Take A Naturopathic Approach to Antibiotic Resistance

When it comes to our health, there are two schools of thought: the Germ Theory and the Terrain Theory. Understanding the differences is critical, particularly because it involves the use of antibiotics, which should be used sparingly and for the right reasons. So let’s examine this often confusing topic.

The Germ Theory asserts that, regardless of the state of our health, germs that can cause disease will, indeed, cause disease. That’s because the germ is responsible for our illness and not the overall state of our health. Traditional medical practice calls for identifying and destroying invading germs, including bacteria (but not by viruses including cold and flu) through the use of antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics are often over-prescribed and germs are mutating to survive them.

On the other hand, the Terrain Theory, embraced by holistic practitioners from a wide range of medical fields, asserts that germs that can cause disease will do so when the body is more susceptible and that the more healthy we are (the terrain) the less likely we will become ill; if we do, we will become less ill. In other words, when the body’s internal environment is at its best, then immunity, metabolism, and detoxification are at their strongest. Consequently, the body is less susceptible to illness and has the best defense against “disease causing” germs. Antibiotics are used sparingly and primarily in life-threatening situations.

It’s important to understand that taking antibiotics does not contribute to building immunity; they are prescribed for treatment, not prevention, and there is the real threat of resistance.

Antibiotic Risks and Drug Resistant Disease

When prescribed judiciously by doctors and used properly by patients, antibiotics can save lives by destroying bacteria or stopping it from reproducing. Despite the wonders of this medicine, there are significant problems:

  • 20% of people experience side effects including gastrointestinal, kidney, menstrual, and joint abnormalities after taking antibiotics. Risk for side effects increase with each additional ten days of use.
  • About 10% of people are allergic to antibiotics.
  • In the U.S. more than two million illnesses per year are caused by resistance to antibiotics, resulting in 23,000 deaths when these drugs fail to work.

Antibiotic resistance (AR) means that the germ targeted by the medication has mounted defenses that render the drug ineffective even when taken properly. Situations and conditions that present the greatest risk for AR include:

  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Not taking the medicine as prescribed
  • Long hospital stays
  • Working in parts of the world that lack proper hygiene
  • Not having the ability to meet essential nutritional needs
  • Improperly handling raw meat, consuming contaminated meat, crops, or water
  • Contact with infected individuals

​Protect Your Internal Terrain from AR

Healthcare is faced with a dangerous rise in antibiotic resistance, making the more holistic “terrain approach” to battling germs vital to preserving health. Here’s what you can do:

  • Take a probiotic supplement, a quality multivitamin, follow a quarterly detox regimen, get adequate sleep, and eat a variety of whole foods
  • Choose organic foods (antibiotic-free meats, non-GMO grains)
  • Filter your water (drugs disposed of at landfills can get into groundwater supply)
  • Limit your intake of sugar and processed foods (these lower immune function)

The unfortunate truth is the “kill the germ” perspective is failing. We will reach a point where we do not have effective antibiotics. ​By bolstering the internal terrain, a healthy and vibrant person can mount the immune defenses necessary to protect their health. Speak with your San Diego Naturopathic Doctor about ways to strengthen your immune system to reduce the need for antibiotic use in the future.

References
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Bacterial Infections and the Microbiome, The Holistic Look from a Naturopathic Doctor

The microbiome is an important part of you.  It helps with detoxification, stimulating your immune system to protect you from bacteria, virus and even cancer.  The bacteria in your gut is key to making Vitamin K to protect your bones and to make sure dopamine gets made thus influencing your mood.  As long as your immune system is primed and your bacteria is in balance, you are less likely to suffer from mood disorders, arthritis, obesity and cancer.

