The better we understand anxiety and mood disorders and how they fit in the greater scheme of wellness.

Ready to take the next step in your health journey? Get back to feeling great, book an appointment with Dr. Anousha Usman today!


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I love a good grocery store, it’s like being a kid in a candy store for me! Whenever there is a new grocery store that pops up, I go check it out and always come out with something new! Especially going to the states, where they have difference products than Canada. Would you believe me if I told you that when I travel my carryon is full of American products (I swear, it’s true)? I get pulled over to be searched, Every. Single. Time. But I do realize not everyone is like me who loves to grocery shop, so here are the grocery store hacks to make it easy!

  1. Never shop hungry. You know what I’m talking about – it leads to buying way more than you need, and more snacking too.
  2. Make a list before you go of the must-haves and what you are planning to prep for that week. This way you don’t over or under buy. Pro Tip – organize your list into the sections of the grocery store so you are in and out quicker.
  3. Go early in the morning, fresher produce + less people (win-win)
  4. Shop the perimeter of the store first. Produce and meat (the essentials) then the other stuff you may need in the isles.
  5. Don’t be afraid of the frozen fruits + veg, it makes it more affordable to buy organic
  6. Shop the seasonal fruits and veg, that’s what our body craves.
  7. Read the labels! Low fat, gluten free, sugar free – this doesn’t mean healthy! Read the ingredients and make sure you understand what is listed.
  8. Use the dirty dozen and clean 15 list to buy organic foods. It can be costly, so don’t forget about the frozen option.
  9. BYOB – bring your own bag.

Let’s break down a general grocery list. This will give you options of proteins, vegetables, condiments, etc. but is definitely an elongated list!

Meat based proteins:

  • Organic chicken and turkey. If you’re craving turkey slices, go for the nitrate free
  • Atlantic salmon or smoke salmon
  • White fish, shrimp, scallops if they are looking fresh
  • Grass fed beef/ burgers, but not very often (1 X per week)

Dairy and eggs:

  • 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • Organic eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Feta/ goats milk cheeses
  • Grass fed butter/ ghee (I love Lee’s ghee)
  • Almond, cashew or oat milk – all unsweetened

Fruits and veg

  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Banana
  • Japanese sweet potato (can also do regular sweet potato)
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Zucchini
  • Your choice of greens (I prefer spinach and arugula)
  • Onions and garlic
  • Ginger
  • Lemon/ lime

Frozen foods

  • Berries
  • Avocado (for smoothies)
  • Stir fried veggies of your choice (stay away from corn)
  • Shrimp

Grains

  • Wild/ brown rice
  • Ezekiel bread
  • Mary’s crackers
  • Nuud crackers
  • Chickpea/ lentil pasta

Other fridge

  • Hummus
  • Sauerkraut
  • Mustard
  • Mother Raw dressing

For more information, Consult our best naturopathic doctor in toronto now!

Dry foods

  • Natural nut butters
  • Almond flour
  • Whole gluten free oats
  • Stock
  • Coconut milk
  • Spices
  • Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil
  • Raw, unsalted nuts

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What’s the difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder? It’s a fine line. It’s not a label of who you are, but it does bring awareness to the majority of the population who don’t know how to eat and have an unhealthy relationship with food. What, you may ask, is the determining factor between an eating disorder and disordered eating? How much these thoughts control you, your level of obsession with food, exercise, thoughts and behaviours.

Eating disorders that are diagnosed are labeled as as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, overeating. It excludes other types of disordered eating such as the behaviours listed below.

Signs of disordered eating:

  • Frequent dieting
  • Rituals and routines that surround food and exercise
  • Anxiety around certain foods
  • Skipping meals
  • Food guilt
  • Labelling foods as good or bad
  • Obsessive thoughts around food, weight, and body image
  • Negative impact on quality of life
  • Excessive exercise & food restriction (especially to make up for “bad foods” consumed)

The above can all be the precursor to an eating disorder.

The lack of understanding comes from society and the abundance of information out there. I am here to tell you, eating well can be really simple. It takes some mental strength and willpower to forget all you have learned, forget your fears about foods, the diets you have tried and what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and instead, listen and trust your body. Do the research on what works and what doesn’t, because the truth is – everyone is unique. But, let’s talk about some general guidelines to follow (*notice I didn’t say ‘rules’ to follow, because these are just that, guidelines with no set right/wrong). It is always good to consult with a nutritionist for a more specific plan.

Food is fuel. I say this all the time because so many people choose to believe that calories are bad, high fat foods will make you fat, and eating less means weight loss. When in fact, this isn’t the case. Calories are energy we burn energy all day just by breathing, we need calories.

Let’s talk ‘how to’s’ on eating properly.