Once our bacteria is out of balance, it can lead to opportunistic infections.  Things that can affect the healthy bacteria in the belly include antibiotics, food intolerances and stress.  Antibiotics will take the diversity of health bacteria down to 1-3 strains and newer studies are showing that it can take 9 months or more to return to a normal diversity of 9 or more species in the gut flora which is why we often look for alternatives in naturopathy.  Probiotics are incredibly important to protect the gut flora during antibiotics.  Food intolerances can also impact the normal bacteria by causing an inflammatory response within the gut lining and can be tested for properly with a naturopathic doctor.  Stress may be the worst attacker on the gut lining function.  It dries out the lining so the immune system can not be produced thus bad bacteria can’t be identified and removed. Digestive enzymes also can not be properly made which protect the belly by digesting foreign invaders or materials.

When bad bacteria has an opportunity, it will take over and dominate causing a multitude of functional problems such as limiting nutrient absorption and immune development in the gut.  Then it can spread to other parts of the body and create symptoms.  Bacteria such as streptococcus (includes multiple strains) are commonly known for strep throat but when it is hiding in the gut, it can cause reoccurrence and many families wonder why they have a constant struggle with strep throat.  Treating a surface infection doesn’t also manage the infection that is seeded from the belly.   Streptococcus infections in the belly can cause anxiety and belly pain as well.  Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research to connect these functional medicine ideas of gastrointestinal infections except by naturopathic doctors who are in tune with infectious disease and take time to observe the commonalities between patients.  The true test is when you treat the infection seeded in the belly and symptoms resolve or improve. This is holistic medicine.

Other problematic gastrointestinal bacterial and parasitic infections we commonly see in our naturopathic clinic are klebsiella, yersinia, enterococcus, pseudomonas, giardia, entamoeba hystolytica, blastocystitis hominis, citrobacter, clostridium difficile and toxoplasmosis. You need an integrative treatment plan to address most infections since there is almost always more than one.  Many bacterial infections are also antibiotic resistant so you really do need a naturopathic doctor who can use integrative medicine to use the tools that will work once and for all.  Natural medicine has a way or building up the body at the same time as addressing the infection.  Klebsiella is known for causing urinary tract infections but it doesn’t often show up in the urinary tests.  After treating klebsiella  in the gut, we can eliminate the chronic urinary tract infections.

The key to health and protection of our microbiome is diversity.   When our normal flora is not flourishing and we have symptoms which can range from headaches to belly pain, diarrhea, chronic infections or loss of energy, we may need to rule our bacterial infections so we can get our normal flora working for us again.  Consider our San Diego bacteria cleanse program.

We specialize in this kind of thing and see it frequently in our office so it’s not a new idea for us. Getting the right care for your body is important and tailored for your specific body in mind. At Journey of Health we are dedicated to finding the right naturopathic solutions for each patient. We proudly serve the San Diego area, providing some of the best service in naturopathic medicine. If you wish to further your own journey of health with naturopathic solutions and alternative medicines, give us a call at (619) 772-1164.

Solve That Asthma!

Any Integrative Health Center is likely to see asthma in their pediatric population and our naturopathic doctors are no different.  Over 25 million people and their families experience the challenges of asthma contributing to a large number of office visits to the doctor and repeat visits to the doctor, both scheduled and unscheduled.  Many have to seek care in urgent cares when treatment is not managing asthma adequately.   We have a lot of hope for parents who are looking for alternative medicine or naturopathic medicine options for their pediatric kids with asthma.  There are a lot of tools in the functional medicine realm that helps create a holistic treatment approach for our patients.

 

Asthma can be such a challenge for kids to live a normal life particularly when it comes to sports involvement or spending the night at friends’ houses that have pets.  Fortunately, there are a lot of natural medicine treatments for asthma.  Food sensitivity testing or testing for food allergies can be very important to identify.  We can’t always control what is in our environment but we can control our diet.  Encountering allergens or things you react to can include both food and environment so the more you get in, the more reactive the airway will be and the less you encounter, the less likely the airway is to react.  As we decrease the aggravations, the child can eliminate asthma and the need to medications which is very exciting for the family.

 

The holistic doctor’s view of treating the whole body tends to be more successful than just treating the airway which may continue to get worse.  This is a functional medicine view of the body as well by working on the immune system response, some thing that is not clearly visible but is working on an unseen level.  The immune system is focused on keeping the body safe but if it is confused on whether food is aggravating, it will continue to try to address the problem.  Taking the food out for a period of time can allow the immune system to regroup, heal up the lining of the intestines along with make the enzymes that digest and break down the food in to useable molecules to distribute through the body.  The largest challenge here is to identify the foods that are causing the aggravation.

 

As a naturopathic doctor, I have seen many pediatric patients present with chronic asthma that is reoccurring and after treatment, they have a bag of pharmaceuticals that they no longer need that they have gradually been able to wean off.  This is empowering for kids and parents.  The basis of treatment again is identifying the food intolerances and food allergies, decrease the inflammatory burden their body is exposed to and balancing the microbiome.  There are many botanicals that can be used in the meantime to help relax the airways but addressing the cause is what gives the long lasting results.  Don’t underestimate your body’s desire to use natural medicine to heal from asthma

Healing Eczema and Psoriasis with Naturopathic Medicine

When those painful, itchy patches of eczema and psoriasis erupt, Naturopathic doctors ask, ‘what is causing this condition to present at this time?’ The Greek translation of eczema means “to boil out,” so the question makes sense: Naturopathic doctors look for the underlying root causes that bring about these skin eruptions. Although they create similar discomforts for the people afflicted, psoriasis and eczema are different in important ways.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that results in an overproduction of skin cells. As the dead skin cells build-up, they form thick, scaly white patches that are visible on the skin’s surface. The skin itches terribly and is inflamed.

Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) also can be chronic, but it tends to come and go in response to certain triggers (e.g., weather changes, irritating cosmetics, or an allergic reaction). Eczema is common in infants and children, and may even go dormant for a time. Some people, however, suffer terribly throughout their lifetime. When eczema is active, skin is inflamed, dry, peeling and may blister.

From the naturopathic medicine perspective, root causes of eczema and psoriasis include:

  • Food sensitivity/ allergy
  • Deficiency in one or more minerals
  • Low-quality diet (high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugar, etc.)
  • Poor gut health/ Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Emotional/ Mental Stress
  • Exposure to toxins and/or inadequate ability to detoxify

Conventional treatment plans typically use steroids to simply manage symptoms (i.e., itching); however, there are harmful side effects, such as suppressing overall immunity, that must be considered. Naturopathic therapies, on the other hand, work to correct the underlying imbalance that caused the body to react in the first place, offering relief without the unwanted side effects of steroid treatments. One or more of the following natural therapies may be part of an individualized holistic treatment plan:

  • Dietary changes to include more nutrient dense, clean foods
  • Remove foods from the diet that cause inflammation
  • Nutritional supplements to restore balance or deficiency (e.g., zinc, vitamin D/ E/ A)
  • Balance gut flora using probiotics and other approaches
  • Increase intake of Essential Fatty Acids, which are important to skin health
  • Provide support for mental/emotional stress
  • Identify and minimize toxin exposure
  • Support liver function, the body’s detox organ

Additionally, to temporarily soothe symptoms, Naturopathic doctors may recommend nourishing the skin with herbal salves and creams that are specific to your individual needs. Some common botanical ingredients are calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose, Manuka honey, tea tree, among many others.

Psoriasis and Eczema can quickly become chronic and severe and the wrong treatments can make things far worse. Consult with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor to identify the appropriate therapies for you or your loved one.

References
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Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Naturopathic Medicine

People living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) compare the pain and inflammation to a fire raging out of control. RA is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease causing swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. It can result in joint deformity and damage to other organs, including the nerves, heart, and lungs.

Approximately 1.5 million Americans have Rheumatoid Arthritis: most are adults over age 40; about 12,000 children under age 16 have juvenile-onset RA.