  1. Start your day with breakfast
  2. 3 meals + 1-2 snacks/ day
  3. 2-3 hours between each meal
  4. Put your food on a plate (i.e do not eat out of a bag)
  5. Make sure you have protein + fat + fibre at each meal
  6. Take account quality vs. quantity of foods
  7. Focus on whole foods vs. low fat/ low calorie
  8. Drink at least 2 litres of water/ day
  9. Eliminate nighttime eating/ emotional based eating

Many people suffer with disordered eating but do not even realize it. Disordered eating can be difficult to detect since each persons patterns are unique and may not be displayed at all times. It impacts both mental and physical health, to a point of real danger. These consequences include a greater risk of obesity and eating disorders, bone loss, digestive disturbances, low heart rate and blood pressure, increased anxiety and depression and social isolation.

Consulting with a nutritionist allows you to set a plan in motion specific to what your unique needs are.


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29/Aug/2019

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and is a condition that affects the natural balance of female hormones. Nearly 10% of women have PCOS globally. Read more about the involvement of hormones here [https://thewellnesssuiteto.com/pcos-naturopathic-treatment-solutions/]. While cysts on the ovaries are only part of the diagnose, they aren’t always present in all cases. To diagnose PCOS a woman needs to exhibit at least 2 out of the 3 following symptoms: ovarian cysts, anovulatory cycles (not ovulating during her period/irregular cycles), and male-type characteristics such as increased facial hair and hair loss on the head.

The imbalance of hormones and menstrual irregularities aren’t the sole indicators of PCOS. In fact, this disease has similar symptoms to metabolic disorders like diabetes. The hormone insulin (the which is off balance in diabetes) also plays a significant role in how PCOS leads to obesity and fat gain around the waist. Insulin is the storage hormone; when we eat sugars the body releases insulin to signal the all the cells to take in the sugar. If the cells have had enough sugar they eventually stop responding to insulin, and since insulin is a storage hormone, the sugars get converted to fat and stored in fat.

Insulin also affects ovulation. When insulin is imbalanced ovulation may or may not occur. It is common to have blood sugar dysregulation, abdominal obesity, and diabetic-like symptoms with PCOS.

Other symptoms like coarse hair growth on the face and hair loss on the scalp are due to an imbalance between male and female hormones. The absence of ovulation may cause a relative increase in male hormones (ovulation = progesterone being produced). Some women may also experience estrogen dominance where due to the absence of ovulation, there is no progesterone being produced and the abundant estrogen causes symptoms of decreased sex drive, boating, hot flashes, and worsening of PMS symptoms. Imbalances of sex hormones produced by the adrenal glands also contribute to PCOS.

Treatment options vary on both the type of PCOS you have as well as the symptoms you are presenting with. Your doctor and/or naturopath will best be able to provide you with an individualized treatment protocol to support your hormonal health. Here are some commonly used options to encourage the rebalancing of hormones

1. Diet

The heavy influence of insulin on PCOS symptoms means that by actively eliminating excess or refined sugars from our diet will promote regular ovulation and menstrual cycles. Limiting the consumption of sugary treats, refined carbs like bread, pastas, cakes/cookies/muffins/bagels and any added sugars in foods (re: sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices, sugars added to sauces and salad dressings) has a profound effect on regulating periods while also improving blood sugar and other markers of diabetes. Increasing fibre in the diet also helps to bind to and remove any excess hormones.

2. Lifestyle

In addition to diet, lifestyle factors like proper sleep, adequate exercise, and stress management also help to maintain a healthy balance of hormones. Stress often makes any underlying condition or disease worse, so plan out time in your daily schedule for relaxation activities. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.

3. Botanicals, Herbs, Supplements, and Vitamins

Vitex: Also known as chasteberry, helps to promote and support ovulation, improve mood, bloating, PMS symptoms, acne, and cravings. There is some evidence that vitex may not be for every woman with PCOS, especially those with increased LH.

Licorice: Supports stress management and cortisol production, decreases excess androgens in combination with white peony.

White Peony: When combined with licorice has been noted to reduce excess testosterone and improve fertility.

N-acytl-cystine/NAC: Decreases excess androgens and may improve insulin levels

Vitamin D: Promotes anti-inflammatory actions in the body.

Inositol: Improves ovulation and decreases insulin resistance.

*Safety note: Always speak to your trusted health professional before starting a new herb, vitamin, or supplement to make sure that it is the best option for you!

PCOS natural treatment

When to seek out the guidance of a naturopath or MD:

While lifestyle and dietary changes are the first place to start when implementing natural treatments for PCOS, a naturopath/functional medical doctor can better support your unique cluster of PCOS symptoms by first conducting specialized functional lab tests. These may include routine serum blood tests as well as dried urine hormone testing to measure just how your body is responding and using its hormones and metabolites. Prior to starting any treatment protocol, it is generally advisable to work with a professional so that they may monitor your symptoms, labs, and ensure that there are no interactions between herbs and supplements with any other medications you may be taking.

A diagnosis of PCOS or even just irregular, painful, uncomfortable periods doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Are you overwhelmed with a PCOS diagnosis or even just irregular, painful, uncomfortable periods? Book in a free 15-minute consultation with Dr. Anousha, and learn about alternate options today! There are solutions to improving your wellness, and we are here to help!


Copyright by The Wellness Suite 2019. All rights reserved.