Symptoms of RA (aggravated by stress and lack of sleep)

  • Swollen, painful, hot and disfigured joints on both sides of the body
  • Pain, stiffness and limited movement making daily activities difficult
  • Fatigue, muscle aches, and fevers

The prevailing, conventional theory is that inflammation results from an “over-reaction” of the immune system that may include genetic factors. Doctors of naturopathic medicine believe there is a deeper, root cause for this haywire immune system response. They theorize immune dysregulation originates in imbalances that involve a person’s genetics, lifestyle choices, nutritional status, gut health, stress, environmental triggers and emotional wellbeing.

Treatment of RA

Conventional treatment includes physical therapy and prescription medicines (steroids, painkillers, and immune suppressors) to treat pain and swelling. While these drugs may be necessary for some people, they have side effects including hair loss, liver damage, stress on the kidneys and heart, and risk for addiction, without correcting the underlying imbalance.

At Journey of Health our naturopathic doctors emphasize on identification and treatment of root causes. Naturopathic doctors use safe, natural therapies and interventions that stimulate the restoration of health without side effects. Here’s a sampling of naturopathic interventions that can make a huge impact in healing the root causes of RA.

An Anti-inflammatory Diet

Commit to a diet that includes: organic fruits and veggies; healthy fats such as olive, avocado, and coconut oils; whole grains; bone broth; wild-caught fish; and nuts/seeds. These foods provide natural antioxidants – cellular superheroes that gobble up the free radical cells that contribute to development of RA. There are many foods that are considered healthy in general, but may cause inflammation for some people, leading to immune dysregulation. Holistic doctors will test for food sensitivities, such as gluten, dairy, egg, or others, and work with a patient to create a diet with healthy alternatives when needed.

Keep Moving

Movement is important for managing symptoms (including pain) and enhancing psychological wellbeing. Low impact exercise, such as cycling, walking, water aerobics and Tai Chi, are ideal. Symptoms can improve with strength training.

R & R: Rest, Relaxation & Pain Reduction

Massage therapy, acupuncture or acupressure, reflexology, yoga, deep breathing, and guided imagery provide protection against painful bouts of RA by helping improve body awareness, reduce muscle tension, enhance sleep, and decrease stress hormones.

Manage Symptoms, Naturally

Nutritional and herbal supplements can help reduce pain and inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with RA, so supplementing can be important. Extracts of ginger and turmeric, Omega-3 fish oil and digestive enzymes are some nutrients that help tame the fire of inflammation.

A natural medicine approach to healing RA will be unique to each person. Consult with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for interventions that will work best for you.

References
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Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity

How did gluten, a naturally-occurring protein found in wheat, barley and rye – sources of nutrition for people over thousands of years, become so unhealthy?

Many scientists attribute the increase in Celiac Disease (CD) and non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) to alternations in wheat’s biological structure, the result of modern farming and bread-making practices and the chemicals used today. The result: wheat crops that are biochemically different from the virgin wheat of agrarian society. Because our bodies have not adapted to these chemically treated crops, we’re unable to digest them properly.

Modern bread-making has gone from being a simple four-ingredient wholesome loaf of sustenance to being a less-nutrient dense squishy loaf of preservatives. Old-fashioned baking involved giving flour time to absorb as much water as possible, and waiting for yeast and bacteria to activate the dough (fermentation). Today, industrialized baking replaces natural hydration, fermentation and kneading with artificial additives and massive mixers to accelerate dough formation. To endure commercial processing and increase shelf life, additional concentrated vital wheat gluten and preservatives are stuffed into bread products.

Celiac Disease

One in 133 adults and children have CD, a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in response to ingesting gluten, triggering the immune system to attack the delicate lining of the small intestine. This creates inflammation and can lead to nutrient malabsorption and secondary health problems. There are over 200 symptoms for CD, including:

  • extreme abdominal pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • gas, constipation, diarrhea
  • joint pain, anemia, fatigue
  • stunted growth, skin rashes
  • behavior disorders, mood disturbances

Symptoms can begin immediately and last from a few hours to several days. The primary treatment for CD is a life-long gluten-free diet.

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (Gluten Intolerance)

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) affects 6-7% of the U.S. population. It’s an adverse food-induced reaction that seems to have an immune component. Gluten activates an inflammatory response that can affect tissues anywhere in the body. Symptoms vary based upon individual and environmental factors. Determining if you have GS requires testing to rule out CD. Blood/genetic tests are not available for directly assessing GS. Currently, holistic doctors use a Food Sensitivity Panel to identify reactions to wheat. Also, an elimination diet with symptom monitoring can assess GS.

Testing for CD

genetic test (Celiac HLA) indicates your risk for developing CD. If a first-degree family member has CD, a negative gene test excludes you from the possibility of developing it.

Blood tests require that you continue eating gluten products in order to get an accurate result. (Abstaining from gluten will skew the results.) A naturopathic doctor can inform you on the appropriate amount of time required to eat gluten prior to testing. The tTg-IgA (Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies) test looks for antibodies toward gluten. Your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor may order a panel of antibody tests to assess if you are deficient in antibodies the body needs, or if the body is creating antibodies against its own tissues.

Your naturopathic doctor may decide to order an endoscopic biopsy to obtain a definitive diagnosis of CD. In this procedure, performed by an M.D. who specializes in digestive disorders, a part of the small intestine is removed and examined for damage.

Based on your symptoms and test results, your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor can determine the type of testing you need and design an appropriate, personalized treatment plan.

References
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A Potent Berry for Liver Health: Schisandra chinensis

With its sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter flavor profile, it’s no surprise the Chinese call Schisandra chinensis “the five flavored fruit,” or wu wei zi. Regarded as the most important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the schisandra berry might more aptly be called the “fruit of life.”

Schisandra belongs to a unique class of herbs known as adaptogens, which enhance the body’s ability to adapt to, and recover from, stress. The source of the stress could be emotional, mental, environmental, or physical, such as when you become sick. In addition to supporting the body across physiological systems, it provides protective benefits for the liver, the body’s engine for detoxification. Studies show schisandra reduces inflammation, keeps hormones in balance, helps regenerate liver tissue, and lowers levels of an enzyme associated with liver damage.

Traditional Chinese physicians have long used schisandra to:

  1. stimulate the immune system and support adrenal gland function
  2. enhance recovery from illness or surgery
  3. reduce inflammation and fatigue
  4. improve blood circulation and enhance detoxification

Dried schizandra berries can be made into powder, capsule, tincture, tonic, tea and even wine. Schisandra is safe for most people, but precautions must be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have epilepsy, or reflux disease. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can identify the type of schisandra supplement that is best for you.

References
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Elderberry: Medicinal Elixir for the Whole Family

For millennia, physicians, and herbalists have found medicinal uses for all parts of the elder tree, including its wood, leaves, flowers and berries. Leaves were used in ointments to heal skin. The flowers and berries were made into infusions as a common treatment for colds and rheumatic conditions. Today, herbalists and holistic physicians commonly recommend elderberry for the wide variety of properties that can support the health of the young and old alike.

European (Black) Elder (Sambucus nigra) is the species safely and most commonly used for botanical medicines. Note that the berries should not be eaten (or used) raw. They must be dried first or properly cooked at the peak of ripeness.

Elderberries are rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids that act as antioxidants that protect cells in the body from damage and can help reduce inflammation. They have been used in preparations to treat colds, flu, and bacterial sinus infection. In studies, syrup prepared from the juice of elderberry has been shown to help decrease the duration of flu symptoms, including swelling in mucous membranes and congestion. Other studies have shown that elderberry extracts have antiviral properties and appear to have a role in inhibiting the replication of viruses.

Elderberry can interact with other medications including those used to treat diabetes, asthma, and drugs that suppress the immune system. Before using an elderberry product for an adult or a child, check with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor to verify the integrity of the product and appropriate use.

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Are we more concerned with getting sunburned than with our Vitamin D status?

In this article, I want to take another look at Vitamin D and our epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroid that is used throughout the body for many processes. Some symptoms of deficiency are commonly known while others may be new concepts. We take Vitamin D to help balance calcium that is taken from and stored in the bones. Immune function relies on Vitamin D to keep infection at bay. The vitamin also plays an important role in mood, autoimmune disease, obesity, and likely, most chronic disease. It is also vital to brain development.

Vitamin D synthesis starts in the skin and concludes in the kidney with an endocrine transfer that distributes the vitamin to tissues throughout the body. With this mind, we can consider why so many people have Vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes, Vitamin D deficiency simply results from inadequate intake; other times, deficiency can be due to the body’s inability to utilize the Vitamin D it has absorbed. About half of the patients with the MTHFR mutation or methylation defect also have a defect in their Vitamin D receptors, which causes suppression of Vitamin D production in the body. Cytochrome P (CYP) in the liver can also activate receptors and deactivate the Vitamin D molecule. Even from the simplified biochemical explanation here, you can see that the body’s system of utilizing Vitamin D is rife with complexities and details.

Adding to Vitamin D deficiency issues is the trend of doctors instructing parents to keep their kids out of the sun. We smother our kids with sunscreen so they get very little sun absorption. This is not to suggest that we allow our kids to get sunburned during a long outing in the sun! Rather, we must reach a balance to ensure that little bodies adapt to tolerate the sun in regular doses from an early age – this way, our children are less likely to burn as they get older. In fact, we can reach our daily levels of recommended Vitamin D intake before we are even close to the sunburn level. It is estimated that it takes roughly half the time to reach satisfactory intake levels as it does to burn, which ranges from about 15 minutes for fair skin to two hours for dark skin. So save the strongest versions of sunscreen for the hours of 11 am to 3 pm, or the middle of the day, when children are in direct sunlight, and allow modest exposure otherwise. Even individuals with a history of skin cancer can increase the anti-oxidant levels in their skin, without increasing their risk for skin cancer reccurrence, through moderate sun exposure. For those times that do call for sunscreen, beware that some chemicals in poorly-formulated sunscreens can actually increase risk factors of skin cancer, as can sunscreens that only block UVB waves (and expose you to dangerous UVA radiation). Be sure to look for natural ingredients and make sure the product you buy protects against both UVA and UVB.

The founder of the Vitamin D Council has observed that three epidemics have started since our society has been taught to shelter kids from the sun: asthma, autism and autoimmune conditions. Parents put many resources into their children’s treatments for these serious conditions. As a naturopathic physician, I have been able to reverse the complications of these ailments in many of my patients. For instance, kids with asthma respond very quickly to natural treatment and often go off inhalers and steroids within the first month after visiting me. Autism, interestingly, is more common in households of higher socioeconomic status as parents with higher education tend to follow more strictly medical persuasion to keep kids out of the sun. Avoiding the sun altogether really is a new idea for the human race, as is sunscreen.

In countries with normal exposure to the sun, mean natural Vitamin D levels are 46 ng/mL of blood. The ideal concentration of Vitamin D in the blood depends on factors such as individual risk and illness, and can vary widely. In general, 46 ng/mL is a good number for which the already healthy should strive. Some studies show that Vitamin D can be washed off the skin within 12 hours of exposure simply by bathing. While sunbathing is the preferred method of getting Vitamin D, you can also get it from supplements and some limited food sources like reindeer meat, seagull eggs, lard, cold water fish, sun dried mushrooms, grass-fed meat, eggs and milk.

Finally, I’d like to address briefly the issue of medications and sun exposure. If you are in the sun while taking certain medications, you may experience a phototoxic reaction caused by interaction between the sunlight and the free radicals in the medication. This interaction may cause sunburn, rash or hives. There are several medications that can cause sun sensitivity. The most common are antibiotics such as tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones; anti-depressants acting as SSRIs or tricyclics; NSAIDs such as Advil, Aleve, Celebrex and Motrin; and diuretics. Your doctor will warn you to stay out of the sun for 48 hours after taking these medications. It is wise to avoid the sun when you have no choice but to take these particular pharmaceuticals.

Schedule a visit with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for more information or if you are concerned about your vitamin D levels. For more articles on natural health, please subscribe to our newsletter here.